The former Australian of the Year accused courts of dismissing survivors’ claims of violence even where backed with proof and said in practice shared custody had resulted in courts forcing children to have ongoing contact with violent parents.
Batty made the comments in a speech to the National Press Club calling for adoption of legal changes in Women’s Legal Services Australia’s five-point plan to combat family violence.
Batty said the legal system “too often fails to recognise the impact of family violence” and was overburdened and underfunded, leaving parents feeling powerless to protect their children.
She said despite changes to family law in 2012 children’s safety is still not being prioritised because “it is in the very culture of the family law system that has the responsibility to apply it”.
“All too often, survivors even with proof have their fears written off as anxiety or obsession. Minimised or dismissed. Accused of exaggerating or manipulating the system.
“Children who say they are afraid, or bravely disclose their own abuse, are routinely seen as having had their minds influenced and poisoned by their mother’s animosity towards the father and are not believed.
“The court can then order these very same children to continue to spend time with, or even live with, the alleged abuser – a truly diabolical and unacceptable situation.”
Batty told the story of a child who was ordered to live with his father despite alleged violence towards both his son and former partner. Eventually, enough evidence was gathered for an apprehended violence order but not before the child ran away from home and experienced suicidal thoughts.
Under Australian family law the best interests of the children is the paramount consideration when considering custody.
Read More: The Guardian
By: Paul Karp