Father’s for Justice: Not what men need!

From the moment we launched OnlyDads (over four years ago) we have faced an ongoing question: what do we think organisations like Father’s 4 Justice have done for men and do we agree with them?

Let’s get one thing out of the way very quickly. F4J were very successful at publicity and raising awareness of the issues around dads and their children. Dressing up as superheroes and performing illegal acts in public places with the world’s media looking on get’s publicity. It just does.

But publicity is a two-way street. It did not take very long for the man and woman on the Clapham omnibus to start viewing their antics not so much as the work of superheroes, but as the work of irresponsible, rather more menacing individuals. And that is the last thing men need.

These days, F4J seem to have splintered off into more than one group and I for one am pleased to see them off the front-pages!

But ultimately it was their political stance (and here I would also include groups like Families Need Fathers) that we have a problem with. One of their central tenants is a belief that in divorce/separation there should be an automatic presumption of shared parenting.

An automatic presumption of shared parenting trips off the tongue (sort of) and sounds fair, just, and sensible. Gone would be the days (they believe) when Mum walks away from Court with the kids and Dad’s are reduced to taking them to McDonalds every other Sunday.

Wrong wrong wrong!

At present the Children’s Act 1989 governs how Courts make their decisions about children. It states “the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration”

OnlyDads believe with passion that not one word of this should be altered. For the very reason that this leaves Court’s the flexibility to make decisions with the child(ren) at the forefront of their decision-making. This means they can look at the facts and circumstances in each case and just concentrate on what’s best for the children.

In short, this leaves the Courts with the ability to sometimes make Mum or Dad the primary carer. Because that is what it in the child’s best interest. It may not always please Mum or Dad…but that is not the point. Children must come first in this process. 

I would be the first to say that this system is not perfect. This article sets out very clearly some of the reasons why!

What OnlyDads advocate is this:

  • Do not shackle the Courts with any presumption of shared parenting.
  • Facilitate more training for social workers, CAFCASS officers, Family Solicitors, and Judges on how best to interpret and facilitate Section 1 of the Children’s Act. I’ll be clear – I do think there has been too much of a normalising (almost text-book) decision-making that sees the kids with Mum, with Dads having contact every other weekend. By and large this does not really work for children.
  • provide much more support for families post-divorce and separation.

Can I end with a personal plea to the Courts…?

There is a super abundance of feckless men in the UK. Men, who to put it frankly, don’t give a flying fig about their ex or their kids. So when you have seen a Dad come before you for the third or fourth time seeking more contact with his child(ren) you will by and large, see a man who really loves his children. He will be before you having lifted himself above accusatory letters from the “other side”, and through  farcical and patronising meetings with CAFCASS…this is a man who cares!

In these cases, my educated guess would be those children are going to benefit from more contact with their Dad, and it’s at this point you can really use the Children’s Act to ensure that the interests of those children are made paramount. 

This is a short blog post, not an academic paper. It gives a flavour of our values. We appreciate many men will disagree with us! That said, I’m more than happy to discuss further…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
This entry was posted in Bob blogs, Family Law, Family life, Putting children first. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Father’s for Justice: Not what men need!

  1. Excellent post, Bob, Quite HOW courts decide what is in the best interests of the child when two parents are at war is another matter. My world is Utoopian, I appreciate. My wife and her ex split up amicably and have an arrangement regarding custody/access of their daughter that works for everyone: she is with us during the week and with her dad at the weekend. All this was achieved without a single solicitor’s letter being sent. My younger brother, on the other hand, did not get to see his children for four years after he left their mother. He has only recently re-connected with them since they became young adults. He never went to court, as he always assumed this would throw petrol on the flames. His children’s mother said she wanted him to see his kids, but his kids always said they didn’t want to see him. If he’d gone to court and forced the issue, I’m not sure how a judge would have decided what ‘was best’ for the children, though I appreciate a judge could most certainly have ruled that what was ‘best’ for them was what the children thought was best. In this case, do the children necessarily know what’s best for them? Isn’t that for us parents to decide? And if the parents can’t reach agreement, how on earth can a judge impose a view when their evidence for doing so is based on reports from social workers etc who only have limited knowledge of the ins and outs of a family? Phew, I’m exhausting myself with this argument, but I guess what I’m arguing for is stronger conciliation services that encourage, if not coerce, parents to reach agreement on access arrangements. Imposition just makes exes hate each other all the more – and that can’t be good for the kids’ mental wellbeing.

