A voice for the children, by Gerard

2 Jul

Guest post today by the lovely Gerard Oosterman who wonders why children don’t have more say in their future when a family breaks up.

Children should be seen but not heard?

In Australian Family Court disputes it is often the children who miss out on being heard by a Federal Judge or Magistrate. In most cases, even though the judge or magistrate has the power to hear the children, it is rarely exercised. It is usually the Independent Children’s Lawyer who represents the child/children/ (ICL).

In Germany and many other countries, the Family Court Judges always hear the child. There is a growing understanding of the importance of listening to the children involved. It is the child, more than anyone else, who will have to live with what the Court decides.

While Federal Judges and Magistrates can hear the children in Court, a survey has shown most decline the opportunity and rely on the ICL and other ‘experts’ for advice during the procedures. The cases coming before the Family Courts deal with property and access to children. The fact of Court action is generally a sign that the parents haven’t been able to amicably deal with the separation. Access rights to children are often just as heatedly fought over as the division of property.

The Family Court in all cases decides what is ‘best for the children.’ It seems ironic that in Australia the children are not given the opportunity to bring their wishes before the Court, as they are in many European countries that are signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

While it is unsatisfactory to say that children should all have the same rights as autonomous adults, including the rights of freedom of expression and the freedom of association and all other rights that adults own, it is equally unsatisfactory and unjust to say that children have no rights of this kind and that their rights in Court matters are irrelevant to the task of adults determining and deciding what is best. This seems to ignore the claim of children to be treated with respect and dignity instead of, as is often the case, fought over as objects

As Australia has been a signatory to the Convention since 1990, how do we explain why children are not heard in front of a Court and allowed to express their wishes?

Often the reason given is the fear of parentification of the child. This term describes a situation in which a role reversal occurs and children assume the role of parent to protect the adult. Asking a child to decide which parent she or he prefers to spend their time with can cause emotional turmoil.

In Family Court cases it is not unusual that one or both parents are deemed to have put the child in this position to try to enhance the prospect of getting more time with the child than the other parent. The child is expected to act as the parent to their own parent and sometimes over other siblings as well. The issue is very complicated because in some cases one of the parents might indeed be totally unsuitable as parent or as the primary caretaker.

However, parentification together with alienation theories about children in relationships remains highly controversial amongst psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists, who claim they are often simplistic or erroneous.

In the Family Courts it is the job of the ICL to sort the wheat from the chaff and investigate to get to the bottom of the issue if ‘parentification’ of the child is occurring. The Court appointed lawyer acting for the child will then call in an ‘expert’ in those matters. Both parents are to meet up with the ‘expert’ who is often a qualified child psychologist or therapist. Anyone who ever had dealings with Courts knows that at every turn huge amounts of money is spent. The ICL with the help of the Expert’s report weigh heavily in the final decision-making by the Judge or Magistrate.

The report by the children’s expert is drawn up as a result of a few hours or a day spent by both the parents and the children with the expert. Sometimes first in each other’s company then separately and then the children on their own. After parents as applicant and respondent  have filed into Courts numerous times for ‘mentioning’ and ‘final hearings’ the case is put and then includes the affidavits, responses and reports by all the parties’ lawyers including the ICL.

But, when all the lengthy proceedings come to an end, there is this glaring omission. The fundamental rights of every person including children to be heard in Court are totally ignored.

The ICL and other child experts cannot help but put in their own submissions and even if based on the best of intentions and the best advice given, it is second-hand and not direct. How is it possible that the ‘best interest of the child’ excludes this fundamental right?

One reason given is the perceived intimidation of the Court system with its tradition of the dreaded three knocks on the door and ‘all rise in Court’, the bowing of all and then the entrance of the black gowned judge or magistrate on the raised podium. The procedures are often seen as unfriendly if not silly as well. Surely the system can change when children are involved and become child friendly. I could ask, why not change it even for adults?

We love adhering to convention, but what about the children?

Gerard is an artist, writer and farmer. He blogs at Oosterman Treats Blog

49 Responses to “A voice for the children, by Gerard”

  1. AJ July 2, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    From what I read here, the rights of the child have been ignored by convention only. Would this be correct? It appears that the facility is available but courts choose to ignore that capability?


  2. gerard oosterman July 2, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    That is right. The Courts never use this option which is used in many other countries. Of course, the present Family Court could set-up not be more child-unfriendly. The whole building, at least the one in Goulburn Street, Sydney, reeks of deadly marital battles, conflict and discord. For children to be heard in Court in front of a judge or magistrate it would have to move into the present time and not stick to those Dickensian traditions with wigs, benches and an atmosphere thick with dread and apprehension.

