Sunday, May 2, 2010
The Scales of Justice
It would be very reassuring to be able to believe that justice is actually blind and fairness and equity reign in our Legal System, however that belief would be an ill-informed and naive one. The system here in Australia (albeit one of the world's best)is often found lacking. Just ask Nicola Gobbo! If the daughter of a famous Supreme Court Judge can be let down by the inbuilt checks and balances then what hope for us mere lowly commoners?
This week just concluded, I have become aware of several instances where the only winners from the Justice system would appear to be the lawyers. Despite the promised additional funds to Victorian Legal Aid, the law remains a very divided and inequitable system. The defendant or petitioner with the deepest pockets is ALWAYS assured to win, simply through the ability to ride the stakes high.
One friend has had to face the ignominity of facing the Courts for a Domestic Violence Intervention Order against her drug-abusing ex-partner. She has had guns pulled to her head and been beaten when sex was not forthcoming on demand. She was forced to flee her home with two small children under primary age, and propelled into the not-so cheap private rental market and onto the Sole Parent Pension.
She is trying to study to gain her financial independence but she cannot raise enough funds to ensure that she ends up with an adequate property settlement. Her chldcare costs are not covered by her study incentive payments from Centrelink.
Gee thanks Rudd Govt. for the help up out of abuse and poverty... reminds me of Howard Govt policies!
Her ex-partner has chosen to be unemployed (at least not visible on books) so that the bank repossesses the house (which he is sharing with his current girlfriend and her two children), and not be required to pay maintainance.
Where is the justice in this situation? The bank has first claim, then my friend has to fight tooth and nail for a fair distribution of joint assets. Just to add insult to injury, all the while a stranger's children sleep in the rooms she had designed for her two girls and beds she had bought for them!
The next instance again involves a friend and a legal battle with another embittered male family member. She has two legal battles raging at once.
After the death of her beloved mother she was named sole beneficiary of her parents estate (due to specified and articulated concerns with respect to her brothers history of substance abuse). Her mother had specifically stated that he be left no money or call upon the Estate as the family had supported him, beyond all reasonable expectations over many, many years throughout his addiction. Now the minute the Will is read, he decides to 'go clean' and begin blood and hair testing in order to challenge the Will. Somewhere he managed to find a 'no win, no fee' lawyer to represent him in this small matter. Suddenly the case is turned on its head. The deceased's intent and specifications are deemed less relevant than the amount of money it will take to fight through the Courts. A sum of $50,000 has already been mentioned as to the brother's current costs. Given that the Estate is worth around $300,000 and my friend's lawyer has pointed out that the legal fees could end up in the hundreds of thousands should she wish to pursue her mothers wishes! What crap is that? What is the point of a Will after all?
I remember asking this very question with respect to my own mother's will, when my dearest beloved brother challenged the will, then left his share of my parents Estate to his drug-abusing children (at the expense of my son and I). And I thought it was simply a Queensland problem, as my $5,000 barrister suggested. Wrong, it seems endemic.
Can one's wishes be so easily overturned upon death? Apparently so, if you have lawyers prepared to fight for every cent from the Estate. There are no winners here, (apart from said lawyers).
My poor friend has to go through it all again, this time with the dear old Family Court for divorce proceedings. Let's hope advocacy can achieve a sensible and just outcome and keep the lawyers involvement to a minimum. She has worked for over 30 years and may have very little to show for it after this little war.
Another friend begins her wait for a legal adjournment this week, temporarily delaying her Fate being meted out by Blind Justice. How can she be so calm in the face of this stuff... or is it a case of why sweat what you cannot control? C'est La Vie! If only I was that type of personality... but I fight to the death.
Lastly, I begin the countdown to our own family legal battle. 3 full days to go. And yes I have had to bring in the lawyer (hopefully with all guns blazing). It is our only chance for a good outcome. Yet, I fear that the cost of achieving this will be substantial, and I will be carrying yet another debt burdon for some months to come, but hey, how could I sit on my hands and trust to the luck of Legal Aid representation? I need to pull out all the stops available to the middle classes.
Over the coming days and nights, I just have to attempt to sleep and function normally so I will be attending to my wellness routines even more strictly than usual. Monday will be meditation, and gentle excercise (post Physio), Tuesday is Yoga and physio (again), then Wednesday Art therapy.
Then the BIG DAY... please send good wishes our way for Thursday 6th.
Then and only then can I begin to think about 21st birthday celebrations and Mother's Day. One step at a time is the week's motto.