Priority News Exchange Program News Item (PNEP)
For those of you who are unaware of Mr. Magill story here is brief summation:
Liam Magill, 54, sued his ex-wife Meredith, 38, in the County Court after DNA tests confirmed he was not the father of two of the couple’s three children. His former wife lied in court documents and in court about who the real parent was.
Mr. Liam was breifly awarded $70,000 for pain and suffering and economic loss, but three Appeal Court judges overturned the decision at a higher court level. They also awarded legal costs against Mr Magill, while Mr Magill drove himself into further debt on his own for the state doesn’t fund men so wrongly abused.
Interviewer: You have not only lost a marriage but also 2 children, your health has been jeopardized and now the law has given you no recourse, how disillusioned do you feel?
Mr. Liam: Well firstly I need to correct some assumptions there, firstly I never had a marriage in the traditional sense of the word and I have in fact lost three children whose sense of confusion will probably live with them forever. As well I have lost the means to be able to start my life over again. I cannot work and I certainly have nothing to offer another partner apart from being a house husband so the losses are much more significant than they appear on the surface.
In terms of how I feel I’d say pretty much the same as the many tens of thousands of men whose position in a variety of variations are in the same position.
I have to say that on my wedding day I thought I was getting married to support a faithful partner, raise a family and grow old gracefully only to find that shortly after children are in place and for no unlawful reason the dreams were shattered by a series of interlocking laws, which include and an 18 year paternity tax liability euphemistically called child support and spousal maintenance. And what about the way our children feel while the 2 most significant adults in their lives implode?
Others men are faced with Intervention Orders to remove them from their homes, and jail if they go back.
Interviewer: If common sense had been applied, surely you could have avoided some of the pain you are feeling now?
Mr. Liam: In most other legal jurisdictions when a government department makes an administrative error, or it discovers facts that lead to a payment or a deduction that is incorrect, it works quite swiftly, backed up by recourse to Tribunals if necessary, to ensure that justice prevails.
In Family Law and Child Support there are many presumptions, very few having any regard to the actual welfare of the family or the needs of the children, that are backed up by highly trained professionals who make a living out of reinterpreting common sense and criminalizing paternity. Our case is just one of many that have become highly visible and not cloaked in the legal secrecy, deceit and lack of transparency that attaches to most.
When the equality of parenting roles, rights and responsibilities centre on the actual best interests of children prevail, divorce rates will plummet because the incentive to separate and strip assets out of the family will no longer be possible.
A minority of exceptions do exist of course where unlawful or inappropriate behavior causes family difficulties such as proven domestic violence or sexual abuse but these are the exceptions, not the main reasons why partners separate and in those cases no child support would ever be collected, few matrimonial assets would be available and, if convicted, further costs would be incurred by the State at the expense of the children.
Interviewer: Tell me how hard it has been to get Justice?
Mr. Liam: Well most people wouldn’t do what Cheryl and I have done but I believe justice has to come or family anarchy will prevail and the lives of young people will be seriously jeopardized. I wonder how the children I unwittingly parented will feel about me as they grow up and see what has happened to them by the institutions charged with protecting their interests. Derek Rowe was given ample time to hide his wealth. I wonder how the Testator Family Maintenance Laws will protect the 2 children that he fathered and what about the biological grandparents. How confusing is this deceit for everyone and how much of it would have become public knowledge if Cheryl and I had not acted to expose the fraud for what it truly is.
Court Judgments based on talented lawyers and judges being required to use bad laws to justify immoral decisions has served to highlight in the public domain, what very few cases have even been able to achieve, because of the secrecy provisions of the legislation.
Our case is now in the Law Colleges as examples for future law students. It has traveled the world and is being reported internationally and has forged links with similar groups globally.
The child victims of Family Law and deprived second families coupled with enormous numbers of non-custodial grandparents have endorsed the need for legislative changes.
Our case has opened up the absence of justice in a way that no other exposure has and I am confident that the last chapter has not yet been written either here or internationally especially as the emphasis on fatherhood or the absence thereof is now permeating the consciousness of societies everywhere.
Interviewer: The moral guilt shared between Derek Rowe and Meredith Magill amounts to more of a crime doesn’t it?
Mr. Liam: Moral behavior has long been eliminated from Family Law discourse. Even the text of all the formal judgments highlight the fact that personal behavior is not relevant. There is no moral guilt any more than there is in waging war in distant countries destroying the lives and properties of other lands in the name of the greater good of those who are offered the so called protection.
My question is: what do the children that came from both Derek Rowe’s and my paternity think when they look at their mother and in fact at each other. Normally this information is never made public in the interests of keeping children insulated from the reality of their lives, yet now this case has traveled the world and is even discussed in supermarkets and petrol stations.
