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2004 News about Men, Fathers, Family Law, Divorce, Courts, Protests, Gender Politics, and Male Health
30th June 2004
New law opens up Family Court
The Family Court is to be opened to limited scrutiny and parents will be allowed supporters in court when cases about their care of children are heard. People involved in a dispute will be able to challenge the presence of the media or a supporter and there will be no public access in domestic violence proceedings.
27th June 2004
Fathers suffer baby blues too
Men are as likely as women to suffer postnatal depression with many turning to drink, spending more time at work and starting affairs after their babies are born. Psychologists and fathers' groups believe the problem affects up to one in five men, and cite a lack of support for new dads as a major contributing factor. Auckland psychologist Frank Hayes sees many men with the condition and said they often felt isolated because society's focus is on "motherhood and not fathering".
16th May 2004
Family Court to put rulings online
Family Court decisions may be available on a new website as early as next month. Principal Family Court judge Peter Boshier said the site would go online within a few weeks and judgements would start to be posted - with identifiers removed - as soon as practicable after that.
14th May 2004
Father seeks apology over sexual abuse allegations
A Christchurch father whose family was torn apart by sexual abuse allegations from a controversial health worker still hopes for an admission he was wronged. Trevor Gibling says he lost custody of his daughter Carolynne after being accused of sexually abusing her by the female health officer. The doctor examined and interviewed the girl at Christchurch's Glenelg Health Camp in 1987. ACT MP Deborah Coddington, in Parliament this week, claimed Doctor Dianne Espie herself had "repeatedly examined these little girls in a way that can only be described as sexual abuse".
"She inserted swabs into their vaginas. She measured their vaginas with tape measures, not once, not twice, but over and over
again. She kept saying to these little girls 'This is what your fathers do to you isn't it?'."
Hear Coddington's call for an enquiry: [608 KB MP3].
7th May 2004
Waitakere Family Court Resists Decontamination
When a group of fathers turned up at Henderson to clean up the Family Court, officials were worried that even this symbolic gesture might undermine their anti-father agenda, so they sent their security man to instruct protestors not to go past the footpath with their cleaning gear.
3rd May 2004
Children first in scheme for parents who split
Family Court experts are trying to save children from the harm of messy family break-ups and custody fights - by educating their parents. The pilot programme run by the Family Court Association - comprising lawyers, judges, psychologists, counsellors and social workers - is for parents of North Shore children who have separated or are about to. The parents take part in a couple of two-hour group sessions - ex-partners do not go to the same ones - covering topics such as how separation affects children, how to manage conflict with a former partner and an explanation of the court and its counselling and mediation services.
22nd April 2004
Judge calls for key changes to Family Court
Criticism that the Family Court is biased and overly secret is often "extravagant and misplaced", says Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier but he admits the court could perform a lot better.
Judge Boshier said simple changes the court could make to reduce criticism and improve its operation included:
- identifying and clearly prioritising possible abuse and violence cases that need a speedy court hearing;
- using more social work reports in place of psychological reports which sometimes take too long to prepare;
- embracing the possible future opening of the court to greater media scrutiny;
- providing more information to court users on the court system through the internet, an information line and short seminar-style courses.
18th April 2004
Men need support after relationship splits
When a relationship breaks down, men usually don't cope as well as women. Australian Jim Baker was lucky to get through to Mensline. Since it was launched three years ago, the telephone counselling service has received 190,000 calls (of which only 37,000 were answered because of a lack of counsellors and funding) - 45 per cent of them from men who cannot make sense of their world after separation. There is no rule book to tell them how to cope with the shock and explosion of emotions they have never felt before, or the fatal blow of losing their children overnight.
8th April 2004
Replace Family Court with a Tribunal
Jim Bagnall writes in Flat White Magazine: "men are looking for the 'glass door'. It's when fathers have normal and loving bonds with their children and their children have loving bonds with dad's family as well. A Tribunal can achieve this for children."
A news item about Jim's work titled 'Advocating for children growing up without a father' was published recently in the Central Leader.
Contract out on McKenzie Friends
Since the end of 2003, persons appearing at New Zealand Family Courts in the role of a McKenzie Friend have been forced to sign a contract like the one on this page. The legality of of removing or limiting the traditional right to support in court has yet to be tested by appeal to a higher authority.
4th April 2004
Domestic violence screening 'a failure'
In 1998, Queensland Health received more than $1 million in funding for a four-year program to develop and trial a "screening tool" to be used by ante-natal clinics and emergency departments. Of the failure of the program, the review said: "A number of reasons have been cited for this situation, including staff who have been trained moving to other positions, discomfort with the issue of domestic violence and a belief that screening is not core business."
