White Caravan Calls for Royal Commission into Family Law Courts

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We have to protect our Australian women and children from domestic abuse and violence, financial abuse and homelessness.

The White Caravan Foundation, along with millions of abused Australian women, are calling on General David John Hurley, AC and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to commence a Royal Commission into the Family Law Courts as a matter of national urgency.

Please share with as many women as you possibly can so we can make some serious change.

This situation is now at a critical point.

The Foundation states the Family Law Courts, Barristers and Solicitors are Major Contributors to the Current Pandemic of Women and Children’s Homelessness and should be held accountable.

The White Caravan Foundation, which works in the prevention of women’s homelessness, has found through its’ work that many women who have left abusive relationships are subjected to ongoing and systematic abuse at the hands of their ex-partners via the family law courts.

Further, when it comes to financial abuse, these vulnerable women are ironically left defenseless because they don’t have the funds required for proper legal representation or protection from their abusive ex-partners.  

According to White Caravan Director Juliet Potter and Kate Boyden, a Separation Strategist™ for women who works alongside White Caravan, there urgently needs to be a Royal Commission into the Family Law sector, as many women who have been brave enough to leave abusive partnerships are then being persecuted by a broken family law system that is currently supporting “fat cat law firms and well-heeled abusive men” at the expense of vulnerable women who are experiencing domestic violence but are unable to afford proper legal representation or protection.

Kate says, “The lawyers and barristers are profiting from abusive men who are leveraging their financial strength to misuse the legal process and the family law courts to further abuse their long suffering ex-partner mentally, emotionally, and financially time and time again”.

“Desperate women are spending their last dollars trying to get proper legal representation and protection from their abusive ex-partners only to be dropped like a hot potato by their own lawyers before they’ve even got their matter before the judge, because they’ve run out of money. And when that happens, there’s literally nowhere for these vulnerable women to turn for the urgent legal representation and protection they need”.   

“These abusive men file application after application, often for frivolous and vexatious reasons, and the women have little choice but to either defend the applications on their own or lose by default because they can’t afford to hire a lawyer or a barrister to act on their behalf and they’re too broken mentally and emotionally after years of abuse to self-represent against an aggressive ex-partner and his fancy legal team of equally aggressive lawyers and barristers.”

"It’s a continued form of abuse and it’s got to stop in order to curb the increasingly alarming prevalence of women’s separation and divorce-induced poverty and homelessness. Domestic violence is the single largest driver of homelessness for women in Australia.  Unless women are lucky enough to have family or friends they can move in with for cheaper living costs and/or family or friends who can help them pay their crippling legal bills, there is literally nowhere these broken women can turn to for the ongoing help and representation they desperately need within the family court system at the most vulnerable time in their lives”.

According to the Foundation, with 1 in 4 women experiencing abuse from a current or former spouse in their lifetime, the situation is in fact significantly worse than the domestic violence mortality rates that are being publicised suggest. Those figures just the tip of the iceberg of a shameful epidemic of domestic and family violence in Australia.

White Caravan is highlighting the fact that many more incidents of domestic violence related physical injuries, mortalities, and other mental and emotional abuse symptoms that are being treated on a daily basis by local doctors, emergency departments, and mental health professionals currently fly under the radar and are not being sufficiently reported in official domestic violence statistics.

White Caravan Director Juliet Potter notes that legal aid provides a wonderful service for women who require a single piece of legal advice or minor legal assistance, but unfortunately it cannot take full carriage of a complex family court matter for a woman who cannot otherwise afford legal representation regardless of whether her matter involves domestic violence or not.

Potter says, “We work with many women who, although they have no broken limbs or bruises, are suffering from deep mental and emotional trauma as a result of the various forms of abuse they have experienced in their relationship with their ex-partner.”

“Women are often having their physical and online movements closely monitored by their controlling and abusive partners.  Men are using location identifying phone apps to stalk their partners and know of their whereabouts at all times. We also see ladies whose email accounts, social media accounts, computers, mobile phones, and tablets have been hacked or seriously manipulated and compromised by their abusive partner, in an underhand attempt to keep tight control over on these poor women and closely monitor their communication with others.”