I still love my family and I have no sense of guilt about the role I played in the creation thereof. Of course because of the far-reaching gambit of the laws, it is the only family I will ever be permitted to have and be capable of supporting.
In my view fraud is fraud and there is no doubt that when I married Meredith she was not ready to make the serious commitment that goes with those important vows and she violated my complete trust in her. She also violated the respect and trust of the children that were produced using two men to establish her rights to maternity and to claim the maternity dividend to which she is lawfully entitled. My question still prevails: why did I have to pay all the dividends when only one third of the liability was mine. And as well as this, and in the light of all the publicity, why won’t the Child Support Agency terminate their claim on my income and close their file.
If family and the rights of children are so important to our community and our legislature then these pieces of legislation need to be examined carefully for unintended consequences outside of their legislative basis and the outworking of family consequences. A very real case in point is non-custodial grandparents who never see their grandchildren and often re-parent their children again.
Interviewer: How would you describe the Child Support Agency?
Mr. Liam: It is an unconstitutional debt collector between citizens in dispute and a product of a legislative attempt to minimize the pain, anguish and uncertainty of divorce and family breakdown. It was also designed to woo the women’s’ vote which accounts for its bipartisan support.
It came about and remains protected by the Office for the Status of Women and is a political animal with more powers than the taxing and other regulatory bodies thereby criminalizing paternity.
Unfortunately in the absence of fault in separation and divorce the government is anxious about the spiraling costs of separation and divorce and the stress of the Social Security Budget.
Unintended consequences can be shown that where parenting roles in a no fault situation and a lack of equality in the shared parenting that should follow a decision to live apart and for children to be able to sleep with both its parents in rotation, has caused a blow out in the costs for the whole of Australia. This is measured in large sums of money paid in maternity dividend and significant numbers of non-custodial parents who are unable work and retain enough to live on.
Staffing and the high stress of administering the Agency takes its toll on staff who work on the counter. Too many recipient sole parents, some of whom are not getting their entitlement from the fathers of their own children, are employed at the Agency and they bring their hostility to the counter in their dealings with male non-custodial parent clients. The CSA have consistently refused to acknowledge this conflict of interest. As indicated in another answer it (the CSA) will not reveal the numbers of recipient mothers who have multiple CS orders in their favor but never more than one child from any one father, thereby maximizing their entitlement. One wonders how this is going to work out with the Prime Minister’s new Baby Bonus payment and the numbers of men who have supplied the means to qualify.
Rather than saving the government money it actually costs significantly more than it collects. One of the fundamental flaws is the lack of understanding that an excised father who loses custody and most of the family assets, and who wants to have meaningful contact with his children, needs to duplicate all the family assets he has lost and this is thwarted by the CSA formula which leaves little resources to re-establish another contact home experience to say nothing of the problems for second families.
This legislation has criminalized paternity and the outworking of the legislation is to identify penalties without recourse to any tribunal or judgment court as to its fairness. Even maternity dividend recipients have criticism of the process.
Interviewer: Derek Rowe seems to have gotten away with it Does that mean that Paternity Fraud is the near perfect crime?
Mr. Liam: Derek Rowe was aware of his paternity and so was Meredith as far back as the conception of the children. The CSA was informed of the fraud and the details of the considerable assets he once enjoyed in his own name were drawn to the attention of the CSA who had a legal duty of care for the children of the mother to obtain appropriate Orders.
From those resources the over-payment from Magill could have been corrected legally without disadvantaging the mother or the children, using all the powers at their disposal.
The CSA Departmental Managers and their Advisors indicated in memos discovered from FOI access to records that trying to collect it would be “problematic” so they willfully and intentionally aided and abetted the fraud. This was never part of any of the legislative process that traveled through the Court Systems, consistently being described as irrelevant, inadmissible and hearsay, all the magic legal words that consistently thwart justice in our adversarial legal system.
The CSA gave Derek Rowe three years to dispose of all his assets and retire comfortably to Queensland with his present spouse Veronica Rowe who appears to own all the said assets despite the fact that all the information pointing to the said assets were provided to the CSA and consistently ignored.
The legal action was reduced to the value of pain and suffering of the non-parent. No evidence was ever allowed that would impact on the duty of care by the CSA which could be traced right up to the most senior bureaucrats and all the way to the Minister’s desk.
It is obvious with hindsight that the dereliction of their duty of care has seriously disadvantaged the children whose interests they are regulated to protect. There is no doubt that more perfect crimes abound in this case and I hope to be around when the children of the two co-habitation arrangements reach the age of majority when I can give evidence on their behalf as they seek to have legislated wrongs against them addressed at law. If I was in charge of this file I would make sure its contents were shredded now that the legal action has failed to do justice to the non-biological parent.
