• Trevor Cooper

What should we want from the “Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System”?

So why have I published this on World Mental Health Day? Our children and parents that have been mistreated by the Family Separation Industry and this mistreatment has been the cause of enormous amount of mental health issues and suicide.

This gross mistreatment requires a formal apology, just as the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued in 2008 for the aboriginal stolen generations. I could not guess how many times that people would say “my kids are the current stolen generation” years after that apology. Unfortunately, they were right as their kids had been stolen using the many parental alienation strategies with the assistance of the government!

From what I have read, the system that our current Family Law Industry replaced was far from acceptable. Unfortunately:

  • The Family Law Act 1975 represented a legalistic system that proponents believed would be cheaper and quicker. The government failed to monitor the impact and they allowed the legal profession to argue the merits of the various parties claims for huge and many would say outrageous profit.

  • Progressively we found that child support became a recognised issue and in 1987 the then prime minister Bob Hawke declared "By 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty" and a child support system was established. I am sure many will testify in the upcoming inquiry, that their spouse has profited from withholding children from their “other parent”. Again, denial of the basic rights of a child and parent of a continued relationship as required under the Family Law Act was ignored and the new system incentivised bad behaviour and withholding of contact and children are still living in poverty.

  • The system became more complex as lawyers called in “experts” to assist with the arguments of what is best for the child and it formalised as a process where social workers and psychologists will give their opinion. Again, these opinions created a new source of income for assessors and they would assess people in a matter of hours. To make good profits these were conducted quickly and without forensic assessment of what the assessors were told was correct. The assessors were often with no qualifications as revealed in the 2017 Parliamentary Inquiry. Judges were forced to accept those recommendations as these assessors held themselves up as qualified experts in family dynamics, personality disorders and mental health an area the judiciary are not qualified as their qualification are in the application of law.

  • Special interest groups such as the “Domestic Violence Industry” using their Duluth Model, secured billions of taxpayer funds to fix DV (and achieved next to nothing and I suggest made things worse). They lobbied for legal changes which meant the judges had to formally consider DV which meant more to argue over and it became even more lucrative for lawyers as cases were dragged out. For clients it was like “out of the frypan and into the fire” as some that suffered genuine DV in the home progressed to whole-scale abuse, this time under the management and by The Family Law Industry. It is hard enough making one family home into two, but the results were devastating as what little assets they had to raise children were plundered by the Family Law Industry!

The failures of the sector were to make things more complex, lengthy, expensive and at the same time failed to introduce accountability for people’s actions as explained in my book and provided in some of the cases. I recall once a discussion with a criminologist that said that her profession has a saying “where there is money there is crime” and the common theme in crime investigation is “follow the money”. That sums up the Family Separation Industry quite well.

So, what should we want out of the current Family Law Inquiry that would make an apology meaningful?

  1. All incentives that exist that serve to exacerbate and prolong conflict will be replaced by incentives to reduce conflict.

  2. Processes will be put in place to hold all parties to account for their actions.

  3. That the government will fund the resources needed to ensure the above two principles are met.

From the first two core principles, the many policy reforms that are outlined in my book follow and more will be presented over time. My guess is that the cost to the community of running a system with these two principles in place will be much cheaper for the consumer than our current system that is simply “not fit for purpose”.

With such a huge percentage of Mental Health and suicide issues related to the Family Separation Industry I hope that getting back to very basic principles can be achieved.

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