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Family Law Depiction in (Non-)Fiction

Happy New Year — while the weather is warm and the days long it is hard to think about getting 2015 underway, much more tempting to lie under a tree and read.

In my summer reading I've noticed an interesting trend I thought worth sharing here — maybe as a way of easing back into family law thoughts.

The trend? Looks like Family Law is rather "of the moment" in the book world. I've been suprised to see how much of my recent reading has crossed over with my work.

The first that has to be mentioned is my book of 2014, Helen Garner's The House of Grief. The book follows the Supreme Court trials of Robert Farquesan, the father from Whittlesea who was convicted regarding the deaths of his 3 sons; driving them into a dam on Father's Day. Helen Garner is one of my favourite authors and her study of this sad case is chilling. However, it is much more than just the topic it covers, it is an intense study of how humans behave under extreme pressure. It is a fascinating observation of the legal process from someone a couple of steps removed. Garner's writing is stunning in how it captures the details, I was enthralled with how she captured so acurately the sheer exhaustion of a series of intense days in court. The subject matter is difficult and at often times difficult, but a read that will change the way you look at many things.

Another book with family law at its centre is Ian McEwan's The Children Act. Based in London, it is the story of a medical treatment application to the Family Court told from the perspective of the mature female judge. The ending is unrealistic but interestingly that doesn't detract too much from the rest of the story.

I've just opened the first page of my next family law related read, Us by David Nicolls, the story of some "silver" divorcees heading off on one last holiday together. Friends have loved it and I'm interested to see how fiction portrays the growing area of couples separating in their retirement years.

My non-fiction reading these holidays has also touched upon family law matters. Annabelle Crabb's The Wife Drought was great beach reading. You may know Ms Crabb from her TV show Kitchen Cabinet where she interviews Australian politicians while they are cooking. The book is an entertaining but insightful study of the challenge of achieving equality for working women when they do not have the luxury of a wife keeping the home fires burning.

Appropriately, the book includes looking at how the Family Court treats the non-financial contributions made by the parties to a marriage — as section section 79 of the Family Law Act says "including the role of home-maker and parent". The book doesn't however look at what I see as one of the great challenges facing the court in future years, how does it treat the contributions made by women doing a "double load", those women who make not only the significant financial contributions but also the significant non-financial contributions. This is a situation which is happening more and more in our society but seems to not yet be adequately handled by the court.

I promise my blogs shall return to more specific family law topics in future posts, but I hope you enjoy adding a few of these books to your reading list to experience some other elements of family law.