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March 16, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In Australia, journalist and activist Bettina Arndt has embarked on a new direction. Fortunately, it includes this video interview with law professor Augusto Zimmerman. In addition to his academic career, Zimmerman served on the Law Reform Commission for Western Australia and is a fairly influential voice in legal policy in the Land Down Under.

Zimmerman taught for 10 years at Murdoch University Law School, but moved to Sheridan College when he grew uncomfortable with the “social justice direction Murdoch was taking. His interview with Arndt focusses on the impacts that domestic violence laws have had on divorce and child custody proceedings.

In a nutshell, Zimmerman is concerned that the system of domestic violence in Australia is having an adverse impact on the rights of fathers and children. It does so in a number of ways.

First, there’s been a frank erosion of basic rights of due process of law. In practice, that means that, when a complaint of domestic violence is made, the police are taught to arrest someone without necessarily any objective evidence on which to base doing so. That happens immediately, but it usually takes about seven months to ascertain whether the claim was true or false. In the meantime, if there’s a child custody issue pending, the one who’s the subject of the complaint, usually the father, has no contact with his child.

That of course constitutes “facts on the ground that usually lead to sole maternal custody. Both the police and prosecutors are taught – and freely admit – to “erring on the side of believing the accuser. As a practical matter, that suspends the accused’s due process right to be presumed innocent.

Second, Zimmerman states that lawyers in Australia well know that the system of domestic violence there all but guarantees that many of the claims are false and are used entirely to gain an advantage in custody battles.  That is the case of course because those claims work, i.e. they succeed in marginalizing fathers in the lives of their children. And they do so whether the allegations are true or false. Again, the time it takes to prove them false is enough to establish de facto custody.

Third, what is domestic violence? Needless to say at this late date, it often has nothing to do with anything related to physical violence. It’s now not only emotional violence and financial violence that can get a man removed from his home and separated from his children, but the mere threat thereof. Yes, anyone who says s/he fears that some form of violence may occur in the future is entitled to an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO).

Therefore, the mere claim that one is concerned that one’s significant other may, at some time in the future, do something to cause one emotional upset or limit one’s spending power can, via the state power of the police and courts, have the other person removed from the home and that person’s contact with his children curtailed or prohibited altogether.

In this way, the government continues to destroy existing families while sending the clear message to those considering starting families that they’d be wise to think again.

Examples given by Zimmerman are of a man in his 70s whose wife had claimed he’d been verbally abusive to her. The police and courts threw him out of his house and he was living in his car based solely on one person’s naked accusation.

Another man had a child with an Australian woman. She decided she didn’t want him to see the child, so she claimed he’d been emotionally abusive toward her. In due course a judge issued an AVO against him. When he called the woman to find out what was going on, he violated the AVO and was jailed.

A survey of Australian family law magistrates finds widespread understanding that false allegations of DV are being made as a matter of course to gain an advantage in family law proceedings. But astonishingly, they overwhelmingly refuse to punish those who levy false allegations, virtually ensuring that the abuse of the system will continue.

I was recently reading a history of the late Roman Empire. In it, I ran across this about the Emperor Julian:

"He established the principle that an accused person should be accounted innocent till proved guilty. Numerius, a former governor of Gallia Narbonensis, was charged with embezzlement; he denied the charge, and could not be confuted at any point. The judge Delfidius, exasperated by lack of proofs, cried out: "Can anyone, most mighty Caesar, ever be found guilty if it be enough to deny the charge?" To which Julian replied: "Can anyone be proved innocent if it be enough to have accused him?"

That was around 350 AD. It’s a question that still (still!) needs to be asked in Australia today.

 

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#domesticviolence, #dueprocessoflaw, #BettinaArndt, #Australia

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