Canberra Family Lawyer

Online dispute resolution system given green light

By Gianna Huesch

When working out parenting and property disputes, experts agree that families are generally better served by making use of dispute resolution processes rather than proceeding through the family court system, given the lengthy delays and high costs involved in litigation.  There are already a number of excellent dispute resolution alternatives to court for families to consider, from mediation to collaborative divorce and arbitration, but these still involve hiring lawyers and consequently incurring costs that not all families can afford.

Now the Government has announced it will fund National Legal Aid to investigate how an online dispute resolution (ODR) system can be created which will help steer more families towards dispute resolution as they work through their family law issues, in many cases enabling them to resolve their disputes themselves.

Seed funding of $341,000 has been provided for National Legal Aid to scope, design and deliver an Australian ODR system, with findings due to be presented to the Government in 2018.  Similar systems have already had great success in Holland and the UK.  The systems rely on artificial intelligence technology similar to that used by ebay for their vendor/vendee dispute resolution system.

National Legal Aid Chairman Graham Hill describes ODR as “transformative” in that access to dispute resolution will be more readily available for those families who don’t qualify for Legal Aid but at the same time can’t afford legal practitioners. NLA estimates that as many as one in five family law disputes can potentially be worked out using ODR technology.

Mr Hill says the ODR system is intended to “guide couples towards their own agreed settlement, which would be ratified by the Family Court, potentially saving years and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees”.

Users input information from which the technology produces a series of likely outcomes, using previous cases.  It helps separating couples “identify their differences and work through them”, says Dr Hill, much the same way as practitioners do in traditional dispute resolution settings, but at a lower cost for users and freeing up “thousands of hours of court time”.

The project is to be managed by the South Australian Legal Services Commission (SALSC).  Gabrielle Canny, director of the SALSC, has previously said that ODR and other new technologies will not replace human lawyers and will not be able to solve all family law disputes, given how complex many are.  But she said it was “empowering” for couples that the technology could help narrow down the areas of dispute they faced, and would help them anticipate how judges would be likely to rule in their situation, which would drive more collaboration and mediated settlements.

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/e-divorce-how-artificial-intelligence-could-help-australian-couples-break-up-quickly-and-cheaply-2017-8

If you are interested in discussing the dispute resolution options that are currently available, such as collaborative law (in which we have a particular expertise and interest), please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law, on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice.  For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice for your circumstances, please contact us here at Alliance.

Court Orders Going Digital

By Sharla Stevens

The Family Courts and Federal Circuit Courts are now changing the way court orders are accessed and are moving to completing digital court orders, rather than the paper court orders that are currently sent in the post.

From 1 July 2017, the Courts stopped posting hard copies to lawyers. From 1 January 2018, this will extend to all parties, whether they have a lawyer or are self represented.

The electronic sealed court orders will be available to be downloaded from the Commonwealth Courts Portal. It’s easy to register for the Courts Portal, and also provides other easily accessible services, such as uploading certain applications or document, and registering to get email notifications whenever there is any activity on your matter.

For more information on the Courts Portal system go to:

http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/about/news/court-orders-are-going-digital

http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/how-do-i/ccp/register-for-ccp/register-ccp

If you need any assistance with a family law matter please contact Cristina Huesch, or one of our other solicitors at Alliance Family Law, Sharla Stevens or Angela Li on (02) 6223 2400.

Drug testing and family law

By Gianna Huesch

With the pervasiveness of drug use and abuse in our society, allegations by a parent that the other parent is taking drugs while caring for the children are frequently seen in the family courts.

In parenting matters, family court judges are mandated to consider the best interests of the child above all else, so making parenting orders depends on the judge establishing that the children involved are safe and not at risk of harm. This includes being satisfied that their parents have the capacity to properly care for them without being affected by the use of illicit substances.  Allegations of drug use are taken seriously given the high likelihood that a drug-affected person’s parental capacity will be affected and that exposure to drug use can be very dangerous to children.

Since a judge can’t be satisfied by simple denials of allegations, the simplest and most effective method for courts to substantiate claims about drug use made on either side (or both sides) is to order that parties undergo random drug screening.  This way the court can obtain reliable, independent evidence regarding a party’s alleged drug use and consequently make a decision as to the level of risk of harm to the children involved in a matter and what the parenting arrangements should be.  Drug testing may be ordered to be undertaken by parents but is also sometimes ordered for new partners or any other people who spend time with the kids.

