Frustration would have been the emotion affecting many commuters this morning. Many Sydney-siders waited in a horrendous traffic jam as one man in the midst of a family law dispute, abseiled down the Sydney Harbour Bridge, placing banners in protest of what he claims to be “systematic failures” which he alleges have caused unacceptable delays to him spending any time with his children.
It is my view that, although this is an extreme measure, his action exemplifies common practical difficulties parents experience during family law proceedings. Indeed, the man stated: “There is a major failure in the fact that there is no one looking after our kids when parents separate and divorce…I’ve been pushed and pushed. I’m not just doing this for me; I’m doing this for my kids.”
He identifies a common difficulty that many fathers involved in family law proceedings face which is “parental alienation syndrome”. Parental alienation syndrome can be described as strategic manipulation of a child by one parent with the purpose of destroying that child’s relationship with the other parent. One of the many common signs of parental alienation syndrome is lack of independent thinking from the child imitating the alienator’s thoughts and feelings. This results in the child being made to feel guilty for any love shown towards the alienated parent.
Often the primary motive of the alienating parent is to gain leverage in the Family Law Courts. Although parental alienation is increasing in recognition by the Australia Family Courts, a practical implication of parental alienation is that the alienated parent’s relationship with their child is already destroyed by the time the proceedings are heard by the Court and in some cases are beyond repair.
Another practical difficulty this father may have faced is that while he may have been proactive in initiating proceedings in an attempt to spend time with his children, Court delays are lengthy at the moment. Often so much time passes between the proceedings being initiated and being listed for the court to hear them that in the meantime, the parent’s relationship with their children deteriorates This difficulty was illustrated in the man’s response to his actions when he stated, “If I have to stuff four million people around for one morning and that gets my kids and other kids help one day sooner [then] I have achieved my goal.”
Unfortunately, this morning’s conduct was just one example of the frustration that too many parents face during family law proceedings.