New family violence laws: do they let men down?

by Peter Magee on April 15, 2011

Peter Magee
My daughter Emma, who has strong feelings about this issue, penned the following :

I don’t normally spend my free time writing vitriolic articles about women, but reading the tirade that was the cover article of the Sydney Morning Herald, on April 7 “She once escaped a killer – under today’s laws she would still be trapped” prompted heated dinner conversation among my family and required an immediate response.  In brief, the article discussed the proposed changes to family law which seek to promote equal time between parents.

The subject of the article voiced concerns that despite having suffered domestic violence that ultimately caused her to leave her husband “today [she] would not have left…family law in the 1970s and 1980s offered a degree of protection to women like [her]” and “today she would be required by law to force the children to stay with him even when they were too afraid to go”.

The implication that today’s family law supports perpetrators of domestic violence is absurd and incorrect.  Unfortunately, the essence of the article was that the proposed changes to the Family Law Act do not go far enough to ensure that lives are not put in danger.

There is a perception that the Family Court can have a negative attitude towards fathers on some occasions.  My concern is that fathers’ experiences in the Family Court can put lives in danger – not the lives of the wives and children.

My personal experience has previewed me to the relentless and malicious use, by women, of children as pawns in a vicious cycle of emotional and psychological abuse perpetrated by them against their (soon to be ex-) husbands.  Curiously, proposed changes to family law include redefining the broad term ‘family violence’ to encompass the withholding of financial support; verbal, psychological and physical abuse; and the threatening of suicide.

One can only hope that the law soon starts to acknowledge the detrimental effects of such actions on the emotional and psychological well-being of divorced men, as research shows that separation and divorce trigger serious depression more frequently among men than women, and in turn, that the Family Court will view such actions as a form of ‘family violence’.

One is left to question when family law will place the needs of husbands on the same pedestal as those of their (soon to be ex-) wives?

Emma Rusiti

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

family law April 27, 2011 at 12:28 pm

The unfortunate thing is that through the 70’s and 80’s that “protection” was so widely abused, things had to change. Every wife was alleging violence against her and the children to justify removing the children from their home and to terminate their contact with their father. If there is violence in the home the pepetrator is a criminal and should be dealt with as such, promplty. There should be no right for one parent to unilaterally decide that the children will no longer have their other parent in their lives let alone be removed from their home, friends and other family.

Jodie April 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Just wondering Emma if you have children and have ever been down the track of enduring countless visits to the courts? No one is denying that men’s needs should mirror women’s, but first the behaviour of some men should mirror that of their ex-spouses and focus on what is most important – the children. My ex is a disgraceful poor excuse for a father, and would have continued to have equal access to his children – but he is a selfish man and chose instead to put his needs before his children’s – those needs being the relentless harrasment of me because I chose to leave him because of him, not because of the affair he claimed I had. He has continued to denigrate me in the presence of our children and anyone else willing to listen and give him the time of day. Because of his behaviour, both children have worked out for themselves where they want to be – and that is not with him. It didn’t take some law to decide for them what was best for them.

Matthew May 5, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Jodie, I am sorry to hear about your situation, but glad the children have figured it out for themselves.
However, the point seems to be that it is more common for women to abuse their children by using them as pawns against their former husbands. And the story of these abused husbands doesn’t make for interesting press until they are pushed to the point of throwing a child from a bridge.
I, and a number of men I know, have had our children abused in this way. Sometimes used against us as bargaining chips for financial outcomes greater than those the court otherwise would enforce. Sometimes simply as malice, refusing to act in accordance with parenting orders and relying on the pathetic system of the Family Court in enforcing orders.
One good friend has been told he could wait 9 months for a hearing date for ‘urgent’ orders to be allowed to see his children when his wife has run away with them; yet when he was a day late with a monetary payment, the Court was happy to arrange a hearing in only a few weeks. This highlights the priority that the Family Court and the current Government has towards truly supporting families.
How many more men will be at wit’s end and kill themselves before the Family Court and the Government might start to care?

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