News

Mums told to keep child abuse allegations from family court

LAWYERS are telling mums "to lie to the Family Court" about domestic violence and child abuse because they fear their clients will be seen as trying to alienate the other parent from the kids' lives.

The Family Court's chief justice rejected the allegation, saying there were measures in place to ensure children were safe.

However, a number of experts told ARM Newsdesk they believed if judges suspected "alienation" - which is viewed as emotional abuse of the child - they would award custody to the dangerous parent.

Child sexual assault prevention agency Bravehearts, the National Child Protection Alliance and Dr Deborah Walsh, a domestic violence expert with 20 years experience of the Family Court, confirmed it is common practice for solicitors to warn mothers to keep abuse allegations out of custody proceedings.

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said she would be raising her concerns about this and other Family Court issues at a meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull next week.

Bravehearts is backing a petition for the Federal Government to roll out a royal commission into Australia's family law system or to expand the terms of reference of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse so it can examine how the Family Court is "failing" children.

Ms Johnstone said she recently spoke to a mum who was told by two legal experts not to bother telling the court about concerns her daughter was being abused.

The woman reported the abuse to police but there was not enough evidence for an arrest, Ms Johnstone said.

"She was told that if she was to do that (lodge the paperwork alleging abuse) the court would frown upon it," Ms Johnstone said.

"She would be viewed by the court as a vexatious mother, bringing about these allegations and coaching her daughter in these allegations - all of the things we've been hearing for 20 years."

RELATED: Family Court of Australia responds to Abbey petition

Can Abbey's heartbreaking story spark family law reform?

National Child Protection Alliance president Maurice Kriss said lawyers were so concerned about putting abuse reports before the court that some refused to represent the non-abusive clients who wanted to tell the truth.

"The solicitor in some cases will refuse to take on the case because he knows in advance the outcome and he doesn't want the stress of fighting a losing battle or, losing a case that will damage his reputation," Mr Kriss said.

"Because of equal parenting laws and attitude of judges towards equal parenting, this is something few solicitors wish to challenge."  

Dr Walsh said re-adjusting the royal commission's investigation framework would ensure any Family Court failings could be investigated in front of the Australian community.

"Yes, I have heard of it happening on a number of occasions," the University of Queensland family violence researcher and lecturer said of the unorthodox legal advice.

"It's very common in domestic violence services for us to hear women be given that sort of advice.

"The commission of inquiry at the moment has uncovered a whole range of institutional abuse of children in care and so their frame of reference could be used to investigate on behalf of the children.

"People come into the family court thinking about justice and ultimately lose their children."

Family Court of Australia chief justice Diana Bryant said she doubted the legal profession was advising people to mislead judges about abuse and that there was legislation in place to protect children.

"I doubt that it is true. I hope it's not true," Chief Justice Bryant said.

"I do understand that these are people's perceptions and they arise from very complex situations.

"The act provides for matters to be raised with the court and they should be.

"No one should ever suggest it's not appropriate in any way (to raise allegations)."

Law Council of Australia Family Law Section chairwoman Wendy Kayler-Thomson said experienced lawyers would not advise their clients to lie to the Family Court.

"The Family Law Section rejects ... allegations about the way that allegations of child sexual abuse are dealt with by the Family Court of Australia," she said.

# If you are at risk of sexual assault or require support please phone Bravehearts on 1800 272 831; If you are at risk of domestic violence please phone the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

 

Heart-broken mum lobbies for family court investigation

MORE than 40,000 people have signed a petition calling for a royal commission into Australia's family law system.

A West Australian mother started the petition in the wake of her daughter Abbey's suicide three years ago.

The 17-year-old killed herself after a family court judge forced her to spend time with her convicted child sex offender father.

"The family court system failed my little girl," the petition, supported by Bravehearts, says.

"They failed me, a protective mother, who in my attempt to protect my children from contact with their abusive father, was dismissed as a 'hysterical woman' and a 'vindictive wife'."

