Nebraska high court again rules father’s consent necessary for adoption

March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Nebraska high court again rules father’s consent necessary for adoption

23 hours ago  •  By MARGERY A. BECK / The Associated Press

For a second time, the Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that a father who was intentionally misled about the birth of his child can stop the baby’s adoption.

In a ruling Friday, the state’s high court said the consent of the father, listed in court documents as Jeremiah J., is required by state law for the child to be put up for adoption. Further, the high court said the child’s mother, identified as Dakota D., failed to prove Jeremiah met any of the exceptions for consent because she did not show he had abandoned her or the child or that he would be an unfit parent.

Jeremiah learned in June 2011 that Dakota, his ex-girlfriend, was pregnant. Five months later, he was contacted by an adoption agency caseworker who told him he had been identified as the baby’s father and that Dakota planned to put the baby, due Feb. 18, 2012, up for adoption, according to court documents. Jeremiah told the caseworker he did not want that, then tried many times to reach Dakota, but she did not return his calls, records say.

The child was born Feb. 9, but Jeremiah was not told of the birth. He contacted Dakota on Feb. 13, but she did not tell him the baby had been born. Jeremiah also repeatedly called the hospital and caseworker to try to learn of the birth, but they refused to tell him, citing privacy policies. The adoption was put on hold after Jeremiah filed his appeal.

Dakota later testified in court that she did not tell Jeremiah of the child’s birth because she did not want him to know about it during the five days he had to object to the adoption.

A Hall County court ruled in the mother’s favor, saying Jeremiah could have hired an attorney sooner, but the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed that ruling last year, noting the mother’s deception. The lower court then ruled in Jeremiah’s favor, and Dakota appealed, arguing he is not a fit parent because he has an unstable work history, has used drugs and has a criminal record, among other things.

She also argued that Jeremiah neglected the child after she was born, and did not provide financial support for her or the child.

But the state’s high court rejected those arguments Friday, saying Jeremiah’s criminal record consisted of misdemeanor convictions as a teen. The court also noted that Jeremiah has denied any drug use, and that he has a stable job paying more than $12 an hour.

“And in any event, low income or an unstable job history does not alone establish parental unfitness,” Nebraska Supreme Court Justice Michael McCormack wrote for the court.

The high court also rejected arguments that Jeremiah did not provide financial support.

“Dakota clearly does not want to have Jeremiah in the life of the child, and she chose to not provide Jeremiah with a fair opportunity to offer financial support,” McCormack wrote.

Jeremiah’s attorney, Mark Porto of Grand Island, said the next step will be to file a paternity action in an effort to establish custody and visitation issues.

“He’s thrilled that he’ll be able to be a part of his daughter’s life,” Porto said.

An attorney for Dakota did not immediately return a message left Friday.


Weller children file lawsuit against state DSHS look for scrib link great pleading to educate for future ….

March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Weller children file lawsuit against state DSHS

Attorney says agency was told of peril many times before acting

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published: March 7, 2014, 1:50 PM

Updated: March 7, 2014, 7:28 PM

  • Buy this photoSandra and Jeffrey Weller enter Judge Barbara Johnson’s courtroom for sentencing in Clark County Superior Court March 20, 2013. The Wellers were convicted of imprisoning, starving and beating their adopted twins. Sandra received a sentence of 20 years, and Jeffrey received 21 years. (Steven Lane/The Columbian)

Five children who were abused by their parents in Vancouver have filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the state, alleging that the Department of Social and Health Services failed to adequately respond to dozens of complaints about their welfare over an eight-year period.

Jeffrey and Sandra Weller of Vancouver each were sentenced March 20, 2013, to two decades in prison for imprisoning, starving and beating their adopted twins. A Clark County jury found Sandra Weller guilty of nine separate counts related to the twins’ abuse; Jeffrey Weller was found guilty of 13, related to both the twins’ abuse and assaults against the couple’s biological children.

The children’s Seattle attorney, David Moody, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the children Friday in Clark Superior Court.

One of the children’s teachers alone warned the DSHS a dozen times about possible abuse of the children and urged that they be removed from the Weller home, Moody said.

