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10 Griffith L. Rev. 124 (2001)
As Everybody Knows - Countering Myths of Gender Bias in Family Law

handle is hein.journals/griffith10 and id is 128 raw text is: 'As EVERYBODY KNOWS'
Countering Myths of Gender Bias in Family Law
Angela Melville and Rosemary Hunter*
According to certain media commentators, supporters of the
men's movement, and even some family lawyers, 'everybody
knows' that family law is biased against men. This article draws
upon empirical research which shows that the incidence of
domestic violence in Family Court cases is relatively high, and
that women are often reluctant to take out a domestic violence
protection order even if domestic violence has occurred. Despite
the, high incidence of domestic violence, the Family Court
generally supports men having contact with their children and,
rather than the Family Court being biased towards women, the
very opposite sometimes occurs. It would appear that what
'everybody knows' are a number of myths that can be located
within a broader backlash against feminism, and that these myths
fail to stand up to empirical testing.
The title of this article is taken from a comment made by Bettina Arndt,
contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald and other publications, and well-
known advocate of the Australian men's movement. Arndt had accused the
Family Court of discriminating against men, so that their feelings of frustration
and anger triggered acts of violence. She then denied that she was inciting
violence in the Family Court, arguing that: 'Everybody knows that in the
majority of cases where violence does erupt it's over denial of access.'
Arndt's use of the phrase 'everybody knows' warrants closer scrutiny.
This phrase is used to make claims that women routinely deny contact to the
fathers of their children following separation, and that family law and the
Family Court are biased against men. These claims apparently appeal to
'common sense' and gloss over the fact that they lack any empirical basis.
They are often given credibility without the critical attention that they deserve,
and this acceptance has the potential to cause very real harm. As Kaye and
Tolmie explain:
Angela Melville is a Researcher in the Law Faculty at the University of
Newcastle, and Professor Rosemary Hunter is the Director of the Socio-Legal
Research Centre at Griffith University. This article draws upon research conducted
by the Justice Research Centre, and funded by the Commonwealth Attorney-
General's Department and the Department of Finance and Administration.
However, the views expressed herein are those of the authors alone.
Vogel (1996).

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