“Women who are experiencing domestic violence are often socially isolated from concerned family members and friends by their abusive partner and they have little to no access to family finances.  After they finally get the strength and courage they need to leave these abusive relationships, they then find themselves cut off from joint family finances as punishment for leaving, struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their kids financially, and burdened by deep mental and emotional trauma as a result of years of abuse.  They are trying desperately keep a roof over their children’s heads and food in their bellies whilst also trying to hold their mental and emotional health together so they don't risk losing their children to their abusive ex as well.

Women are being mentally, emotionally, and financially tortured by their abusive partners and ex-partners in private, closed-door battlefields that lawyers, barristers, and the family court either ignore or downplay, particularly if the women does not carry any any visible evidence of this abuse such as broken limbs or bruises.  Sadly, the wounds inflicted by the non-physical forms of abuse such as mental, emotional, financial, social, and technological abuse are often so much worse. So where do these women turn to for proper legal representation and protection if the lawyers and barristers they have approached for help refuse to give it to them because they have no access to money to pay for it? Mind you, this is often as a result of the financial abuse they have also experienced in that relationship.  It really is a catch 22 for these women.

Of course, women can receive free advice and minor assistance from Legal Aid if needed but this is quite simply not enough for women who are leaving abusive partners, particularly well-heeled ones who have no problem spending multiple $100,000’s on lawyers and barristers with the sole purpose of excluding wealth from their former partner and destroying her legally, financially, mentally, and emotionally with the assistance of the family court and the lawyers and barristers who are profiting handsomely from the same.

If a woman is physically assaulted and reports it to the police, she is likely to receive free legal representation by the Department of Public Prosecutions who will help women secure AVOs against their ex partners. But even then, how much protection does an AVO really provide a woman with from her abusive ex-partner anyway? A number of women who have been further harmed or murdered by their abusive ex-partner have had AVOs in place at the time of their next attack and it failed to provide them with the protection they so desperately needed and deserved at the time.   

The end result is, we have countless women who have endured years of multiple forms of abuse who are being forced to either settle legal issues on their abuser’s terms because they can’t afford proper legal representation to help them level the playing field, or further crush their chances of financial recovery post-separation and divorce because of exorbitant legal bills they have racked up defending their abusive ex-partner’s family court applications and desperately seeking protection from their abusive ex.

This is pushing women and their children into poverty and homelessness that sadly, many will never recover from.  And the poverty cycle for a woman continues long after the kids leave home too as women often have little to no savings because they’ve also received minimal if any child support from their abusive ex-partner while the kids have been growing up, in addition to significantly smaller amounts of super than their abusive ex owing to the major career breaks so many women have also taken to raise their children while the ex-partner’s career and earnings typically continue to go from strength to strength.  

Potter continues, “Already we have a shameful disparity in earnings for women.”

“Then women lose their financial independence whilst doing the most important job in the world - raising happy, healthy children, only to be pushed into a life sentence of mental health issues and poverty.”

“It’s alarming that no one in the legal system can (or will) help these women when they really need it, because proper DV legal representation doesn't pay the bills for money-hungry family lawyers and barristers, right?  We believe that this makes them 100% complicit in this ongoing abuse of women, along with a family court system that also sanctions this devastating abuse by allowing and enabling these abusive men to repeatedly misuse the family court process to break their former wives legally, financially, mentally, and emotionally.

“The reality is the Family Court is the only place in Australia where an abusive man can actively abuse his ex-partner in front of lawyers, barristers, and judges and get away with it, presumably because those players are the same ones who are feeding their own families and propping up their own lifestyles whilst enabling abusive men and their legal representatives to completely and utterly destroying the lives of grossly underrepresented and long abused women and their children on a daily basis.

“They should be held accountable in their complicity”.

Although White Caravan focuses on steering women away from acrimonious family court proceedings in favour of more collaborative approaches, unfortunately according to White Caravan, even this process is flawed and open for misuse by an abusive ex-partner.