“He has documents he kept,” Moody said Friday. “He has voice-mail messages. There are a number of educators from the local school district who voiced serious warnings to DSHS over a period of years.”

“Those concerns were ignored every time,” he said.

The lawsuit follows a $54 million tort claim the children filed Dec. 18 with the DSHS. Tort claims give public agencies a 60-day notice of a lawsuit and allows them an opportunity to settle a case before litigation.

In this case, the children received no response, Moody said.

John Wiley, a DSHS spokesman, said the agency often does respond to and resolve tort claims prior to litigation.

“However, this case is complex, involving numerous plaintiffs alleging negligence based on activities that occurred over a number of years. As such, it requires more than the statutory 60 days to analyze and investigate the merits of the plaintiffs’ claim,” Wiley said. “It would not be in the taxpayers’ best interest to quickly make a settlement offer on a $54 million claim without a reasonable and diligent investigation into that claim by the state.”

Wiley said the agency has no other comment on the lawsuit at this time.

“We’ll let the court decide the merits of the case,” he said. “We don’t comment on the merits of the case.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the DSHS failed to obtain Sandra Weller’s Child Protective Services history in California, where she adopted the twins with her ex-husband. There were seven referrals about Sandra Weller’s possibly abusing and neglecting the twins and some other foster children who were in her care between 1998 and 2002, the lawsuit states. At one point, the state of California revoked her foster care license and took the twins into protective custody, according to the lawsuit.

Some of the complaints that Washington caseworkers allegedly ignored included allegations of threats against one of the twins’ lives and withholding food as punishment, according to the lawsuit.

For example, in April 2004, the DSHS received a complaint that Sandra Weller had told the 8-year-old female twin that, “If I had a knife right now, you would be gone,” according to the lawsuit. A month later, the agency received another complaint that the twins were “so stressed they are literally pulling their hair out,” the lawsuit states.

In September 2004, there was a complaint that the Wellers locked food cabinets in the house and locked the children in their room, which had an alarm on the door, the lawsuit says.

DSHS social workers visited the Weller home in October 2004. On Nov. 1, 2004, the social worker concluded that the allegations of negligent treatment or maltreatment were “unfounded,” according to the lawsuit.

The DSHS finally removed the children from the Weller home Oct. 7, 2011, after one of the twins left a note about their abuse at her therapist’s office.

“Please, help,” the twin wrote. “Behind the laundry room door is a big wooden stick covered in blood. They use it on me and (my brother) … If you leave without us, we’ll all ran (sic) away.”

The twins were substantially underweight and malnourished when they were taken into state custody, according to testimony at the Wellers’ trial.

They also testified at trial that Jeffrey Weller, often at the instruction of Sandra, regularly beat them with a 42-inch-long piece of scrap lumber. Police investigators found it stained with blood.

Moody, the children’s attorney, specializes in civil litigation against the DSHS related to the abuse of children or vulnerable adults. He said he won the largest jury verdict award against the DSHS — $17.8 million — in February 2000 in a vulnerable adult abuse case in Pierce County in which he demonstrated that the DSHS was negligent by inadequately investigating abuse allegations.

prenda at it again

March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Copyright, Child Custody and Cocaine in the County Courts

June 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

Copyright, Child Custody and Cocaine in the County Courts

Once upon a time there was  The Steele Law Firm LLC, IL SOS records show it was formed by  a 2006 University of Minnesota Law school graduate, John Lawrence Steele Jr. Esq.  Billed as a family law firm in 2008 -2011, the Chicago, IL practice, the Steele Law Firm LLC was fighting custody battles and purported pornography pirates. Yes, budding family law attorney, John Steele was devoted to saving children and the tranny porn industry! He started filing suits against 1000′s of John Does, dubbed himself the “pirate slayer” and set out to make cool millions! Despite John Steele having a fine ring to it for a porn name, perhaps the Steele Law Firm wasn’t catchy enough for copyright trolling; seems Steele decided to try on some other names: Media Copyright Group, Steele Hansmeier, Prenda, Anti-Piracy Law Group and the Chicago Family Law Group LLC.  Maybe it still wasn’t quite the right fit because in a rather complex web of “stories”, Steele claims to have retired, sold his family law firm to Peter R. Olson of the Peter Olson Law Firm and blogger extraordinaire Solo in Chicago.

