Fathers’ rights groups often argue that bitter mothers invent claims of family violence deliberately to alienate dads from their kids’ lives, but a newly issued judges’ guidebook delves into the issue of false allegations in family court and states that “the making of false allegations is much less common than the problem of genuine victims who fail to report abuse”.
The online bench book, released by the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, forms part of the Government’s “National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022”, and contributes to the education and training of the judiciary in relation to family violence matters in Australia. The idea is to both promote best practice, improve consistency in judicial decision outcomes and improve victims’ experiences of the court system.
The guidebook underscores the need for judicial officers to have a good understanding of family and domestic violence issues. This is particularly important given the existence of the phenomenon of “secondary abuse”, wherein inappropriate judicial behaviours “may have the effect of exacerbating a victim’s experience of domestic and family violence”. By contrast, a judiciary that behaves in a respectful and inclusive manner can help “empower a victim to regain control of their circumstances”. The guidebook provides proactive strategies for judicial officers to take “to improve satisfaction and minimise the risk of secondary abuse”.
Some of the standard myths about family violence are debunked. For example, the belief that victims can just leave an abusive relationship, or that family violence is limited to specific socioeconomic groups and cultures, and importantly, that a woman’s risk does not go away if she separates from her abuser.
The myth that mothers routinely make up false allegations in family court against fathers is also tackled. Instead of fabricated allegations, the guidebook says that it’s more likely women will neglect to report abuse for fear of being seen as an alienating parent. The National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book notes:
“Although there is a widespread belief in the community that mothers frequently fabricate allegations to influence family law proceedings, the research to date indicates that it is more likely that they will be reluctant to raise allegations for fear of having their motives questioned, and that the making of false allegations is much less common than the problem of genuine victims who fail to report abuse, and the widespread false denials and minimisation of abuse by perpetrators.”
An area of “reported confusion” also exists in relation to laws around the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility. Contrary to some parents’ beliefs, this presumption does not apply if there are reasonable grounds to believe a parent is abusive. The truth is that even where parents agree on shared-care by consent, the courts still require the parties to disclose allegations of risk such as violence, abuse, mental illness, substance abuse issues and so on. The court then decides whether the parenting arrangements agreed to will alleviate concerns of risk.
The National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book is a publicly available resource–if you are interested you can view it here.
Source: The Australian
You might also like to read our previous blog regarding false allegations in family court.
If you need assistance with a family law matter or domestic violence matter, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services 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 Legal Services.