Pain & Bitterness (Media) (Download)

By Kylie Smith

Sunday 24 November 2002

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"Put a good person in a bad system, and the system will win every time."
- W Edwards Deming

However sometimes, the above quote does not always hold true — just as David did win the battle with his stronger opponent Goliath.

In fact, this actual story shook the foundations of the Australian Family Court system and those misguided lawyers that patrol its corridors, as the failed Family Law system was again exposed to the public.

If but for a brief moment in time and history, the many cracks within its walls and dirty tricks that some legal people and club members play, were revealed highlighting the catastrophic harm that can be inflicted upon children and families.

May the architects of such systems learn to listen and learn, putting people before their ignorance, arrogance and pay cheques.

This Family Court Case is possibly one of the rarest insights
ever to be revealed by mainstream media.

The presiding judge walking into the court room with the newspaper rolled up under his arm, was terribly vexed it was leaked. However, to this father and paternal family in light of the horrendous bias and injustice that had transpired for so long, this was a good sign — giving a sweetened end to all the hard work it took to get this story before a concerned and credible author and printed. An author and newspaper that had the power to release this poor little boy, sister and father from a fatal Family Court system this family had found themselves trapped in — almost to the point of insanity or death. Others aren't so lucky!

The Story Begins:-

I Prefer Suicide to Lesbian Mum


By Kylie Smith (Sunday Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia)

The Family Court, criticised for inciting parents into battle.

John at home with his daughter Ellen, who also refuses to live with her lesbian mother.

A 12-YEAR-OLD Melbourne boy has run away five times, and his father has been jailed, because he refuses to live with his mother and her lesbian partner.

The Family Court has ordered 'Peter' live with his mother.

His father has repeatedly failed to regain custody through the court.

The boy's determination not to be returned to his mother has led to him threatening suicide if the court order is not changed.

The Sunday Herald Sun cannot reveal the real names of people involved in the case for legal reasons.

Peter's father, 'John', was jailed overnight by a Family Court judge on Wednesday for not complying with a court order to return Peter to his mother.

Peter turned himself in to the Department of Human Services on Thursday following two weeks on the run.

He was placed in a foster home, and will have no contact with either parent until the case returns to court this week.

At a meeting arranged last week with the Sunday Herald Sun, Peter pleaded to be allowed to live with his dad, saying he would continue to run away if returned to his mother.

During his periods on the run, which have lasted up to 11 weeks, Peter has concealed his whereabouts from his father, keeping in touch by public phone.

Peter and his sister, 'Ellen', 15, lived with their father for more than three years after their parents' separation.

In early 2001 the Family Court ordered they be moved into their mother's custody.

A year later Ellen left her mother's home and returned to John's care.

Peter has been prevented from having any contact with his father or sister since December.
He told the Sunday Herald Sun he was upset and frustrated that authorities were not listening to him.

"I ran away from my mum's because I want to live with my dad," he said.

"There was no other option. No-one will listen to me."

A psychiatrist's report tendered to the court this week confirms Peter has repeatedly threatened to harm himself if returned to his mother.

John said he would continue to do whatever it took to protect his son.

"A father has to protect his children at any cost and if that means going to jail, that is what I will do," he said.

John said he planned to launch action in the High Court alleging he was jailed illegally.


Pain & Bitterness

(Part 2)

PETER'S story is a tragic case of a family torn apart and a system that appears to have failed society's most vulnerable.

At the centre of the drama is a 12-year-old boy with a toothy smile who likes cricket and wants to be a computer programmer; a boy who just wants to see his dad and doesn't understand why no one will listen to him.

Peter has run away five times in the past 18 months. Each time the Family Court has ordered he be returned to his mother's home, which she shares with her lesbian partner, despite Peter's pleas to be allowed to live with his dad.

He and his family cannot be identified by the Sunday Herald Sun for legal reasons.

A psychiatrist's report tendered to the Family Court this week shows the terrible impact of the court order.

"The child mentioned he would keep running away if he was not allowed to see his father, or was forced to live with his mother," the psychiatrist wrote.

"Asked what he would do if running away didn't work, he said he would kill himself."

After the court hearing in which the report was submitted, a judge jailed Peter's father overnight for refusing to reveal his son's whereabouts.

