By Kevin Glancy
For Jon Wilson, that particular Tuesday was like any other working day. He’d kissed and hugged his two young sons at the school gate before saying goodbye and continuing his journey to the nearby building site where he worked as a supervisor.
It was an uneventful day and at around 4.30 pm he headed home. When he pulled up outside his modest suburban home in Victoria, he noticed that something just didn’t seem right.
When he unlocked the front door and entered the living room, he couldn’t believe what he saw. The house was completely empty and not one single piece of furniture remained. It was as though no one had ever lived there. His wife and two sons were also missing, along with all the furniture, his personal possessions and everything he owned.
Instinctively, he rushed outside to be met by his neighbours who told him that earlier that day, a removal truck had taken everything away.
Jon immediately rang his wife. At first there was no answer but he continued trying to contact her and eventually she answered the phone.
“Where are you?” he asked her. “That’s not important.” She replied.
“What about the boys, where are they?”
“It doesn’t matter you can’t see them.”
“What do you mean I can’t see them?”
“Look! I have taken out an Intervention Order and you can’t come near me or the boys.”
“What do you mean an Intervention Order? How can you do that? I haven’t done anything wrong.” But by then the phone had gone dead.
Jon Wilson slumped on the curb outside what had been his home. He was in a state of shock as he tried to comprehend what had happened. In effect his sons had been kidnapped and all his possessions had been stolen. He was already missing his two young sons. He knew that his marriage had been less than ideal but couldn’t understand why his wife had suddenly run away with their children or, why he was the subject of an Intervention Order.
It was only a few weeks ago that his wife had wanted him to go and see a house that she thought they should buy. A few months before that she had even threatened suicide when she thought that he might leave her.
He’d never hit his wife or his sons. Hadn’t he been a good father? But nothing made sense anymore. Sure they’d argued but don’t all couples argue?
The arguments were mostly about the children because his wife insisted on sleeping with his eleven year old son while he was forced to sleep in his son’s empty bed.
Every night at around 7.30 pm she would take the two boys into her bedroom and close the door leaving him alone in the lounge. He didn’t think this was healthy and whenever he spoke to her about it an argument would ensue. So he had stopped raising the issue for the sake of a peaceful life. Of course, if a father was sleeping with his eleven year old son or daughter, he would more than likely be arrested.
At precisely 5.17 pm on Tuesday the 15th October 2013 although Jon Wilson didn’t know it, he had begun a painful journey down a well-worn path. The same lonely journey that countless fathers before him have made and one that thousands more will repeat.
In that instant he became a second class citizen and he would soon realise that as far has his rights as a father were concerned, he would have been far better off had he murdered someone. At least then he would have had a trial and an opportunity to defend himself.
He would learn that an AVO or Intervention Order is a matter of routine for mothers when a marriage breaks down and children are involved. Often, they are based on a fabricated statement akin to an act of perjury for which there is no penalty.
In his case, according to his wife in her unsubstantiated statement, she had endured 5 years of abuse including violence towards her and the children. At the time Jon thought that justice would prevail as there was no evidence to support such claims. He even had a signed statement produced by a mutual friend (a police officer) which quoted his wife who texted him with regard to the AVO.
“I am not scared of Jon, I just wanted to hurt him and take him away from seeing the boys.”
When he went to the local court to challenge the order, the Duty Solicitor advised him that his wife would allow him to see the children if he didn’t challenge the order. That he could do so without making any admissions. Desperate to see his children he followed that advice.
Of course no access was forthcoming and Jon didn’t realise that even though he had made no admissions that he was now the bearer of a criminal record that would haunt him forever. He was now listed as a domestic violence offender and his name, even if he was cleared at a later date, would never be removed from that Victorian state register. His reputation was ruined and at the very least, it could jeopardise future employment opportunities.
Anxious to do everything he could to see his children he followed the process as he was ordered. He paid to attend the required anger management classes during which the ‘teacher’ told him that most men like him who attend do not need anger management. But he needed to go through it in any event at his own cost. He was forced to pay $4,000 for a psychiatric report. Each time he had a brief access visit at McDonalds, it had to be supervised by a third person and each visit cost him $400.
Jon thought that the Family Law Court would give him a chance to state his case but he soon found that the court was not the slightest bit interested in his human rights. He sat helpless in court as the wife’s barrister proceeded to tarnish his reputation and to make demands that the court, for the most part accepted.
Jon became anxious, he wanted his solicitor to speak up on his behalf, to argue his case. Naively, he thought that the truth would matter, that it would make a difference but he might as well have been invisible. Neither his solicitor nor the truth would have any bearing on the outcome in this court. The two opposing solicitors had come to an arrangement and he had been completely excluded. The court did not want to know whether he was guilty or innocent.
He wanted to protest, to shout out but it was too late, the court delivered the verdict. It decreed that Jon would only be allowed to see his children for a meagre 2 hours a week; that any time with his children would continue to be supervised by a third party for the next four weeks. He felt crushed and humiliated.
