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MR
21st October 2008, 09:52 AM
Letters sent to Malaysiakini http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/91623

Family court: a liability to our children
Francis Yeoh | Oct 20, 08 3:34pm

In response to the various calls and comments recently, I can't help but identify with the many fathers being denied access to their children today as well as the many members of the Association Against Parental Alienation (Pemalik).

Theirs are the plaintive cries of fathers who have been denied access to their children. Time after time, case after case, the result is so predictable – the pronouncement by the judge – "the children don’t like you and I cannot force them to see you" after the award of custody is made. Not only is one parent denied custody, they are also denied complete access to the children.

The family court for some reason, refuses to look beyond the fact that some of these children have been brainwashed or that parental alienation has been undertaken by the custodial parent so that the child prefers to have no contact whatsoever with the other parent for fear of offending the custodial parent.

The whole family court system from the marriage tribunal to our family court - various sections in the Law Reform Marriage & Divorce Act 1976 and Child Protection Act 2001 need amendments to conform with changes in today’s society.

With the increasing rates of divorce cases and with only one ‘family’ court to handle so many cases, can you imagine the trauma facing the children brought to court for a hearing at the behest of an affidavit?

To make matters worse, divorce and custody battles in court take years. With one presiding judge and numerous backlog of cases – do you think the judge will be able to ‘judge’ wisely, with no help from ‘experts’ on children?

Concerned groups should interview more embattled parents to gain an insight into their plight and to take a holistic view, including on the issue of joint responsibility.

What we want is not merely a discussion of the issue. We must bring these real problems to the fore and create awareness of what is happening in the courts. Something must be done to alleviate the frustrations and misery of affected parents and children.

We intend to create a platform for change. We must do away with antiquated laws that are not practical – resulting in prolonging the cases unduly with multi-affidavits, with parental alienation taking place to win the battle for custody, thus denying one parent of complete access and the children becoming the ultimate victims of divorce.

Statistics reveal that 80 percent of juvenile delinquents and prisoners come from broken homes in Malaysia, a situation similar to rest of the developed world.

Pemalik is a results-oriented group – we have lobbied our MPs and the authorities to propose an ‘Early Intervention Project’ – where couples intending divorce are guided and advised on issues such as custody, maintenance, education, upbringing and finance by a panel of experts comprising psychiatrists, psychologist, and child welfare counselors. With recommendations from the panel, a fair and rational decision may then be made by the court.

The key to this project will be based on ‘joint responsibility’ and not custody. When adopted, it will save a lot of legal fees, time and preserve the family unit – children need both their fathers and mothers.

Family issues not only affect the single mothers, they affect the single fathers and most importantly their children.

The major reason that this problem remains unresolved is the reluctance of our system to change. The needs of our society remain a distant dream.

Until this is done, children will continue to be the victims. One party may have won and the file closed by the judge, but the real battle of a child of a single parent begins as he/she grows up in a household devoid of the missing parent.