Tuesday, 12 July 2016
LG – Luke Grant /CP –Catherine Parks /C1,2,3, etc – Callers
LG Great to have you company. 131 873 the open line number. 22 to 2.
Introduction to Show
LG Yes, very serious concerns have been raised about Australia’s Family Court. A two year investigative report into the Family Law system for the Abbey Project was published late last month and Child Protection advocate Hetty Johnston has called Australia’s Family Court “The most dangerous institution for children in this country”. Wow, pretty powerful stuff. We are going to speak about this today in our Legal Matters Segment, thanks to Turner Freeman. And if you’ve got any questions on Family Law, please call on 131 873, 131 873. You can call that number right now. Catherine Parks is an accredited specialist in Family Law and she’s from Turner Freeman Parramatta and is in the studio. Catherine, nice to meet you.
CP Nice to meet you Luke.
LG Thank you for coming in.
CP Thank you.
LG Family Court deal with allegations of child sexual assault because are we talking about the allegations of that have come from two warring parties.
CP That’s right.
LG Difficult isn’t it?
CP Very difficult. Very difficult for the Court to work out what’s going on, work out how to deal with those allegations because of course they’re very serious. And the implications for the children of getting it wrong are obviously devastating.
LG Yeah. I have to say in many years doing this and you get calls about this from time to time, when there’s an allegation of abuse that’s not to be true.
LG And was quite mischievous in its intent. Do we handle them with the appropriate force?
CP Look, the Court is doing all that it can in my view. It certainly not pretending that it’s perfect, there’s work to be done. But it’s putting in place a lot of systems. Some of those are the appointment of an independent children’s lawyer to assist them with the Court and working out what is going on. Inviting Community Services to become involved in Family Court proceedings where that’s appropriate. There’s a significant amount of transfer of information now from Community Services, Police, other organisations to find out what’s happening. We’re using a lot of expert reports from psychiatrists and psychologists because there’s not always physical evidence.
LG No, of course.
CP And there’s allegations in relating to children.
CP So they’re always trying to do it better. There are though false allegations being made from time to time. Statistics will tell us that it’s about 10% but I read recently a number of very senior Court experts suggesting that it is closer to perhaps 20%.
LG Is that right?
CP That’s right and so it’s very difficult. The Court’s constantly juggling the safety of the children, which obviously is a paramount consideration, but also the right of these children to have a relationship with both parents.
LG 131 873. Legal Matters today. Talking Family Law. Give us a call. Now in relation to psychiatrists and psychologists assisting courts in these matters. What sort of role do they play? I guess do they actually speak to the children?
CM Yes they do.
LG They do?
CM They do. They speak to both parents. They often read the evidence. They watch the interactions between the children and their parents and so while…. it’s for the court to ultimately determine whether there has been sexual abuse, their evidence can be very useful in assisting in that process.
LG Tell me if you can or explain rather the Magellan Case Management System, which I understand is being used in the Family Court. What it involves and what is this approach based on?
CM Well this is an attempt by the Family Court to give special attention to cases where there have been significant allegations of abuse such as sexual abuse. And what it is it’s a way of a particular Judge manages the case from beginning to end, there are family consultants or Family Court psychologists who are involved from the beginning. Community Services are asked to intervene in these cases and one of the biggest things is we are trying to get those kind of cases through the Court quickly so that we can work out what is going on, put in place protection and allow the children to have some certainty and safety.
LG There are delays in the Family Court system right now? What’s caused them?
CM Huge delays. Look, it’s largely Federal funding. The delays are significant. When I first started practising 12 years ago, it was a case where most family law matters would get through the Courts quite quickly. We are now looking at delays of up to 3 years.
LG Three years?
CM Three years.
LG Well what impact does funding have on that?
CM Well it’s the judges.
LG Oh, okay.
CM Since 2008…. sorry between 2008 and 2016, the number of judges for example at Parramatta have been reduced from 10 to 6. There was a recent report that suggested that each docket for judges in the Parramatta and Sydney registry…. sorry each judge has a docket of about 300 to 700 matters. It’s just not possible for hearings to take 3 or 4 days, particularly where there are big contests about either property or parenting to be dealt with in less than 3 or 4 days. It’s just no-one is available to hear the matter.
LG Wow. 131 873 is our number. If I can ask you Catherine to put your headphones on there in front of you and make sure you don’t deafen yourself as I just swing around and hopefully that’s not too loud?
CM No that’s fine.
LG Of course I want you to hear Kim. G’day Kim.
Caller 1 – Kim
Kim .Yeah G’day Catherine.
CP .Hi. How are you?
Kim I’m good thanks. I’m just a bit confused here. My partner – we were married for like almost 10 years. She took my three children to Sydney.
Kim And I’ve tried to establish contact with them. Okay when she went first I tried to you know see them. She used to take the children to my friend’s wife and I used to go and see them – I went for visits for two of their birthdays okay.
Kim But after that she asked me to pay – I paid child support – okay that’s direct debit from the Government but after that she asked me to try to send the children to private school. I say okay I’ll do that – okay – So I paid for the registration and everything but the last time I went to Sydney to see them she refused for me to see them.
Kim So when I came back to Brisbane I refused to pay that money.
Kim Okay – the school fees – so she – now I can’t talk to my children – she told my children that she – every time I call, she’ll give the phone to the children and say “tell him I hate you…. I hate you daddy”…..
CP Yeah.. Look Kim…. it sounds like there’s a complicated number of issues in your matter. Child support and time with the children are two very separate issues as far as the way they are dealt with by the legal system. There are some links between the two but you paying Child Support or not paying Child Support is dealt through the Child Support Agency. Time with your children if your wife or your ex-wife is not agreeing to it readily needs to be dealt with through the Family Court. You need to try Mediation first before you can commence any proceedings. But generally the Court is very interested that both parties have a relationship with their children and would be sympathetic in that regard.
