Tug-of-love mum wins fight from jail cell to get kids back
By JANET FIFE-YEOMANS firstname.lastname@example.org
A NORTHERN RIVERS mother-of-two who went to jail in a tug-of-love row with her ex-partner has walked free, making legal history, and been reunited with her son and daughter. As she hugged her young children yesterday the mother said she would do it all again. "I would, but it's not easy. I'm just giving them as much love as I possibly can," said the mother, who cannot be named because of Family Court rules. The Full Bench of the Family Court, made up of three judges, halved her four-month sentence and released her immediately from jail. Lawyers expect the court's judgment, yet to be published, to set fresh guidelines, raising the bar for the jailing of parents who contravene court orders. In jail for two months, the mother received support from fellow inmates, who praised her for being 'gutsy' in standing up for her children and baked her a cake for her 31st birthday. "Nobody really gains much from these sorts of things, but if I have raised some kind of awareness about what's going on out there in our Family Court system then that would be something,'' she said. She was jailed in March by a magistrate's court after refusing to allow her ex-partner access to their children a boy, 8, and girl, 6. The couple, together for two years, separated just before the woman discovered she was pregnant with their daughter. She was already on a good behaviour bond for defying court orders when Magistrate Michael Jarrett, sitting in Lismore, took the rare step of jailing her for four months. Yesterday she revealed how she got through with prayer and believing she had done the right thing. "It was very rough," she said of the first night in a cell, with her children ordered by the court to live with their father. "Our families are the most important assets our country has and we need to keep them together. They had never lived with their father since we separated." Refused Legal Aid, the woman organised an appeal from her cell with financial help from her brother. The Family Court in May overturned the magistrate's decision and ordered the father to return the children to their mother the day after she got out of jail. "They were extremely confused," she said. "What can I say? They've had a really hard time of it. "I've tried hard to keep them out of the fight, but I just tell them I love them. "Our children are precious, but they are treated like slabs of meat by the courts in many cases and it's very sad." Her solicitor, Sandra Binney, said: "She's free to have her children back in her full-time care, and I don't think words can express how grateful she is for that to happen."