Family Court review: initial issues for discussion by the Fatherhood Foundation
The following points are being currently being circulated for discussion by the Fatherhood Foundation. Reproduced here with permission.
- There are poor or no statistics on issues and outcomes from the Family Court. This hinders discussion of issues. This needs to be remedied to enable greater accountability and transparency. Men’s organisations need to be consulted about what data needs to be collected. E.g. initiated counselling, initiated separation, suicides, deaths from accidents while in FC proceedings, terminated counselling, custodial care proportions etc.
- Fathers are important. There have been several decades of negativity about fathers and many fathers and professionals do not see the importance of fathers. Considerable headway has been made on this issue. People now need to better understand why fathers are important. Many well meaning social services believe fathers are important but do not know why. Understanding by FC services and providers as to why fathers are important is core to meeting the needs of fathers and families.
- Suicide stats. These need to be researched as current stats given by Judge Boshier are not collected well and also stats for death by accident need to be kept separately as many suicides are concealed as accidents.
- Services specific to men need to be supplied by the FC and integrated into community services for men.
- The FC should not assume abuse of children if there has been partner abuse. Current tendencies to do this are unwarranted and add to the conflict. Such assumptions are not made for women who have been abusive.
- If the father has been violent there has been an assumption that boys copy the father’s model of violence on a social modelling theory. This is an assumption and makes no allowance for other factors or dynamics such as the boy responding to mother’s violence, anger of the child at being imposed with adult responsibilities, anger at his lack of access to his father.
- The majority of men in stopping violence programmes have been under-fathered. This vital element has been ignored. Being complicit in another generation of fatherlessness by policy may be one of the reasons the family violence stats are getting worse.
- Liable parent contributions need to be paid into a trust fund for the child. US stats indicate that parents who have regular access to non resident children pay their liable parent contribution.
- Child support needs to be more fair and cater for dual care. Where 40-60% of care is delivered by the other parent no money should change hands.
- There should be a ‘rebuttable assumption of co-parenting’ as a starting point for childcare in separations as a basis for equality and justice.
- Family violence: The issue of women’s violence needs to be researched and its implications for families catered for. CYFS reports 50-60% of abuse to children is from women. Much of this is excused as stress. Working with male violence in this manner would be unacceptable. There is a double standard in operation.
- Protection orders ignore female violence. Research indicates that one in three men are abused by their partner, similar to stats for women. Types of abuse are however associated with gender. Men tend to be more physical and women more relational/verbal.
- Convenience of accusing the male: when officers come to attend a domestic incident there is a convenient predisposition to treat the male as the offending/abusive party so that she can assume care of the children. Research however indicates that women start more conflict in the relationship and can be as violent. There is poor sensitivity to women’s types of abuse: verbal, emotional and relational.
- There are other types of abuse in families that do not get noticed and trained for by the police. Elder abuse, mother to child, female to male, adolescent to parent are examples. It is inconsistent and damaging to children to have other forms of abuse tolerated while male to female is (rightly) addressed.
- Accommodation is needed for men who have a 6 day order against them. Judge Boshier has advocated this issue.
- Current FC programmes have not been researched for effectiveness in the 20 years that they have been provided. Research in the US is clear that Duluth style programmes do not work. Women’s programmes and children’s programmes may also be in this category.
- A 10 week programme for men in relationships followed by a 10 week couple’s programme may be much more effective. There is a need for programmes that put families back together rather than leaving unhealed wounds and generating a burden on the state through supporting fragments of families separately
- ‘Disempowerment’ programmes work better than ‘male power and domination’ programmes. The Man Alive programme in west Auckland has better figures than other programmes using this principle.
- Family Violence Courts may not be delivering just judgements. There are ad hoc reports that men are pleading guilty to charges that they are innocent of out of despair of seeing their children or that they may not otherwise get a just hearing.
- In depth training is needed to boost awareness of other forms of family violence especially forms of violence undertaken by women. Most FC professionals and police seem unaware of this and practice attitudes prevalent to a pre-90s practice of rationalising and minimising male violence.
- Fatherhood organisations seek to be continually consulted about the implication of changes made in the FC and thank the review panel for this opportunity.
Hope that it engenders positive discussion.
Its trying to be solution focused and hopefully Dads will support this initative.
I noted on the Menz website that you have produced a list of considerations for the upcoming NZ Family Court Review. I am currently writing a Masters paper on the subject of Family Court service outcomes, particularly how these these outcomes relate to Counselling & Mediation services, and noted that this is the first point of consideration that you mention.
I would be grateful if you would be able to advise me as to who I might talk to in your organisation about this issue.
PS: This also may be of interest: http://www.familycourtstories.wordpress.com
And this: http://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Zealand-Family-Court-Stories/195310380525508?sk=info#!/pages/New-Zealand-Family-Court-Stories/195310380525508?sk=wall
That would be great. I have 50% care of my three kids and work only 32.5 hours a week so I can take my kids to a really good school. I pay all their school costs and for some extra activities they love, but their mum doesn’t agree with so wont help pay. But because I agreed to do the school thing, an administrative review says tough biscuits! And still, every time I get a raise or bonus at work, it increases my child support liability to her. While I cant afford a house because of the $200/wk child support, and substantial lost income due to less hours, my ex.’s parent’s trust bought a house for her to live in with her hubby, an unemployed (for 4 years so far) ex. convict. Meanwhile I work hard as I always have done to pay my rent and show my kids a decent way to exist. Bring on some change.
I agree that you should not be paying Child Support based on what you have told us.
Hang in there Nick.I can see you really care about your kids.Maybe they will come to you of their own accord.I know I would want by kids to live with an long term unemployed ex convict.In fact I would have a real problem with that.
Thank you JP.
I think it’s a very fair minded and positive approach being taken by The fatherhood Foundation.
We live in hope.
Remember Thomas Ball – He died for our children.
Great list, JP. In the US, that innocent men are pleading guilty to domestic violence and child abuse despite evidence to the contrary and even evidence implicating the mother is true. In my case, a child protective service case-worker threatened to put our son in foster care (which has a very long and bad history and would hurt our son more than if he were in the care of a parent) if I contradicted my wife’s false allegations or implicated her (with the evidence I have against her and no evidence against me). Then the case-worker explained that, “It doen’t matter what the truth is. It only matters what your wife believes.”
The Ministry of Justice is calling for applications and/or nominations for members of the Domestic Violence Programmes Approval Panel for 1 Dec 2011 to 31 July 2014. The panel typically meets for 10 days per year. Members get $300 per day for meetings and preparation, as well as travel and accommodation costs. Application packs and further info are available from Peter O’Connor, MOJ, (04)494 9900 or peter.o’[email protected], or get application packs from the MOJ website at http://www.justice.govt.nz/family
A note for general information:
One would not usually think of Mexico as being an enlightened society but recently there have been moves to introduce legislation that mandates prenuptial arrangements prior to marriage. Those prenups to include requiring the parties to agree on the custody arrangements of any children of the marriage! What a brilliant idea! If a woman tries to cut out her putative husband at that stage even before children arrive then its bye bye birdie!!!