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An interesting article from the ABC's Radio National "The Law Report" (1996)

Radio National Transcripts
16 July 1996

The Law ReportThe Law Report

Law and the Olympics, Family Law by Computer, and Legal Protection for Trans-Genders

(Irrelavent stuff deleted by poster)

Susanna Lobez: Today we'll be checking out a computer that thinks like a Family Court Judge. Are computers catching up with Family Court Judges?

Split-up is, in computer-speak, an intelligent legal decision support system built by the Database Research Laboratory at Melbourne's LaTrobe University Computing Institute.

For the rest of us, it's a computer program that thinks like a Family Court Judge about property division. It's the brainchild of PhD student Andrew Stranieri, whose worked with Laboratory Director Dr John Zeleznikow, and a few computer-friendly family lawyers and Judges.

But do Family Court Judges have any reason to be nervous? Well computers in the Family Court foyer do lawyers out of work? Well maybe not, but a realistic estimate might give negotiations a bit of kick in the right direction.

Recently the system was pitted against a bunch of Family Lawyers. Hypothetical scenarios were fed to the lawyers for their assessment, and then to the system.

… Computer noises

Andrew Stranieri: The first thing that we're prompted for is some core facts: Whether the marriage involves children, superannuation, businesses, whether assets were brought into the marriage at any time during or before the marriage. So for the first case, we're running through Case A.

Susanna Lobez: Couple A have been married for 30 years with three independent sons, aged 28, 25, and 22. Both partners are 60 years old. The husband has worked throughout the marriage. He was a partner in a pathology practice. He currently earns $250,000 a year. The wife hasn't worked at all during the marriage, they in fact relied on domestic help for maintenance, domestic chores and childcare.( I guess the wife played a lot of tennis.) They own a house worth $800,000, they have $500,000 in shares and the husband is the part-owner of a medical practice, 50% shareholder that is; and the practice is valued at $1-million. Both husband and wife own cars worth $50,000 each, they're both in good health and neither of them bought any significant financial assets into the marriage.

If the share of the medical practice is included in the common pool, that would be $500,000, the husband's share. So that's a total of $1-million-900-thousand. The question is, how much of that is considered as the common pool, and what percentage of the common pool the husband will receive.

Andrew Stranieri: … (the system) infers that the marriage is considered to be wealthy. So far, not really very clever. During the marriage the husband did much more, and more about the same, less, much less of the household duties. Now we were told from the case facts that there was about the same, was it?

Man: Yes…

Andrew Stranieri: So the system has inferred as a homemaker, the husband contributed about the same as the wife. They've been married for 30 years. Contributions towards the assets, about the same, the system has inferred. Towards businesses, the same. She worked full-time for no time; and he worked full-time all the time. So the system has inferred that the husband has contributed far more than the wife by way of salary earnings.

Man: But in fact, given what you're saying -

Susanna Lobez: Things are now hotting up. The graduate diploma class of Family Lawyers led by Dr Richard Ingleby, Barrister and Professorial Associate, are baulking at the assumption that the wife contributed less than the husband just because she never worked, and the home-making and childcare was done by employees.

Andrew and John, the computer guys, explain that those are the facts. The lawyers, except one, find those facts hard to swallow. While the husband was off earning the salary, they say, the wife must have had some responsibilities somewhere, therefore a more balanced contribution. Plus if the husband thought the wife wasn't pulling her weight, well he should have said something sooner.

Woman: In Case Scenario A, even where you've said that they've got home help and stuff, there's not - one of the things that I would have been looking for - as to whether the wife has provided assistance to the husband's medical practice, not necessarily in terms of answering phone calls or being involved in that, but through helping his career as a doctor by being around the home, or entertaining, or doing whatever, there's support that probably would be read into him going off into his own business.

Man: Yes, I agree totally.

Woman: Why are you assuming that the husband made the greater contribution to home-making because he paid for the care?

Man: He just happens to have a high salary. It's no different to a common or garden variety sort of case.

