Relex men, the NZ Family Court is fixed
Vivienne Crawshaw has ended her series of articles in the Herald about the NZ Family Court.
Two years of big advances in family law
It would be an interesting exercise to analyse the outcomes she presents in her stories as a balanced picture, compared with the hundreds of actual Family Court judgements now in men’s group databases.
Crawshaw begins by outlining recent changes, keeping ‘on-message’ to the end about what a fair and responsible institution the court is.
“In the past two years the area of family law has been saturated with a flood of legislative changes.
“These have ranged from altering the primary law governing the care of children to change the emphasis to one of continuing children’s relationships with both parents, to presumptions about guardianship (a child’s father will now usually be a guardian whether or not he and the mother are living together), to widening the class of people who can apply to have care of children, to admitting the media into family courtrooms and many more.
“The focus of the law relating to care of children remains the child’s (not the adult’s) best interests and welfare.
“That focal point will not please everyone, particularly those with ideological agendas including radical fathers’ rights organisations and extreme feminists, both of whom criticise the legislation and its implementation on the basis that it fails to serve their needs.”
Crawshaw’s choice of language in her column makes it pretty clear where she is coming from. The idea that there are “radical fathers’ rights organisations” throughout the country with “ideological agendas” to introduce policies which benefit men and revive patriarchy, is pure feminist spin-doctoring imported from across the Tasman. Papers which introduced this theme include Regina Graycar: ‘Equal Rights versus Fathers Rights’ and Miranda Kaye & Julia Tolmie: ‘Fathers’ Rights Groups in Australia’.
There was an attempt to set up a NZ Men’s Rights organisation a couple of decades ago, but I know of no group in this country who has ever called for ‘Fathers Rights’, as opposed to ‘equal rights’. Presumably feminists think that creating these fictional radical fathers groups in the public mind somehow balances the all too real extreme feminists groups which advocate policies that benefit women at the expense of men and children. I guess it also helps create the impression that the Family Court is taking a ‘middle-of-the-road’ stance – I’d prefer to see credible outcome statistics myself.
Crawshaw then spins one of her little tales:
“Sam’s father Robert was someone who was well acquainted with the law about care arrangements for children. He had avidly attended a fathers’ rights group, led by a father who was bitter and cynical about what he would be able to achieve in the Family Court. Robert was already prepared to lose his case for the care of his son. He believed fervently that as a father he would be marginalised by the Family Court which he had been told in no uncertain terms was biased toward mothers.
He did not have a lawyer, but instead had spent long hours looking up legal matters on the internet and had written his own lengthy affidavits.”
Reality check: as far as I know, all the father’s support groups listed on this site are led by men with 50% custody or more. These days, no group would suggest that Robert should be prepared to loose his case, you don’t need to spend long hours on the internet (others have already done it for you), and in contrast to Crawshaw’s next assertion, every group will have someone experienced with getting an urgent hearing.
“Petra [Robert’s ex] was still opposed any change to care arrangements so the lawyer for Sam asked the court to hold an interim care hearing at short notice. Because Robert was not legally represented he did not have a clue about how to get an urgent hearing and it was long overdue.
“At court Sam’s lawyer supported an increase in care. She referred to recent psychological literature that showed it was in children’s interests to spend significant amounts of time in each parent’s care.”
“After hearing the submissions the judge agreed with the lawyer for the child and ordered that Sam be in his father’s care three days a week, two of those overnight. There were no conditions attached. She did not agree that Sam should be in Robert’s care on a 50/50 basis as that sort of arrangement was more about Robert’s perceived rights and had little to do with Sam.
A C4C who actually does what they are supposed to! And a Judge who almost gets it right. If this was what actually happened in courts there would indeed be little for fathers to protest about.
“The case was adjourned for a review in three months with a view to a further increase in the time Sam spent with his father. Robert stopped going to the fathers’ group after the hearing. He just didn’t have time. Now his days were spent juggling his shift work and looking after Sam.
“The fathers’ group leader dismissed his success in court as a one-off but Robert knew better than that. He now had an opportunity to be the sort of father to Sam that Sam needed him to be and that was more than he had ever expected from the Family Court.
“The reason for Robert’s success, though, was not because the court was biased towards fathers, but because its focus was only on Sam’s welfare and interests.”
So there you go fellas – just keep away from those nasty father’s groups – trust the nice female lawyers and judges in the new and improved Family Court, and everyone will live happily ever after.