The Fair Work Commission is being urged to re-think its rejection of a union bid for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave for all employees.
Fair Work, Employers Groups Fail Workers on Domestic Violence Leave
The 2017-18 Federal Budget, released Monday 9th May, has been received with mixed feelings by the Family Law Section.
Federal Budget - Implications for Family Law
The Federal Government has made substantial changes to the 457 visa programme for migrants wishing to work and settle in Australia.
Federal Government Makes Major Changes to 457 Visa
Pullos Lawyers is strongly endorsing a renewed campaign to bring the Family and Federal courts to the Gold Coast.
Increasing Pressure for Family Court on GC
Pullos Lawyers is strongly endorsing a renewed campaign to bring the Family and Federal courts to the Gold Coast.
Family lawyers offering catchy gimmicks such as ‘divorce in a day’ or ‘divorce hotels’ may be creating unrealistic expectations and long term problems among separating couples.
Divorce in a Day Gimmick Distorts Complex Reality of Relationship Breakdown
Family lawyers offering catchy gimmicks such as 'divorce in a day' or 'divorce hotels' may be creating unrealistic expectations and long term problems among separating couples.
That's Cassandra Pullos' view and she says the 'divorce in a day' concept, which has drawn recent media focus, sends the wrong message to separating couples.
It’s the question family lawyers get asked perhaps more than any other- how do I prove if I’m in a de facto relationship?
Six Years of Casual Sex Does Not Prove a De Facto Relationship
Cassandras Pullos has applauded the passing of new legislation by State Parliament to protect domestic violence victims and make life tougher for DV offenders.
Major Step Forward in DV Protection Laws
A tough LNP Private Member’s Bill which drew Labor support was passed late on Wednesday night. It allows for GPS trackers to be fitted to DV offenders and radically reverses the presumption of bail for violence-related DV offences.
Cassandra says family lawyers have been strongly advocating tougher safety measures for domestic violence victims and a more hardline stance against offenders for some time.
Key points of the DV reforms are:
- • Reverses the presumption for bail for persons charged with domestic violence-related crimes such as assault, grievous bodily harm, deprivation of liberty, strangulation and kidnapping.
- • A DV Alert system will advise victims and families when someone with a DVO against them is being considered for parole, even if the reason they are in prison is not related to domestic violence.
- • Introduces urgent appeal rights to the bail application process, which means bail decisions can be stayed for up to three business days and referred to a higher court for urgent review.\
• Allows Courts to require GPS trackers be fitted to an alleged offender as a bail condition to ensure that victims of crime are better protected throughout the full trial process.
Cassandra says the new legislation has been needed for some time and stakeholders in the ongoing Domestic Violence crisis will be closely examining the new laws to see where further strengthening is needed.
One immediate area of concern is a key provision in the Bill which did not get Labor support. This involved a DV bail alert system which would have seen victims alerted when a previous offender applies for or has been granted bail.
Cassandra expects there will be pressure for this commonsense measure to ensure DV victims have an early alert when an offender is released to be put before Parliament again.
Just this week, State Coroner Terry Ryan recommended the Government toughen bail conditions ensuring the most violent domestic violence perpetrators remain in jail.
Cassandra says the legislative changes are a significant victory for DV victims and those pushing for change.
“Finally the rights of the victims are being upheld. This is a great step forward in a crisis that has been too often studded with heartbreaks,” she says.
It’s a situation the children of divorced parents fear. Do the kids have a say in who they live with, and at what age can they make their own decision? Cassandra Pullos says a recent case in New South Wales has highlighted this vexed issue and it’s put renewed focus on the Family Court and the role of the Independent Children's Lawyer (ICL).
High Court Rules Even a 17 Year Old Can't Choose Between His Divorced Parents
Cassandra Pullos says a recent case in New South Wales has highlighted this vexed issue and it’s put renewed focus on the Family Court and the role of the Independent Childrens’ Lawyer (ICL).
This is where it gets complicated.
The parents had three children while married, two boys aged 17 and 15, and a girl aged 12. The parties separated in 2010 and after this, the boys lived with the father and the girl lived with her mother.
Parenting orders provided that the parties had equal shared parental responsibility. The children were to live with each parent as determined between the parties or at the children's election. The parents were also permitted to take the children out of Australia on holidays.
So dad gets permission to take the boys to New York in January 2016 for a holiday but a few days after arrival there advises his former wife he has decided to stay in New York and the boys want to stay there too.