Kate states, “If a couple attends mediation and no resolution is achieved, the mediator will issue both parties with a section 60i certificate. This then grants an abusive ex an express lane straight into lengthy and expensive family court proceedings that he already knows his ex-partner cannot afford.  

The wait time for a parenting and property matter to reach a final hearing can be anywhere between 2 years and 3 years owing to a case overload and an insufficient number of judges within the family court.  Over those 2-3 years, an abusive litigant and his aggressive legal team will often file multiple interim applications against his financially under-resourced ex-partner with the goal of depleting what little money she has to afford legal representation moving forward (if any), and destroying her financially, mentally, and emotionally long before the matter even gets close to a final hearing.  

But it doesn’t stop there. Even after final orders have been issued by the family court, there’s little to stop an abusive litigant or his legal team from continuing the fight with further initiating applications against his ex, again with the goal of further destroying her financially and destabilising her mentally and emotionally. Many women are dealing with the devastating impact of their ex-partner’s chronic abuse of the legal system on a day to day basis, sometimes until their youngest turns 18.  It’s absolutely shameful that the family court and those who work within it, allow and enable this chronic system-wide abuse of women who often cannot afford the proper legal representation or protection they so desperately need to stop this ongoing abuse.

The White Caravan Foundation, along with millions of abused Australian women, is calling on General David John Hurley, AC to commence a Royal Commission into the Family Law Courts as a matter of national urgency.

White Caravan is also calling out for pro-bono legal representation for the women who have contacted the Foundation for help, a number of whom are suicidal and suffering from severe depression and anxiety because they can’t find anyone within the legal profession who is willing to assist them with the proper legal representation that they so desperately need and deserve to break free from their ex-partners ongoing abuse of them within the family court arena.

The White Caravan Foundation states, “Family law is a rich man’s sport for abusers and this abuse is being supported 100% by aggressive law firms and barristers who are deliberately creating legal blood baths for women who can’t afford proper legal representation, as are judges who continue to allow abusers to file application after application against their long suffering, mentally, emotionally, and financially broken ex-partners.  

“As a charity, we have women approaching us who have already spent multiple $100,000s on legal fees, some to their very last dollar.  Others have been forced into bankruptcy as a result of prohibitively expensive lawyer and barrister bills that they’ve racked up whilst responding to their ex-partner’s multiple family court applications.

Unfortunately as a charity there is little we can currently do to help these women fund the legal representation they so desperately need because we are underfunded. It’s absolutely heartbreaking that these poor women have absolutely no where to turn to for help running their matters or managing their abusive ex-partner’s chronic abuse of the family court and the legal processes involved which he gets away with time and again.

“The legal profession should be ashamed of itself. Where is equal access to legal representation? Where is protection for victims? Where do these women turn to for help? How do the judges, lawyers and barristers sleep at night? Australian women deserve better and they must be supported and protected regardless of their financial position”.

Forms of Abuse Identified by The White Caravan

Whilst most people are familiar with the physical abuse aspect of domestic violence, sadly there are many other forms of equally devastating non-physical domestic violence that currently go largely unacknowledged by the legal system and the police.

These include mental abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, social abuse, technological abuse, spiritual abuse, stalking, and legal abuse.

Many women who are victims of insidious non-physical abuse have trouble accessing proper legal representation and protection from the domestic violence they are experiencing for the following reasons:

1) they have been stay at home mums who have lost their financial independence whilst raising their families so they have no money of their own to fund lawyers or barristers;

2) they are experiencing severe financial abuse and their spouse is actively preventing their access to joint funds; or

3) they have already depleted the very little spare cash they have on their initial consultations with their family lawyer and a couple of letters that have been sent between the lawyers;

4) they are dealing with abusive ex-partners who are now also repeat litigants who are deliberately misusing the family court and the legal process to continue their abuse and further weaken the women affected by it legally, financially, mentally, and emotionally as quickly as possible.

Please share with as many women as you possibly can so we can make some serious change. www.WhiteCaravan.org.au @WhiteCaravanAccom #WhiteCaravan #DomesticViolence #DomesticAbuse #FinancialAbuse #WomensHomelessness #AustralianWomensHomeless

 


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