3rd April 2004
Judge attacks Family Court laws
In a strongly worded speech this week, Judge Jan Doogue said laws introduced 10 years ago lacked the sophistication needed today. She said the laws were "social experimentation", and hinted they were introduced without thorough evaluation. Speaking at a child and youth law conference, Judge Doogue called for measures to ease the negative effects of the laws while proper research was done into their impact. The laws - the Domestic Violence Act and section 16B of the Guardianship Act - tended to alienate the parents, generally fathers, who had lost custody, she said.
Download the full paper: Child & Youth Law 2004.
Unacknowledged "Problem of Boys"
NZ Herald Editorial: It's time to give schoolboys a break. At last, a Minister of Education has decided to try to do something about a problem that school research will not acknowledge - the "problem of boys". Trevor Mallard this week announced a programme aimed at finding ways to lift their level of achievement at secondary school. It is not just that they are being outperformed by girls these days; it seems to be a deeper-seated problem in modern education that has made it more than usually hard to motivate young males. Parents know it, teachers know it but research commissioned by the Ministry of Education has been reluctant to confirm it. One study concluded the problem was not in education but in the attitudes of boys, which is true but hardly helpful. A generation ago, when the attitudes of too many teenage girls were not conductive to educational success, educational policy advisers were anxious to do something about it.
31st March 2004
Law Commission calls for Submissions
The changing nature of families, brought on by rapid social change and new birth technologies, is behind a discussion paper released today. The Law Commission is calling for public submissions by 24 May 2004 on the paper, "New Issues in Legal Parenthood", which reviews the rules relating to parenthood in New Zealand.
Some children could have two legal mums and two legal dads if radical options for redefining parenthood become law.
The Maxim Institute analysis: The paper shows a contemporary and relativist approach to law: the law should be "updated" to promote contemporary social aims. Long-held concepts of family, parent, and even child are all up for re-examination. The change is driven by ideology rather than need.
29th March 2004
Convoy 2004 heads for capital
Men demanding a Fair and Reasonable Child Support Act drove through Auckland in a convoy on 28th March
2004. They are heading to Wellington to "deliver the shirts off our backs" to IRD head
David Udy. Photos of Auckland departure.
10th March 2004
NZ Protection Order Statistics
Statistics released by the Justice Ministry show that the total number of applications for Domestic Protection Orders has been steadily falling over the past few years. Some of this decrease may be because relationships are becoming less violent, but a proportion will be due to the increasing recognition by the courts that protection orders are being misused for tactical advantage in custody and access disputes.
29th February 2004
Mums sue for lost careers
Stay-at-home women are suing their estranged partners for putting their careers on hold to raise children or support their partners' work. Under new property law introduced two years ago, breadwinners can be forced to compensate their ex-partners for their poorer financial status and living standards caused by their role in the relationship. The Sunday Star-Times has learnt of eight court settlements to women, worth between $30,000 and $50,000, on top of the 50-50 split of property and child maintenance between the couples. Hundreds of similar cases are settled in and out of court.
The first compensation case listed is described in detail on the Family Court website. Economist Stuart Birks shows that even if it is accepted that the woman should be fully compensated, the payment is inflated.
25th February 2004
Dear Naomi: assumptions of victimhood don't help feminism
Whatever the truth of Naomi Wolf's sex-pest accusations against Harold Bloom, nobody, so far, is coming out of the business very well... Ultimately, sexual politics is the one thing that really dates feminism, that makes it "old school" and lets it down. Equal pay for equal work will never go out of fashion. But blanket assumptions of female victimhood and weakness, the inevitability of male exploitation, the drive to politicise every ambiguous physical gesture as if we're all working shoulder to shoulder against malevolent men - this is not feminism.
22nd February 2004
Nick Smith - Auckland Support Rally
With Member of Parliament Nick Smith about to go on trial for revealing information about injustice in the NZ Family Court, almost 100 people (including National MP Judith Collins) turned up at the High Court in Auckland to show their support.
The Parents Rights and Open Justice Trust was established in 2003 to support Dr Smith and their website is about informing people about the case and the threat to free speech, democratic Government and the rights of parents that this case represents.
An extensive archive of news reports about the Nick Smith prosecution is available at PeterEllis.org.