Drug testing is typically done through obtaining a urine sample, though courts do also order hair follicle testing.  Urinalysis testing is done at a pathology laboratory under strict supervision by qualified personnel to prevent cheating, and must comply with Australian standards. Costs vary but are usually around $130 to $160 per urine test, and usually each party absorbs the cost of their own tests.

Hair follicle testing requires a sample of hair to be extracted and tested for drugs—these tests are usually more expensive but have the advantage of being able to detect usage dating back months.  When allegations are especially serious or relate to ongoing use, these are more commonly requested.

When a court orders drug testing, it will specify the frequency with which screening should occur and for how long—which can be anything from three months to several years and even indefinitely, depending on the severity of the suspected drug problem.  The kids may be removed from a parent’s care, if the court considers the children to be at risk, to protect them from exposure to and harm from the drug abuse.

If you have concerns over drug use, when negotiating with your ex you can ask them to supply proof they are not abusing drugs by agreeing to submit to drug tests, but if they refuse, you can make an application the court seeking that orders are made that your ex submits to drug testing.

On the other hand if you are the target of allegations of drug use yourself, and have been ordered by the court to be screened for drug use, it’s necessary to fully comply with the order.  Failure to comply can be interpreted by a court as you having avoided the screening process for fear of testing positive and would then give weight to the other party’s allegations.

If allegations are made against you and a court orders you to undergo drug testing, remember that if you know the other party’s allegations are without foundation, taking drug tests is an easy way to prove you are telling the truth and will go a long way towards improving your credibility in the eyes of the court.

Do you need advice regarding a parenting matter involving allegations of drug use by a parent or other significant carer? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law, on (02) 6223 2400 for confidential advice.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice.  For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice for your circumstances, please contact us here at Alliance.

Child Exploitation: The exploitation of children is on the rise

The Australian’s Federal Police’s Child Exploitation Assessment Centre has recently released figures showing they received more than 8,000 reports of child exploitation in 2016. Such exploitation includes sexual abuse, torture and murder of children for online audiences. Speaking at the World Congress on Children’s Rights and Family Law Efforts, AFP Commander Lesa Gale emphasised the need for such exploitation to no longer be a taboo subject so that children can be provided with the help they need.

Last year, Commander Gale’s unit prosecuted an Australian man who was sentenced to 22 years imprisonment for soliciting the creation and birth of twin girls through a surrogate with the full intent of sexually abusing them. The babies were only 27 days old when the first sexual assault began.

Worryingly, exploitation figures appear to be on the rise. “In the first five months of this year, the AFP has received more than 4500 reports of child exploitation – a figure greater than the number of reports received in the 2013 and 2014 calendar years.”

Commander Gale stated that “each one of these reports can contain hundreds and thousands of images and videos of children being sexually abused and tortured.”

“In the early and mid-2000s, in Australia the number of images seized when an offender was arrested was around 1000 images of a child being sexually abused. We were seizing kilobyte and megabytes of child exploitation material,” Gale said in her speech.

“Today, on average a seizure is between 10,000 to 80,000 images and videos. Some seizures have contained more than one million multi-media files.

Law enforcement agencies can’t deal with the problem alone. Family law has to be part of the solution, representing children’s interests and assisting parents in custody battles and being the first point of call for any concerns regarding domestic violence or abuse.

Early action is key to protecting children at risk. “By the time law enforcement is called in to remove a child from harm or bring an offender to justice, it’s already too late. A child’s life has been severely impacted, for life,” says Gale.

If you are concerned about possible child exploitation, members of the public can make a report via the “Report Abuse” button on the AFP (https://www.afp.gov.au/what-we-do/services/child-protection/online-child-sex-exploitation) and ThinkUKnow (https://www.thinkuknow.org.au/) websites.

If you need help with parenting and protecting your children in a family law matter, contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our solicitors, Sharla Stevens or Angela Li, at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

To read more about child exploitation, see: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/tsunami-of-child-exploitation-reports-in-australia-says-afp-commander-20170630-gx1wvv.html

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/the-men-and-women-of-the-australian-federal-police-who-work-to-stop-online-child-exploitation-20170629-gx1mii.html

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please phone us for a free first conference.

