Just read Caroline Overington’s article in the Australian and I can hardly believe it. Family Court Judge Benjamin (Melbourne, Australia) granted custody of two children to their father. The mother originally had custody of the children after the couple divorced in 2005. The children were clearly harmed by the separation of their parents and were reported saying that they did not want to visit their father. Hold on folks: Judge Benjamin found that the mother did not discourage the children from expressing these statements and did not encourage them to see their father. Judge Benjamin’s ruling was based on the assessment that the girl was “estranged from her father” and was “at risk of psychological damage, if not psychiatric damage” if she was not allowed to have a relationship with her father. Judge Benjamin’s decision was made under new laws introduced by the Howard government that require the family court to adopt the presumption of “shared parenting” when dealing with children of divorce.
Roughly at the same time, in Manhattan, New York City: as evidence of alienation of my girls by my ex-wife was mounting, documented by both social workers and even by forensic evaluator, law-guardian Octobre and judge Sturm did not even think of taking measures to keep the girls’ mother from discouraging them to see me. Psychological damage to my girls from continuous exposure to father’s demonizing? It has not even crossed Garline Octobre’s mind. Two weeks ago, as I was trying to find out what was happening with my motion to decrease child support, I met Garline Octobre in Manhattan family court. After civil greetings, I expressed to her my deep disappointment to Judge Sturm’s ruling about the child abuse trial: six more months of supervised visitation, which translate into six more month of a hopeless translation toward the resumption of a normal relationship between my girls and myself. Octobre’s answer: she agrees with me. My ex-wife is not helping. But what can she do ? My girls say they don’t want to see me. I have a “practical” problem. Sorry, my problem is not practical. It lays with her total inability to understand parental alienation and do something about it.
I am an optimist. Nobody is hopeless, if training is there. What law-guardians and family court judges in this country -or at least in Manhattan- need, is a solid study trip to Australia to figure out what shared parenting laws are and how they work.