Three months' jail for mother
A mother has been jailed for three months for refusing to give her former boyfriend access to their four-year-old son. It is believed to be one of the longest sentences given to a mother in a British dispute over child access. The decision comes as the courts and the Government prepare to crack down on mothers who repeatedly ignore court orders giving fathers access to their children.
The man is a member of Families Need Fathers, a 3,000-member support group which campaigns to keep children in contact with both their parents. Jim Parton, a spokesman and former chairman for the group, said that he supported the decision in Devon. "Judges aren't at all hesitant about jailing fathers and they shouldn't be hesitant about jailing mothers who flout the law.
19th February 2004
Another Step Toward An Open Family Court
ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman was today delighted to announce that her Family Court (Openness of Proceedings) Amendment Bill had been drawn from the Private Members ballot. "For too long our Family Court has operated under a shroud of secrecy, and its proceedings shielded from public attention. This Bill aims to modernise our Family Court along the lines of the New Zealand Youth Court - whereby the courts are open, but publication of identities is restricted and the judge has the discretion to close the court on a case-by-case basis."
Make sure you sign the petition to support the Open Family Court Bill [70 KB PDF].
In her article Letting The Light Pierce The Darkness Newman writes: With Judge Boschier about to head the Family Court, I sincerely hope that the drive for change will gather momentum. If it does, then the benefits will flow. We will see, not only a long-awaited decline in the escalating rate of child abuse but, less adversarial litigation between parents warring over custody and access cases, who see that mediation is a better option.
18th February 2004
Parents: We'll sue CYF over baby's cot-death
A West Auckland couple are planning to sue Child, Youth and Family over their son's death, despite a coroner ruling the department is not to blame. Louise and Craig Martin's 4-month-old son, Patrick, died in May 2002 of sudden infant death syndrome 13 days after CYF placed him in foster care. Mrs Martin had post-natal depression and the couple sought help after she shook her young son and dropped him a short distance on to a cushion.
13th February 2004
Don't have any more babies, judge tells woman
A mother of six who smothered her 4 1/2-month-old child has been told it would be best for her and society if she did not have any more children. Justice John Priestley made his comments in the High Court at Auckland yesterday as he sentenced 30-year-old Leanne Maree Marks to two years and nine months in jail for the manslaughter of her daughter, Shontelle.
Parents' Centre chief executive Viv Gurrey welcomed the judge's comments - but said more should be done to protect children. "We all stand accountable when the warning signs are there. This is not an isolated incident. It's happening all over the place."
3rd February 2004
New Principal Family Court Judge
Attorney-General Margaret Wilson today announced the appointment of Auckland Family Court Judge Peter Francis Boshier as the new Principal Family Court Judge. He will take over the role from Judge Patrick Mahoney on 13 March.
In the context of a custodial mother wishing to relocate, Judge Boshier has stated that, "the mother's enhancement as a primary care-giver is more important than the father's wish to have ready contact" - Quoted by Judge Green in (Green, 1995, p.137).
14th January 2004
Police sick of false sex complaints
Palmerston North police are vowing to get tough with women who get drunk on the weekend and then turn up at the station saying they have been sexually assaulted. Detective Sergeant Dave Clifford says: "It would be close to one a week now and that's too much. It's got to the stage now where we have to start locking them up."
A rise in false rape complaints is soaking up police resources and costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year. Figures issued by the Office of the Commissioner show police charged 471 people with making a false statement in the year to June 30, 2003.
A record of publicised false accusation cases in NZ shows that most of these cases referred to by the police were NOT reported in the media.
13th January 2004
Motherhood a lonely road for teenagers
A Melbourne Royal Women's Hospital study of 124 young mothers, with an average age of 16, found they received far less support with their babies than they expected during pregnancy, making them more vulnerable to depression. The same group also found that 73 per cent of teenage mothers became pregnant deliberately. The study's author and associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, Julie Quinlivan, said that for many young women who chose to become pregnant, being a mother was their career choice.
3rd January 2004
Australian Report on Child Custody
On Monday 29 December 2003 the House Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs tabled its report 'Every picture tells a story: Inquiry into child custody arrangements in the event of family separation'.
Fathers' groups say the Committee made sympathetic noises to their concerns, but ultimately betrayed them. The Men's Rights Agency says the Committee's recommendations will encourage mothers to take make false allegations of violence against fathers and it has also attacked a proposal to toughen the enforcement of Child Support payments, saying more fathers will end up in prison. Sue Price says: "it's like the New Zealand system that when a domestic violence order is made or applied for contact is immediately stopped and the parent who has been accused, usually the father, is presumed to be a danger to their children."
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