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you so much for these comments.

      In many ways what you say goes to the very heart of the problem. Some parents can work it out, others (very many) just can’t. And then we are left with Courts deciding, and as is well documented, their job is a thankless one!

      Bob

  2. Lewis says:

    Just to kinda reitirate what Reluctant Housedad said above. When my mum and dad split when I was just 9 years old, no court proceedings were brought. My mother realised that being close to my father would be a positive thing for me, therefore moved within walking distance of his house. I understand some people seperate in very bad cirumstances but even if both sets of parents hate eachother, surley them sitting down and discussing whats best for the children has got to be better than a judge making that decision!

    • onlydads says:

      Hi = thank you for the input. I think everyone reading this will echo what you say. Parents working things through is a hundred times better than Courts enforcing decisions. Every time!

      Bob

  3. Sara says:

    Being a foster carer I can honestly say that sometimes the mother is far from the best parent. Yet time after time courts, social workers cannot accept this and the constant” children belong with their mothers ” rule is inforced.

    As a mother who adores her children I don’t believe this is right at all. I for one wouldn’t dare say I’m the better parent. Who am I to undermine my husband like that.

    I believe what you say is true, that social workers, court appointed guardians need to see beyond the sex of the parent and actually look at which parent is best for the child.

    • onlydads says:

      Sara…thank you so much for adding to this debate.

      Who can not agree with what you say!? Dads for too long have been viewed as second class parents by those involved in the family law system. And the results have been devistating for some families.

      The statistics for dads not seeing their children post divorce are something of a national disgrace.

  4. When I divorced my ex & I agreed on joint custody of our children as we were fortunate enough to be close enough for this to be viable. No courts were involved, wr simplu had an adult conversation. Over the years my eldest has decided that he’d rather be at mine in the week & see his Dad at weekends only, his Dad was fine with this as he fully understood that this was in the best interest of our Son. Our arrangement is completely flexible & the children love this. Unfortunately the same can not be said for my Husband’s Ex where custody of the child has all been about what she wants & when it didn’t go her way the waterworks would start. The courts were involved & it did help secure access to my Step Son. I believe no consideration was given to the best place for our Step Son the court simply went with the Mother as she shouted loudest.
    Custody to the mother should not be a foregone conclusion!

    • onlydads says:

      Ali – the “flexibility” of which you talk sounds to me like first class parenting – from both you and your ex.

      Your final line needs no further comment!

      Thank you for adding to this debate

      Bob x

  5. Great post Bob and so refreshing. You will be pleased to know that there are many family lawyers – solicitors and barristers – who share your views entirely. Sadly there are still a fair few who don’t but increasingly they are finding themselves out of touch. There is still a long way to go.
    I believe that the court based PIP programme is helping here and the out of court (indeed the “long before court”) Parenting After Parting programme run by Resolution (www.resolution.org.uk) is also very useful. I try to persuade all my client with children – including the ones who say they are getting on fime with their exes – to attend this programme. Very few of them (in fact I can’t think of any) end up in court thereafter. Court hearings about children really should be the last resort.

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you Gillian

      The parenting after parting programme sounds to be very good. My understanding it is still only available in limited geographical areas though? Is that correct?

      Bob

  6. suzymiller says:

    Flexibility to the key to any sustainable relationship. And as you advocate, dump the stereotyping and see the bigger picture. As long as the kids can feel safe that seeing both parents does not create addes stress and angst, then they will want access to both parents around the viability of their schedules and geographic location. If only there was greater insistence on mediation being used for family cohesiveness despite break up, instead of just as a means of saving money during divorce, then progress could be made.

    I know of mediators who request kids to be brought into relevant mediation sessions, but the parents usually refuse. They claim to be protecting the children – but are they not just fearful of what blunt honesty may be revealed if the kids views were incorporated into the break up process?

    Suzy Miller
    http://www.startingovershow.co.uk

    • onlydads says:

      Suzy – thank you ever so much for your comments. Ali (above) spoke of her and her ex having this “flexibility”…of course that can really work for children.

      It does beg the question why so many other parents dig their heels in though??

      Good luck with all you are doing with the startingovershow as well Suzy. All good stuff 🙂

      Bob x

  7. toondad says:

    I was surprised to read this attack on fathers groups, surprised to read of an attack on the very parents you hope to visit your site, surprised from someone who has been involved family court battle endorses ‘every word’ the children act of 1989 and thinks the campaign to level the playing field in family law by introducing a presumption of shared parenting is ‘wrong wrong wrong’.

    I was surprised until I read that Only dads is supported by solicitors, then read that the author has aspirations of becoming an MP.

    • onlydads says:

      Hi – thank you for your comments.

      I don’t quite understand your final comments. It is surely no surprise at all that some family solicitors agree with me. What I am putting forward is not new or radical. I am simply saying that children must come first in this process.

      The bit about wanting to become an MP…? I put myself into the ring last year on the basis that David Cameron called for people from different walks of life to put themselves forward. The HofC has almost no single parents as MPs, and I thought I would try and address the inbalance.

      I wasn’t successful!

      • toondad says:

        It’s no surprise the family lawyers agree with you, as the reforms campaigned for from the groups you slate would disrupt the legal gravy train, and no doubt disrupt the sponsorship for your website the adverts generate.

        I find it astounding that someone who has obvious intelligence, who claims to be a single father supporting others in a similar situation, has little empathy or understanding for those who feel their rights have been abused in family courts choose to campaign for equality and parity in family law

        To say, “There is a super abundance of feckless men in the UK. Men, who to put it frankly, don’t give a flying fig about their ex or their kids.”, well what about the feckless mothers? For a pro-father website founder to attack other fathers and groups in this way is shooting yourself in the foot, perhaps an offer of government finding or the powerful DV lobby groups have brainwashed you? Where are your bollocks?

      • onlydads says:

        Thanks for commenting – but to ask “where are your bollocks?” is a bit personal!!

        I have written a viewpoint, in my name, which does nothing more than urge society to keepchildren at the forefront of decision making.

        I emphasise in my post the need for much more training of all those involved in the decision making process, and I state clearly that the way things stand at the moment is not good enough.

        I have listened to your point of view, but remain sure that the way forward to for all of us to recognise that children’s best interests are served by having Dads play an active part in their lives. I just think this must come about by concentrating on the Children’s Act and REALLY making that work for children.

        Bob

  8. StuG says:

    You all appear to live in a utopia. None of you seem to have experience of the courts. Our judiciary and CAFCASS have no training whatsoever in the ‘interests of children.’ They are the ones who are feckless. This has been admitted by senior judges in the Court of Appeal and by numerous government checks on CAFCASS. Fathers for justice was a response to the above, you seem to be turning the tables and blaming F4J and the splinter groups for their predicament. Wrong….it was inflicited on them and the demonstrators were those with the courage to climb and perform some of the best civil protest stunts ever.
    Anecdotal comments such as those in this article harm children. In Western Australia, the authorities have admitted that 90% of child abuse happens in the homes of sole resident mothers. 56% is by the mothers and the vast majority of the rest by their new boyfriends/stepdads, who have more right of access than the biological father. Since the Family Law Act Amendments of 2006, espousing a rebuttable presumption of shared care, incidences of child abuse have gone down by 50%. The biggest protection a child can have is its biological father, not the feckless social services.

    There are reams of research supporting the benefits of shared parenting. But it is inconvenient for those who work in child protection/family law. Their numbers., jobs and salaries will largely disappear if we allow fathers to see their kids after separation. If you are a family law professional, you need a steady flow of damaged children. No better way to do that than keep fathers away.

    Make no mistake about it; anybody who believes the courts is the best place to sort child contact issues lives in cloud cuckoo land and has obviously never been to a family court. Anybody who rejects shared parenting as a presumption is facilitating an industry of pain, an industry that does nothing better than transfer the wealth of the nation and that of broken families into the pockets of the legal professionals. Too much power went to the social services under Labour, now there are too many incompetents vying to keep their jobs. Their best tactic is to collude with the legal professionals. Their joint corruption has been proven time after time in both public and private law.

    The Children Act was badly drafted by legal professionals for legal professionals. It has no substance. Risk can be interpreted to mean anything and everything. The same scoundrels who undermoned the intent of the Act now sit as senior judges. To this day, not a penny has been spent by the MoJ to ascertain if the decisions of these charlatans has helped children; claims that the Act works in the interests of children are therefore groundless.

    As are claims that a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting and fathers groups are not appropriate. If you think so, prove it. Until then, you should consider whether spouting off against the presumption is a hate crime…against fathers, but more importantly, against children.

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I do question whether those commenting live “in utopia”.

      The point I am making (very clearly) is that all involved in the family justice system need to have a greater understanding and appreciation of what it means to put children first.

