Justice Nicholson's Letter to The Editor
The Australian

Father's story undermines faith in the court system

Your Focus story "court out" (24-26/12) has given an anonymous individual (apparently a journalist) the opportunity to personalise his version of a Family Court dispute in a highly dramatic manner to a national audience.

In publishing this sensational account The Australian has managed to send a poisonous Christmas message to the many families for whom Christmas is already a difficult time because of family breakdown.

It also succeeds in undermining faith in the judicial system in a most irresponsible manner, and in unfairly criticising dedicated legal and other professionals who work in one of the most difficult and stressful areas of the law.

The Family court cannot respond properly to this scurrilous story because of restrictions on the publication of details of Family Court proceedings, nor can it verify or check the accuracy of the allegations made because of their anonymous nature.

In publishing one side of what is inevitably a complex story, The Australian has shown a complete abdication of its responsibility to the public and to the concept of balanced journalism. Long experience in family law shows that many people are able to be objective about their involvement in such proceedings and when such accounts are examined from both points of view, the real story is very different.

It is all to easy to blame the Family Court for failing to solve the consequences of relationship breakdown but perhaps it is time to ask as to why the author and people like him were unable to do so themselves.

The court always encourages and assists parties to resolve their disputes, but it must be realised that if they are unable to do so, the umpire's decision if not always what they want.

Your story has done much to encourage those who bring a sense of not only irresponsibility but violence to family relationships and may well have put at risk women and children involved in family law matters during the tense festive period.

Alastair Nicholson

Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia

Letter from Dr. Vincent A .Patrick
Duncraig, WA

Congratulations for publishing the informative article "Court out: one man's battle for his kids".

Although a happily married man, I am aware of the poor treatment meted out to fathers in the name of family law, and the irrational doctrines which allow it to happen.

Much of the problem would be solved with changes to provide default equal parenting on separation, with variations from this requiring agreements by both partners.

The Family Court fiasco also highlights the need for men's interests to be recognised and represented at a political level, through an office of the Status for Men.

Dr Vincent A. Patrick
Duncraig,  WA

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