The following story from Down Under was forwarded to us from Lindsay Jackel in Australia, and shows why things are so upside down there. As you read this, keep in mind that things are no different in America. This scenario happens every day in the United States.
An Australian separation story
This is the story of Bob, his wife Mary, and their two children.
Bob was an average Aussie bloke. He was proud of his wife and children, and generally happy with his life. Then, one day, Bob went to work and...
Unknown to Bob, Mary decided to end the marriage and sought help from the local women's centre (typically feminist and funded by the government with taxpayers money). She received free advice about how to end her leave and end her marriage, in particular about financial matters, emotional counselling, court support, free legal advice, the availability of emergency housing for women, and what Social Security and Centrelink benefits were available.
After advice, Mary went to the local Magistrate's Court and got an on-the-spot (ex parte) interim Intervention (Domestic Violence) Order. She had alleged that Bob had threatened her and the order was issued automatically. This Order prevented Bob from entering his own home, collecting his own personal property, and from talking to or being anywhere near Mary. Mary then went to the bank and removed all the funds from their joint account.
A policeman went to Bob's work and served him with the Intervention Order. Bob thought the policeman must have made a mistake. How could he have been found guilty of being violent when he had never been violent in his life? He hadn't been arrested, hadn't been to court, and didn't know anything about it. But the policeman explained that Bob couldn't go home and couldn't see or speak to his children or his wife, or he would go to jail. He had to go to court about it in a few days.
Bob hurried to the bank before closing time to withdraw some money for food and a place to stay, only to find there was no money in the account. What was going on? Had the world turned upside down? Bob needed help but where could he go? There is no Men's Centre. No free legal advice. No counselling. No emotional support. No emergency housing. Bob couldn't even get fresh clothes because he couldn't go home.
A few days later Bob went to court thinking he could sort all this out. After all, he had never been violent, it just wasn't in him. The magistrate would fix up the mistake. But when he arrived, he found he was facing the police prosecutor, not Mary. Bob, unaware of court protocols and judicial bias, was told by the magistrate to sit down and be quiet, whenever he stood up to say anything. The magistrate satisfied himself that Bob was guilty based solely on Mary's allegations and on what the police prosecutor said, and granted the Intervention Order for a two year period.
No evidence was presented or proven that Bob was violent and that Mary needed the order. When Bob left the court he was shocked and stunned, wondering what had happened to justice. Weeks later, unable to afford a solicitor, Bob, still unaware of judicial bias, appeared alone before the Family Court. Figuring he had always been a good husband and father, always supported his family, and he and his children loved each other, Bob looked forward to being granted shared custody and a fair share of the property the family owned.
What he found was that Mary was present with a $2,000 a day barrister, a solicitor, a legal assistant and emotional support from the Women's Centre, all of which she got for free, via government provided taxpayer-funded legal aid. Bob was not eligible for legal aid and felt intimidated, vulnerable and alone. He now realized one purpose of the Domestic Violence Order was to prevent him from having any hope of shared custody or substantial contact with his children. What he got was supervised access for 2 hours per fortnight.
The next week, Bob excitedly attended the arranged supervised meeting, with the supervisor, to see his children for the first time in many months, but Mary didn't show up with the children. Bob went back to the Family Court to seek justice, but the first available hearing was in 8 months time. Then, one day when Bob collected his weekly pay he found $160 missing.
The paymaster explained to him that the Child Support Agency had deducted his weekly child support and the first installment for back support of $1,400. After paying for rent, utilities, food and clothing Bob was sliding into poverty. He certainly could not afford to ever remarry.
Mary now receives the sole parent pension, child support, parenting payment, rent assistance, a concession card and other benefits, and she finds she has much more money coming into the house without a husband than she ever did with one.
Eventually, not having been able to see or talk to his children for nearly a year, Bob attends the Family Court alone. Still unaware of judicial bias, he believes the court will enforce justice and the access order to see his kids. The Court doesn't, because the Chief Justice of the Family Court, Alastair Nicholson, has instructed Family Court judges not to jail or fine mothers even when they flout Court orders. There is nothing that can be done. If Mary won't allow it, Bob cannot see his children again, and if he tries to, he will be jailed and have a criminal record.
In later dealings with the Family Court, Mary was given their house and most of what other assets remained, including a cut of Bob's superannuation, which he had to pay then and there, with what little the court had given him, plus a bank loan. As a result, Bob is absolutely devastated and shattered and in such a state of depression that he loses his job. He finds he has no children, no assets, a reduced motivation and capacity to earn and no income, and he sees no future.
Bob also sees the grief in his children's grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, who have been cut off from the children they've grown to love. This story sounds unbelievable, but these and worse things happen every day to fathers all across Australia.