      But I do see dangers in moving away from this foundation stone of children’s welfare coming first.

      Bob

      • StuG says:

        List the ‘dangers.’

        I have shown you above that there are govt statistics showing that the state of Western Australia found child abuse to have halved since the 2006 Family law amendment and you continue to drone on about ‘risk.’ Fathers are the greatest protectors children have. Not the state. In fact, the degree of safety children have is inversely proportional to the number of expensive and self serving socio-legal professionals involved in their lives. Fathers provide double the protection for free.

        Try harder. Please desist from using anecdotal cliches. I challenge you to back up your claims with some fact.

        I also told you that there has been no research into the outcomes of UK family law decisions. There has been plenty of statistically significant research in Australia, and it all shows the positive correlation between substantive contact to fathers, child welfare and long term outcomes (in every sense of the
        word) for children.

        The UK family law system has long since moved away from the principal of placing the child first; if it were ever there to begin with. Judges train other judges. The Judicial Studies College does not use child development experts to train judges. CAFCASS get no training in in what meaningful contact is.

        So, enlighten me as to how family law professionals are able to analyse and recommend what is best for a child’s welfare? Just because it’s written in an Act, don’t mean it happens.

    • “The biggest protection a child can have is its biological father, not the feckless social services.” Except when the biggest risk is from the biological father? And this proves again that one rule does not fit all, every man/father and women/mother are different so each case needs to be looked at individually and the only one thing as a common thread is that the child/children need to come first. And yes the ideal is for both parents to have involvement with that child IF both parents are able/willing/safe etc.
      Again this kind of debate has gone to them monthers against fathers instead of loving, responsible, safe, parents regardless of their role being able to support each other to make sure that the children of these situations have the love of all people they can in their lives.
      Yes there are feckless men AND women in parenting roles out there, and it is so sad for their children. When I see fathers fighting to see their children and mothers resisting it as they want to score points it is so bloody sad, nearly as sad as a father who doesn’t want anything to do with their child. The only people in both situation to suffer in the end is the child.

      • onlydads says:

        all I can say is that I agree with every word you say!

        Thank you for articulating this so clearly

        Bob x

  9. Bob… a question for you.
    If the courts do indeed adhere to the s.1 paramountcy principle, that a child’s wellbeing must be the court’s paramount consideration, why is it that for an appeal to be successful, the criteria is that the trial judge must be shown to be ‘plainly wrong’. Surely, if the s.1 criteria also applied to the court of appeal, a trial judge would need to be shown to be plainly right.
    A rebuttal presumption of shared parenting would not shackle the courts. It is a rebuttal presumption, meaning that it is the starting point. If, as the Equalities Commission found in 2008, the level of childcare provided by mothers and fathers only differs by 15 minutes a day, surely a presumption of shared parenting only reflects the reality of modern family life as exists in society today.
    The need for greater definition in statute is clear. The President of the Family Courts recently held that a child’s relationships could be substantially continued via Skype. Could I ask you to consider whether your view of being a parent is one that sees nurture, care and love as being provided in person, rather than via the internet. How you interpret the welfare checklist is not how many (not all) in the judiciary do. The problem being a lack of definition as to what secures and promotes child wellbeing, which is compounded by the wide ambit of discretion which was ringfenced in the 2005 House of Lords judgment in Re G.
    Common law, and judicial interpretation do sometimes ‘trump’ statutory considerations as set out by Parliament. The area of ‘leave to remove’ (the international relocation of children) being a prime example. Sir Nicholas Mostyn QC, High Court Judge and editor of Jordan’s International Family Law expressed a view that the application of common law in relocation cases ‘contaminates the purity of the paramountcy principle’.
    Retraining will only work if there is accountability, and the sad fact is that it is virtually impossible to remove a ‘poor’ judge. Did you know that to remove a High Court Judge or Lord Justice of Appeal a vote must be held in both Houses of Parliament, and that this has only happened once in 250 years. A judge can stay in situ until the age of 70… 75 for a Lord Justice of Appeal… and a generation separated from their own recollections of parenting.
    Much of our common law was shaped by Lord Justice Ormrod. Lord Justice Dunn in his 1993 biography recalled Ormrod’s view of shared parenting ‘He was not sympathetic to husbands who maintained that they could bring up the children as well as their wives, saying that such men either neglected their children or gave up their jobs and became so engrossed in the children that they grew up in an unnatural environment.’ Sadly, those attitudes still persist.
    David Cameron and Nick Clegg start Cabinet Meetings later in the day, so they can take their children to school. Times have changed since Ormrod’s day, but it is only through legislative change that the courts will be brought into the 21st century. Who will make the judiciary retrain… or take onboard your suggested changes? The only way that Parliament can direct the judiciary is via statute… hence the law needs to change, the welfare checklist needs greater definition, and there needs to be a rebuttal presumption of shared parenting.
    Michael Robinson – The Custody Minefield

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you Michael – you have really raised some interesting comments here.