Abbey's mother goes on to describe how the family court believed her daughter should have a "meaningful relationship with both parents".

"The court restricts children from doctor and counselling visits during legal proceedings, discounts their word against a parent's, views reports of sexual assault as vindictive and favours the most financially stable parent," Abbey's mother says.

"It's shameful and dangerous."

To sign the petition visit www.change.org/p/the-family-court-allowed-a-convicted-sex-offender-access-to-my-little-girl-now-she-s-dead?

# If you are at risk of sexual assault or require support phone Bravehearts on 1800 272 831.

- ARM NEWSDESK  

Topics:  child abuse child sex abuse domestic and family violence editors picks family court


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Heading to the land of the free

STOKED: Gerard Belgrove from Ainsworth Motors is looking forward to America.

Gerard off to the US

Toowoomba Hospital ED at risk of extra 7000 patients

Medical students who have experienced the rural lifestyle first-hand are more likely to move rural, than those who have stayed metropolitan.

Cuts to after hours GP Medicare rebates could force thousands to ED

Course in great shape for event

TEEING OFF: Katie Taylor, from QGC, and Brad Hubbard practise their moves ahead of Chinchilla Golf Club open day.

Chinchilla Golf Club set to host their annual open day.

Local Partners

5 THINGS TO DO IN AND AROUND THE REGION

Looking for something to do? From golf days to the markets to thrift shop dress up parties, we've got you covered this weekend.

Painting a brighter future for koalas

WORTH SAVING: The Queensland Koala Crusaders' Community Crowdfunding Campaign aims to raise $30,000 towards the cost of planting 10,000 trees for koalas.

Queensland Koala Crusaders have launched a crowdfunding campaign

REVEALED: Liam Gallagher is coming to Falls Festival

English musician, singer, and songwriter, former lead singer of the rock band Oasis, Liam Gallagher performs during his concert at National Olympic Sports Center in Beijing, China, 10 August 2017.

He revealed the news ahead of the official line up announcement

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy a slick, impressive effort

New Uncharted game for PS4 hits the shelves

Bride and Prejudice's Chris reveals more family heartache

Grant and Chris feature on the TV series Bride & Prejudice. Supplied by Channel 7.

His dad’s health has dealt a massive blow to their happy life

Nicole's ready to bust out of Doctor Doctor's love triangle

Nicole da Silva stars in season two of Doctor Doctor.

New season gets a fresh injection of relationship dilemmas.

MOVIE REVIEW: Tom Cruise flying high again in drug drama

Tom Cruise plays pilot Barry Seal in the movie American Made.

FILM STAR delivers his best performance in some time.

The Project will now be on six nights a week

The Project presenters Waleed Aly, Carrie Bickmore and Peter Helliar.

The Project is expanding with a Sunday night edition and a new host.

Click your fingers, tap your toes

Helen Peters, Elisabeth Wallis-Gaedtke, Evalee Sharples and Kemal Avunduk rehearse for Fascinating Rhythm, Sunshine Coast Oriana Choir's performance of hot jazz, sizzling samba, Latin beats and smooth swing sounds at Lake Kawana Community Centre on August 26-27.

Libby to set beat for Fascinating Rhythm this weekend

Margot Robbie is unrecognisable in London

Margot, is that really you?

MARGOT Robbie looks completely unrecognisable as Queen Elizabeth I.

REVEALED: New shops for Coast centre's $12million revamp

Coast retail centre expands as part of $12million refurbishment

Residents fear sand mine sell out by State Minister

Sand mine opponents attend the Nambour Council Chambers.Cou

Further testing undertaken on site, despite claims of significance

Investors quick to snap up property in key growth corridor

High-profile commercial site sells at auction for $4.920m

EXPLAINED: What the 'Costco effect' means for Ipswich

PRICE WARS: A Costco store similar to this one in Canberra, is planned for Ipswich.

Exclusive 'cult' about to change how families do grocery shopping

4800 homes to be built in massive new Coast estate

Masterplanned community full steam ahead - it's not Caloundra South

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!