The justification for extra supervision, according to the court was because he hadn’t seen the boys for 8 weeks. He’d had no choice in the matter. It was an absence enforced because the court had believed the lie told by his wife. This extra separation inflicted by the court fails the logic test.
Do parents who work away from home for a period of time require supervision when they reunite with their children? Do soldiers, mothers and fathers, returning from a 6 month stint in Afghanistan or wherever, need to be supervised when they see their children again? Do mine workers have to be supervised before they are reunited with their children after working away from home for long periods?
No! That would be stupid and so Jon Wilson had his worst fears confirmed. They think he’s some kind of predator. They’ve found him guilty without a trial. As far as the ‘paramountcy of the child’ is concerned, the Family Court sees little value in a father’s presence in a child’s life.
So now the damage to Jon and the children is compounded. No more the hero in their eyes. Their mother has told them that he is unworthy and the court has confirmed it. The mandatory presence of a third person in the room, who watches whenever their dad is with them, confirms to the children that he must have done something bad.
Yet Jon didn’t kidnap the children and vacate the family home, the mother did. In fact he had done nothing wrong, certainly nothing that would justify why he and his children were being punished.
It seems that according to the Family Court, at the point a marriage ends, the father suddenly becomes a risk, an unsuitable parent to be treated like a distant untrusted relative.
John Wilson continued to be obstructed by his wife who ignored the intent of the court orders. If he wants to take further legal action to enforce the court orders to see his children it will be at his expense.
In this age of supposed equality, why isn’t his wife contributing to these costs? Isn’t she at least partly to blame? Surely women’s equality is a two-way street? How can they pick and choose when they want to be treated as an equal?
Former Prime Minister John Howard did much to get the Family Court to make 50/50 access the starting point in custodial matters. He tried to make the system fairer for non-custodial parents and for a short while that was the case. But the Rudd/Gillard Labor Government at the first opportunity legislated to return the system back to the pro-feminist, bad old days. Back when Labor decided that fathers should be treated as worthless, their children taken from them and still, they talk about the stolen generation.
Jon Wilson is still struggling to come to terms with his new life without his children. His wife is manipulating the boys, still doing her very best to destroy him in their eyes. The events described here are true. Only Jon’s name has been changed to protect the identity of those involved.
Sadly, as I write this there are thousands of fathers throughout the country enduring the same lonely, frustrating and painful journey through the Family Court. Then there are the children who miss their dads so much, denied their right to equality, their right to a father’s love. A process executed by vindictive and cruel mothers with the assistance of the Family Court. A court that in effect, pours kerosene on the emotional fires that burn when a marriage fails.
Yes! There are some men who are violent but there are also some women who are equally so. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in every three victims of domestic violence is a male. Given the reluctance of men to report such a crime due to the fear of ridicule, you can bet that, despite the current anti-male domestic violence propaganda, the number of male victims is a lot higher.
Fortunately, there are many decent women and mothers in Australia and right now fathers desperately need those women to be their heroes, to be their champions in the fight to protect their basic human right to regularly see their children. Women are needed because in Australia fathers are male. It’s a gender thing no one’s listening to them, no one cares.
Make no mistake. There is no doubt that what happens to fathers in the Family court is an obscenity. If Jon Wilson was a murder suspect he would have a right to a trial; to legal counsel and be able to call witnesses in defence of the alleged crime. If he couldn’t afford it, the taxpayer would be paying. Unfortunately, in this supposed civilised country, Jon Wilson, like so many others, is denied the basic right to stand up in the Family Court and defend himself. Any allegation made by a mother is usually upheld without the right of reply.
Much is said in Australia about human rights and equality, about women’s rights or gay and transgender rights, yet one large section of our community is denied theirs on a daily basis in the courts. It’s been that way for a very long time, for the most part a social policy under Labor party control. Meanwhile, thousands of children are losing their right to enjoy equal access to both their parents. Grandparents and extended families are also suffering. So much for equality in Australia.
There is so much more that could be said about this issue and the destruction it wreaks. There is no doubt that the Family Court through its administration is assisting mothers and some fathers to use their children as weapons. Federal politicians should attend to this issue as a matter of priority; to influence state governments to instigate penalties for anyone making a false statement to secure an DVO/AVO. To treat with suspicion any application made by a parent undergoing a marriage breakdown in which children are the spoils.
How can they ignore it? It’s an issue that is doing untold social damage across our nation. It’s not only denying thousands of fathers of their basic human rights but the rights of thousands of children to enjoy the benefits of balanced parenting. The kind they’ve been used to.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten should, if he believes in families and equality, be leading the charge but I won’t hold my breath given Labor’s track record on this issue.
As for State Governments; if they are going to provide AVO’s simply on application then the granting of such should be based on at least one condition. That if the application is found to be fabricated or vexatious then serious penalties will apply. Mothers or fathers who fabricate a claim should lose their right to argue about custody. It is perjury after all. Unless the AVO has been tested and proven in court there should be no criminal record attached to the subject of that AVO.