      Times have, of course, moved on, but I have yet to persuaded that a presumption of shared parenting is the best way forward. A much greater and thorough understanding of what it means to put children first is needed. Urgently. That I would agree with!

      Bob

  10. Bob,

    ‘Times have, of course, moved on, but I have yet to persuaded that a presumption of shared parenting is the best way forward. A much greater and thorough understanding of what it means to put children first is needed. Urgently. That I would agree with!’… sorry, but that’s waffle. What it means to put children first? Let’s turn that on its head and look at what it means to deny a child a regime of shared parenting… and base what we say on scientific research rather than assumptions.

    Are you aware that there is a direct correlation betweem depression in children and the reduction in parenting time with their father. Infact, children are 40% more likely to suffer mental health problems when denied a full relationship with both parents. Not an unqualified opinion, but the results of a research study by the Children’s Society.

    Are you aware that paternal involvement in children’s education has a direct impact on child attainment at school, and one independent of the level of mother involvement. Not an unqualified opinion, but the results of a research study by Oxford Universities Department of Sociology and Social Work.

    Newcastle University found that father involvement in schooling affected child development by several points of IQ.Woman denied father involvement in childhood stand a greater chance of psychological problems in adulthood. These are just a handful of studies which exist, and inform the campaign for shared parenting.
    A large selection of those studies can be found on my own website, http://www.thecustodyminefield.com in the section http://www.thecustodyminefield.com/sharedcareresearch.html.

    There may be some feckless fathers, but I believe the majority want to be involved parents. The scientific social, psychological and educational research supports that such involvement IS in children’s best interests.

    So…. should we have a system of law, and a presumption of outcome which research shows to be in children’s best interests, or one which places false barriers in the way of parenting? Another point for you to consider is that a child has a right to family life according to both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Human RIghts Act 1998. The application of law in this country does not support those rights, in that a parent isn’t someone you occasionally visit, or see once in a while on Skype, but someone involved in supporting their child in their social and extra-curricular activities, their schooling, and all aspects of their life. This cannot be adequately done on alternate weekends. Midweek care time is essential.

    A further point to consider is that the state should only intervene in family life if the threshold criteria of significant harm is reached, yet too often limits, removes or fails to ensure a child’s relationships with both parents. Sadly, our family courts are a spectacular failure. One judge famously said that the courts were impotent when it came to protecting a child’s relationships if the resident parent thwarted contact. Too much judicial opinion is informed by out of date stereotypes of family life rather than knowledge of the harm caused to children by there not being a presumption of shared parenting.

    The argument against shared parenting is often put forward, but does not stand on child welfare grounds. If you want the best outcome for children, back the campaign to see shared parenting become normative as a post-separation outcome. After all, shared parenting now IS the standard arrangement for children of intact families. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because some father’s groups back an argument, their reasons for doing so are selfish, and not based on their children’s needs. To do so, does them a disservice.

    Michael Robinson – The Custody Minefield

  11. Diana Jordan says:

    I would agree with F4J that, (so long as we are talking about divorce and not child abuse or neglect cases), a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting is best for most children. Provided that it is the parents who move house every few days/week and not the children.
    Diana Jordan
    http://www.dealingwithdivorce.co.uk

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  14. I have replied and commented further up but I wanted to make the point that I can see the frustration and point of groups like F4J, and as a single mother who parents my child 100% of the time people find that odd as I should be the one calling all men idiots, a danger and useless. But the majority are far from that. For any parent to feel that they are losing out on their child is more than heart breaking, and to be told my people in suits in a court when and if you can see your child, frustrating. And add to that the feeling that you are being played by your ex where often there are so many other feelings of anger just makes it all worse. So yes I get the idea behind it, the campaigning to remind society that fathers should not automatically come 2nd in parenting.

    But as Bob you have said, as with so many things these groups and campaigns go off at an angle and the bad press, and few members who go OTT and lose sight of the child in all this makes for a great news story, but takes away from those who just want to see their children.

