Mums told to keep child abuse allegations from family court

LAWYERS are telling mums "to lie to the Family Court" about domestic violence and child abuse because they fear their clients will be seen as trying to alienate the other parent from the kids' lives.

The Family Court's chief justice rejected the allegation, saying there were measures in place to ensure children were safe.

However, a number of experts told ARM Newsdesk they believed if judges suspected "alienation" - which is viewed as emotional abuse of the child - they would award custody to the dangerous parent.

Child sexual assault prevention agency Bravehearts, the National Child Protection Alliance and Dr Deborah Walsh, a domestic violence expert with 20 years experience of the Family Court, confirmed it is common practice for solicitors to warn mothers to keep abuse allegations out of custody proceedings.

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said she would be raising her concerns about this and other Family Court issues at a meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull next week.

Bravehearts is backing a petition for the Federal Government to roll out a royal commission into Australia's family law system or to expand the terms of reference of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse so it can examine how the Family Court is "failing" children.

Ms Johnstone said she recently spoke to a mum who was told by two legal experts not to bother telling the court about concerns her daughter was being abused.

The woman reported the abuse to police but there was not enough evidence for an arrest, Ms Johnstone said.

"She was told that if she was to do that (lodge the paperwork alleging abuse) the court would frown upon it," Ms Johnstone said.

"She would be viewed by the court as a vexatious mother, bringing about these allegations and coaching her daughter in these allegations - all of the things we've been hearing for 20 years."

RELATED: Family Court of Australia responds to Abbey petition

Can Abbey's heartbreaking story spark family law reform?

National Child Protection Alliance president Maurice Kriss said lawyers were so concerned about putting abuse reports before the court that some refused to represent the non-abusive clients who wanted to tell the truth.

"The solicitor in some cases will refuse to take on the case because he knows in advance the outcome and he doesn't want the stress of fighting a losing battle or, losing a case that will damage his reputation," Mr Kriss said.

"Because of equal parenting laws and attitude of judges towards equal parenting, this is something few solicitors wish to challenge."  

Dr Walsh said re-adjusting the royal commission's investigation framework would ensure any Family Court failings could be investigated in front of the Australian community.

"Yes, I have heard of it happening on a number of occasions," the University of Queensland family violence researcher and lecturer said of the unorthodox legal advice.

"It's very common in domestic violence services for us to hear women be given that sort of advice.

"The commission of inquiry at the moment has uncovered a whole range of institutional abuse of children in care and so their frame of reference could be used to investigate on behalf of the children.

"People come into the family court thinking about justice and ultimately lose their children."

Family Court of Australia chief justice Diana Bryant said she doubted the legal profession was advising people to mislead judges about abuse and that there was legislation in place to protect children.

"I doubt that it is true. I hope it's not true," Chief Justice Bryant said.

"I do understand that these are people's perceptions and they arise from very complex situations.

"The act provides for matters to be raised with the court and they should be.

"No one should ever suggest it's not appropriate in any way (to raise allegations)."

Law Council of Australia Family Law Section chairwoman Wendy Kayler-Thomson said experienced lawyers would not advise their clients to lie to the Family Court.

"The Family Law Section rejects ... allegations about the way that allegations of child sexual abuse are dealt with by the Family Court of Australia," she said.

# If you are at risk of sexual assault or require support please phone Bravehearts on 1800 272 831; If you are at risk of domestic violence please phone the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.


Heart-broken mum lobbies for family court investigation

MORE than 40,000 people have signed a petition calling for a royal commission into Australia's family law system.

A West Australian mother started the petition in the wake of her daughter Abbey's suicide three years ago.

The 17-year-old killed herself after a family court judge forced her to spend time with her convicted child sex offender father.

"The family court system failed my little girl," the petition, supported by Bravehearts, says.

"They failed me, a protective mother, who in my attempt to protect my children from contact with their abusive father, was dismissed as a 'hysterical woman' and a 'vindictive wife'."

Abbey's mother goes on to describe how the family court believed her daughter should have a "meaningful relationship with both parents".

"The court restricts children from doctor and counselling visits during legal proceedings, discounts their word against a parent's, views reports of sexual assault as vindictive and favours the most financially stable parent," Abbey's mother says.

"It's shameful and dangerous."

To sign the petition visit

# If you are at risk of sexual assault or require support phone Bravehearts on 1800 272 831.


Topics:  belinda cox child abuse child sex abuse domestic and family violence editors picks family court maurice kriss micah projects

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

100 years of RSL assistance

PROUD HISTORY: Queensland RSL state deputy president John Stachan, Stanthorpe RSL president Cyril Charlwood and Queensland RSL president Stewart Cameron CSC at Stanthorpe's RSL centenary event on Saturday.

Stanthorpe RSL sub-branch celebrated 100 years of the RSL

Young archer a world champion

World champion archer Nysha Willaton takes a shot at the Granite Belt Bowmen range.

A Stanthorpe archer has become a world champion.

Music musters fun day

Mark O`'Shannessy, Brumby Bridget and Leisa Gillham at the Bringin' the Brumbies fundraiser on Sunday.

A great day was had by all at the Bringin' the Brumbies Music Muster

Local Partners

Residents slam plans to close Stanthorpe bank

Stanthorpe residents, MP outraged over planned bank closure.

Community garden set for Palmwoods

Kay Nixon at the Palmwoods Community Gardens will be hosting a launch day and inviting the ecommunity to come along and sign up.

Parcel of land to supply sustainable gardening for community

Barry Gibb is coming to Bluesfest 2017

FANS: Barry Gibb talks to a fan next to a cardboard cutout of his young self.

Aged 70, Gibb has re-launched his solo music career with a new album

Tim Finn headlining at Airlie Beach Music Festival

Music veteran Tim Finn from New Zealand will headline the Airlie Beach Music Festival.

Tim Finn: "It's the kind of festival that artists love"

REVIEW: Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead disgusted me

I'm disgusted by The Walking Dead premiere.

SPOILERS: The Walking Dead premiere disgusted me.

Flick teases intense and entertaining Survivor grand final

Felicity 'Flick' Eggington in a scene from the TV series Australian Survivor.

GOLD Coaster's elimination leaves Lee, El and Kristie in final three

Priscilla concerned people will forget about Elvis

Priscilla Presley source Bang

She says she feels responsible to keep his legacy going

Taylor Swift files lawsuit over alleged groping

Taylor Swift source Bang

Swift has commenced legal action against a DJ over the incident

Kanye West threatens to boycott Grammys

West says he won't go to the Grammys if Frank Ocean's not nominated

Why this actress wasn't embarrassed by nude photo leak

Leslie Jones source Bang

'If you wanna see Leslie Jones naked, just ask,' she said

How Government will fit 100,000 new homes on the Coast

Property, real estate, housing, suburb,  August 2016

Fonzie flats and smaller block sizes part of long-term plan.

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.