Maybe the world is divided into two groups. Those who think the Family Court was invented just for them, and those who don’t.
You might be wondering why this is a problem for anyone except the people who go to court?
Let me introduce you to Mr V and Ms D who separated in 2005, and who, since then, have had 10 years of litigation in the Family Court of Australia, as well as a number of special leave applications to the High Court of Australia.
Mr V and Ms D have two children, who were very young at the time of the separation. Now those kids are teenagers.
It is impossible for parents to be in court without their kids knowing it, and it is impossible for long drawn out court cases not to deprive a family of money that could have been put to better use.
Can you imagine what it has been like to grow up with these parents? For the whole of their living memory, these kids’ parents have been at war with each other, and the kids know it. What must that be like for them? I don’t know if you’ve ever been involved in a court case, but if you have, you’ll know that it takes up not only a lot of money, but a huge amount of time and just about all of your emotional energy. When that goes on for ten years, what could be left for the kids?
Every judge, lawyer and social scientist will say that people who are caught up in continual and lengthy court cases have problems, and they’re rarely legal problems. I don’t know what was going on for Mr V and Ms D, but it is almost certain that one or both of them had addiction, personality or mental health issues. There is nothing else that can sustain ten years of litigation!
So what could have been different for this family?
It seems inevitable that they were going to end up in the court system, and that any kind of amicable resolution was beyond Mr V and Ms D. Although they are in the minority of couples, a few percentage only, these are the people the Family Court exists for. But how did the Court system help them? It’s not obvious is it?
Imagine if we had a court system that could recognise when a case was about personal dysfunction and relational conflict, and simply refuse to entertain the case until appropriate mental health or counselling interventions were in place?
That kind of intervention, well done and well-funded, has the best chance of resolving the situation or limiting the arguments between people like Mr V and Ms D. It’s a certain bet that what they told the judge they were arguing about was either the tip of the emotional iceberg, or nothing at all to do with why they ended up fighting in the legal system for ten years.
Not only would a psychological intervention have most likely saved these parents and their children from years of pain, but it would have saved us all vast sums each year, because the user does not pay for the court system. You do!