Craigslist, where the finest lawyers come to but and sell law firms!

Now, according to a Solo in Chicago  blog post by Glenview,  IL native and Domestic Relations attorney, Peter R. Olson Esq. – in October 2008 he was checking out Craigslist,  looking for God knows what; and he found a law firm for sale.  By golly, it just happened to belong to his buddy, John the Pirate Slayer Steele! Despite the fact that Peter Olson had his own law firm and his Des Plaines condo was being foreclosed on and he was being sued by multiple creditors the purchase of a family law firm associated with pornography must have struck him as a solid investment.

No offense to Craigslist! Craigslist is great! Everyone knows that you can get some wonderful and affordable items on Craigslist: intimate encounters, a dorm fridge, slightly used slipcovers, re-homed lawn gnome, law firms – you know, really important stuff!  A quick look at the Cook County docket shows that Mr. Steele seems to have dropped all but one or two of his special  family clients in the summer / fall of 2011. But who needs clients when you’ve got a *found it on Craigslist* law firm to control! There is still no clarity about who actually owns the Steele Law Firm turned Chicago Family Law Group. Court documents show over a year of changing names, attorney, and firms numbers and stories with no end or truth in sight. Surely, NO ONE has ANY suspicion that they are laundering copyright money through that family law firm. No, doubt the Criminal Investigations Unit of the IRS won’t have any questions about Steele or Olson’s explanation about THAT firm. <cough*cough> Especially after that deposition about not paying any taxes! Nevis? St. Kitts? Offshore accounts? Trusts? Really? Come on guys who owns the CFLG?

So what happens when lawyers go rogue? 

Despite Steele’s claims of retirement and the Prenda was solely owned by attorney, Paul A Duffy, Steele seemed to be popping up all over the country at all sorts of court dates. As Steele showed up in court room after court room, some other things seemed to follow.  Yes, it was an outcry from many of extortion, lies, belligerent pleadings, threats in the hallway, improper service, questionable rulings in questionable places, and altered states.  Claims of identity theft, forgeries, and out and out lies.  It seems everyone affiliated with Steele stands accused of being involved with fraud. In time it seems most of the country caught on to the tricks and were no longer going to be fooled by troll games. On May 6th 2013, the Honorable Otis D Wright II issued an order for sanctions against Steele and some his minions in the form of 81k, a referral to the IRS criminal investigations unit and United States Attorney Office and the state and federal bar associations. Further, Judge Wright used words like “moral turpitude” as he described Steele, his minions and their business model. Still Cook County and St. Claire County seemed to be very willing to indulge the same behaviors that other federal court judges felt to be possibly criminal in nature.   Oh the men of Prenda fought hard to sue the internet or anyone that dared to speak out about their experiences with Prenda or Steele and they fought to do it in St. Claire County. Gosh, hate much?

Rut-Ro-Raggy! The Feds want to talk to ya!

But it seems that there is a little problem, the Feds are in St. Clair County. Moreover, it seems that a buddy of Steele, James Fogarty was dealing some coke to some judges, Cook and Christ. Christ  died of an overdose of cocaine allegedly provided to him by Fogarty. It looks that the drugs and mess don’t begin or end there or with those three people or that court system.

Bloomberg News and both touched on the Steele  – Forgarty connection or at least what they knew about at the time. But is there more to that story? Read the news of the impact that cocaine had in the St. Clair court cases, is it any different in Will County or Cook County?

There were a lot of questionable rulings and the cocaine / dealer connection now explains much of how those rulings came to be in St. Clair Co. but what about the other counties?

Great! We’ve got judges on drugs making rulings for their dealer and Steele is sending dealers to do his dirty work.

