Separated mothers and fathers need to unite in the best interests of the child
“Changes recently introduced to the family court merely moves the bill from the taxpayer to the user and will make the situation financially worse for parents” says Amy McDonald, founder of Auckland based Parents 4 Justice.
Recently Parents 4 Justice launched their own justice system.
“We are a group of family court consumers so we have first hand experience as to the injustices of the current system – we have walked the walk. The financial and emotional impact of involving many government departments in family issues, including WINZ, IRD, CYFS and the Family Court, is devastating” says McDonald.
“Parents are being caught in a whirlwind of activity with each trying to fight for their own position when what is needed is a rational dialogue with a third party as to the all needs of the child and who can accommodate each need” says McDonald.
The current system does not allow this dialogue, contact and child support are two separate issues in the Family Court yet one can severely impact the other.
“In addition to the Family Court changes many lawyers are also offering other dispute resolution alternatives including collaborative law. Our clients have had experience with lawyers who have retrained as collaborative lawyers. One rang a P4J client yelling at him that if he didn’t enter the court system he would have his child removed from his care. This behaviour is disgusting. Threatening parents that you will take their children off them because you don’t wish to go to court is anything but just, as is taking up years of their life and ten thousand plus dollars in legal fees to sort contact arrangements when you are trying to recover from the devastation that is divorce. Putting parents under this stress is not in the best interests of the child at all” says McDonald.
“To train in an occupation that advocates adversarial tactics to resolve conflict and is very lucrative financially suggests that these values are also your own, changing your job title from lawyer to mediator or collaborative lawyer will not change your nature” says McDonald.
Of particular concern for Parents 4 Justice is the number of men who are being caught in the system. “Suicide statistics in men post divorce are tragic” says McDonald.
In a one year period to June 2009 Judge Peter Boshier, the then Principle Family Court Judge, identified 22 people who died whilst involved in family court proceedings. Eighteen were suspected suicides.
McDonald speaks to many parents going through the family court and notes a common theme often raised. “I hear repeatedly that family court officials seem to have difficulty determining fact from fiction and are exascerbating conflict – for example threatening suing the other party for costs and refusing to let their clients settle at mediation advocating a $30k defended hearing instead. Lawyers are trained to determine fact from fiction so this suggests there is an ulterior motive at play, they are certainly not rewarded financially for ending conflict between parties. What I know to be true is that parents are employing lawyers yet are not being served justice – and neither are their children” says McDonald.
“Our concern with the new Family Dispute Resolution service is that lawyers will continue to exascerbate conflict between parents, from afar.
We advocate for the child, but support both parents in how to do the same with the resources they have available. We are especially interested in talking to men who may be having issue in the current system. What we really need to do is to get mothers and fathers working together at an emotionally charged time. Lawyers merely take advantage of this situation” says McDonald.
The family court last year spent 142 million dollars of taxpayers money. Forty two percent of issues were around contact, such as shared care.
Parents for Justice is an Auckland based support group representing court consumers nationwide who deem their children to have not been served justice by the Family Court and advocate for parental involvement in a child’s life. For more information contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org