The mother filed an application under the Hague Convention to have the children returned to Australia. The Hague Convention is an international agreement whereby more than 90 signatory countries agree to uphold child custody orders from other signatory countries.
Orders for the boys to return were made but the father appealed. The full bench of the Family Court dismissed his appeal, upholding the primary judges' judgment. So the father took an appeal to the High Court, and lost again.
The question of where the boys would live back in Australia further complicated the issue. If the father did not return to Australia the boys would be expected to live with their mother, but if they did not want to do that, the father would pay for their accommodation elsewhere. Another option was for them to live with friends.
The mother decided not to take part in the High Court process so the Independent Childrens’ lawyer ( ICL) opposed the father’s case. The ICL seeks an outcome in the best interests of the children and it may not be what the children want.
Cassandra Pullos says this puts a focus on the children’s wishes in that “children” (anyone under the age of 18) never get to choose absolutely.
“Their wishes can be taken into account, depending on the maturity with which they are expressed (and a 13 year old may be more mature in their consideration and expression of their wishes than a 16 year old – or an 8 year old more mature than a 13 year old.
“Ultimately, the wishes of anyone under 18 is only one factor for the judge to take into account when deciding what is in a child’s best interests. They have to look at ALL the factors set out in S60CC of the Family Law Act – not just the child’s wishes”, she says.
This particular NSW case, which made media headlines, also dispels the long held “urban myth” that, in reality, once children get to about 15 or 16, you can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do and so, in a de facto way, their wishes become the only important thing and they get to do whatever they want to do.
“This case gives the lie to that urban myth. These children – 15 and 17 – were clearly saying they wanted to stay in New York with their father. But the High Court looked at what was in their overall best interests, including the disruption to their relationship with their mother and their sister such a choice would necessarily result in, something apparently the boys hadn’t really considered when expressing their wishes,”.
The High Court also looked at the level of influence their father had over the sons’ decision making.
The High Court made it clear that just because these boys were older teenagers, their wishes still weren’t paramount – the Court still has the duty, and the power, to make a decision different to those wishes if, in all the circumstances, the Court believes the children’s best interests are served by another outcome different to their wishes.
As Cassandra puts it – “Kids don’t get what they want just because they want it – the central tenet of good parenting! The adult in the room (in this case the Judge) has a duty to look at the bigger picture and make a decision based on all the ramifications for the child, as to what is best for him or her.”
If you have a family law issue and need advice or assistance, contact us on 07 5526 3646 and one of our specialist Family lawyers will be able to assist you.
The Queensland State Government is being challenged on why a key recommendation of a landmark study into domestic violence two years ago has not been acted upon.
Why Has State Government Ignored Key Recommendation of its Domestic Violence Taskforce?
She says Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s reported remarks urging parties demanding new measures for DV offenders to first discuss the issue, seems to ignore her Government’s own DV taskforce recommendations of 2015.
The Opposition is promoting a Bill which would ensure violent domestic violence offenders are fitted with GPS tracking devices. But Ms Palaszczuk has urged caution on fast tracking tough new DV laws in the wake of the murder of Gold Coast mother Teresa Bradford.
Cassandra says she is astonished the Premier is telling the Opposition to “sit down together” and discuss with police and welfare agencies how best to introduce practical aspects of the new law.
“The Premier is saying the state has allocated $200,000 to GPS tracking technology for DV offenders but the Government had to ensure the devices would work.
“Why is the Premier stalling on these measures? GPS tracking was recommended two years ago among the 140 recommendations of the State’s “Not Now, Not Ever” task force on domestic violence.
“Recommendation number 123 : The Queensland Government trials the use of GPS monitoring for high risk perpetrators of domestic and family violence.”
“This was in a report featured on the Queensland Government’s own website which features the 2015 report of the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland.
“In the two years since then it seems the recommendation for tracking bracelets for DV offenders has been ignored. Why?” Cassandra asks.
The New South Wales Government last year included $2.9 million in its Budget for high-risk domestic violence offenders to be fitted with GPS tracking devices to restrict their movements and ensure they do not come within designated exclusion zones.
“New South Wales actioned this a year ago and Queensland has done nothing. Why not? Has our State Government consulted other states? If not, why not?”
Cassandra says Premier Palaszczuk’s attitude to calls for some of the immediate measures to monitor DV offenders defies belief.
