Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kept from your kids; New Weapon in tug-of-war love cases

I found the article in the SST rather thought provoking and I tend to agree with the legal comment of both lawyers who state psychological abuse is already well covered within current domestic violence legislation. Existing law contained in the Act, Section 3 “ Meaning of Domestic violence” already adequately protects any parent worried about any sort of violence in the household. Section 13 of the Act states “ Application without notice protection order” can be obtained immediately by the any parent who is fearful about irrational behaviour affecting the safety and welfare of the children. Police, CYFS, Victim Support Counsellors, and lawyers will aid the concerned parent who becomes the applicant to proceedings from day one and advise her with her many options. The other party to proceedings, the respondent (dad) is stuffed from day one, as he is not viewed as a credible human being let alone a decent dad. He becomes what is know as a violent deadbeat dad and often the family court will decide he needs mental health treatment and a judge can sign him into a maximum security mental hospital for three months over Christmas time.

Dad, as the respondent and often reluctant client to family court proceedings is served with court orders barring immediate contact to his family because interim custody is automatically awarded to applicant once violence is alleged. Mum soon becomes a custodial parent and the father is tossed into the overwhelming world of grief as a non- –custodial parent, round cells, court, judges, lawyers, psychologists, anger management classes, cells and the impossible task of trying to initiate meaningful access to his children. Fathers who have formed stable and healthy bonds of love with their children can be a caring thoughtful dad’s one-day and in a prison cell the next, all on the balance of probabilities that psychological abuse was damaging the children in the household.

Often a father can experience extreme heartache when he is told by a court system that he is not worthy of contact with his children and supervised access in the presence of security guards is a degrading, harrowing and traumatic ordeal for a sad dad and his frightened kids.

I fear the further emphasis on the introduction of psychological abuse “ as a lever by warring partners” could further provide ammunition for a vindictive and vengeful partner. Once again, this is not in the child’s best interests. Children are a cash cow file number for the lecherous professionals who claim they’ll acting in the “ child’s best interests”. Yeah right, children are used as weapons of war in a winner take all court system that has no regard for future damage children. .

This focus on law change is totally unnecessary and more ambulance at the bottom of hill mentality. This is detrimental to the child’s best interests as it is sending the wrong message to parents. I would have thought the Family Court should be far better concerned about the common sense early intervention truthful mediation approach rather than adding more laws into the cauldron. A meeting of the minds by caring people could eliminate adversity in so many cases and it would ease the stress for children considerably. It would also stop false allegations in their tracks, which would benefit the children immensely. Sadly the Ministry of Justice is going down litigation road again and lawyers, psychologists and counselors will be the big winners again. Kids and dads the losers again.

Some fathers’ experience gender bias within a family court system that can meander slowly down litigation road for years. The longer the case can drag on for the more money the gravy train in the family court can accumulate. The court appointed children’s lawyers earn in excess of $350 per hour and the applicant to proceedings is the recipient of legal aid. Psychological report cost thousands upon thousands, however not one of them ever bother to witness the love and joyous occasions between a shafted dad and his beautiful daughters when he is luckily enough to have the pious court give him a privileged access visit. Its sad and heart - rending! The court fails to recognize parental alienation syndrome as a legitimate weapon of war because the court actually encourages lengthy and complicated litigation. The longer the period the father is denied access the better chance they have of rubber stamping the lie. Who said a lie cannot run far because it has short legs? Obviously they not have been a client of the sinister family court. In my case; 200 Court appearances resulting from a family court case that started in 2001 because a judge said; Mr Burns was rather obsessive and psychologically abusive to his partner…”

Family Law needs a radical rethink because the damage to the children and fathers is horrific.

Kept from your kids
New weapon in tug-of-love cases
Sunday Star Times | Sunday, 16 December 2007

Warring parents are set to gain a new lever to bar their partner from access to the children. Ruth Laugesen and Emma Page report.

Parents could be instantly banned from any contact with their children for months at a time under new proposals to allow claims of psychological abuse to be treated in the same way as allegations of violence in family breakdowns.

And, in much the same way as the anti-smacking debate divided opinion, experts are warning the proposals could cause problems for the Family Court when it tries to decide the difference between psychological abuse and normal and necessary parental control.

Under current laws, violence allegations result in an immediate, temporary ban on the accused parent from having access to his or her children, or having only supervised access, until the allegations can be heard a process which can take months. The law change would mean a claim of psychological abuse would be treated the same way.

The proposal, in a Ministry of Justice discussion paper released last week, suggests widening the Care of Children Act to recognise psychological abuse as another form of violence.

About 10,500 applications for day-to-day care are made each year and at this time of year, family lawyers are also dealing with an influx of calls over Christmas Day access arrangements.

About 125,000 Kiwi families with dependent children are headed by a solo parent and one in six New Zealand children lives in a blended family with a step-parent.

South Auckland lawyer Paul Maskell, chair of the Law Society's family law section, said it often took three months for the truth of an allegation to be settled. And he said that although widening the definition of violence to include psychological abuse had some merits, it also carried the risk that it would be used as a lever by warring partners.

"It will make that task harder for judges to determine whether children are safe when you extend that definition. Physical violence is pretty easy to identify it is or it isn't. One wants to be able to ensure the right evidence is available for the court in the first place," he said.

The paper said psychological abuse could include "intimidation, harassment, controlling behaviour, threats of physical abuse and also includes causing or allowing a child to see or hear the physical, sexual or psychological abuse of a person with whom the child has a domestic relationship".

"The nature of parental control and responsibility for children may make it difficult in some situations to determine whether a parent is abusive or simply exercising necessary parental control," the discussion paper said.

Expanding the definition might lead to an increase in allegations and counter-allegations of violence and also to an increase in orders for supervised contact or orders of no contact between the violent party and the child. "The impact of such orders can be significant, severely limiting or preventing contact between a parent and a child," the paper said.

However, Auckland family lawyer Geoff Harrison said he believed the law change would make no difference.

He said judges already took into account a wide range of information relating to a child's welfare and the parent's attitude when they decided who would look after a child or have access. This included psychological abuse.

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