How can the average litigant stand a chance of receiving any sort of justice when they are up against attorneys that are allowed to practice despite the overwhelming evidence of their abuse and misuse of the legal process. Seriously, what sort of world do we live in where it’s okay for a lawyer to send a drug dealer to someones home to “serve them” legal papers. Papers which are now really under-fire because a tsunami of evidence has surfaced to show that the “pirate slayer” is really the honeypot pusher. Could it get anymore disgusting?

How can anyone get a shot at justice when the judge is indebted to their dealer; to keep them supplied with cocaine and heroine and to keep their drug problem a secret?   It’s an environment where blackmail and extortion flourish and the innocent suffer the worst consequences. St. Clair news has already reported on how rulings were made in favor of the dealer. If you look at Cook County and Will County, is any different? When judges and lawyers get caught up in child porn, trafficking, drugs and dirty money – it’s clear that rulings are made based on vices, not the law.

What about the children in family court? Is this why so many rulings appear to defy both man and God’s law? If it’s not because of a vice, why are so many people crying out with nearly identical stories about their children being sent to live with their abuser? How does the court justify cutting off all contact with the protective parent? Now that the court has embarrassed “Parental  Alienation”, how come they always seem to accuse the non-alienating parent of alienation?  What is seen frequently is that the alienating parent pretends to be the “friendly parent” and accuses the other parent of PAS. The court then places the child with the REAL PA parent on the grounds that that parent will foster a relationship with the child and the other parent and then the REAL PA parent joins the court in cutting  off all contact with the other parent akin to a termination of parental rights. Why isn’t THAT parental alienation?  Why are children so frequently turned over to abusers despite the overwhelming evidence?  There are cases where the parent is clearly involved in drugs, child pornography, sexual abuse, and other harmful behaviors and the judges punish the parent that offers the court proof. It almost seems like the more evidence the protective parent has, the worse the ruling. The parents with no evidence of abuse and false allegations win.  The parents with pictures of the other parent watching child porn on the computer and witnesses of physical abuse lose. Good parents are disposable. Unlike coke and porn, good people and good parents just don’t seem to have much value anymore.

Looking at the fall out in St. Clair, the news lists some rulings that were not made because of the law or the merits of the case, the rulings were made based on vices and personal issues. This has to be eradicated. The very purpose of the legal system is to enforce the law for the betterment of society.  When lawyers are allowed to use forged  documents, extortion and break the law   – justice is denied. Evil prevails. When judges are beholden to their dealers, the law becomes useless. The best pleading or the most skilled lawyer won’t help the case, because it’s decided on a drug deal, not the law. We might as just cancel court and send the judges home, because noting good comes of this situation.

It’s great that the FBI is investigating St. Clair, but they need to come take a look at why Judge Pornlito was allowed to sit on the bench in Will County watching porn on the county computer on the tax payer dollars while making decisions about the futures of children and families. They need to look at why the Cook County Judge(s) in the Lucy Vega case doesn’t want to see the evidence of the father allegedly watching child porn. They need to look at why so many complaints about Due Process and abusive and erratic behavior are posted on the Robing Room about Judge Raul Vega in room 3001 at the Daley Center. They need to look at why Child Representative Jerry S. Goldberg used someone with a history of domestic violence to provide “professional supervision” between alleged abusers and their children. How about the DOJ coming in to take a look at the blatant ADA violations?

It wouldn’t take a big fancy sting. It just takes sitting in a few court rooms for a few days and taking a look at the records. (The complete record)

A check on the ARDC web site shows that John Steele, Peter Olson, and Paul Duffy are still free to practice law today. The judges of Will and Cook County go unchecked.


We need more Judge Wright’s – to judge right. We need eyes on the court and people to speak out about it and not shut up until the problems are fixed. We need the FBI to look at the similarities in judgments in Will, Cook and St. Clair Co. – maybe that won’t be the only similarity they find.  The common threads might be right in front of their eyes. Really, right in front of your eyes.

Thank you for visiting today’s blog posting Willcountyprose @

Be sure to come back and read the extra special mid week blog post.


Special thanks to the good guys – doing good work. I like your suit.  You do this country proud.