    I saw a movie from an Iran-like country recently whereby a judge heard a divorce and children custody case. I have forgotten the name of this movie. It was very casual and friendly and rather amusing. It was not at all intimidating but of course did have the drama associated with splitting up and children having to be shunted between the warring parents.


  3. helvityni July 2, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    I have just read Jennifer’s heart-breaking story, and now this; family courts not hearing from the kids directly…
    I can only think that we still go by the old Anglo adage, kids should be seen but not heard…

    Maybe that’s why we now have all these loud children screaming in in super markets and shopping malls…they want to be heard, finally.
    I believe we have not really learnt how to listen and how to talk to our children.


  4. paul walter July 2, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    I wonder if the problem is not in the event itself.
    There is a vast difference between a relationship ending in civilised tone and the opposite pole of sudden death and violence, but the common or garden breakup looks fraught and stressful, a slo-mo trainwreck for all concerned. My own ‘olds’ followed the last or common mode, when they rowed, I tended to get out of the way, but really, their own lives were in strife and I had to make do as best I could sometimes
    Mercifully when the break came it was clean. My father paid his maintainance and was there if he was needed, he just didn’t have the wherewithal for fatherhood and marriage, least of all as to mum. Mum got on with her life, got a job and was successful at it, as she was at parenting my brother and I.
    But the pain is in the event and processive for all concerned and it’s a matter of just picking up the pieces and starting over, including for the kids. Counselling probably works a lot of the time, time heals later or sooner in most cases- the rest is just architecture.


  5. gerard oosterman July 2, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    The Australian Family Court follow the golden rule; “In the best interest of the Children”. This seems a very good rule except that it then lays open for both parents to prove that the other parent is not as good as they are.
    Enter barristers and all hell breaks loose and those with the biggest pockets can often be the ‘winners’.
    It should be obligatory for intending couples planning children to spend a few days in those Family Courts. After all, driving a car needs lessons and passing tests. Relationships and children are fare more dangerous than driving a V8 and yet, we can just enter relationships at random.
    The modern obsession with ‘happy’ could be the culprit. We no longer accept anything that is not soaked in ‘happy’ juice. No ‘happy’ and out it goes. We justify chucking it all in for not being ‘happy’. I come from a large family and no divorce or contemplation of divorce. My brothers and one sister the same , not one divorce.
    My parents were busy living and took the ups and downs courageously and with love outshining all the ‘downs’. I never felt that my parents thought much about that being ‘happy’ was the end all. Yet, they were.
    I think ‘happy’ is an American invention that has many franchises that are keenly bought up and subcontracted out to investors. Those black-gowned barristers keenly seek those businesses trading in ‘happy’ options.


    • paul walter July 2, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

      Devastating post! Its always come-uppance when you check back and realise how much of your downfall came from self absorption.
      Truth sets you free can equate to the anaesthetic wearing off after you’ve had teeth pulled, but then since when did life ever owe people a living.


  6. Jodie July 2, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    I worry that the argument in some way is endorsing an idea that through hearing from the children we would get a ‘truth’ which would determine what is in their best interests. I think this is a problematic idea. In my own situation, where my children’s other parent is violent, I think that context of marital violence would have made it extremely difficult for them to honestly have represented their views to the court, either directly or indirectly. In the case of my partner’s child, who now lives with us after a long period of shared care, I think it has taken that child this long to work out for herself her role as her mother’s pseudo-carer all these years, and to determine what is in her best interest and act on it.

    I also think that your piece is not recognising that after the initial period of animosity which unfortunately characterises custody disputes too often, responsible parents are often able to calm down and then amicably reinterpret the court orders to reflect the often changing best interests of the child; so that what is determined in the very ‘event’ that you want children made a part of, is often redetermined afterwards informally with more flexibility by parents who are able to see and respond to children’s changing needs outside of a context of animosity (I’d love to see some research on this). Would giving the child a voice formally silence its voice informally?

    I’m not sure what the situation is in other states–in WA we have a different Family Court system. But I am pretty sure here the children’s views are taken into account when they are 12. I would be uncomfortable with children prior to 12 being a part of that decision making. I also don’t like blanket rules–I believe there are valid instances where the court should listen to the child, just as I believe that it should be determined by a case by case basis, and not as a default position.

    I am also hesitant about the role of psychologists in mediating in this decision making process. I think there is a risk of a child being pathologized in such processes. I also worry your argument risks pathologizing divorced families (although I know that is not its intent): adults frequently have to make decisions in the best interests of children without listening to their voice–including where the stakes are high, and there is conflict between adults making the decision–and yet only in this instance are you suggesting there be legal intervention to give the child a voice.


    • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      Okay, having now read your reply to post above @ 11:42, I actually am worried that you are seeking to pathologize divorce in your model which constructs heternormative nuclear families as ideal.

      For the record: I didn’t get divorced because I was unhappy in my marriage and consumer culture is telling me to be happy. I got divorced ONLY because it was in the *best interests* of my children. The event of divorce made me categorically unhappy, because I could no longer see my children every day. Any idea what a gut wrenching decision that is? Trying to construct divorced parents as selfish is an old stereotype: try considering them as incredibly unselfish in that they were prepared to do the most difficult thing a parent can do in their children’s best interest.


      • gerard oosterman July 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

        Pathologize? I don’t think I wrote anything medical about divorce or Family Courts. I made some remarks about ‘happy’ but did not intend this to indicate a bacterial or viral issue.
        My take on splitting up is indeed a highly personal one after decades on observing the going ons in real life situations and as played out at Family Courts.
        Of course it follows that when children are involved in a split up, they usually can’t be seen by both parents on every day. That might be gut wrenching indeed.
        When the matters are finally settled, in most cases, as Paul Waters sagely stated, life goes on and the rest is architecture!.


        • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

          No, your reply is disingenuous.

          I use pathologize in the sense you wish to construct abnormality in both divorce and those involved in it.

          Your comment about the Family Court offering instructional opportunities for future parents, and a criticism that relationships can just be entered into at random, imply to me the reification of a model which in Australia sanctifies marriage for the purposes of childbearing and childrearing. (Indeed, the federal government pamphlet, given to all those registering for marriage, explicitly states as such.)

          You then provide a personal family history of marriage in which there is ‘no divorce or contemplation of divorce’, constructing it as an idealised one. For this to signify your intended meaning, we have to believe that marriage is normal and good, and divorce is abnormal and bad.

          Consider, here, for example, that when I was married to my children’s father particular assumptions were made about our family life which were good, and now that I am a part of a blended family particular assumptions are made about our family life that are bad: and consider the possibility that these assumptions are wrong in both instances, and are culturally constructed. Then consider how these assumptions have marked my children, and why they make me angry.

          I disagree that your view is a wholly ‘personal’ one. You have, as you say, watched instances in the family court, but you have done so as someone always in a position of the outside, while within a particular inside of socially accepted marriage and families. Rather than being personal, your view of marriage and divorce is based on assumptions which are embedded with patriarchal and capitalist ideologies of the family. These assumptions exclude many families from being seen as acceptable, and it is also worth noting that these assumptions are also primarily being used by particular groups to argue against gay marriage as we speak.


          • gerard oosterman July 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

            I think you might be making the largest assumptions of them all claiming I am on the outside of my position. What would you know about my private postions?
            Your tone and timbre of your replies seems very familiar to me. Where do I imply that divorce is bad and all all marriages are necessarily good?

            I do feel that many split-ups are unnecesarily silly and have been told by those that did take that step. In many cases a divorce is very reasonable and just and have been told by those as well.

            I am not against gay marriage. I would marry one tomorrow. Why pick that one up and put it into my pocket? The same with your statement of the implication I nurture the sanctification of marriage and large child bearing hips. Next you will imply I am encouraging breeding Jack Russells.


            • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

              I’m not saying you’re against gay marriage, but that the ideologies which support your assumptions are used to argue against gay marriage.

              You construct a personal narrative which is dominated by marriage with ‘no contemplation of divorce’; and in which marriage is seen as sometimes a sacrifice of happiness, but in which divorce is sometimes a lack of preparedness to sacrifice happiness. If you are saying this personal narrative is not reflective of your private position, while at the same time rejecting the idea that your assumptions are reflective of culturally constructed views of the family, than what is informing your views?

              Even your latest comment ‘I do feel that many split-ups are unnecessarily silly’ is problematic as it assumes a married state as an ideal one (rejected by unnecessary silliness).

              I’m not sure what you mean by the *familiarity* of the ‘tone and timbre’ of my replies–would love you to unpack that one!


              • gerard oosterman July 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

                No; I said ‘many’. Many is not all. I used split-up and divorce.
                A split up is not per se tied to marriage. You are a master (mistress) of distorting other peoples views.

                I wrote an article about Family Court and the involvement of children. You now turn that as having a position opposing divorce.
                You would turn a conversation about marsh-mellows into a war on Zionism.


                • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

                  No, read my first post. I didn’t turn it into a position opposing divorce until you chose to comment with a narrative which included mutual back slapping for your extended family’s commitment to marriage (an even ‘courageous’ commitment at times!), while implying divorced people get divorced because they are prepared to ‘chuck it all out’ to pursue individual happiness. Way to reproduce cultural narratives.

                  Just because you don’t like my reading of your views, doesn’t mean I am distorting your views as you have represented them on this site.


                  • gerard oosterman July 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

                    I have no commitment to endless mariage or back slapping (apart from an occasional ride on a double decker vibrating diesel bus with a missing cylinder) anymore than wearing a Fletcher Jones suit.
                    I do take the mickey out of our cultural obsession with ‘pursuing individual happiness.’ In fact pursuing ‘individual’ is getting a bit on the nose as well.
                    In my opinion both are a bit over-rated.
                    Now, try and make me out as a Trotskyist with an ice pick in my pocket.


                    • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

                      Our difference here, Gerard, is you endorse the transcendental.

                      You wish to argue that your position is not informed by the situated knowledge of experiencing divorce just as it is not informed by the situated knowledge of your personal (and familial) experiences of marriage that you have disclosed. You also wish to argue that the only other role you’ve identified, one of neutral spectator, does not place you ‘outside’ of divorce. You also wish to deny how your views can be considered as being culturally constructed, and therefore representative of dominant ideologies about the family. The only other option that remains is that your views are transcendental and apolitical (if not ‘authorial genius’ of the self-positing).

                      You also wish to argue for the inclusion of children in family court processes in determining their best interests. You believe that they are able to also somehow transcend particular contexts to either best self-represent their interests, or to have their interests interpreted by ‘experts’ (or both). Somehow, the child is meant to transcend their familial contexts to represent the ‘truth’; and somehow, the family court and its experts are meant to transcend the patriarchal and capitalist ideologies of family that inform its decision making to ‘read’ this truth.

                      I don’t believe in the transcendental, or that truth is meaningful outside of an examination of the contexts in which it circulates as truth, and hence why we won’t agree.

                      I suspect the ‘familiarity’ of my position you allude to has something to do with the f-word. So, to clarify, I’ll point out that I think men and women are both victims of the patriarchal and capitalist ideologies that inform the family court’s decision making. For example, I think patriarchal ideas of the family often see the family court punishing good fathers in a way that it doesn’t punish good mothers. I also think that the prohibitive nature of legal representation in the family court penalises women more than it does men, and is a direct consequence of patriarchal and capitalist ideologies of the family. But more importantly, I think that these ideologies construct normal and abnormal families, and need to be challenged–and that is what is in the best interests of children.


            • helvityni July 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

              I am not against gay marriage. I would marry one tomorrow.
              One way to find out what your hubby is up to. I must come here more often 🙂


      • paul walter July 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

        Come on Jodie! That is an awfully long bow to draw, as to Gerard’s comments.
        Nine out of ten times you’d be right if a bloke (particularly) said this, but if Gerard means the adults need to break free of their personal preoccupations for a mo to consider the forgotten little people waiting in the shadows, that’s exactly what he means.
        He’s self-reflexive enough not to ” pathologize divorce” through a mysoginistic or patriarchal authoritarian subjective tendency.
        I could be wrong , but I really can’t believe that the sort of accusation that could be rightfully aimed at a Tea Party or religious right type would apply to him, he’s been around for long, too old in the game, seen too much..


    • gerard oosterman July 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

      The Family Courts In Australia are federal Courts so I doubt that the West Australian Family Court law is applied differently.
      Children’s voices are being heard but not directly. It is through the ICL and ‘experts’. It would be nice for both parents to come to amicable arrangements and come to ‘calming down’ but when Courts are involved there has to be a reason of ‘why’?
      It is interesting that when legal aid is allowed the barristers are excluded from the procedures.
      In many European countries the Lawyers are only allowed to charge up to a certain percentage or have a limit to the costs of the procedures.


      • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

        No, you’re wrong. The Family Court of Australia covers family law matters in all states and territories except WA.


  7. hudsongodfrey July 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Thanks Jennifer for Gerard’s article I think we all agree that he’s generally got something interesting to say, and this time is no exception.

    I like kids. I used to be one. But beyond that I’m not much help on this issue luckily for me. We all have others in our families who go through these things and its never ideal, so I don’t think we can ever expect to find an ideal solution. What I will say from my own perspective on childhood memories is that I think kids have more awareness and intuition when it comes to their own interests that I think adults give them credit for.

