US Family Law Judge jails children for not spending time with Dad

I’m a big fan of the BBC News website.  I have been since I was at uni when I started to listen to the BBC World Service on those long nights cramming methodically studying for exams.  My news site of choice is now the BBC.

My wife also tends to read the BBC on her iPad.  She pointed out to me an interesting article from the United States of America.  It was titled US Judge detains children in Michigan for not seeing father”.  Naturally, I was intrigued.

If you are interested, you can click on the link above to read the full story.  In summary, a family law judge has sent 3 aged between 9 and 14 children to juvenile detention during their summer school holiday break because they refuse to spend time with their father.  The judge had ordered the children to have a “healthy relationship” with their father.  As a result of disobeying the Order, the Judge held the children in contempt of Court.  They cannot see their mother while they are detained but can see their father.

It would be an understatement (and I’m good at those) to say that it appears that there has been a bitter dispute between the parties about the parenting arrangements for the children.  The Judge determined that the Mother had “brainwashed” the children about not wanting to spend time with their Father.

Thankfully, we have a much better system in Australia when it comes to family law.  The Family Law Act has an emphasis on parentis having “parental responsibility”.  Australian courts take a very dim view of parents who involve children in what essentially is a parental dispute.  The Family Law Act’s objectives in parenting matters clearly state that children have a right to known both of their parents and to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.  There are the obvious exceptions to this if the Court determines that children have been abused or harmed by a parent or where there might be risk of this happening.

There are parents who, for their own selfish reasons, decide that they want to interfere with the relationship between the children and the other parent.  Sometimes this is just simply because they cannot deal with the fact that their relationship has come to an end.  Sometimes it is because they feel angry about what has happened.

The Family Law Act has very clear obligations for parents about what happens if parents do not comply with orders.  There is no provision for children to receive the same sanction that has occurred in the United States.  Parents who continually contravene orders can face a variety of penalties which including being placed on good behaviour bonds and in extreme cases, terms of imprisonment for up to 12 months.


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