Call to take kids off marriage cheats and liars
CHEATING or violent spouses should be forced to pay damages to their ex-partners, a leading law academic has told a family law inquiry.
In sensational comments slammed by Australia's legal lobby, Professor Augusto Zimmerman said it was absurd that husbands paid maintenance to unfaithful wives who left boring marriages.
He called on judges to take children away from parents who lied about domestic violence.
Prof Zimmerman said cheating or violent spouses should get less money in a property settlement - or be forced to pay financial damages.
"(Family) courts should be given the power … to award damages to a party who has seriously breached the marriage contract,'' he says in a submission to the federal parliamentary inquiry.
"This can be done via award for damages or by weighting a division of property to account for the misconduct.''
But Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts said Australia must keep its no-fault divorce law, introduced in 1975.
"If you start saying he or she is unfaithful, then we'll have private investigators hiding under beds and jumping out of cupboards with a camera,'' he said.
"There'll be endless hanging out of dirty washing in court, and endless name-calling.
"Relationships break down for all sorts of reasons - people could fall out of love.
"You don't want people to be held in relationships because they're trapped economically or are in fear of violence.''
Law Council of Australia president Arthur Moses said he was surprised anyone would suggest an end to no-fault divorce.
"It removes the stigma of divorce, and enables parties to move forward with respect and dignity,'' he said.
"To retreat to a fault-based system would be a regressive step with no legal or social benefit to the Australian community.''
Prof Zimmerman - a former member of Western Australia's Law Reform Commission and a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame - said men should never have to pay maintenance to an unfaithful wife.
He backed controversial comments by the inquiry's deputy chairwoman, One Nation senator Pauline Hanson, who claimed that some women concoct claims of domestic violence to gain custody of kids and win in property settlements.
"Not everyone who applies for a restraining order is a genuine victim, just as not everyone who is subject to such an order is necessarily a perpetrator,'' Prof Zimmerman's submission says.
"Many cases of domestic violence have ended up in courts where these allegations have been disproved, and sometimes many years after the accused found themselves evicted from their homes and alienated from their children.
"Unfortunately, judges are notoriously reluctant to punish alienating parents and so many continue to get away with it.''
Prof Zimmerman said parents who refused to let separated partners see their children should have them taken away.
"Once it is possible to testify beyond reasonable doubt that no abuse has occurred, false accusations should be approached as a form of child abuse,'' he said.
"False accusations of domestic violence should lead to the loss of child custody.''