    We each of us regardless of later life’s experience are limited in our understand of what it is like to be a child by our memories of our own childhood. And the one thing we should therefore all be qualified to speak to is the sensibilities of children to the injustice that occurs when adults make decisions on their behalf that they don’t like. And my perspective therefore on this is that it becomes necessary in my view to involve the children more in the process of agreement that needs to occur around family split ups such that when we say “we’re only doing what’s best for the children” then it has some kinder and deeper meaning for the children themselves.


    I’m not familiar with you as a poster here or perhaps elsewhere. So I’ll say this, which is no more than what another poster told me some time back. I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here.

    In the few words that we often spare to comment, or are afforded by some other websites, we often manage to express ourselves only partially but not completely. We also repeat ourselves if we’re obliged to convey to each and every new poster our entire thesis on the issue of the day.

    You for example took several posts to get to one of the points of your objection which was that you thought Gerard’s take on marriage was somewhat old fashioned implying that he might be against gay marriage.

    I am familiar with Gerard and Helvi. Not personally but because we’ve posted on fora together in the past and because I’ve read a few of Gerard’s articles. I’ll go out on a limb here (tongue in cheek) and say that it is actually amusing how far from the truth your impression of Gerard is. I’m sure he can fill you in.

    And please just don’t be so negative about others, if you’ve doubts ask before you take a position you might wish you hadn’t.


    • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      I have no problem with Gerard–I’m sure he’s a nice person. Jennifer herself, in her opening comments, described him as lovely, and given I predominantly agree with her positions I’m sure he is.

      I’m not attacking Gerard–I’m attacking what he has said. I cannot ‘read’ Gerard outside of the words on the page which he has written, as I do not know him or know his other views. Just as you don’t know me or my other views (I can assure you I’m nice, too). With all due respect, though, I don’t believe that there’s a requirement, here, for me to not criticise his views on face-value as represented on this thread because his avatar has a greater investment of personality than mine. Nor should I be obliged to give *his words* the benefit of the doubt because of that.

      I understand that there is a sense of community here which I am disrupting (although my intent, again, is not to disrupt a community of individual personalities, but respond to a single written argument). I subscribed to Jennifer’s site over a year ago when I came across her responses to MTR on MTR’s site–responses which I agreed with and deemed absolutely necessary. For various reasons, I have not participated here before, and for various reasons I chose to today: partly because I have been thinking a lot about representations of family, partly because I am avoiding meeting a deadline. I’ll go back to my deadline so I don’t disrupt things further.


      • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

        Oh, and to clarify, again, I did not ever say I thought that Gerard was against gay marriage.


        • hudsongodfrey July 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

          And again more construing, You said that he’d used arguments similar to those used by those who are against gay marriage. I think that the inference is there in a way that hints at an accusatory tone. Which is just to say that when your reading of a piece brings some other red herring of an issue to the table then its obvious to anyone reading your remarks that you’re looking at it too critically through the prism of your own ideology. I just think you need to come back to the words on the page at face value more.

          Either that or write a piece when you’ve more time contrasting your experience with Gerard’s perspective. I think that might prove to be more interesting and informative on the whole.


          • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

            Who is construing who? I argued his views may be informed by ideology, and gave another example of how that ideology can be (mis)used as justification of an argument in another issue–hence why the ideology is problematic.

            I did not say, as you state, that his arguments are similar to those used by those against gay marriage, but that they are based on similar ideological assumptions which privilege (white) heternormative nuclear families. Divorce and gay marriage are both constructed as outside of these privileged positions.

            Ideology is not the same as an argument. I also cannot step outside of ‘the prism of my own ideology’ as it is also not personal.

            If anything, I was assuming/hoping Gerard was for gay marriage, as in that case he may be able to see how his disagreement with ideological assumptions in that instance could extend to also challenging those same ideological assumptions in the instance of divorce and ‘broken’ families.


            • hudsongodfrey July 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

              “I did not say, as you state, that his arguments are similar to those used by those against gay marriage, but that they are based on similar ideological assumptions…”

              You contradict yourself within the space of a single sentence. Similar ideology argued differently would inevitably lead to similar conclusions. Though I do take your closing point as a positive sign.


              • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

                No, I don’t contradict myself. Again, argument and ideology are not the same thing.

                But to paraphrase your point: Similar ideology (in this case, not similar, but the dominant ideological assumptions of patriarchy and capitalism concerning the family) argued differently (either through an argument that privileges marriage as being better than divorce, or a different argument that privileges heterosexual marriage to the exclusion of gay marriage) would inevitably lead to similar conclusions (yes, that the heteronormative nuclear family is normal and families outside of this are abnormal).

                Not a contradiction at all, but precisely my point.


                • hudsongodfrey July 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

                  Did I say argument and ideology were the same thing? No I did not. I said the same conclusion is implied. That’s different.

