Andy Gough, Larnook
I applaud the recent announcement of a Royal Commission into child abuse in religious organisations and state institutions. But sadly, vulnerable children can also suffer abuse at the hands of their own parents and the Family Court.
Particularly appalling is the prevalence of false allegations of child abuse being raised to gain advantage in Family Court proceedings. It is an absolute insult to those who have suffered real abuse. In family law circles, such allegations are referred to as the ‘magic bullet’ for resolving custody battles. Whoever makes an abuse allegation against the other parent first wins custody of the children.
Courts focus on the ‘best interests of the child’, so where there may be any perceived threat, there is a presumption of guilt against the accused parent, and they are withheld from contact with their own children. This delivers full care of the child to the parent telling the lies as the reward for their perjury. For the alienated parent, the allegation may as well be a conviction.
For dispossessed parents who don’t just give up or take their own lives in despair, it can then take years just to have the matter heard by the court, before they even have a chance to defend the allegation. The child loses a loving parent, just like that. This is called parental alienation, and it is in itself a form of child abuse, but one that is not recognised by the courts. Devastated and dispossessed families fall by the wayside as faceless, nameless victims of the secret Family Court process.
Family Court outcomes need to be included in the terms of reference of this Royal Commission, because the court itself has no records of the outcomes of decisions it makes in secret, often handing care of vulnerable children into the hands of the alienators and abusers. Hardly in the ‘best interests of the child’.
What is urgently needed is dramatic reform in family law, a whole new approach. After all, courts are for criminals, not families.