Thanks to the judges and attorneys that are doing a stellar job. Your services are deeply appreciated. 


Justice will out!


Read more about Judge Otis D. Wright II and his outstanding command of the law and justice:

Read more about Lucy Vega’s battle to save her son:


Read more about Prenda and his purported porn piracy shakedown:


Read more about the man child rep, Jerry Goldberg used to provide professional supervision between parents and children:


Read more about the rulings St. Clair Co, IL judges made in favor of their drug dealer:


Read more about the suspected collusion between Prenda attorneys and opposing counsel in Cook co and St. Clair co.:


*Be sure to read the “Agreed Orders” linked in the FCT web site. Look familiar?


Read more about what happened to The Steele Law Firm LLC and Chicago Family Law Group LLC:


Read more about how “SJD” (Sophisticated Jane Doe) and Die Troll Die successfully kicked off a movement to fight back against abuse of the legal process:


View the interactive timeline, map and cartoons of the evolution of IMHO fraud:


The timeline has some links to some documents that you might not have expected. Over 360 & growing!

Ohai DHS! Come back soon!


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The appearance that some ABUSE at state levels have been in play for it to reach this point of federal monies to be questioned. This is going on in Illinois as well the appearance that many agencies are involved and across the state lines.

February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Kentucky risks losing federal child abuse funds

Feb. 12, 2014   |
Home of the Innocents campus / C-J photo

If Kentucky’s lawmakers don’t act soon, children in our community and across the commonwealth will lose out on $9.2 million in matching federal dollars to care for victims of child abuse and neglect. We simply cannot afford to let that happen; the need is too great!

Kentucky’s lawmakers must take action now to make the more than 7,000 neglected, abused and battered children across our state apriority. Children who have been placed in the state’s custody because of parental abuse and neglect need our support now.

In order to access the federal matching dollars, Kentucky must find an additional $13.5 million in the state’s $10 billion annual budget. To put it in perspective, we are asking lawmakers to allocate a tiny fraction of a penny for every dollar in the state’s budget to care for the most fragile children in our hometown communities.

We at Home of the Innocents are proud to stand up for Kentucky kids on this very important issue. We are joining more than 30 non-profit agencies across the state that care for more than half of the children in Kentucky’s foster care system.

Home of the Innocents has been our region’s open arms to children in crisis since 1880. The Home provides loving, therapeutic care to children who are victims of abuse, abandonment and neglect; medically fragile children; and children with autism and other behavioral health diagnoses. Open Arms Children’s Health is our pediatric practice that meets children’s needs for all medical and dental care.

We are proud to be part of Children’s Alliance, the voice for our most vulnerable children.

Our agencies fulfill the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s mandated responsibility to care for children whose parents have not properly cared for them. We care for the state’s most fragile children with trained foster parents in our communities and caring professionals on residential campuses across the state.

For many years, the state has been unable or unwilling to cover the full costs of caring for children in the foster care system. Our Children’s Alliance member agencies raise nearly $20 million per year thanks to more than 60,000 citizens, businesses, churches and foundations to cover the gap. We work diligently to make sure those dollars — every dollar we receive — provide the care our children need.

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    But our agency and other Children’s Alliance member agencies are struggling to keep up with growing demand and the increasing cost of serving kids in need. Without additional funding, some agencies will be forced to reduce services, the number of children served, or sadly, some will even be forced to close their doors.

    Additional state and federal funding will allow our agencies to make essential investments in home and family preservation services, therapeutic foster care and residential care.

    If you believe Kentucky should allocate sufficient funds to care for our state’s most vulnerable children, please call or email your state legislators. You can make your voice heard. Please go and click on “Who’s My Legislator.” Or call (800) 372-7181 and leave a message for your legislator.

    Please tell them you are standing up for the thousands of neglected and abused kids across our commonwealth.

    Ask them to support the Children’s Alliance initiative to add $13.5 million to the budget that will generate $9.2 million in additional Federal funding for agencies across Kentucky who care more than 4,000 of Kentucky’s children in the foster care system.

    Tell them to invest in our future by investing in our children today!