                  And please don’t waste my time with this bullshit about the dominant ideological assumptions being patriarchy and capitalism. Its just so 1980 all over again!

                  I don’t accept those assumptions. Nor do most people here. Nor do most people throughout the bulk of society. I just don’t see that they’re true any more, thus they are boring and not worth arguing.

                  Nor are you going to meet a lot of resistance to the notion of gay marriage, over two thirds of Australia supports it. We just need to get to the vote in the next session of parliament, win it and celebrate the confirmation of the inevitable.

                  The only thing I think we’d agree about as a result of the point you tried to make is that I do think the change in attitudes as a result of feminism has operated as a precursor to the changes in attitudes to gay marriage..

                  If you wanted me to argue the case for either I’m sure I could make a splendid fist of it, having done so at length on any number of blogs. But I really don’t think I need to preach to the choir now, do I?


                • gerard oosterman July 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

                  It need not get that complicated. I argued for children to be heard in front of the judge or magistrate which at the moment does not happen. Yet, most Family Court cases involve children. It might help the judge to weigh up his case and come to a better judgment.

                  My own existence is probably due to Cod-Liver oil more than anything else, so please, don’t put patriarchal dominant mixtures in my basket, especially not the heteronormative ones. I want to stay simple.

                  I am very happy within my relationship and could live of Helvi’s smile forever. I don’t deny anyone the right to go a different path and am not dominated by ideologies nor am against gay marriages.

                  I am struggling enough with mobile phone apps and prepaid authority numbers.

                  I agree with Hudson and would dearly like to know more about your own experience or ideas on how Family Courts could function better.


                • helvityni July 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

                  Jodie, keep finding new pseudonyms, you’ll need them. I would have more respect for you if you at least wrote under one and same alias. You jump to attack, you tell people: read my posts, you tell them what do, what not to do…
                  You have conversations with yourself using two or three different aliases, it’s dishonest…
                  I rather talk to chipinga, or hermit…or Steve from the pub.


                  • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

                    I have no idea what you mean here. I have used my name on this thread. I have never posted on this site before today. I’d prefer you attacked me for what I have said, than slur me for engaging in dishonest practices when I most certainly haven’t done so.

                    My initial post here was an honest critical engagement with the OP. I then took exception to Gerard’s comment which I feel reproduced some of the stereotypes surrounding divorced parents–that we put ourselves before our kids, that divorce is the easy option, that we are selfish and not prepared to work on our marriages. I found that post to be provocative. Can you possibly imagine what it is like to be read through such cultural narratives, and to have an assumption made about your children that they are damaged goods because they come from a divorced home? Can you not see that my replies are a response to my holding that subject position? What is disingenuous about my posts on this matter, all in the same name?

                    It doesn’t matter–no one here sees the points I make as being valid, and there’s too much of an entrenched loyalty to personalities rather than positions. I find that disappointing given I respect Jennifer’s views so much.

                    For the record, I am not against marriage: I am married and love my husband. I just think that gay marriage will not only give that fundamental right to gay people, but also allow dominant ideas about marriage, which I don’t think are good for a lot of people and families, to be disrupted in healthy ways.


                    • hudsongodfrey July 2, 2012 at 6:46 pm #


                      I thoroughly agree with your last paragraph.

                      And I agree that we shouldn’t personalise the argument but please understand also that we don’t just do that by forming a closed group of people who congregate around ideas that they agree with, we also do it by exercising our egos too much on occasion too. I’ve found that sometimes when people try to defend their ideas then they take things too personally at which point ad hominem is all but invited and the discussion devolves into attacks on personalities rather than ideas.

                      To be fair I think you had to be drawn into the comment about “capitalism and patriarchy” before I could address it, and having done so I hope I’ve cleared the air so that we can move forwards again. I hope you’ll agree that could be a good thing.


      • hudsongodfrey July 2, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

        Okay by all means keep coming back because regardless of what you’ve said today I appreciate that you’re thinking about what you read. Just a little be more construing and a little more of your own thoughts on the page would be better received.


  8. 730reportland July 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Nice post Gerard
    you ferreted out some nice info here

    “even though the judge or magistrate has the power to hear the children, it is rarely exercised“

    I find this a little weird tho, I would have thought the Judge would want to get a measure of the family situation from the kids point of view too.


