With the return of abducted boy Jason Headley, New Zealanders can reflect on how well the Government serves citizens and especially their children, through the Family Court.
Many citizens don't worry about the quality of Family Court services, as they hope that they will never have to use it themselves. Actually, we are not in total control of this situation.
For my children, I do want a wise, good quality and timely service to be available, as the norm, whether my children need it or not. I want judges that have relevant training, that is useful for constructively and cost effectively solving family disputes.
The public can only judge, if they have access to the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what is happening, IN THEIR NAME.
The public can only judge, if they are willing to listen.
At the least, our society must learn, in a timely fashion, from it's mistakes and improve practices. Better still, we should get legislation right in the first place. This takes open discussion of all of the issues, in Parliamentary Subcommittees, before the legislation is passed into law. When a strong party leader rushes legislation and the Subcommittees just go through the motions and rubber stamp it, then there is a large risk that the legislation will be of poor quality and fail to perform well in the real world. The non-lawyers in Parliament must stop standing back and play a more active role in developing legislation.
I cannot see that the present lawyers, trained only in adversarial procedure, can ever provide the conciliatory approach promised by Judge Trapski at the opening of the Family Court in 1980. Judge Boshier made the same promise in 2006, without referring to Judge Trapski's promise made in 1980. In the intervening 25 years, many tens thousands of families have been "processed", without this conciliatory approach coming into practice. How long should we wait? A whole generation of time has drifted by, while families are unnecessarily being damaged.
Why would these lawyers ever offer conciliatory negotiation, when there is a conflict of interest. Their incomes will obviously be better served by promoting dispute and lack of trust, than by constructively, speedily and cost effectively solving disputes. We must face the conflict of interest and manage it. Relying on the present system lacking supervision of judges is clearly unworkable. I tell my children to be very wary of people who say "trust me". Honest workers appreciate good supervision. Undeclared unmanaged conflicts of interest bleed society and damage vulnerable people.
These lawyer's skills are no more relevant to solving family disputes, than they are to fixing leaky homes. Lawyers seem to offer more for creating problems, than for solving them cost effectively.
The solution for the Family Court lies in employing people with a relevant knowledge of family finances, negotiation, child raising and integrity. Such people are readily available in our community, but not from legal workers. We must move on from listening to promises from the legal "profession" and enact constructive changes without further unnecessary delays.
Child abduction is a serious problem in our community.
There are about 60 Hague applications made each year for children abducted into NZ and a similar number for children abducted out of NZ. These represent just those abductions where the remaining parent could locate the child and the child was taken to a Hague signatory country. Thus international abductions presently probably run at about 200 children per year into NZ and the same number removed.
Of these, about 85% are mother abductors and 15% father abductors. This latter detail is hidden from the NZ public, by publicity being given mainly to father abductor cases. Family Court judges do not correct the public mis-impression that most abductors are fathers.
Family Court judges frequently actively support mother abductors on the basis that they might have been subjected to violence. Family Court judges lack the skills to assess family violence at a single sitting (no human on Earth could reliably achieve this!). This illegal support for mother abductors is why the abduction problem continues to grow at 15% per year. This covert support only occurs because it can be hidden from the wisdom of the public.
The public knows that good parenting is based on honesty, working together and accountability, not on lying, secrecy and running away from accountability. Abductors are not good parents, particularly as sole parents and judges are not serving these children by supporting abductors.
Abduction within NZ and withholding, is frequently used to gain the advantage for mothers, in day to day care applications, as they know the Family Court judges will reward them for carrying out their abduction. The public must stop the Family Court from rewarding mothers for doing these abductions. Child removal should only be carried out by honestly negotiated agreement, anything else is abduction. Agreements should be followed through, so that people can have reasonable trust and faith in court orders. This leads to good parenting.
Family damage resulting from these abductions leads to suicides of parents (mainly fathers) and of the children (boys and girls) too. Many people not quite so affected lead damaged lives, sometimes through no direct fault of their own. Lets do all we can to prevent these abductions and discourage them too.
Lets stop talking and carry out constructive changes to the Family Court, so that it can work and serve.
In the Jason Headley case, the Family Court has turned around after six years, the whole life of this child and criticised the mother and her family.
How could these judges have been so slow?
Have they only turned around now, because the facts could no longer be hidden?
The answers can only show that the wrong people have been following the wrong approach. Families are about more than just money. I am sure that Kay Skelton could have been a good mother from six years ago, if she had been given the constructive signals from the Family Court judges.
The inability of the Family Court judges to accept responsibility for their role shows clearly that they lack the skills and motivation to be ever able to perform their tasks effectively. (They could still get jobs as a spin doctors, in an area where profit is the main issue.)
I have been through the Family Court as a result of the abduction of my children (twice) and I do want a Family Court that works for everyone. There is nothing wrong with sharing children and parents. Actually, there is much to be gained.