    Board Members

    Home of the Innocents

    Louisville 40206


vawa crazy stuff its more fed dollars to the court corps. 3000.00 average retention for each month.

September 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

(( GET YOUR CAMERAS OUT )) Expose violence by women. The political elite claim VAWA needed to be funded for the profit of judicial members and groups that defend women like this. How many families have been torn apart because of deceptions from gay women? How many men have been victims of gay women wanting children?
Crazy woman beats up beer factory waiter over Guinness!

I was drinking with my friends in beer factory, and then i saw two crazy woman going into rage, throw glasses and beats up the waiter when they told them sol…

The appearance the state beats em and collects money for them ? If they killl them do they get the insurance for them?

July 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

Do people really realize that child abuse is more likely to happen in the care of the State then in the care of the family! There watching us! Who is watching them?
Do people really realize that child abuse is more likely to happen in the care of the State then in the care of the family! There watching us! Who is watching them?


saftey planning with women and children for practioners ?

July 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

issues in good practice

saFety PLaNNiNG WitH WoMeN aND cHiLDreN: cHaLLeNGes For PractitioNers iN a Pro-coNtact cLiMate by PrisciLLa MccorristoN,

st GeorGe DoMestic VioLeNce serVice, NsW

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Since the introduction of the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 (Cth), women and children affected by domestic violence have had to navigate a more complicated and risky legal landscape. The legislation created a pro-contact climate, evident not only in the responses of the Family Court and family law practitioners but also in other agencies, such as police and child protection services.

Social workers seeking to support their clients now face
a much more difficult task. Drawing on the experiences
of clients at the St George Domestic Violence Service (SGDVS), this article seeks to alert readers to the specific difficulties associated with safety planning in a pro-contact climate. It explores the interaction of context and risk in the safety planning process prior to and since 2006. The article concludes by pointing to the practice implications for social workers working with this client group.

contextual factors in safety planning

Safety planning is a complex, context-driven process aimed at decreasing the immediate and long-term risks
to the safety of women and children affected by domestic violence. Safety planning starts from the time violence is identified and continues until there is no further contact with the abusive partner/parent. Good practice is based on an understanding that the contexts within which women live can either assist or hamper efforts to plan for her and her children’s safety. These contexts are multi-layered, operating at both a personal and institutional level.

At a personal level, the capacity to experience harm from domestic violence can either be exacerbated or minimised by women’s immediate social and financial circumstances, their community and culture, and any specific risks posed by the abusive partner. Separation from the abusive partner is a key factor to be considered when assessing

a woman’s personal context, as it is the point at which the coercive control that is a feature of domestic violence often begins or is exacerbated (Mouzos & Makkai 2004). Controlling tactics used by abusive men post-separation often change in response to the new context and, in the worst case scenario, separation may be a precursor to homicide.

As well as a woman’s personal context, the risk of domestic violence may be increased or reduced by institutional contexts, including her access to formal supports (such as local community groups, social services and police), child protection practice and legal frameworks.

One of the key objectives of safety planning is to identify the personal and institutional factors that can create a supportive environment for women and their children. A supportive environment is one which assists women victims to focus on their safety and does not blame them for the violence. If a woman lives in a supportive community, the perpetrator has access to fewer means besides his own individual acts to facilitate his violence.

Prior to the changes in family law in 2006, safety planning was focused on assisting a woman by:

à working with her to identify the specific tactics the abusive partner was using to maintain coercive control over her and her children, and implementing strategies to minimise their effectiveness

à helping her to understand how her abusive partner’s tactics would change in response to changes in her behaviour

à identifying strategic ways of thinking and acting to assist her to reduce risk of violence and increase her safety and the safety of her children

à raising her awareness and understanding of the impact of violence on children

à informing her of increased risk at separation and post- separation

à advocating with a range of services, including police, housing services and Centrelink

à supporting her and her children to move towards a life free from violence and abuse.

While assisting the woman with these tasks, the domestic violence professional usually supported the woman and her children through the separation from her abusive partner. Separating safely was often supported by the assistance of police and local courts. Protection orders were used to help prevent further acts of violence.