  9. 730reportland July 2, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Wow, Gee, Wow, Jodie is reading words Gerard hasn`t written.
    Can Jodie see Lottery Numbers not yet drawn?
    Or is Jodie from


    • Jodie July 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      I am not that person. I am someone who has posted here just today, never before, and never again. I get now from Hel’s comments and Gerard’s earlier comment about my familiarity (which I interpreted to be that I was producing particular feminist narratives at the time) that perhaps you’ve had a troll who is posting under multiple pseudonyms. I’m not that person. I don’t care if people attack what I say, but I do not like people falsely accusing me of being dishonest and engaging in dishonest practices. I honestly have not posted here before today.

      Thank you, Gerard, for your last post. I do not believe our positions are that far apart. I took exception to one of your posts, and I do ask that you consider how what you said in that post may make people in my situation feel. But overall I think you’ve been fair and engaged in a critical discussion with me without attacking me, and you haven’t sought to silence me.

      It honestly feels like everyone else has. So, job well done. Now, if you can just stop from misrepresenting me and falsely accusing me of things I haven’t said or done, I promise never to post here again.


      • hudsongodfrey July 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

        Well I would certainly feel taken aback if you thought I was trying to get rid of you by disagreeing. Its not what I do to waste my time putting the effort into moderating and sorting out a difference of opinion only to have that person go off in a huff. I do it because I think you’ve got a brain and some ideas worth discussing.

        I’d agree entirely with maybe one in ten of the people I’ve come to respect through our conversations here and elsewhere. They’ve all earned that respect the hard way, It’s not unusual you know.


      • Jennifer Wilson July 3, 2012 at 6:51 am #

        Hello, Jodie, I’m sorry your experience posting here has ended up this way. It isn’t how I want people to feel about discussion here.

        I favour a forum in which I don’t intervene much, on the grounds that everyone is an adult, and ought to be able to conduct themselves as such.

        As I said recently, I’d like posters to imagine they are sharing a dinner table and speak accordingly. If it would cause offence face to face, then don’t post it.

        I really, really hope you will come back.


        • Jodie July 3, 2012 at 11:25 am #

          Jennifer, I’m not sure where exactly anything I’ve said isn’t something I would say at a dinner party. In fact, I’ve been to dinner parties where I’ve engaged in theoretical debates with people I’ve disagreed with, even if I’ve just met them. There are of course, different dinner parties and different experiences of dinner parties.

          Here’s my experience of this dinner party. As a new guest, I respond to a theoretical argument by another guest, in which I put forward my views on his argument while disclosing some personal information about my life. I then overhear that guest make an aside comment which I feel is reproducing a stereotype of the personal information I have just disclosed. I then take an exception to that, and that person and I engage in a theoretical debate about the grounds for my taking that exception. Yes, I do so heatedly, but I don’t think at any stage I attacked the person, just their arguments.

          Now other guests join in. Two guests decide to point out that my reading of his words is wrong, because I don’t know him as long as they do. That’s fine and fair enough–at that point, I back off the original debate and make it clear my intentions weren’t to disrupt the gathering. However, one of these guests wishes to continue to argue one of the points I made in the original debate (albeit always couching their comments with some kind of judgement about how things need to be done at this dinner party). I continue that side debate until I feel what I said is no longer being misrepresented.

          Then two other guests join in–not to engage with what I have said, but to make the completely false accusation that I am not who I say I am, and that I am actually wearing some kind of a disguise. They claim I’ve been at previous dinner parties. I take exception to this because it is absolutely untrue, I don’t like being seen as dishonest, and also because I had disclosed personal information about myself and my children in good faith and the idea that I have done so falsely or as part of an agenda really irks me.

          At that point, I want to leave the dinner party. The host points out she doesn’t want people to feel offended, but in such a way that it is clear that I am the one who has done the offending. Fair enough, as a new guest, I’ll wear that. But perhaps she could confirm to the other guests that I have not been to dinner parties here before, and perhaps those others guests could consider how their accusations might make a new guest feel.

          Not the kind of dinner party I want to go back to.


          • Paul Smith July 3, 2012 at 11:55 am #

            I understand exactly where you are coming from Jodie. Had the “familiar writing style” approach 3 times from the H crowd – seems like a favoured approach.


          • Jennifer Wilson July 3, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

            I’m sorry you choose to believe that my comments were directed only at you. That is most certainly not the case. They were general. I didn’t perceive you as “doing the offending” at all. I am not given to hinting at offence – if someone offends me I tell them directly. I wasn’t personally offended by your comments or anyone else’s, otherwise I certainly would have said so.

            I tend to leave these things to sort themselves out as I’m not the moderating police, nor do I wish to be, and I expect people to be adult enough to settle their differences. This is a general comment, I don’t mean just you!


