The Family Court’s weakest point.
Many people don’t appear to realise how vulnerable the NZ Family Court is. The weakest point of the NZ Family Court is public confidence in it. Once the public confidence in the Family Court drops below a certain level the Family Court looses all power and authority. This is the greatest threat to the family court.
Public confidence in it is very low and weak yet there is a certain degree of implied confidence in it. New Zealanders are very law abiding in general. So newly separated fathers feel they have no realistic option other than to enguage in the Family Court process. Thus some commentators refer to it as the Family Caught.
Many men and fathers groups have tried for a great many years to bring about change to the Family Caught in NZ. Their frustration at the lack of progress is palitable. I can’t think of a peaceful approach that someone or some group have not tried. No matter what approach they take they are criticised. Usually this criticism is directed at them in the form of a personal attack. Yet for all this work and effort the outcomes for fathers and children appear to be little or no better.
Some comentators have pointed out that real change will require changes to the laws. On that basis ways to have the laws changed are pursued. That would certainly be the case for the so called Child Support laws. I say “so called” because in NZ these laws are actually a Child Tax, they have nothing to do with supporting children.
When one considers the issues of parenting children however it could be argued by the naive that the exiting laws provide a framework that is inclusive to fathers. The exact same claim can be made to the previous Guardianship laws since they more or less the same. Even the most dull witted individual however has at least some realisation that the way these laws are implemented is not at all inclusive to fathers. In fact they are implemented almost always as barriers to father involvement in the caring for children.
The people that work in this area for the most part make a career out of it. They are quite accurately described as the divorce industry. Make no mistake this is a significant industry with a great deal of vested financial interests. These people have made entire careers out of a process which is by and large implemented in a way to pose barriers to fathers’ active parenting of their children. This process of placing and reinforcing barriers between fathers and their children is so deeply ingrained as a culture in the divorce industry it is simply viewed as long standing standard practice.
Thus many observers are well aware that a change in culture and attitude needs to take place within the divorce industry. The attitudes and culture required is diametrical to what has exisited since the Family Court became established. Thus we are not talking about a small cultural shift. We are talking about a major change in attitude.
A great many people have tried to use this system to encourage it to make some concessions. This has failed for two reasons. One is that no one in the divorce industry takes the slightest responsibility for outcomes. In fact they are almost never aware what the final outcome for the children is. This includes the judges. Hence there is no sense of responsibly or of ownership for even their own part in causing the outcome. The second reason is more complex but possibly more compelling. For a variety of reasons the divorce industry does not want to change, learn and adapt. These reasons would be a whole discussion on their own. However they stem from an underlying lack of professional maturity. In many industries mistakes are admited, learnt from and changes made to avoid them. In the divorce industry mistakes are made, become case law, repeated over and over and then become part of the culture. The secrecy of the system enables this process to repeat itself and also prevents checks and balances being even considered.
All these factors lead some observers to the conclusion that no real positive change will occur within the NZ divorce industry without pressure from outside. This proposition is most clearly expressed as protests. In this context the divorce industry and the Family Court are synonomous terms. These voices of decent are viewed by the divorce industry/ Family Court as a threat.
They are viewed as a threat for two reasons. One reason is that this industry does not want to change or to admit it’s faults and learn from them. The other more compelling reason is that these voices of decent erode public confidence in the Family Court. This is in large part because the message these critics are sending ring true with people’s experience and second hand knowledge of the system.
The more public confidence is eroded in the Family Court the less power and authority it has. As public confidence erodes the more likley the fate of the Family Court will be taken out of it’s hands.