Woman: …(I would have) given him a bit more credit for the higher earning capacity.

Man: If there were no children of the marriage, it would be a fairer assumption to make that maybe there should not be that sort of loading.

Andrew Stranieri: Now the reason that we entered the home-maker contribution as about the same, is because the child rearing duties and the household duties were performed by hired staff. Now you're saying a Court wouldn't take that into account?

John Zeleznikow: You don't believe that.

Man: No way.

John Zeleznikow: I mean what you're essentially saying is that you have got - it's interesting and a Judge may do this too - that you've got a prejudice that you just don't believe the facts the way I've presented in this case, which is trying to say that neither of them did anything. And what you'll say, and I accept your argument by the way, is that she must have had a significant contribution around the house.

Man: You're not using the right language. The language of the Act in Section 79 is contribution to the welfare of the family. Not home-making, which equates to housekeeping… It's a bundle of things, it's companionship, it's sexuality, it's all sorts of things wrapped in together, not who did the vacuuming and the cleaning alone. Bigger issue.

Man: I tend to accept what you're saying. You just say here that there's been minimal contribution by either party. I accept what you're saying, and I'm not really going to look beyond that on this fact situation. So accordingly, I say that her domestic contribution is minimal, and so is his. I'm not taking any assumption beyond that, because they're the facts.

Susanna Lobez: Debates about contribution dealt with, Andrew Stranieri now feeds into the system first, information about the wife's future needs. That she has few financial resources, she's 60 years of age and in good health, but her work prospects are only fair, or even poor, as some of the lawyers suggest.

Woman: …out of the work force for 30 years, she's got no chance.

Woman: She has no prospect of work.

Woman: Big factor for me is that she's been out of the paid workforce for 30 years and she's 60. She might be in good health, but who's going to employ an unskilled 60 year old woman?

Andrew Stranieri: So we're moving on to his needs. Again no family money - and he hasn't repartnered.

Susanna Lobez: The husband also is a healthy 60 year old, but his skills are in high demand, so his future work prospects are good, at least for a few more years. Well now comes time for Andrew Stranieri and John Zeleznikow to compare the computer's division of property with the lawyers'.

Andrew Stranieri: Now in the future, his needs are less than those of the wife; there's no disagreements there, perhaps even much less, yes. And the final conclusion is the husband is likely to be awarded 55% of the assets.

Man: Yes, that's what I've said. So 55%.

Woman: I hate to admit it, but I said 50% to 55% as well. I kind of had a look at what she could reasonably invest and survive on, and did a few little things like that.

Man: Well his financial contributions are overwhelming. She's made no financial contribution. I'd certainly take that into consideration. Well see in a normal marriage there'd be this counterbalancing home-maker contribution by the wife, but on the facts here that doesn't appear to be the case, because on that home-help domestic front, they both say it's equal.

Ingleby: I've got him at 45%. And the only reason he's not 40% is because it's a very wealthy marriage.

Man: I really think that it's an easy process of saying on the authorities that the contributions are equal, so you start off at 50%, and then there's a disparity between them because he's got an earning capacity of $250,000 a year and she hasn't, although he'll lose some of that with the property distribution. So she's got to have a slightly bigger margin, and I'll give her 5%.

Susanna Lobez: So it seems the lawyers are over all, a little more generous to the wife than the computer. The computer didn't doubt the fact that the wife contributed less. Andrew and John explain how the system justifies its division by analysis of argument and information, just like a Judge.

Andrew Stranieri: The way the system constructs an explanation is by essentially worki× backwards from the reasoning that it's used, and the reason that it's used is by invoking a sequence of arguments, and each argument is concluding a particular thing. So the argument that concludes that the husband ought to be awarded 55% of the assets, does that on the basis that his needs are less than those of the wife, and he's contributed more than the wife during the course of the marriage and the marriage is considered to be wealthy. So we're clicking on how was this inferred, that's the contribution, and we get taken back to the argument that produced that.