          • hudsongodfrey July 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

            As a third guest at the party who didn’t engage in ad hominem even though I took exception to some of your interjections let me just say that if you can’t stand to be corrected you miss the true enjoyment of dinner party conversation. The day is not won or lost, nor anything gained when you prevail or when you leave the conversation with your mind unchanged by the words changed between you. But when you hear something that comes as new, possibly even surprising information to you, and you have occasion to change your mind about an issue of some import….then you will remember the day and the conversation well.


  10. gerard oosterman July 3, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Well, the host in this dinner party was Jennifer with the guest speaker being Mr. Oosterman ( Batman’s pseudo).
    I thought the dinner was lovely and it was nice to have linen napkins. Thanks you Jennifer, (the souffle was divine, well and stiffly beaten..) Thank you all graceful quests for your contributions. Till next time, au revoir!


  11. samjandwich July 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    getting back to first principles if I may, there was a recent program on ABC Radio’s Law Report covering this very topic from, in what is illustrative of the enormous difficulties facing anyone who wants to make a difference here, a remarkably similar angle, and which you might all like to have a squiz at: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lawreport/law-report-26-june-2012/4093414

    As someone who works in the child protection field, and beholden to legislation determining that the paramount concern in everything I do is “the best interests of the child”, I can safely say that nobody has yet managed to come up with an effective way to figure out what that actually is. As we have seen just in our little discussion above (which could only occur within the relative safety of internet land and its tendency to decouple people from the things they say… if that’s what they aim to do) different people hold deeply-held views that others are never going to be able to convince them out of, because these views and the ways they are expressed are often an amalgam of intellectualisms, emotions, communication styles, and deficits of capacity for self-critique built up over many years, and for many very good reasons.

    But we have to try something, which is why for example people like the researchers interviewed on that RN program spend their lives looking at what happens in other parts of the world and trying to adapt elements of them to different contexts. At the same time though I think we all have to accept that whatever we put in place is never going to be perfect.

    My take on what’s going on above is that there’s often a tendency for people who have more or less a pretty good handle on the way the world works, like Gerard for example, to forget that what they are saying isn’t inherently obvious, and that it’s sometimes necessary to spell out in great detail whatever it is they’re on about, lest they open themselves to alternative interpretations (and I say “alternative” rather than “misinterpretation”, because like the best interests of the child, nobody can ever presume to be completely right about what they believe, or what they believe others believe). When it comes down to it I’d say both Jodie’s and Gerards views are probably pretty similar and pretty sensitive to each other’s – only that the execution is problematic.

    That, and just the general condition of humanity as a whole is really rather silly when you look at it – which is why it’s sometimes difficult to take things entirely seriously even when their repercussions are so huge for people who fall foul of them. I’m totally guilty of doing this too… and I suppose for example that’s partly the reason why the prospect of a few rounds with the Society for Cutting Up Men gets me so worked over, even though I’m pretty sure the reality would be somewhat different. Yeeeouch!

    So do please stick around Jodie, and join us while we watch civilisations, and individuals for that matter, rise and fall on account of their own quirky idiosyncrasies 🙂


  12. Hypocritophobe July 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    Glad I chose to go out for junk food ,on this occasion.

    A good food fight was really all that was needed to round out the debate.
    Don’t drink and drive………….


    • Julia July 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

      Could someone please pass the sauce?


      • Hypocritophobe July 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

        Here’s both.Tomato and BBQ.
        But please don’t dare ask to hold the chutney bottle!


        • Julia July 4, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

          Oh darn… the chutney bottle is the only one Kevin hasn’t chewed on.


  13. Julia July 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    I don’t know about the other States, but in Vic one can deal with custody issues either through the State courts or the Federal Court…most solicitors seem to advise their clients to go with the Federal System. It is supposed to be fairer and, of course, any rulings apply if one or other ex-partner takes the child/ren interstate.

    I’ve never had need of Family Court personally but have sat through a couple of friends’ long drawn out warfare. And no, the kids involved were not consulted, not even by their court appointed independant solicitor…the only “child specialists” consulted was a policewoman who had never met the child & was anti the father BEFORE his one & only interrogation (he initiated the court action after finding his daughter playing amongst used syringes & her mother so out of it she could barely open her eyes. Yet he was the villain); and in another case a DHS child protection worker who also had never met the child read out a report which was written by a junior who also never spoke to the child and seemed to have formed her opinions in la la land.

    Yet both children were quite capable of knowing which parent they were better off with. And once they were old enough made their choices anyhow.

    While the judge in both cases did the best he could with what he was presented, the decisions were NOT in the best interests of the children and resulted, especially for the former, in a lot of heartbreak and continued abuse & neglect.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: