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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

boy child childhood 1320701

November 19, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors

The shoddy screeds written by Zoe Rathus and Jess Hill in an effort to convince Australian governmental authorities that mothers are ill treated by fathers and judges in family courts are predictably short on facts and intellectual scruples and long on indignation.  They and others who oppose kids maintaining real relationships with both parents following divorce or separation routinely cite bad “science,” ignore good science, misrepresent other science and fabricate definitions of parental alienation.  That’s apparently what you do when you don’t have anything of substance to contribute to the conversation.

But there are other people, reputable people, scrupulous people who are talking as well and it’s high time we paid attention to them.  One is Augusto Zimmerman.  He’s a heavyweight in Australian family law.  Here’s how this article describes him (The Spectator, 11/11/19):

Dr Augusto Zimmermann was a Law Reform Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia from 2012-2017. He is currently Professor and Head of Law at Sheridan College, Perth, and Professor of Law (Adjunct) at the University of Notre Dame Australia Sydney campus. He is also President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA).

Now, one of the claims/strong suggestions made by Rathus, Hill, et al is that mothers don’t lie about abuse.  Hill and American academic Joan Meier avoid saying so explicitly, being content to let their readers draw the desired conclusion.  Rathus is more frank; the headline of her recent piece in “The Conversation” reads “Parental Alienation: The Debunked Theory that Women Lie about Violence…”  That makes the matter plain; she wants us to believe that the theory that women lie about violence has been debunked.

Needless to say, that’s utter nonsense as Zimmerman goes to some lengths to point out.

There is no doubt that countless applications are unmeritorious and grossly misused…

Since a restraining order can be so easily obtained, they can and have been maliciously used by unscrupulous applicants. The strategy is rather simple and it consists in one’s ability to defame his or her former partner with no necessity of actual evidence. 

Indeed, not everyone who applies for a restraining order is a genuine victim, just as not everyone who is subject to such an order is necessarily a perpetrator. Indeed, many cases of domestic violence have ended up in courts where these allegations have been disproved, and sometimes many years after the accused found themselves evicted from their homes, and alienated from their children.

Contrary to Rathus, Hill, et al, Zimmerman notes that false allegations of abuse are often very much part of a campaign of alienation by one parent against another.

There is an undeniable correlation between apprehended orders, false claims of domestic violence, and parental alienation. According to David Collier, a retired judge from the Parramatta Family Court, such orders have become a “major weapon” in the war between parents willing to secure the sole custody of children.

You’d know none of that if you relied on the likes of Rathus, Hill and Meier for your information on the subject.  Judges like Collier see it frequently from the bench.

Zimmerman’s article takes off from his submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee regarding Australia’s Family Law System, i.e. the very review of family law and courts about which Rathus, Hill and others are so exercised.  He doesn’t confine himself to the subject of false claims of domestic violence.  Zimmerman’s brief is that the entire system of protective orders, particularly in child custody cases, must be reformed. 

Rathus and the others of course like it just the way it is.

I’ll have more to say on Zimmerman’s piece next time.

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