Now by constructing an explanation in this way, we're saying that even if you disagree with the system, you can be taken through the most relevant argument. So in this case the husband's contributed more than the wife because he's contributed financially in a direct way to a far greater extent. In an indirect way at about the same level, it's a very long marriage and as a home-maker, the husband's contributed about the same because during the marriage the husband did about the same amount of the household duties and of the child rearing duties.

Now I take your point before that that's a simplistic notion of home-making.

John Zeleznikow: Our system can't judge on facts. You as judges, have essentially said you can't believe that given the wife was not working and things like that, and that the marriage was for 30 years, that she actually didn't contribute more in other ways. And I mean that's an important thing that no system can ever do, and in fact let's face it, most family law disputes are on facts, and no automated system can ever look at facts.

Susanna Lobez: Are you saying that the reason why human judges are better than computers is because they are able to determine the credibility of witnesses?

John Zeleznikow: Well exactly, that is the main part of any family law case, is the actual determination of the credibility of witnesses. Because there is a dispute about facts, the judges make a determination on the facts. What the computers can do is get the relevant precedents and predict what should come. When that occurs, I think it would be very wise for judges and lawyers to actually use the assistance they could get from computer systems.

Susanna Lobez: Andrew, was that what you expected?

Andrew Stranieri: It was very interesting to have the system exposed to a number of Family Law experts at the same time, and yes, what I expected was pretty much what happened. The program operates in a far more mechanistic way than human experts do. Some of the issues that were slightly different were the issues that I would have expected to be different, and I was very happy about that.

Susanna Lobez: It was brought to your attention for example that the Family Law legislation talks about working towards the welfare of the family rather than just home-making.

Andrew Stranieri: Yes that's right.

Susanna Lobez: Is that something you can refine?

Andrew Stranieri: That can be refined. Where it becomes a little difficult is what do we actually mean by the difference between the welfare of the family and the home-making role. Now that definition's not specified in the Statute, alluded to in a few case judgements, but what do we actually mean? If we can analyse that a little more, sure we can incorporate that into the system.

Susanna Lobez: Overall though, the percentage estimates of how much the husband would get were pretty close to what your system spat out weren't they?

Andrew Stranieri: Yes they were. They were. What is enheartening is that our system effectively made those predictions on the basis of a few hundred cases. You can view that as very much being a novice Judge who has only ever been exposed to a handful of cases. Now a novice is not going to perform as well as an expert who has perhaps been exposed to thousands of cases throughout perhaps the last couple of decades. So it is enheartening, because with added exposure to more cases, the system can be expected to perform quite a lot better.

Susanna Lobez: Andrew Stranieri, and before him Dr John Zeleznikow. Thanks also to Dr Richard Ingleby's Melbourne University post grad. Diploma class in Advanced Family Law.


For me - Shared Parenting is a Reality - Maybe it can be for you too!
I have to admit I am confused how when you separate from a wife after a long period of marriage she is declared nothing more than a servant and prostitute when considering her role financially.

Although the formula used to determine the asset pool held no surprise it was interesting to see they had not accounted the hired helps cost as a reduction of her asset pool and increased his percentage as no doubt her entertainment slush fund must have come from somewhere.  
A question that comes to my mind is why should the woman get such a high percentage of  the pool. She has lived on the pigs (mans) back all her life, enjoyed a work free day life of social activity hence adultery has been removed from the equation. And now rewarded for her lack of productivity with a high share of the pool because she can not do what most of us do, work.

Is it any wonder the divorce rates are rising when you get statements and judgements for reasons like "he'll lose some of that with the property distribution. So she's got to have a slightly bigger margin," Why does her lack of income earning ability cause her to get an increased margin?

Why is her margin not reduced for the life of luxury she has been enjoying while the husband worked toward a time when they can enjoy what she has left them with if they stayed together? No, the husband looses the fruits of his labour during the relationship that the wife has enjoyed at her want and leisure. Now he only gets half of the wife's leftovers of the fruits of his labour.