Interviewer: Derek Rowe claims he owes you nothing, what would you say to that?
Mr. Liam: Derek Rowe is a proven biological parent of two children who are the subject of paternity tax and he therefore has a debt to the CSA which they presently don’t feel competent to pursue.
The fact that they aren’t showing any interest in him emphasizes publicly for the first time the easier and much more general ground under which the CSA prefers to use its considerable powers and that is the rule of “Presumption of Paternity”. Magill was married to Meredith therefore he is the liable parent easy decision and backed up by the legislation in its current form.
Of course this was always questionable. Evidence abounds of non-parents being found liable and just stopping work permanently to circumvent the paternity tax liability,
With DNA paternity testing however the facts can be known and the uncertainty dealt with, however the legislation is silent on this new development and so worrying was it that the Chief Justice of the Family Court lobbied for it to be a criminal offence to prove paternity without the Courts permission presumably to prevent the actions of the Family Court Registrars and Judges from making fools of themselves with their Orders.
EDITED FOR LEGAL REASONS
Interviewer: Do you still want Derek to hand over the money you claim he owes you?
Mr. Liam: Despite Meredith (McClelland) Magill’s enormous family’s wealth Meredith is a Ward of the taxpayer by her own choice and probably better off than if she was living in a marriage like relationship with a single income partner. EDITED FOR LEGAL REASONS.
Judges don’t feel that the legislation gives rise to findings of paternity fraud and on a cursory reading of the CS Act no mention is made of relationship fraud, only liable non-custodial parent revenue collection.
The wrong parent has been levied and I will not be satisfied until I get a refund. If I was imprisoned for a crime I didn’t commit I would be compensated for loss of earnings and for the time of my life that was taken from me and it would be worked out based on loss of earnings and the deprivation of my liberty based on a error in the judgment.
In the event that the incompetence of the Department has caused them to miss their opportunity to collect when the paternity evidence was made available to them, then the department should wear it and fund the retrospective adjustment of the over deduction.
In fact after all this time and all this publicity I still have an open file with the CSA with an ongoing deduction from my pension and the Department refuses to close the file and I am still being punished financially on a fortnightly basis and every year at tax time the matter comes to a head and requires constant intervention. Not only has the department’s incompetence been demonstrated but also their bloody-mindedness continues to complicate my life. There is power for the Commonwealth to correct the over deduction and to terminate the child support liability. That is not Derek Rowe’s responsibility.
Interviewer: You have, through this case, been thrust into the public spotlight and become an advocate for contested paternity cases, what sort of pressure comes with carrying that torch?
Mr. Liam: His is just one aspect of the whole issue of taxing paternity through no fault divorce. It is life destroying for the adults and the children innocently involved.
When the tax is levied unlawfully and reasonable expectations of back dated restitution falls on deaf ears the normal person will either get lost or get even. I decided to get lost and my partner decided we would get even and with the help of many concerned people we tried to activate whatever avenues were available to give the justice system a good workout. I think we have achieved that.
Even if the children were in fact all mine the effect of child support levies for three children effectively leaves me with the equivalent of the dole as a protected level of earnings with only 20 cents of every dollar I earn being retained by me from any earnings and brought in to any other relationship I might form. The balance of my earnings would be collected by the taxman and the child support agency would take the rest. The question really is who cares. More than 25 men in my circumstances each week nationally committed suicide over the impossibility of living without their share of matrimonial assets and when they were prevented from being an effective father to their children. Some of the pressure is for them.
What needs to be remembered is that a CSA order payable at the highest rate invalidates the non custodial parent from life itself unless they can return to live with parents, find another partner who can support them and not be liable for the tax or find a country where the laws can’t extend, which is the reason for the new laws that give the CSA power over international travel departures only for non custodial parents who owe huge interest bearing child support debts.
What most people fail to realize of course is that when parties separate and orders are made for 50/50 parenting responsibility the onerous operation of the formula is eliminated and children get to spend equal time with their incompatible parents and the Social Security outgoings would show immediate savings and with no incentives to separate there would be fewer dissolutions of marriages when the one sided paternity tax is offset by the 50/50 rule.
For me the pressure of being in the spotlight was offset by the enormous groundswell of support that generated both here and overseas, together with the tenacity of my present Carer Cheryl King who applied herself fearlessly to go where very few non lawyers have ever gone before.
What also needs to be remembered is that the Family Law Act of Australia is not original or Australian. It was a copy of legislation that was trialed and subsequently amended from Wisconsin in the USA so we can hardly claim that it is well debated and focus tested legislation.