Making the most of your first meeting with your family lawyer

By Gianna Huesch

Your first meeting with a prospective family lawyer can be a little nerve-wracking.  You will probably be feeling somewhat emotional, whether you are grieving the end of a relationship, or feeling guilty for wanting to end one. You may also be feeling nervous because it’s all so personal: it can be distressing to have to reveal intimate information to a perfect stranger, no matter their professional capacity.  But rest assured there is no need to be nervous.  Everything we discuss is confidential and we are not here to judge you.  What we are here to do is concentrate on the issues at hand and guide you through the whole process.

The first time you call us to discuss making an appointment, we ask for some details of the other person involved in your matter.  We do this in order to undertake a conflict of interest check to ensure we are not acting for related parties. Then, when you come in to meet us for the first time, we offer you a free half hour first conference.  During this meeting you tell us a little about your circumstances and we discuss how we would approach your matter, advise you on the services we provide, and discuss the process with you. The purpose here is to assess your needs and requirements based on the information to hand.

We also provide you with an indication of what our costs will be.  After this conference, you receive a full costs disclosure and information on how to retain our firm if you decide to engage us.  Please note that until you are registered as a client, we cannot provide specific legal advice about your matter.

If you decide to engage us, before you next come in, there are certain things you can do to make the meeting as productive as possible. One of the things we suggest you do is to write down some notes regarding your situation and bring them in so we can get a copy.  Specific information will help us establish what is going on in your particular situation, and how best to apply the general principles of family law to your unique circumstances.  Therefore, writing down the facts is really useful, such as details of when and where you were married, what an agreed upon date of separation is, details of any children, details of employment of both parties, current living arrangements, and so on. If you provide us with this info for our file it can be used for easy reference, such as for when preparing future documentation.

Similarly, walking into our offices with a written list of your current questions or concerns is also a great idea so we can begin to work our way through the issues. It’s also helpful to bring along any existing court and other legal documents such as Orders, letters from other side’s solicitors, or any other documents served on you.  The duty of full and frank disclosure relating to property and/or parenting finances means that documents you hold relating to finances, such as tax returns and a list of assets and liabilities, are also really useful to bring along.

Preparation will help you feel in control and able to make the most of the meeting.  And it will assist us to use the law and the legal system to your best advantage, to ensure you walk away from your marriage with your fair share and the most equitable outcome.

Sometimes, you might not be ready to go through with anything at this stage, and may just be gathering information. And that too is OK: divorce is a huge decision and you need good information and advice before taking the next step.

Would you like to take advantage of our free first conference offer? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced lawyers here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 to make an appointment.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice.  For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance.

Can my spouse refuse to get a divorce?

By Gianna Huesch

What happens if your spouse refuses to agree to a divorce? Sometimes, a spouse may be so unwilling to get a divorce, they may simply refuse to sign the papers and hope that this stymies your divorce plans. In this situation, what are your options?

If you are ready to get a divorce but your partner is unwilling, it can be especially challenging emotionally, but legally, the path ahead is clear.  Your partner is technically not obligated to sign the papers, but unless there are legal grounds for them to oppose the divorce—which are extremely limited–the divorce will in all likelihood still take place.

In Australia, the only grounds for divorce are that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and there is no reasonable likelihood you will get back together.  Your spouse can oppose your divorce application, but only if they can show that the requirement of 12 months’ separation has not been met, or that the court does not have jurisdiction.

Whether your spouse wants to get a divorce or not, if you have fulfilled the requirement of being separated for 12 months and a day, including being ‘separated under one roof’ (ie, remaining living in the same house but as separated partners), you can go ahead and apply for a divorce.  Note, however, that the court will only grant your divorce if it is satisfied that proper arrangements have been made for any children aged under 18 who are involved.

It’s acceptable to fill out a divorce application yourself (making a sole application as opposed to a joint application). You simply complete all the information about your spouse and for any questions where you don’t know the answer, you simply write “not known” on the papers. Once you’ve filled out your application, you are required to serve it on your spouse in order to notify them of the pending application. Together with your sealed copy of the Application for Divorce, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the court’s brochure “Marriage, Families & Separation”, and any other documents filed with the court except the marriage certificate.

It’s not possible for you to personally serve the documents on your spouse, and instead you need to arrange for someone 18 years old or older to serve the documents on your spouse.  This person, known as the server, can be a family member or friend, or a professional process server.  Service can be by post or by hand, and can be on your spouse personally or their lawyer, if their lawyer is willing to accept the documents.  Documents must be served on your spouse at least 28 days before the court hearing if they live in Australia. If they are overseas, the requirement is that documents are served at least 42 days before the hearing.

