The Family Court was conceived as a judicial sanctuary intended to arbiter the resolution of domestic disputes.
However, in the context of cases of involving family violence, in my experience, it frequently morphs into a domain of entrapment, where the very people it seeks to protect are instead ensnared by a web of contradictory edicts and expectations.
At the heart of this conundrum lies the intersection of gendered roles, societal norms, and judicial processes that too often collectively fail to shield the most vulnerable.
Women, primarily seen as nurturers and protectors, confront a judicial paradox: the Family Court’s expectations that they facilitate contact between their children and a violent ex partner, against their pragmatic need to shield themselves and their children from such abuse and turmoil.
The Intersection of Contradictory Gendered Expectations
When mothers enter the Family Court, they carry not only the weight of their own and their children’s futures but also the burden of societal expectations.
They are expected to be infallible guardians, yet are often scrutinised for the very instincts that drive them to seek the court’s protection.
If they flee from an abusive partner to protect their children, they risk being labeled as obstructive and punitive.
Conversely, if they stay and harm befalls their children, they are branded as neglectful.
This dichotomy leaves mothers in a perpetual state of defence, navigating a labyrinthine system that often fails to appropriately account for the complexities of domestic violence and its insidious nature.
The consequences of this systemic dissonance are stark.
In their attempts to conform to the court’s expectations, mothers may inadvertently place their children in harm’s way, complying with visitation orders that expose them to the very abuse from which they are trying to shield them.
This compliance can then often also be misconstrued as complicity, further entangling mothers in a judicial snare that punishes them for actions taken, or not taken…