In November 2011, Federal Parliament passed important family law reforms. The Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 gives increased protection

to victims of family violence (for more details, see
the ‘Legislation and Policy Update’ on p. 11 of this Newsletter). However, the reforms do not alter
the underlying presumption of shared parental responsibility and it is anticipated that service workers will continue to grapple with the subsequent implications for safety planning outlined in this article.



The process of separating safely might take weeks, months or, occasionally, years. However, safe separation could be negotiated in most cases once the woman was clear in her own mind that she was experiencing domestic violence and that she could not change her partner’s abusive behaviour.

impacts of family law on safety planning since 2006

Since 2006, the interaction between family law and
child protection practices has become one of the most important contexts that impacts on safety planning. The risks involved in separating, coupled with the increased difficulties imposed by shared care, mean that women must weigh up many factors before leaving. The role
of supportive systems becomes more crucial but such support is not often evident in family law practices. The current family law context creates new constraints to safety planning, such as:

1. contact and handover violence

Contact orders are not often developed with the safety
of the woman or her children in mind. Each time contact between children and their abusive father occurs, the potential for violence is present. Many clients report handover/contact as the only time the violent partner
has access to them after separation and, hence, it is the time violence is most likely to occur. Clients report being threatened with violence, verbally abused and being pushed, hit or slapped when handing over their child
for contact. They also report damage to their property, commonly their cars. Abusing the mother in front of the child is also a form of ‘demonstration’ violence, highlighting to both the child and the mother the power the violent parent still has over them.

2. inhibiting protection

Women who attempt to protect themselves and their children by not taking their child for contact visits with the father
risk more punitive orders being made against them. These include contravention orders, orders for ‘make-up time’ and, potentially, the handing over of care to the abusive father. This last outcome is the one abused women fear most and so they continue to comply with contact orders, even when children are re-exposed to the abusive parent and their mother is placed in the distressing position of not being able to do anything to protect her children. This situation creates ‘betrayal trauma’ for the children (Frey 2008).

Advocacy on behalf of child victims has also become a more difficult task in the current landscape. Clients report that schools and childcare centres are reluctant to take action on behalf of children (e.g. school counselling) where both parents share ‘parental responsibility’ for the child, as they feel they need permission from both parents.

3. reduced capacity to escape

SGDVS clients have been required to disclose their current address to the courts. This information has then become available to the abuser, leading to threats to the woman’s personal safety or shows of power, such as abuse of pets
or damage to cars or property. Clients have reported being required to remain within a ‘fifteen kilometre radius’ of one another to facilitate shared care. Such requirements increase risk by giving the violent partner ready access to his ex- partner and isolating her from family supports in other areas.

4. increased risk of poverty and homelessness

Being forced to live close to an abuser in an expensive
city (like Sydney) can also impose financial hardship on women. In addition, many clients have reported making the decision not to pursue their rights to an equitable share of marital property or to child support in the hope that the abusive partner will not pursue care time.

Some women are placed in the difficult position where
they must use all available assets to fund their legal case. Women in this situation have to decide between attempting to protect their children via expensive legal action versus having financial resources for their children.

Homelessness caused by escape from a violent home presents additional concerns. Abusive men may make allegations to the Family Court about the incapacity of their ex-partner to properly care for their children if they do not have stable accommodation. Women may be caught in

a ‘catch twenty-two’ situation: act to protect their children yet run the risk of ‘losing’ them because they are unable to provide them with housing.

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GooD Practice HotLiNe

The Clearinghouse Good Practice Hotline is available on Mondays 2-4pm (Eastern Standard Time) on
(02) 9385 3843.

case studies

SGDVS has worked with many families where the mother has left the father in order to escape violence directed at her and her children, only to be forced to hand over the children for contact with their abusive father. These are just two examples.

In Family A, the father was deemed an unacceptable risk to the children by the Family Court. The judge ordered contact through a family contact centre. The child reported to the mother that she hid from the father but was required to come out and ‘play’ with the feared parent by the contact centre workers. This child continues to be forced to have contact with this feared parent.