If you’re serving your spouse by post, you’ll want to be confident they will actually sign and return the Acknowledgement of Service (Divorce) to you. However, if they have already indicated their unwillingness to comply with your wishes to get a divorce, this may well be wishful thinking, and service by hand will probably be necessary.  If your spouse refuses to take the documents from the server, the server can place them somewhere in the presence of your spouse, stating what they are, and this will fulfill service requirements.

If you can’t find your spouse, and have taken all reasonable steps to locate him or her, it is also possible to apply to the court for an order to dispense with service or for substituted service.

Once you have served your spouse with divorce papers, they can file a formal Response.  This is a document that expresses when someone opposes the divorce and the legal reasons why the divorce Application should be dismissed.  Alternatively a spouse might agree to the divorce but wish to disagree with specific statements you’ve made in the Application, or draw attention to errors of fact, and these are then listed in the Response. The Response is then served on you or your family lawyer.

Do you need assistance with a divorce Application or a Response? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced lawyers here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400. Your first half hour conference is free.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice.  For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance.

What is the parliamentary inquiry into the family law system and family violence revealing?

By Gianna Huesch

The ongoing parliamentary inquiry into “how to create a better family law system for those experiencing family violence” has been making headlines lately because of the attorney-general’s cancellation of personal appearances before the inquiry by family court chief justices, with some interest groups now arguing this diminishes the inquiry’s potential to be useful.

However the inquiry’s chair, Liberal MP Sarah Henderson has defended both Brandis’ action and the inquiry and outlined some of the valuable evidence already emerging from the 118 submissions received to date. Speaking to the ABC Ms Henderson said it was clear that major reform would be required because deficiencies in the system were putting vulnerable families at risk.

In particular there was a need for better processes to be put in place to enable “early and urgent” identification of family violence issues in proceedings because of the effect on orders that were made regarding children.  Better triaging was needed in order to prioritise child safety, said Ms Henderson.

Submissions have raised questions over whether the family courts were prioritising the rights of parents over those of the children. Despite the Family Law Act making clear that courts must act in the best interests of the children, not the parents, there are lingering fears over whether perpetrators of family violence are routinely being given unsupervised access to children.

The inquiry was also uncovering concerns over the interaction between state and territory courts and family courts and jurisdictional barriers:

“For instance, at the moment, an intervention order or an AVO can be granted in state court and then someone can walk away and be left to fall through the cracks and there was a great suggestion I think made yesterday by the Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal unit which proposed giving powers to magistrates to case manage or refer family violence matters directly to family courts. “

Another issue flagged by Ms Henderson is systems abuse, “where partners are actually using the Family Court system, bringing on endless applications and proceedings and that actually imposes greater abuse on their former partner.”

The “prohibitive” expense of proceedings and the time it takes for matters to reach resolution are also seen as putting vulnerable parents and children at greater risk and impeding their access to justice.

Ms Henderson mentions concerns over the evidence of family report writers which is relied on by the family courts when making determinations about many facts in disputes involving kids, yet family report writers “are not accredited, they are not trained”.  Not only that, but their costs can be as high as $9,000 per day, which she describes as “absolutely outrageous”.  The inquiry, she says, will canvas solutions including better training and processes, particularly in establishing the truth when family violence allegations are made.

In response to the criticism over the attorney-general’s actions in preventing the chief justices from appearing before the inquiry, Henderson argues that their voices will in effect still be heard:

“We are taking evidence from all courts and all judges if they so wish, by way of submission, and we have received a comprehensive submission from the Family Court.”

While the chief justices cannot be personally questioned face to face, Henderson says “we can certainly follow up by way of questions to the court in writing”.

She applauded the attorney-general’s move, saying that “subjecting judges to questioning and interrogation by Members of Parliament crossed the very important principle of separation of powers…a fundamental tenet of our democracy.  What we can’t do is undermine the judiciary.”

Read more: http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/am/child-safety-must-be-paramount-in-family-law:-sarah-henderson/8833304

Do you need assistance with a family law matter?  Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice.  For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice for your circumstances, please contact Alliance.

