In June 2012, a Federal Magistrate from the Family Law Division of the Federal Magistrates Court was broadly condemned for rewarding a malicious mother sole custody of her children.
The mother had falsely accused the father of sexually abusing their daughter. The court heard that her belief was based solely on the apparitions of a clairvoyant, whom the mother visited for guidance.
Rather than chastising the mother for bizarre, irrational and dangerous beliefs that would negatively impact on her children in so many other ways, the judge chose to sit idly by, and re-inforced the mother’s bizarre beliefs by awarding her sole custody.
Rather than imposing a strict shared parenting regime with equal parental responsibility, to protect the children from other bizarre unilateral decisions based on rituals or predictions by the clairvoyant, the magistrate chose to sit idly by, and award sole parental responsibility,(that is sole decision making rights), to a woman who was described as unbalanced, irrational and a potential hazard to the welfare of her children.
In a case all too reminiscent of the complicity often shown by the Australian Family Courts to false allegations of child abuse, magistrate Tom Altobelli has adopted an apparently pragmatic view of false allegations which in truth is as irrational as the beliefs of the mother in this case.
In reality, this magistrate is unwittingly encouraging more and more women to adopt similar tactics, given their high rates of success in achieving sole custody. As such, he is waving a red rag at the ragged bull of child abuse by putting more and more children in the hands of unbalanced, malicious and culpable parents with no other parent to watch over the kids.
Now there is nothing pragmatic about that, is there?
The magistrate did however choose to write a letter to the children, advising them that although their father is not allowed to see them anymore, that he is nevertheless an innocent and decent father who contrary to the mother’s allegations, never ever hurt them.
“The court heard that the mother’s child sexual abuse allegations were based solely on the apparitions of a clairvoyant, whom the mother visited for guidance.”
Now if this type of mixed message is supposed to help the children, perhaps they would have been better served without this attempt by the magistrate to remove the scourge of guilt from his conscience.
Rather than writing a letter that was I think more of an attempt to redeem himself from that dreadful decision, the magistrate would have been better advised to have taken the difficult decision required in this case, and imposed restrictions on the parenting of this mother (through shared parenting).
Such a decision would have better served the children by ensuring that all parenting decisions would have been transparent, and equally would have sent a strong warning to all the other copy-cat mothers (and fathers) out there that false allegations will not be tolerated.
Sadly, this did not occur, and as a result more children will be losing contact with a loving and innocent parent.
Below is the pointless letter by magistrate Altobelli, which highlights his guilt at a terrible decisions, but in the end will only further confuse the children:
Dear X and Y,
After your mum and dad separated they could not agree about where you were to live. You were 10 and 6 at the time. As a judge it was my job to make this decision. I had a lot of help from the lawyer who was representing you, and each of your parents, as well as an expert child psychiatrist. Even with all of this help it was a hard, sad case to decide. This letter is to try to explain my decision to you, even though you probably won’t read it for many years.
The most important thing I want to tell you is that both your mum and dad love you very much. They loved you from the day you were born, love you now, and will love you for the rest of their lives. Just because your dad may not have been around for a while, it does not change that he loves you.
At the time I had to decide the case your mum believed in her heart that your dad hurt you. My job is to look at all the information, and listen very carefully to what everybody says including the experts. I decided that you had not been hurt by your dad. Even after I told your mum what I decided, I think she still believed in her heart that your dad had hurt you. This just goes to show that sometimes words do not change a person’s heart.
At the time of the case both of you were saying things, and doing things, that told me you did not like your dad, and did not want to spend time with him. I don’t think you really meant this. I think maybe you were picking up the things that mum was worried about. I listened to what you were saying, but in the end the hard decision I had to make was not because of what you were saying or doing.
I told you this was a hard, sad case to decide. I decided that even though your dad really wanted you to live with him, it was best that you lived with mum, even though this might mean moving away from where you lived at the time. I knew your mum would look after you really well. I decided not to make your mum let you see your dad, even though your dad wanted this very much. I thought it would make things harder for you if I had done this.
By the time you read this letter I think you will be old enough to make up your own mind. I hope you will think about contacting your dad and getting to know him again. There are people called counsellors who can help you with how you feel about this, and help you to make it happen. Please remember that both your mum and dad love you very much, even if they love you in different ways.
Federal Magistrate Altobelli