McKenzie Friends ‘exploit fathers’ rights groups’

family law

A “significant minority” of professional McKenzie Friends exploit fathers’ rights groups according to new research.

Writing for the International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, Australian legal academic Angela Melville claimed that many professional McKenzie Friends who work regularly with members of fathers’ rights groups were “highly problematic” because they capitalise on “uncertainty and [a] sense of victimhood”.

The fathers involved were frequently vulnerable, lacking in other means of support and poorly educated Dr Melville insisted.

“I…some of these fathers may also feel that they have lost control over their ex-partner and children and believe that the family court and family lawyers are against them, and thus feel especially aggrieved and victimised.”

Dr Angela Melville, a Senior Lecturer at Flinders Law School in Adelaide, analysed the websites of 13 fee-charging McKenzie Friend organisations who have worked extensively with fathers’ rights campaigners. These sites present a very negative view of lawyers, she reported, insinuating that they would not achieve the outcomes fathers wanted and claiming that McKenzie Friends were a more “cost-effective” solution.

The sites sometimes also sometimes presented “misogynistic discourses” she said, suggesting “that women are vindictive manipulators, who make up false allegations in order to block fathers from fully realising their rights over children.”

She concluded that “the presence of McKenzie Friends aligned with FRGs may be highly disruptive, as well as potentially harmful to mothers and children,” but admitted that restoration of legal aid was unlikely, thereby leaving unrepresented litigants in person (LIPs) in a vulnerable position.

Dr Melville admitted that while improved guidance and simplified procedures could improve the situation, such measures were “hardly likely to be enough.”

She suggested that the growing practice of law schools encouraging their students to work as McKenzie Friends could alleviate some of the pressures on the system.

“Arguably, extending the pool of non-lawyer providers and greater regulation will not necessarily completely prevent agenda-driven McKenzie Friends, but in an era without other options for support for LIPs, these may be the only realistic solutions.”

Dr Melville’s article was entitled “Giving hope to fathers’: discursive constructions of families and family law by McKenzie Friends associated with Fathers”.

Photo by Brian Smithson via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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11 comments

Wishtytaraglia - April 20, 2017 at 1:15pm

An Oz Academic who knows nothing about McKenzie Friends except what she reads on-line.

Some McKenzie Friends amongst others have been instrumental over the last 20 years in moving the courts forward towards shared parenting and away from the ‘adversarial’ approach at court.

Huge amount to do still of course to make the family court system fit for purpose regarding outcomes for children but at least we are now heading in the right direction and have had a substantial change in attitudes over the last 20 years.

Paul Apreda - April 20, 2017 at 2:03pm

Hi – where is the link to the actual article? The April edition doesnt seem to have this article in it academic.oup.com/lawfam/issue

Cameron Paterson - April 20, 2017 at 3:47pm

It doesn’t appear to be online yet Paul. We’re looking into it and will post a link or publication update as soon as we can

Paul Apreda - April 21, 2017 at 9:24am

Thanks Cameron. I’m in touch directly with Angela who has made some interesting comments. I’ve asked her to consider the role of ‘Support Workers’ often employed directly by Women’s Aid organisations and the role that they play in the Family Justice system.

Cameron Paterson - April 21, 2017 at 9:52am

Sounds intriguing Paul. If you discover the online publication date before any update from us, do let us know

Vincent McGovern - April 20, 2017 at 2:14pm

Well well, the Lady Melville is unhappy as expressed in the following:
“The sites sometimes also sometimes presented “misogynistic discourses” she said, suggesting “that women are vindictive manipulators, who make up false allegations in order to block fathers from fully realising their rights over children.”
For her to describe as ‘misogynist discourses ‘ some sites which claim that ‘some mothers make up false allegations’ says it all really.

A brief check online shows that Ms Melville runs with the usual anti father legal brigade. As for ‘sometimes also sometimes’ level of comment words fail me when such semi illiteracy is attributed to a legal academic.

Paul - April 20, 2017 at 4:57pm

Nobody in the proccess has the fathers interests at heart. Not even his own solicitor.
Courts hate dealing with McKenzi friends. Which is a good thing for dads because the courts do not have your interests at heart. Who would want to be a dad in this proccess ? – ive aged about 20 years.

Nemo Momenti - April 20, 2017 at 7:15pm

And this makes them any worse than qualified lawyers?

