OPINION: by Babette FrancisNews Weekly
Dads lost in cloud cuckold land
, September 16, 2006
When will the Family Law Court and Child Support Agency protect fathers from paternity fraud, asks Babette Francis.Father's Day was happy for most fathers, but a day of anguish for those whose children had died because of illness or accidents. And fathers who do not have contact with their children because of divorce.
In this group there is a sub-section, whose grief is compounded by paternity fraud. These fathers have been cuckolded - deceived by their wives into believing the children were theirs when they were fathered by other men.
The word "cuckold" is derived from the cuckoo, which places its eggs in the nests of other birds.
The plight of one such father is being considered by the Australian High Court.
Liam Magill married Meredith McClelland in April 1988. Their first child was born in April 1989, their second in July 1990 and their third in November 1991.
In November 1992, Meredith left the family home taking the three children with her. She said she was not happy.Child support
Two days later, she applied for child support for all three children. Liam and Meredith were divorced in February 1998.
Liam paid 32 per cent of his gross salary from November 24, 1992 until September 1999, when he could no longer work because of depression.
At one stage, the Child Support Agency left Liam $132 a week on which to survive. This increased later to $200 a week. On this meagre amount, he had to cover living expenses and weekend access visits of the three children.
Financially crippled, Liam could not cope and that is where Liam's story might have ended, another victim of "no-fault" divorce and a pawn of the CSA.
However, in February 1999 Liam met Cheryl King, who has been his tenacious friend and adviser since.
Like me, Cheryl loathes injustice. She urged Liam to get the children DNA tested. This process took almost a year.
In March 2000, the tests showed the two younger children were not his.
Meredith then told her children that her friend, Derek R., was their father, even though he was not tested for another 17 months.
In 2002, Liam sued his ex-wife for damages caused by deceit and in November 2002 Judge Hanlon in the Victorian County Court awarded Liam $70,000 in damages, excluding child support payments he had made.
In December 2002, Meredith's legal team, funded by the Victorian Women's Legal Service (i.e., the taxpayer) appealed against Judge Hanlon's decision.
The appeal was heard in November 2004 and, in March last year, the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal allowed Meredith to win on a technicality.
In mid-2004, before the hearing of Meredith's appeal, Derek R. and his wife moved to Southport, Queensland.
Liam's friend Cheryl considers the CSA has not done enough to make Derek R. pay for his two children, or to refund the payments made for years by Liam Magill.
In November last year, permission was given for Liam's appeal against the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal to be heard by the High Court.
The High Court Appeal was heard in April this year but the decision has not been handed down.
Some issues remain unresolved. Why has the CSA not refunded the money extracted from Liam Magill for children he did not father? Why has the CSA not obtained these arrears from the biological father?
And why are we taxpayers, through the feminist Victorian Women's Legal Service, involved in helping an unfaithful wife defraud her husband?
Paternity fraud is not merely financial, but goes to the heart of relationships between husband, wife and children.
The feminist attitude seems to be that which is described in Helen Garner's book, The First Stone
, about a case of sexual harassment: "He may not be guilty, but other men are, so he has to pay."
I hope Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, Attorney-General Rob Hulls and federal Minister Joe Hockey, who oversees the CSA, had a happy Father's Day.
I hope they will end the victimisation of Liam Magill - perhaps by establishing a men's legal service for victims of paternity fraud.- Babette Francis is co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc. This article first appeared in Melbourne's Herald Sun, September 5, 2006.