“She says “We have to make sure these things work. These things just don’t happen overnight”. Well she’s had two years to get it sorted since her own taskforce reported, so why has nothing been done?”
Cassandra believes domestic violence has become so widespread and ingrained in the community, it needs a co-ordinated Government and Community approach to defeat it.
The recent murder of Gold Coast mother Teresa Bradford by her estranged husband has thrown a renewed focus on domestic violence, and renewed interest in a study of the “Not Now, Not Ever” report, which highlights a wide range of key actions being recommended by the taskforce in 2015.
While many of the report’s recommendations have been implemented, some, such as GPS tracking bracelets for offenders, are still in limbo.
The Gold Coast specialist domestic violence court has been trialled as a result of the taskforce findings, but it seems some other recommendations had been shelved or ignored, Cassandra says.
The taskforce’s DV report made 140 recommendations based on the insights gathered from five months of consultation with communities and individuals.
“The premier is saying she won’t consider any changes to things like bail laws until the Police investigation into Teresa Bradford’s murder is completed. That just seems to me to be an unnecessary delay.
“While the results of that investigation may well be informative about what might have been differently in that particular case – there is, unfortunately, no shortage of previous cases in recent times we can also learn from,” she said.
“We need to identify the triggers and how to stop acts of violence before they occur.
“It would be great if we could educate children in school so we have generations of children for whom violence is not a solution to conflict.
“Domestic violence has become a global epidemic. Individual groups and government departments alone cannot stop it. It’s time the whole community worked together for a co-ordinated action plan to stop this scourge right now,” Cassandra says.
Link to Taskforce report: https://www.communities.qld.gov.au/gateway/end-domestic-family-violence/about/not-now-not-ever-report
The Gold Coast's specialist domestic violence court is buried under a staggering workload and unless it gets a third Magistrate and more resources, the Gold Coast community risks an escalating number of tragedies.
Southport Domestic Violence Court desperately needs third Magistrate, more resources
She has endorsed calls by others in the legal profession who say many DV victims are waiting on average seven and a half months for a hearing and the two DV Magistrates and court staff are working under a brutal workload to cope with demand.
Rebecca says Magistrates Strofield and Tynan are highly regarded for their commitment to the state’s first specialist Domestic Violence court, but the volume of matters before the court is accelerating and more resources are crucially needed.
Other lawyers have recently highlighted the lengthy delays people are enduring to have a matter heard, saying the DV Court logjam is a consequence of the increase in awareness of domestic violence leading to an increase in the number of applications for protection orders.
Rebecca says lengthy delays for a hearing are financially impacting on parties in DV matters and while a temporary Protection Order could be ordered immediately to protect the aggrieved, a formal hearing on a matter could take months and exert an enormous emotional toll on participants.
“I’m a huge supporter of the specialist Domestic Violence court and in our profession we all acknowledge the dedication of the Magistrates and the court staff.
“However, the number of applications continue to rise, and as a society we are faced almost daily with serious and tragic events of domestic violence – including events leading to the death of innocent people.”
Statistics tell us that for female homicide victims nationally, 23 per cent die as a result of domestic violence. In Queensland’s it’s worse at 44 per cent. In the 10 year period of 2002- 2012 there were 654 women victims of intimate partner homicide in Australia. Those statistics are higher when they incorporate children, male victims and extended family victims.
“The emotional toll of delays in the DV court’s work cannot be emphasised enough. My greatest fear is that if the process is delayed too long, people will lose heart and stop going to the courts for protection.
“Leaders in our society have been working so hard to shine a light on domestic violence and make the community aware of it, but if people lose confidence in the system then there’s a real fear they will just give up and do nothing,” Rebecca says.
Better resources for the Southport Domestic Violence Court could include another Magistrate, or at least a judicial registrar to deal with procedural issues and thus free up the Magistrates to handle more pressing matters.
A bigger budget would enable more court staff for administration tasks too, and better funding for Legal Aid was another priority to fund more duty lawyers.
“Our DV court is a crucially needed, invaluable resource for the Gold Coast and the Magistrates, court staff and police prosecutions put themselves out constantly to achieve the best possible results for DV victims.
“But the sheer volume of matters means parties are waiting for several months for their trial and during that time they suffer a huge emotional toll. If we want our specialist DV court to be as effective as possible and provide protection to those in need, the Court must be better resourced, and urgently,” Rebecca says.