My thinking is she should only get 1/3rd as she has already had half her retirement entitlement, if invested wisely she can still live in comfort compared to most and he would have the means to enjoy his earned retirement in a way he deserves.

For a divorce to be happening questions must be raised about the contribution of the wife to the husbands home life enjoyment or lack of, adding to my thinking of a reduction of the wife's share rather than an increase.

This is reinforced by "It was brought to your attention for example that the Family Law legislation talks about working towards the welfare of the family rather than just home-making". For their to be a divorce, "the welfare of the family" is not a consideration or there would be no divorce, divorce is the destruction of the Family as a whole unity NOT contributing to its welfare.
The feminist movement is it a bit of dilemma.

Here they are starting to exhibit the contradictions of the less mentally sound.

30 years encouraging women to work, be equal, get careers etc. TO BE TREATED AS EQUAL - BUT…

1) Still get women to get the pension 5 years earlier than men

2) Still want women to create babies - man free (but not money free)

3) Invented "Positive Discrimination" as a "GOOD" type of discrimination

4) Equate women staying at home (or was it tennis clubs and coffee shops) with making the country a better place

5) Invented GOV orgs to convince government to pay women for being stay at home parents

6) Encouraged a declining birth rate due to unhealthy or unsustainable relationships (let's BUY MORE BABIES - COSTELLO)

Let's face it - women are historically either chattle or equal - If they were really equal they would be ashamed of themselves and what is given to them. That lack of shame shows the lack their OWN SELF BELIEF to take responsibility for what we see all around us.

A total failure - how can we get everyone to be part of society and contribute?

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
I agree with NJ - a 1/3 of the asset pool seems quite generous. One could even say the wife was a drain on the asset pool during the marriage….

I can't believe the rational of the solicitors was that, because wifey had 20 years left, but had never worked, hubby had to fork out more money, because he could work? I'm sorry, if the marriage is over, it's time to get off the gravy train.

They don't know what skills this woman has. With the sort of money she will have from the settlement, she could easily open a small business and make plenty of money to see her to her dotage.

I always tell my friends who have chosen to be stay-at-home mums that they must have a super fund and a death benefit. The super fund is if they ever get traded in for a younger model and the death benefit is so that dad can keep earning, if something happens to her and the kids will be cared for, or dad can reduce hours till the kids get through the roughest patch of losing mum.

The feminist movement lost the way years ago.

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
The computer program itself actually came closer to what is suggested as acceptable and if I read the article correctly the judge was approximately 10 to 15% towards the wife.

The concern perhaps is the fact that the computer program is better equipped to deal with the situation more fairly than a judge who allowed for factors that did not exist and excused his summary to include these factors.

The lawyers determination was even more accurate, perhaps this is an example how technology can not only assist in reducing dispute but also encourage people to question assesment.

Getting computer programs to reproduce nearly the same insanity that others produce is a major step forward for our society :thumbs:

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
I wonder what the results would have been if gender was removed from the formula and not revealed to any?
If gender was not revealed to the computer I'd doubt it would make any difference.

As for the human factor the assumption must be that the male works or at least a good percentage would ensue this including lawyers.

The major concern would have to be judge, with out the knowledge of who to factor in the non existent hypotheticals his decision would have to be reliant on fact I could see him simply opt for 50/50 and excuse bias.

I also think it would be interesting to see the result by a forensic accountant that did not take into account separation but worked out a collated value through the marriage.