The pressure on me would have been unbearable but for Cheryl who applied herself endlessly to the minutiae of details it has saved me from serious depressive repercussion. Many friends and colleagues have been destroyed completely and many lives have been lost directly attributed to these two pieces of legislation FLA and CSA.
My partner and I decided that we needed to do whatever we could to expose the injustice of the law and the incompetence of its administrators.
Remember that the operations of F.L. and CSA are cloaked in legislated secrecy and a lack of accountability.
Our actions have circumvented the secrecy provisions by the only lawful means available to any citizen and in so doing have opened the whole process to public scrutiny and more open debate.
Interviewer: Do you in any way regret the course of action you have taken, given how things have turned out?
Mr. Liam: No! If the CSA had done what the law requires them to do to rectify errors of assessment given all the timely information they were provided with, this process would never have been necessary.
I’m sure that most people have no idea how difficult it is to get the law makers to apply themselves to the justice issues that arise as a part of their duties and with the help of many we have taken the process to the top Courts of the land and in so doing have created history and much material for future generations of law graduates.
What we have also done is to give hope to many, including non-custodial grandparents, many of whom will never have normal relationships with their grandchildren and we have exposed how we have raised a generation of young people whose only experience of family is deceit and separation.
At least our actions have exposed the hypocrisy of the lawmakers who believe that it would gain votes from the Women’s’ Electoral Lobby.
That it has done because ‘child support’ is such a motherhood statement that people when asked what is important would always agree with support for issues related to children. It is seriously debatable whether the FLA and the CSA is good for families or children, or women or marriage and family life in particular.
Interviewer: What is your message to the Federal Government?
Mr. Liam: Appoint a Royal Commission with the widest terms of reference including allowing children who are victims of the legislation to speak. This is one glaring anomaly that the young people whose lives are supposedly protected have virtually no input to the decisions that come out and one day we will see the results of that anomaly
The second is to commission an independent financial viability study as to the cost benefit analysis of invalidating fathers and encouraging single parent families.
Of particular interest would be the overall cost of running the CSA which is grossly inefficient based on its own regulations to administer the Act. Much evidence of these inefficiencies were produced in the court cases and were disposed of as either inadmissible, irrelevant or hearsay but in a Royal Commission or a Cost Benefit enquiry they would all be admissible depending on the terms of reference.
Paternity risk management is a new industry and will certainly become a growth industry into the future. Its implications for family life as it was enjoyed before the FLA & CSA will require careful consideration by all post pubescent males who are sexually active unless of course they are unemployed and without assets or potential. Soldiers and Permanent Public Servants beware.
Interviewer: How do you feel about the support you have received through this battle?
Mr. Liam: Well support came from many places and from many wonderfully sensitive people. My concern still rests with the children of Meredith and the fact that the world now knows of the deceit of their mother and the blatant contempt for them by their biological father.
The whole issue of course only became a reality because of the operation of the paternity tax collecting activity of the CSA and the obvious benefits to women who can maximize its benefits.
Increasing numbers of girls are opting to become pregnant to viable sperm donors, initially for the baby bonus. Questions to the CSA regarding the numbers of recipient mothers collecting paternity tax from more than one father are consistently ignored but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is a significant number and potentially an ‘occupational category’.
Certainly from some of the messages that unsuspecting men had left for them by their separating spouses about how, after their lawyers had finished with them, their lives would be destroyed, indicates that a lot of paternal tax liability is deliberate and premeditated. Any attempt to explain that to anyone in the F L or CSA jurisdiction is met by the dead beat dad classification, a turn of phrase that often emanates from the Federal parliament as well.
My greatest satisfaction through all this was the story of the Family Court Judge in the UK who was dragged through the Paternity Tax and asset stripping process by his former wife whose insight into the effects impacted on all his judgments from then on towards the plight of non-custodial parents.
It is also an eye opener that whenever the non-custodial parent is a woman, child support is optional and never policed so the CSA is a very gender biased organization from the moment the first letter arrives.
Interviewer: When the Victorian Court of Appeal overturned your landmark Judgment how did you feel?
Mr. Liam: We anticipated the result because of the fact that we had to totally fund our action with heaps of pro bono contributions and the taxpayers funded the Appeal via funding from the Women’s Movement.
A hugely competent team of legal people (Clayton Utz) funded under the Office for the Status of Women ran the case.
It was not just Meredith and I arguing the merits of our case.
Appeal decisions are usually won or lost on the talent of the legal team rather than the justice issues involved, so this is not an uncommon outcome.
What became obvious was the fear of the implications if the Appeal was lost and an anticipated run on of cases for compensation that were waiting in the wings.