Binding Financial Agreements

By Sharla Stevens

Binding Financial Agreements (BFAs) are contracts that couples can enter into either before they enter into a de-facto relationship or before marriage, during their de-facto relationship or marriage or after the couple has separated.

Within a BFA the couple are able to set out how their assets and debts are to be divided between the two of them and exclude the jurisdiction of the Family Courts to make orders about property settlement.

To ensure a BFA is binding each person must:

  1. Get independent legal advice about the effect of the BFA on their rights.
  2. Each person’s solicitor must sign a certificate confirming they have provided that advice and those certificates must be exchanged.
  3. Both people must sign the BFA.
  4. Be aware that material changes in future circumstances may be grounds to challenge the BFA. This is particularly so for BFAs that are signed either before or during a de-facto relationship or marriage, where there may be more uncertainty about changes in future circumstances (e.g. if the couple has children and the terms of the BFA have not taken that into consideration and one person suffers hardship).

The grounds on which a BFA may be set aside by a Court are set out in the Family Law Act in section 90K (for married couples) and section 90UM (for de facto couples):

  1. If there has been fraud, duress or unconscionable conduct;
  2. Where the BFA was entered into to defraud or defeat a creditor of either of the parties (or entered into with reckless disregard of the interests of the creditor);
  3. Where the BFA was entered into for the purpose of defrauding another person who is in a de facto relationship with one of the parties of the BFA or to defeat any claim that other person may have under the Family Law Act (or entered into with reckless disregard for that other person’s interests);
  4. The BFA is void, voidable or unenforceable;
  5. If circumstances have arisen since the BFA was made and it is impracticable for the BFA or part of the BFA to be carried out;
  6. Since the making of the BFA, a material change in circumstances has occurred (being circumstances relating to the care, welfare and development of a child of the relationship ro marriage) and as a result of the change, the child/ren or the person who has caring responsibility for the child/children will suffer hardship if the BFA is not set aside;
  7. If the BFA provides for a superannuation split, but there the superannuation interest is considered ‘unsplittable’.

Although it may be an uncomfortable topic for couples to broach, it does provide couples with more certainty in the event they do separate and provides the couple with provisions on how to divide their assets and debts, making it a quicker and more cost-effective option after separation.

If you need any advice or assistance with a Binding Financial Agreement please contact Cristina Huesch, or one of our solicitors, Sharla Stevens or Angela Li, at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance.

E-Divorce

Alliance Legal Services has been following the discussion on E-DIVORCE with interest. For some time we have been working on the development of smart forms that will enable potential clients to register and fill out forms for simple family law matters. Once complete they would be able to present them for advice, or seek support on some of the more complicated aspects. 

Our experience suggests that amicable separations rarely involve significant costs and that hostile separations, or separations where parties just cannot agree, will not be partuclarly assisted by artificial intelligence (AI). AI, by definition has to rely on logic which means the computer will more often than not “say no” to proposed solutions in complex emotion driven matters. Rarely are the difficult matters we deal with resolved with simple logic.

We also wonder whether a truly smart AI system can be built for the federal government’s proposed investment of $341,000; and would be interested in the supporting details of the estimate that “20% of all family law disputes in Australia could, in the future, be resolved through online dispute resolution”, and how that compares to the percentage of matters already resolved without the extensive involvement of lawyers. Are we just providing an online solution for matters already being dealt with amicably? 

We are in no doubt that reforms are needed in family law or that these reforms need to involve ways to dramatically reduce the costs of resolving complex and bitterly fought family law matters. This announcement does not progress this more important issue.

Tony Yoo from Business Insider Australia writes on 10 August 2017:

The federal government has granted $341,000 to National Legal Aid to investigate creating a system that could reduce the number of long and expensive divorce proceedings.

The scoping project will be managed by the South Australia Legal Services Commission.

NLA chairman Graham Hill said that artificial intelligence would be used to “deliver low-cost, user-friendly legal assistance to help separating couples identify their differences and work through them”.

“Family breakdowns are invariably awful and so too are the legal disputes that often follow them. Too often, these disputes prove to be too expensive, too time-consuming, too painful and too adversarial for all parties,” he said.

“I estimate 20% of all family law disputes in Australia could, in the future, be resolved through online dispute resolution. This technology would save thousands of hours of court time.”

Australia currently sees more than 48,000 divorces processed each year.

Hill said an online service could be especially be useful for people in the “missing middle” that couldn’t afford expensive lawyers but didn’t qualify for legal aid. The agreed settlement out of the electronic process would be ratified at the end by the Family Court.