It's interesting to see the developers have accounted for child rearing, house duties and the husband being a partner in the business trying to provoke the assumption that the woman has not had to work which in a extremely high income area I would think is not unusual yet the point argued is that she had to entertain as part of her duties and provide sex, because doing these things seems to be directly associated with solely the womens responsibility and not bipartisan, yet even though a demeaning reference that all woman kind should be up in arms about because it suits their cause they will accept being little more than arm candy and prostitutes. If this was plainly told to a partner I would suggest miss bobette would be visiting.  
We should remember that we are seeing some property settlements from very long marriages and that many women from this generation went into marriage to produce children and adopt the traditional homemaker role permanently. After 25 or 30 years as Mother and Housekeeper the Courts traditionally see no other role available and large chunks of property (and spousal maintenance) become the norm.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
Its now more than 35 years since fundamental changes in womens roles and a whole raft of positive discrimination in education, universities , workplaces and the law have taken place. People in the "outdated role model" category are either much older than 55, already divorced, dead, or going to stay together till death.

Its time to make things fairer and more sensibly reflect people NOW

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
The positive affirmation nonsense only started to appear 35 years ago. Mainstream took a longer while. Many women did not embrace these changes (and many still do not) and went into marriages in what they considered to be 'their' traditional role. It is not an outdated role model - it is a role model that they and their husbands accepted at the time and for a great number of years

We are still seeing very long marriages enter the Courts as sometimes quite major property disputes particularly where business's are involved


Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
If husbands were told they will lose 1/2 of everything they own, likely not have access to their children, have to go to court and be treated either like a sexual or violent abuser (with not protection from the law) - all on the basis of a systems designed to remove rights from males - I doubt THOSE husbands would have readily agreed. If they were also told that their partner could commit adultery, lie, cheat steal, get the house the kids and spousal maintenance and the super and that during this process he would be treated like a criminal and THE POLICE, THE LAWYERS, THE POLITICIANS and THE COURTS would not support him all saying "its all about the children" "Its the best system in the world" 'Its just the way the world works" they would have signed up to the notion you are espousing EITHER.

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
What notion am I espousing?

Jon, I do not know what all your problems are but it is clear that you have not 'moved on' and are carrying a large amount of baggage which manifests itself in your posts.

Not all marriages end in Divorce
Not all couples end up fighting in Court
Not all people get the outcomes you talk about

This and other sites mostly deal with the problems people face - it does not mean that ALL the population have or will face these problems. It is fair to warn people that sometimes extremes will apply but this does not mean they occur all the time

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 

1. to make one's own, adopt, or embrace, as a cause.

2. to take in marriage; marry.

We are educated to the risk and are overly informed of the bias through media, over familiarized by public exposure of the break up of Stars as well as public figures.

More families are finding that they have to both work to make ends meet, more women chose the independence of working but there is still a substantial amount of women who chose not to work and a substantial amount of men that accept this.

But in this I do agree the expectancy of women in this position to claim more than 50/50 is nothing more than a means to reduce their burden on the government as no doubt is the assumption that they are of little worth to society because they chose not to develop skills during this time. Although why not consider the financial burden of this type of support if the other party wishes it considered (tennis )

But their partners have also alowed this to happen, although if restricted to living on an allowance with shelter, food and all necessities provided this would be considered financial abuse and may well give way to an even more complex scenario.

If an agreement becomes mum stays home then she does so with consent by the husband and to this point both have agreed they have equal value in the relationship in different ways, If they decide they both work value is still the same just in different ways as it is if dad stays home and mum works. Where I think things come into a different field is short relationships.

Like it or not we still act naively by assuming it won't happen to us and the courts will take my wants into consideration because I'm telling the truth.

And don't forget Jon the same happens in reverse as far as infidelity and other such complaint.

There is no doubt the system needs improving and appears still to have no teeth as far as addressing the abuser if they are female and holding them accountable.

The hope is to change the tools provided to half the society and provide the other half with more to balance out focus on the children.

And as Agog has commented this does not happen everytime.
Agog - Clearly you have a number of problems with me and are using this forum as a means of personal attack - I have asked you before to concentrate on the issues and I would have expected a moderator to suggest the same to you.

Lets examine the logic you and D4e use

1) If it is does not happen to everyone or the majority then the system must be fine.

I am not saying happen to everyone, nor am I saying there are not a wide range of situations and outcomes - of course there are. Its facile to suggest that government systems are OK if I am not the one affected and it only affect a group of people "over there". They must "deserve it". This is the type of thinking which comes from people who lack empathy or the ability to see themselves in a similar position.

