Harrowing letter explodes the family law debate
The planned rollback of the controversial Shared Parenting Law is not an attack on men’s rights. Nor is it a victory for the women’s movement.
It is a sensible response to the plight of children like Darcey Freeman, who was allegedly thrown from the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne. Rather than getting into the he said/she said of this prickly debate, this is the story of one man – a war veteran - who believes his grandchildren are at risk.
His letter was part of a submission to Attorney-General Robert McClelland, which concludes “it is relatively rare for a court to make an order that denies a parent contact with a child, including in cases involving allegations of violence”. You can read it here:
The Federal Attorney-General
Hon. Robert McClelland
My name is Jack Willis* and I am the grandfather of three children aged nine, seven and five.
I have a daughter, aged 38, who is about to go into the family court for the second time, trying to protect her children from being further exposed to domestic violence by their father.
The former husband has been investigated in 2006 for sexual abuse of the middle child, a girl, who at the time was 3.5 years of age.
The child complained of a sore bottom and said “daddy wiggled my bottom with his special stick”.
Investigating Police came to my home and told me that the evidence provided by my grand daughter would not hold up in court, because of her tender age.
My daughter has sighted several pages of damning evidence recorded by police during the child protection authority investigation.
She was in the Federal Magistrate Court during 2006, but had to give up (the legal action) because she became physically and financially exhausted.
When she and the children were forced from their family home (the father ceased mortgage repayments), it was up to me and my wife to offer accommodation in our modest three bedroom home.
Because the father then ceased legal proceedings, my daughter has been informed by her legal council (sic) that the court will see this as reconciliation because she accepted an accommodation offer from him.
Evidence prepared in 2006, and not presented in the court, is now inadmissible.
If the court judges against my daughter it is possible that the children may be exposed to more sexual abuse.
In return for providing accommodation the father was given access to the children, always in the presence of my daughter to ensure their safety.
Subsequently this arrangement failed when the former husband forced his way into the home, becoming abusive towards my daughter and also the oldest two children when they tried to protect their mother.
Police have been involved and there have been several DV restraining orders.
The former husband is a former TV presenter and has considerable financial resources.
Since mid-2008 he has again commenced proceedings against my daughter through the Federal Magistrates Court following attempts to move in with her and the children.
My daughter has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by a clinical psychologist.
He has concluded that her condition is a direct result of the repeated domestic violence that she has been subjected to during the marriage.
Following my daughter’s last hearing in the Federal Magistrates Court, the case has been referred back to the family court.
I wish to make the following points which I believe are serious issues which need to be addressed in the way of family law reform or perhaps, even better, a completely different, less destructive system which focuses on the welfare of children instead of feuding parents or partners.
Currently, children are represented by an INDEPENDENT LAWYER, who never meets the children, and who use EXPERT WITNESSES.
In our case, three different psychologists were used to determine the relationship between the children and the other two parties.
These interviews involve the children meeting only once with two psychologists – to them, total strangers - who in turn provided a final judgment.
Children under the current system DO NOT HAVE A VOICE.
On several occasions there have been references to ‘mothers coaching their children’, as a means of discrediting some of the things that may have been said.
My daughter is now accused of being a criminal because she contravened court orders ordering the youngest child to see the father at the psychologist.
The child started bedwetting and having nightmares after (these visits).
The above is simply to paint a picture of what I have observed of a system which very clumsily tries to use the process of law to decide the rights of the parents without due regard to the effect on the health and wellbeing of the children.
The wishes of the children aren’t considered.
Their future is decided by a single visit to a stranger (psychologist) to whom they may convey a quite distorted version of what they really want to convey.
It is a sad indictment on this country that the death of a child having been thrown off a bridge is needed to draw attention to the plight of (these) children.
It seems that the current court system has little regard for the welfare and safety of children after they exit that system.
I was once sent to war by my country.
I now hope that my letter to you and, in return for my services, urge you as Federal Attorney General to urgently examine the means of facilitating a better deal for those children, who are the victims of post separations, and who currently don’t have a voice.
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