South Australia Legal Services Commission director Gabrielle Canny said artificial intelligence could help couples foresee how a human judge might rule on their circumstances, helping them come to a resolution earlier.

“Technology, including so-called ‘robot lawyers’, is not designed to replace lawyers and cannot resolve all types of family law disagreements. But it can empower couples to reduce the areas of dispute. That can only be a good thing.”

Last year, National Legal Aid hosted a forum with RMIT University on the possibility of an e-divorce system for Australia. Victorian Legal Aid managing director Bevan Warner said at the time the ODR system in the Netherlands showed positive results for all parties.

“The Dutch technology helps people deal comprehensively with their legal problem and encourages a mediated settlement rather than recourse to lawyers and courts. Agreements reached through collaboration tend to be more effective than decisions imposed by judges.”

(Original article https://www.businessinsider.com.au/e-divorce-how-artificial-intelligence-could-help-australian-couples-break-up-quickly-and-cheaply-2017-8)

Do you need assistance with a family law matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance.

Dowry Abuse

By Kate James

An ABC article discusses the ancient tradition in Indian families to provide a daughter with a dowry, while sons typically receive an inheritance. However specific circumstances in Australia make it easier for Indian men living in Australia to exploit their new partner’s family for exorbitant amounts.

Typical dowries range between $25,000 – $50,000, and can include cash, jewellery, gold and white goods. But demands can keep coming after the wedding from the husband as well as his family.

These demands might not just be for money: Kasish’s new husband wanted her to take the blame for his driving offence – an offence that occurred while she was not in the country. When she refused, he hit her for the first time. 

“He hit me, he scold me, he pull my hair,” she said.

“He said: ‘Why are you not giving to me? I am your husband, you have to give to me. All [the] people are doing it’.”

Unfortunately for Kasish, divorce is frowned upon in India, and it is unlikely she will be able to marry again if she leaves her husband.

Kasish’s story is all too common according to social and legal workers, who report that dowry related abuse is on the rise. Indian men in Australia are being physically abusive to their wives if they do not comply to demands to pay more money after the wedding.

Anvi (not her real name), a social worker in Adelaide says “”More than half of [my] clients have this problem. Most of the time… the husband keeps asking for dowry, and it finally ends up in physical violence.”

It’s not just the husband who can be abuse however.

“Typically the in-laws, usually the mother-in-law, is not satisfied with what she got, after the wedding,” says Ms Kaur, social worker and director of JK Diversity Consultants Jatinder Kaur.

Ms Kaur says she has seen cases where a mother-in-law is abusive, or tells her son to be violent to his new wife.

“They will try to extort or emotionally blackmail the bride’s family. [The mother-in-law will say] ‘we will make your daughter’s life hell if you don’t give us what we want’.

So why is the problem so pervasive in Australia?

Legislation in India has outlawed the giving of dowries to avoid this kind of abuse. The measures have been only somewhat successful, with families instead referring to “gifts” and avoiding documentation.

In Australia no specific legislation exists to prevent dowries. Australian men are also in a better position to command higher dowries because of the promise they can offer of a new life in a wealthy country.

Indian men living in Australia often date Australian women, but go back home to marry, either because they wish to continue to have a connection with their culture, or because they believe that by marrying an Indian girl and receiving a dowry they can pay off their debts.

Men who have arrived as international students years ago may see marriage as a way to pay off their student debts and loans, according to psychiatrist and campaigner Dr Manjula O’Connor.

The problem of dowry abuse can be fatal. In 2014 Deepshikha Godara was stabbed to death by her husband, Sunil Beniwal due to ongoing abuse beginning with her husband’s demands for more dowry.

“The Australian experience is mirroring the experience back in India, where every year about 8,000 to 8,500 murders are being recorded,” Dr O’Connor warned.

Australian domestic violence legislation has to step up to provide women victim to dowry abuse greater protection.

To find out more about how the law in Australia can protect victims of any kind of abuse, call our office on (02) 6223 2400 to book an appointment to speak with one of our lawyers. All our lawyers have experience catering for clients of all cultural backgrounds, and have worked with clients in abusive relationships to walk away and resolve parenting and property issues.

To read the whole article, see http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-29/dowry-abuse-domestic-violence-kasish-story/8745118?pfmredir=sm_

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.

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