LG Thanks Kim and good luck to you – 131 873 is the number to call. I’ve had people tell me that instances where there might be some sledging encouraged by one parent via the kids to the other and then it gets to the Court’s attention and they get told I don’t do that. Say yeah – I wouldn’t do that… and then it happens the next time.
LG And then you know the directions of the Court so to speak are just ignored and not taken on board by the party who’s at fault in a scenario like that. What really can happen there?
CP Look the Court’s very interested in the first primary concern is the safety of the children but the secondary concern really is increasingly taken seriously in that children should have a relationship with both parties. There are cases where one parent has been in the ear of another of the children saying negative things and there are cases where the judges have removed children from that parent if they have alienated the children from a parent. There’s all kinds of things. It is very case specific unfortunately. You can imagine each situation is very different.
CP But there are injunctions that could be put on what you say to kids but it is difficult.
CP It’s a difficult area.
LG Alright 131 873 is our number here. Now when it comes to family law, one name comes to mind and that’s Turner Freeman Lawyers. They have a dedicated family law division covering the full gamut of family law issues from separation, divorce and child support to financial settlements, superannuation splitting and property law. Turner Freeman’s family lawyers have been helping families, defacto and same sex couples for decades whether you are after advice or need to take action, Turner Freeman Lawyers can help. See turnerfreeman.com.au or call them 13 43 63.
LG And Legal Matters today with Turner Freeman. We’re talking family law and I just see a report here controversial Sydney property developer Salim Mahajer has lashed out at police saying they are the ones behind an AVO being pursued against him. He’s denied reports that his wife Aysha has applied for the order saying the couple are still together. Aysha Mahajer’s maiden name Learmonth was used in an application due to be heard in the Sydney Court tomorrow. We’ll see what happens with that. Back we go to Catherine Parks from Turner Freeman talking family law on an unrelated issue or related to family law and parenting. Have we changed over the years? So what was accepted 10 years ago is that now accepted now? Has the Family Court kind of a move of the time for a better expression?
CM Look certainly my experience is that it has. I remember when I was a child and separating fathers in particular would spend time with the children every second weekend and half the school holidays.
LG Is that still the case>
CM It’s not. No. It’s not. Fathers are generally far more involved. There are presumptions that first thing we need to look at when we look at parenting arrangements is the shared care arrangements.
CM Which doesn’t necessarily mean equal time, but it does mean fathers spending time with children on weekends, at school events, and being far more involved. We are also now looking at cases where fathers are the primary carer of children and that’s obviously a reaction to changes in our society where mums are working far longer hours and people having children at different ages and at different stages of life.
LG What about financial settlements, are they still broadly worked out on the same basis as say they were 10 years ago?
CM There’s been changes again – we keep moving as to what’s fair and certainly in the legislation there are a number of steps that we look at. There are changes… there’s been changes in what parties are receiving as women’s income increases. Superannuation remains an issue for women that they may not have the same amount as their husbands after at the end of a relationship. But yeah the principles are broadly the same.
LG Okay Ah. Tony before we go quickly. What was your question mate>
Caller 2 – Tony
Tony Well I just wanted to talk about the fact that the Family Law Court destroyed relationships with my family and my son 17 years ago. I haven’t seen them since.
CP .Yes. It’s a difficult arena to fall into. Did you…. were you seeing your children at the time that you separated Tony?
Tony I was living with them.
CP You were living with them? And did this go through the Family Court and there were orders made?
CP Did a judge make the orders Tony?
Tony Yeah well pretty much yeah. There was so much animosity between husband and wife that the child psychologist recommended that these are the words – because there was so much animosity between husband and wife, the mother and father, its best that I have written and only written correspondence that was 17 nearly 18 years ago.
CP That’s a terrible outcome Tony – I’m really sorry to hear that.
Tony Well I tried everything I could to the point that I was threatened with an AVO to go and visit my sons and the Court was on their side and she made a terrible allegation ……
LG How old are they now Tony? How old are your boys now?
Tony 22 to 32.
LG Right. Okay there’s…. I’m sorry that happened to you Tony. At what point does that order(s) or something like that and I now you don’t know the specifics but generally do they last forever or until they become an adult.
CP No of course not. The family law only has jurisdiction for children until they are 18 years old.
LG Oh okay. So there is therefore some hope?
LG There might be a time.
LG Have you heard about that before where you can only write to them you can’t talk to them?
CM Look a no contact order certainly in the current legal arena is incredibly rare. I don’t think I’ve seen one in my career and….. I have heard of them but they’re rare. It’s most unusual circumstances where that occurs because of that primary concern of children having a relationship with both parents that overrides all decisions.
LG Yeah. We’ve only got a minute to go but I just wanted to close on this point. Are you confident that, and this is talk back hosts recurring nightmare. You talk about this stuff and you get someone say she kept on lying to the judge and he bought it and as a result I end up with… and I don’t see the kids and I gave her everything….
LG Is that factual or fantasy in the main?
CP Look, it can happen. It doesn’t happen often. I think it’s more one of those urban myths that gets passed around rather than what happens on a daily basis in the Family Court.
CP The Family Court of the “he said/she said” jurisdiction because so much happens behind closed doors but Courts are certainly working hard to do all they can to work out what’s going on in each family context.
LG Yeah. Beautiful. Thanks for coming in Catherine.
CP Thank you.
LG Lovely to meet you.
CP You too.
LG Turner Freeman Lawyers and the Legal Matters Segment will return next week right here on 2GB 873 and 4BC. We’ve got the news in a moment. We’ll give our $100 Westfield Voucher to Kim. Well done Kim.