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Family Court ‘flawed’ says Michael Lermontov-Midgley
August 23, 2009 Herald Sun Melbourne Australia
SECRECY surrounding Family Court cases protects people who make false accusations and hides incompetence a submission to the Senate review of family law says.
The submission by historian and former Family Court litigant Michael Lermontov-Midgley says family law cases should become publicly transparent, with the parties identified.
“The Family Law Act bans the publication of anything that may identify, or tend to identify, parties to proceedings – ostensibly to protect children from publicity,” Mr Lermontov-Midgley says.
“It also shields bias, negligence and incompetence in the system and people who make false allegations of spousal violence and/or child abuse without the threat of defamation or the burden of proof required in other courts.
“. . . these false allegations are being raised as a tactical manoeuvre in family law proceedings.”
Mr Lermontov-Midgley also says lawyers deliberately spin out the legal process for financial gain. The submission comes as a case has emerged of a father, wrongly accused of sexual abuse by his estranged wife, who lost his job, his home and spent $18,000 clearing his name.
“Jim”, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was accused of touching his teenage daughter’s breasts.
During the week, he told of the 15-month ordeal that left him broke, sleepless and suffering depression.
He is rebuilding his life after a magistrate dismissed the charges against him, finding his wife a “difficult and untruthful witness” who gave “self-serving evidence”.
But he has not seen his two children since last Christmas because his wife refuses to abide by a Family Court order that he have regular access.
“I’ve lost everything and I was accused of a heinous crime of which I am now proven innocent,” Jim said.
“There is something wrong with the system that things were allowed to get to the point where I was arrested, fingerprinted and charged on such obviously flawed evidence.”