On the day of the hearing Peter was again on the run, after taking off from home for the fifth time.

Peter's dad, John, says he did not know where Peter was, but believed he was safe.

In his desperation, John was prepared to go to jail rather than see his son forced back to his mother.

When the Sunday Herald Sun spoke to Peter last week, his message was simple. His only wish was to live with his father, while maintaining contact with his mum.

"I don't want to stay (at my mother's) because she doesn't let me see my dad or call my dad or my sister," Peter said.

He ticked off a list on his fingers of all the people he had told about wanting to live with his dad: four psychologists, a social worker, a child representative from the Family Court and his mother's solicitor.

"No one will listen to me," Peter said.

"I have talked to everyone, even my mum."

Today Peter is safe in a foster home, after turning himself in to authorities when he learned his dad had been jailed.

Neither parent is allowed to see Peter until the case returns to court this week.

When John and his wife, Mary, separated in May 1998, no one imagined the breakdown would descend into such bitterness and pain.

Mary moved in with her new lesbian partner while Peter and his sister Ellen remained with their father.

Mary had access to her children for five days each fortnight.

Soon after the separation, Mary filed for full custody of the children, refusing John's pleas for counselling and mediation to spare them a court battle.

The legal wrangling continued for almost three years, while the children remained with John and saw their mother regularly.

Mary accused John of sexually abusing his daughter -- a claim both Ellen and John strenuously denied. A subsequent Department of Human Services investigation found the allegation was not substantiated.

AT a custody hearing in April last year, at which John was unrepresented, a judge removed the children from his care, giving custody to their mother.

A devastated John was granted access for one weekend a fortnight -- a court order with which, he says, his former wife often failed to comply.

John believed his children were increasingly unhappy, but felt powerless to do anything.

Their mother's new partner is a Department of Human Services manager, and John feared her contacts in the court system had influenced aspects of the custody battle.

The situation escalated last November, when Peter ran away, little more than six months after being placed in his mother's care.

During the next six weeks Peter ran away twice.

He was then placed in a psychiatric ward for five days.

Mary applied to the court to have John's access to his children stopped, arguing he was encouraging Peter's behaviour.

Two months later Ellen ran away to her father's home.

Mary did not seek a court order to have Ellen returned, and she has remained with John.

Meanwhile, Peter's behaviour was becoming increasingly worrying. He was prevented from having any contact with his father or sister.

As it became apparent his running away was a continuing pattern of behaviour, Mary began watching Peter constantly.

A court affidavit by a former housemate described the boy as "a prisoner in her care".

AFTER Peter was returned from running away for a fourth time in January this year, he was kept away from school for seven months.

"Everywhere I go she's right next to me," he says.

To complicate matters, Mary became the target of an extremist men's group. John says he has nothing to do with the group and does not support it.

The situation again came to a head this month when Peter ran away for the fifth time -- his whereabouts unknown to both parents.

Authorities believed John was concealing his son, and Federal Police raided his home, confiscating computers.

Peter kept in touch with supporters by telephone and a meeting was arranged with the Sunday Herald Sun last week. Peter said he ran away because he had been prevented from seeing or calling his sister or father since Christmas.

"My mum always bags my dad and my dad's family, which is my family," he said. "She doesn't let me see friends."

"I feel angry at my mum and sad I don't see my dad."

On Wednesday a Family Court judge accused John of hiding his son and jailed him for contempt of court.

Peter learned his father was in jail when he rang a family friend.

The following day Peter turned himself in to the Department of Human Services and John was released. The exhausted father told the Sunday Herald Sun he would go to jail again, if necessary, to protect his son.

John fears the stress will become too much for Peter.

"He is emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted," John said. "He has been introverted, he has lost trust in everyone."

But Peter is still hopeful that soon he and his dad will be back together.

"My dad is the best person in the world," he said.

"He always plays with me, he understands me -- he's a pretty caring person. I can talk to him about boys' stuff -- it's hard to talk to mum about it."

Peter knows his mum loves him, but says she doesn't understand what is best for him.

John says his family's case highlights a broader issue -- that the courts are ignoring children's right to be heard.

"The court has done nothing at all for these two children," he said.

"I'm being crucified and my kid, at the end of the day, is being punished."

John's solicitor has called for major reform of the Family Court, saying Peter's case is just one of many that have been badly handled. The solicitor said the court's adversarial system incited parents into battle, often making situations worse, and with little regard for the welfare of children.

"What troubles me is the preparedness of the system to allow these fights to start," the solicitor said.

The solicitor said a judge was prepared to jail John because a court order had not been enforced, rather than examining what was best for the child involved.

"All the judge was interested in was the authority of the court, not the welfare of the child," the solicitor said.

Comments

The above newspaper article was published about the terrible suffering one's family can face when the Family Court industry, or henchmen as some people have said, become involved.

Written by a tenacious reporter Kylie Smith of the Sunday Herald Sun who had the courage to stand up and do what she could to help a child in trouble, clearly drowning in an antiquated family law system. It was no doubt important to this reporter to place this story before the public exposing the inside truth, despite what may happen to her or career.

Another brave soul was Geoff Heaviside (Social Worker) associated with Brimbank Community Centre, David Perkins (Barrister), Sue Owens (Solicitor) and other members of the public who did what they could to rescue this young boy, to which I humbly say thank you.

On the morning of 25 November 2002 in the Family Court of Australia the residing judge Paul Guest (now retired) carried into the courtroom a copy of the Sunday Herald Sun under his right arm for all court attendees to see. He was outraged at the newspaper article being published and especially exhibited disdain toward the reporter, paper in general and possibly everyone involved, including himself no doubt.

He was no doubt very angry at the poor management and handling of this case by lawyers, judges, the court and various Family Court professionals over many years, and especially as it was now out in the open for the public to see what botch ups happen in the Family Court of Australia. The jig was up, so to speak.

Proper scrutiny and investigation should have been the order of the day, however for these two children and family, the damage had already been done. The process for providing proper duty of care by the legal system toward children and families was clearly out of order.

In the course of judge Guest's ramblings his vitriol extended to the reporter for writing such an article, making gestures and innuendo to the best of my recollection, that the reporter Kylie Smith should lose her job. Of course I was completely gob smacked at this attack on the reporter who was purporting to tell the truth and protect a child. A role I as the father was unable to do through legal restraints the system employs and the fact I was emotionally and psychologically burnt out after an exhaustive thirty plus hearings in some four plus years.

The main aggressor was a psychologically and emotionally damaged narcissistic lesbian mother full of hate and bitterness, who could not get her own way. The pain of the ordeal for the family was largely exacerbated by the mother's highly paid lesbian solicitor who enticed the mother to pursue a litigious battle, with the benefits of milking her dry of the family assets a huge incentive. It also appeared these man heating lesbians enjoyed the fun of both giving the father and a traditional family a real bashing.

Again the lawyers, courts and system wins, while a family loses. A good lesson for any parent to be very aware of.

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    By: Peter S M from SA, Australia on February 24, 2011 @ 4:05 am
    Simply amazing i must say! I believe what the last line of this story quoted from a solicitor says. It certainly reveals what this family court system is all about, although it forgot to mention the lucrative $$$ that are made for prolonging the fight. Three friends have told me of their woes in the system and all stories of misery. Great piece Kylie!!
    By: Wayne F. from Queensland, Australia on July 29, 2010 @ 12:53 am
    This is the best insight into how these corrupt institutions operate. This was told to people in 2002 yet people are still piling into the courts for more of the same. I got done in 2004 and wished I had of read this article sooner. Perhaps this story and others like it should be read over and over by every parent before ever thinking of walking into a lawyer's office let alone a court. Mums & Dads you must wake up and think for yours and your childrens sake!
    By: Stephen Jacobs from Victoria, Australia on June 12, 2010 @ 1:47 pm
    Here here Stanley couldn't agree with you more. What an amazing story to have been told in open press in 2002. A real first to open the truth that happens behind closed doors of the Family Court industry. These 2 kids must have suffered terribly and hope they are traveling well today without too many psychological problems. Perhaps they should sue the legal industry for the damage caused to them, if they haven't already.
    By: Stanley Fraser from Auckland, NZ on October 24, 2009 @ 3:37 am
    That poor boy and Father. I would like to know how they are traveling today years after their ordeal.
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