Some people do care and help - because they understand the human condition. Other care and help on the basis of a condescending superiority - "poor blighter _ I'll save him". The latter attitude was probably prevalent with the other stolen generation was produced.

2) Why should the attitudes or beliefs of one group of people become the norm for the law? just because some 55 + males an females hold on their view of the world should the law reflect them, the majority or some human principle?

Agog you may well be expressing the populist view - can't tell - it certainly is a valid view - but there are others and thats what forums are about - exploring an discussing sometimes contentious issues. I invite ALL to contribute in discussion without fear of personal attack - as one would expect of a civilized society.

3) Bad things don't happen all the time so thats OK

Thats the sort of "turn blind eye" argument. It does not affect me personally. I am happy where I am and until it comes up to my doorstep I don't care. I think this may well be the popular view. Lets call the societies "Blind Spot" or "Societal Inertia".

There are models on how many people need to be affected before change occurs. Interesting looking at flocks of birds or bee swarms or ants to see what laws apply about people when they are in crowds. I suppose we can just wait for the stadium to collapse - maybe it has already and the ones sitting up the the air condition boxes watching the mayhem don't care.

4) the notion of caring for something means the person is "carrying baggage" "not moved on"

I think you mean looney, irrational etc. Agog if you are going to attack someone - why not use direct words like - here let me help - 'I disagree with what you are saying and I think you are irrational . Whats more I am sick of you - you upset me an I don't like talking about this'. Go for it. Its OK.Its meaningless to me. The debate is NOT MEaNINGLESS.

There will always be people with only their FEELINGS and FEARS to contribute to the debate - others will be able to have the discussion and explore the ideas.

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
You would be hard pressed for me to say the systems fine Jon, at least in my life time but I will say the system is archaic and bogged down and stodgent in it's approach.

Nor do I hold that anyone deserves the treatment that you describe.

More the case is, judge as individual each situation.

If you consider one groups attitude is accepted as the norm it would be certainly interesting to know which it is, if you chose male or female you have missed the mark as there are many self interested groups who influence the big picture for even more reasons.

What you have discussed I have experienced  personally and rather than turn a blind eye I'd rather offer different tools to help through a situation, most of this would be support as I lack knowledge.

The models you talk of are not to instigate change but rather tip change through over balance. Change itself can occur with one sole individual but the glue comes from convincing others.

When extremely negative things happen we are left bitter and damaged like it or not, being able to converse and share idea's and allow ourself options creates wisdom but even then we can carry baggage or simply put be caught in a bubble.

Now my reference  to Agogs comment refers to a suggestion in your post " If husbands were told ".
Simply put no one knows if this will happen so it becomes a mute point because it does not happen every time.

In reality Jon you would be hard pressed to find any use of logic in any of my written word because there is little reasoning in the area we discuss so how can there be logic in family law ??
On striking the phrase "she has already had half her retirement entitlement" in NJ's posting stimulates propositions.

On overhearing a solicitor, and a judge in court both state that whether a person chooses to work is of no consequence in property matters.

Yet in judgements there appears to a factoring in of a retired females circumstances.

A issue that perhaps may yet to be sexually compromised?

Being involved in a matter in which the male was the homemaker the possible agruments that arise are intriguing.

The capacity of a woman to argue 75(2) factors are extinguished in my mind. Yet I ponder if that is the case?

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha
The notion of work was addressed by "DR TOM" who is much liked here. In one of his cases he says that the mans desire to work fulltime and ask for flexibility to be with the children to accommodate that work - lacked insight. It was one of the reasons he used to suggest it was OK for the children to relocate to Cairns and live full-time with their mother.

Seems to me someone has to work? or can we all sit around on the beach? Have I missed out - Damn!

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
Is this a swipe at Dr Tom, the people that like him, or both. Or just trying to provoke a reaction
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