Brian - April 20, 2017 at 8:19pm

There is nothing untrue that some women are vindictive manipulators. The trouble is when men claim they are dealing with a narcissist, people just believe it is hyperbole and the bloke is just trying to generate sympathy, but no one takes the time to look at the details and the inconsistencies of the woman’s position to see that she is just playing games. Only when you are played by the woman yourself do you finally believe the bloke then feel sorry for him. Even then, people do nothing unless money is involved, for of course – there isn’t any, the woman has already made away and made that disappear. My relative is on his third, YES THIRD CAO proceedings application, directions hearing 19.4.2017 Reading C.C. the mother can’t cooperative enough with interim telephone calls with the children yet any other time can’t be bothered. It’s all window dressing because it’ll fizzle out when the final hearing is over and the excuses start again. Can’t even find it within ourselves now to believe it’s sincere even if it is. The judge even commented that he had never seen case files like it for just a simple matter and the documents now. I think that’s an accolade for a litigant in person although it really was meant as an attempt at shaming the applicant for resorting to the court. So far; Child Arrangements Order application; Child Arrangements Order acquired, (they aren’t dished out like smarties either); CAO enforcement (variation applied); MCA 1973 s25 Financial Dispute Resolution Applications; Occupation application (IGNORED – NOT EVEN HEARD NOR DISMISSED JUST ADJOURNED AND NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN) (settlement at trial – relative got what was left – remainder was stashed as a warchest abused in litigation) – solicitor’s don’t give a damn about abusing the money…how else is are they going to get it; ANOTHER CAO APPLICATION-VARIATION! Not a decree absolute in sight yet…gotta do some claptrap that has already been addressed in a CAO and MCA s25 previous application. We’re gonna go round in circles now, we’regoing to address issues we were making 3 years ago, but this time, a different judge wants to hear it when we have other issues! CANT MAKE IT UP. FAMILY COURTS ARE USELESS. They are not there for citizens, the family courts are for the state for into care proceedings.
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John Smith - April 21, 2017 at 11:41am

Psychopaths are psychopaths irrespective of gender…. women are also not believed once a male psychopaths carries out his smear campaign……. in fact its harder for a woman who has lost her children to a male psychopath… given the urban myth that mothers always supported by the family court.

And my female freinds experience of male mczkenzie friends has been very postive. Yes some may be pro father but they also help women in the same situation. The only reason we do not hear about females in the same situation is that they are less vocal.

As i said if we men begin to support genuine women… publicly distance ourselves from abusive men and male psychopaths then perhaps we might get more justice…

Men it is our interest to report injusticies in a balanced way and not just have a go at women. Maybe more women will then feel safe to help us.

Brian - April 22, 2017 at 9:14am

Know your psychology. Narcissism is one down from sociopathy, psychopaths is the other end. One is a self absorbed manipulator the other has impulsive compunctions they are neither aware of or can control. A psychopath can be readily identified a sociopath or narcissist is very subtle. Tell tale signs are these for a narcissist; plays the victim, usually with no evidence to back it up, bases a case on feelings with no reason in logic, there is just an emotional “need”, I’ll call it self gratification, they are unaware of or give a no consideration to others – no empathy. For example, when a member of my family was coming to terms with the shock, that 1. His best friend in life had secretly been planning to turf him out of her life for several years by 2. Waiting until they moved into bigger accommodation, ensured such security by bearing two children despite secretly not wanting to be with the father before their conception 3. Siphoning off the entire marital wealth as a warchest used in litigation 4. Seeing the father onto the street once objectives met. SHE COULD NOT UNDERSTAND HOW HE WAS DISTRESSED THAT SUCH LIFE CHANGING EVENTS COULD AFFECT SOMEONE!!! I’M NOT MAKING IT UP HERE I STOOD ON A DOORSTEP FOR TWO HOURS TRYING TO GET THROUGH TO HER HE’S IN SHOCK AND DISBELIEF AND HER PARTY LINE WAS HE CAN’T SEE THE CHILDREN BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE HE MAY DRIVE THEM INTO A CANAL! NO PROOF, NO INDICATIVE EVIDENCE JUST A FEELING AFTER SHE RUINED HIS LIFE!!!!!!!! ONE CAO LATER, IT’S PROHIBITIVE RIGHTS NOW, RIGHTS TO KNOW WHERE THEY ARE….NO RISK…HE TOOK THEN INTO SHENGEN OVER CHRISTMAS – DISNEYLAND PARIS FOR FIRST CHRISTMAS TOGETHER IN 4 YEARS! IT’S JUST CONTROL AND THE COURTS ARE GOING ALONG WITH IT BY DRAGGING THEIR HEELS AND REFUSING TO REMOVE A PREAMBLE AGREEMENT WHICH WAS ONLY ENTERED INTO AS APPEASEMENT TO SHUT HER UP! SHE COULD NOT CARE HALF THE TIME WHERE THEY WERE WHEN WITH THE FATHER, IT’S JUST A SPRINGBOARD FOR NEW CONDITIONS. SHE DOESN’T EVEN COMPLY WITH THE TERMS OF THE ORDER AND HAS USED THAT TO STALL CONTACT. DON’T EVEN MENTION ENFORCEMENT TRIED THAT…HER SOLICITORS STEERED IT TO A VARIATION. WHICH NEVER CHANGED WHAT IT WAS STALLING ON.
(*Comment edited – please see our moderation policy here).

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