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  • Family Court chief raps 'sinister' men
  • By Caroline Milburn (Law Reporter)
  • The Age
  • 21/10/1998 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: Admin ( 14 articles in 2001 )
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The most vitriolic critics of the Family Court were sinister men who wanted to change the law to disadvantage women, the court's Chief Justice said last night.

Justice Alistair Nicholson said the court's harshest critics were men's groups that believed the family court system had treated them badly.

"To many of these people, women's emancipation has either not occurred, or should not have done so," he said. "A feature of their rhetoric is a complete absence of concern for children other than as objects of their rights and entitlements.

"They frequently engage in the grossest form of harassment of their former partners and their children."

Justice Nicholson said men's groups were increasingly blitzing federal members of Parliament with allegations of court bias, complaints about child support issues, custody and access. Their allegations painted a false picture of the court, given that the groups represented a minority of its clients.

"When you only hear one side of the story it is all too easy to conclude that there has been glaring injustice," he said. "When the transcript of the case is obtained, a very different story usually emerges. I am tired of listening to armchair experts, some of whom are in the media, who listen to one side of the very complex story and jump to a conclusion of injustice, or worse."

He said many men involved in property disputes found it difficult to accept that a women's contribution as a homemaker and parent was valued as highly as their economic contribution to the family.

The Chief Justice was speaking at the opening of the court's national conference. He said the men's groups alleging bias against men overlooked vital statistics. Half of all couples with children involved in a marriage breakdown made their own custody arrangements without going to the court. Ninety-five per cent of cases that went to court were resolved before going to trial. The court received complaints about 0.2 per cent of its cases, and 40 per cent of fathers gained custody of children in cases where both parents wanted the children to live with them.

The number of people appealing against decisions without being represented by a lawyer had jumped by 40 per cent and many of them were men being egged on by the men's groups. "These obsessive people are taking up an enormous amount of court time, and they are directly causing delays in the system," Justice Nicholson said.

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