Auckland family lawyer Anthony Mahon (immediate past chair of the Family Law Section of the NZ Law Society) reports some sobering facts about the alienation of fathers in post separation situations. As family lawyers go, Mahon seems ok. He was a member of the Family Court Review Reference Group and so has seen the “inside information” gathered for the current Famaily Court Review.
In the 01 June 2012 issue of “NZLawyer” magazine Mahon reports that authoritive research now shows over 30 per cent of fathers (about one in three) will lose all contact and access with their children within five years of separating from their children’s mother. The cost of that for our children in terms of their health, education,and social welfare costs is alarming.
Mahon writes opposing giving greater powers to Family Court judges, saying the failure of Family Court jurisprudence in respect to the wholesale (and in our view often unhelpful) appointments of Lawyer for Child has resulted in a financial burden that has all but crippled the Family Court process. The ambulance at the bottom of the cliff introduced by the government is to start charging fees, instead of actually addressing the problem. As UK Family Lawer Judith Murray  has pointed out in circumstances when the child’s views about the non-resident parent are entrenched giving strength to the child’s voice through separate representation can exacerbate the alienation.
Mahon points out the figures now show almost 50 percent of all relationships will be affected by family law issues at some stage.
Mahon also points to the failure of the much heralded Early Intervention Process (EIP) where the introduction of counsel-led mediation has neither led to a increase in resolutions or substantial freeing up of judges’ time to hear more cases. In fact, says /mahon, there has been no noticeable increase in hearing time since the EIP was introduced, but the cost of funding lawyer for child and mediation and legal aid has gone through the roof.
What their Honours are doing with the extra time that has been freed up is anyone’s guess, but families going through the Family Court do not seem to be benefiting. The Auckland Family Court can now take up to a month to release judicial directions issued at a judicial conference.
The overall operating cost for the Family Court for 2009/10 was $137 million, plus $13 million for judicial costs (including judges’ salaries and allowances). The costs of appointments of lawyers to represent children under the Care of Children Act cost $23 million in 2009/10. A Family Court judge is paid $288,500, plus they get an annual allowance of $4100. It seems clear who is benefit from the Family Courts of this country. It is not families.
Simon J for GerryMen Fathers’ Action
 “Transferring residence where contact is obstructed” by Judith Murray (Jurisprudence BA (Hons) (Oxon) 30 September 2010, 4 Paper Buildings Private Law Seminar, London.