In Family B, the mother was instructed by her solicitor ‘not to fight’ over care arrangements. Her children are now required to spend fifty percent of their time with their father. The children spend alternate weeks with their father, during which time their father allows them no contact with their mother. When the children are with their mother, she reports the father continues to control the children through phone calls he makes

at least daily. The oldest child has developed a significant anxiety disorder.




newsletter .47

5. ‘Legal bullying’

Women may be subject to ongoing ‘legal bullying’ by abusive partners making vexatious claims or using the family law system to intimidate their partners. One client attending the SGDVS reported: ‘He just keeps chasing me in the [Family] Court… He can’t keep a solicitor [because he is so abusive to them] so I’m afraid he’s going to represent himself again… [and] I’ll have to face him and answer his questions [in court]’.

Given these constraints, women must consider a range of questions before deciding to leave an abuser. A woman must:

  • à  weigh up risk to the child or children of staying with the violent partner versus leaving him and him seeking shared care
  • à  work out when her child or children will be old enough to manage living between two homes and have enough skills to manage living with their abusive parent
  • à  consider how to put mechanisms in place to manage the violence that will occur at handover of the child or children
  • à  consider how she is going to survive if she is forced by Family Court rulings to remain in close proximity to the abusive partner post-separation and disclose her address.

    challenges and directions for practice

    The landscape created by family law poses many dilemmas for family violence support workers. It is essential to recognise the validity of women’s concerns when they are considering leaving a violent relationship. A woman and her children could be ‘worse off’ in the short to medium term if she decides to leave her violent partner, especially if her children are very young.

    Practitioners addressing safety planning in the family law environment need to:

  • à  work with women to identify and plan for the risks associated with staying versus the risks associated with leaving
  • à  recognise the importance of documenting disclosures of violence and tactics used, especially when those disclosures occur contemporaneously
  • à  facilitate access to good legal advisers who have an understanding of domestic violence
  • à  recognise that a large part of our work is ‘systems’ focused, so continue to actively advocate for our clients with a range of agencies
  • à  plan for the work to be long-term and episodic in nature, as family law processes are slow and protracted.

    Safety planning with children has become a necessary part of the work, as children may spend years having unsafe contact or living in ‘shared care’ situations with an abusive

father. Workers must assist women to engage in safety planning with their children or work directly with children to safety plan, if it is developmentally appropriate.

Safety planning with children needs to be done in a way that attributes responsibility for the abuse to abusers, not children, and that does not make children feel that the adults they turn to for protection are condoning abuse by teaching them how to live within an abusive situation. Safety plans may include teaching children how to:

à avoid conflict with dad, in order to stay safe
à remove themselves from a situation if they feel they are

at risk
à work together to protect each other on a contact visit à access assistance if possible
à escape if necessary.

Safety plans may also include advocating directly for
the child victim, who can become the primary target
for their father’s coercive controlling tactics. Supporting women’s parenting and working to help them strengthen their relationships with their children is crucial to good practice. A safe relationship with the non-offending mother is important both for children’s safety, as well as their long term wellbeing.


Safety planning in the current context is much more complicated than it was prior to 2006. Despite the Commonwealth Government’s recent reforms, the underlying presumption of shared parental responsibility remains central to family law and safety planning will continue to be a challenging task for service workers.

The author would argue that Australia is now a significantly more dangerous place for women with children who
are in domestic violence situations. As such, our work requires that we act as ‘enlightened witnesses’ to women’s struggles against the violence and the impact of trauma on their lives and those of their children (Herman 1997); and continue to advocate for change in the family law and child protection practices in Australia.



Frey J 2008, ‘Betrayal trauma’, in G Reyes, JD Elhai & JD Ford (eds), Encyclopaedia of psychological trauma, John Wiley & Sons, New York

Herman J 1997, Trauma and recovery: the aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror, rev. ed., Basic Books, New York

Mouzos J & Makkai T 2004, Women’s experiences of male violence; findings from the Australian component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS), Research and Public Policy Series, no. 56, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra




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