    As a mother to a little boy who will not have a father around (the fathers choice) I will have to try and explain that all one day. And that breaks my heart, and so as I said, yes I get why fathers feel frustrated and I will happily be a voice to talk in a positive way about fathers being involved, children need them in their lives, that is the ideal.

  15. Zara says:

    I am a divorced mother of two boys. Fortunately, their father is very involved in their lives. I would not have it any other way. I miss the boys deeply when they’re not around and I would love to be in a position where I no longer had to communicate with their father. But I do everything in my power to maintain a civilized relationship with him, because every kid needs and deserves a dad.

    Women who use their kids as pawns against their ex-husbands are, in my view, the vilest creatures on the planet.

    The courts are right that the interest of the child should be put first. I just think it is a tragedy that some mothers fail do so.

    Zara Arlett
    http://thesecretlifeofadivorcee.blogspot.com

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  18. David says:

    Interesting view point re. campaigning fathers. In my view, if we didn’t have these fathers shouting out about the injustice they have witnessed first hand, then we’d all be none the wiser until our time came to expereince it for ourselves. It is such a massively important issue that it was way over due that someone spoke out. Dads have for years been trying to expose the truth, but faced with brick walls and legal threats if they break the secrecy and silence mandated by the Family Courts. On top of that you have a culture that sees things on face value and thinks there is no smoke without fire. Thus, a father not seeing his kids is automatically considered a threat, or someone not fit to be around children.

    David Cameron, disgustingly (timing) spoke on Fathers Day about stigmatising feckless run away dads. For the many dads denied a relationship for no good reason, the daily stigma they feel is real. How many dads have you spoke to who feel compelled to tell you every in & out of their private case? Nearly every one I speak to does, and some of the disclosures about the things they are alleged to have done are horrific. False and malicious allegations that make them feel guilty until proven innocent. They feel stigmatised already for something they haven’t done. Unable to freely raise they children due to false barriers and sanctions dumped on them by a failing family justice system.

    Do we need Fathers campaigning for Justice ? Of course we do. No individual is going to make a difference. No amount of blogging or support to affected fathers is going to make a difference. The only way anything will truly change is if there is a pressure to make those who can change things (politicians) take action. MPs will continue to play lip service whilst there is no massive ground swell demanding change. When you see groups like F4J hitting high profile targets that get media attention, the MP’s take notice.

    Don’t for one second believe that dialogue, lobbying and debating alone can enact the radical changes needed to overcome the problems that existing in Family law today, is enough. No fathers campaign group will change any laws in this country, but they are a component part of a wider push for change. We need them just as much as we need political campaigners, letter writers, and educators. In fact, the others are pretty neutered in their effectiveness without pressure to change. That pressure comes from all angles, and campaigning dads form part of the application of pressure.

    As a group/site that supports fathers and realises the needs for change, I think OnlyDads should embrace the efforts of those more daring or more hands-on in the campaigning. You may not approve of their actions or even their objectives, but they supply a pressure that can only help to speed up the process of change, which has been so stagnant and lack lustre.

    For they do us all a service, that one day we all may be able to see the results of. Whilst they are “off the front pages” the efforts of those seeking positive change via alternative methods is muted and likely to take even longer to get nowhere.

    The subject of whether we need a presumption that both parents should be treated as equal parents in the eyes of the law is a no brainer. Look at the position today. Parents are not equal in the eyes of the law, or should I say in the eyes of the secretive family court system and its cast and crew. We have many presumptions today, that don’t in anyway what so ever diminish the laudable aims to place a childs welfare as a paramount concern.

    If we presume both parents are equal as they land at the doors of the courts, then we start wil a level playing field, where each case and family situation then (as is today) gets measures on its own unique merits. Nothing is taken away from a Judges discretion, nothing diverts he/she from the paramount principles laid out in the Childrens Act, nothing about this starting presumption dilutes the Welfare Check-list. All things remain, and the courts are not bound by an immovable object.

    The presumption in fact does one very positive thing. It sets everyone’s perception of what in normal circumstances can be expected of a parent. What is wrong to expect both parents to take equal responsibility of there children? If circumstances for whatever reason don’t allow this, then that is where the existing orders (Contact, Residence etc) come in.

    I am a great believer in a child witnessing their parents role being respected. Respected by them, by the other parent and by the society we live in. Children today witness their parents roles being undermined, eroded and denigrated by those around them, and by themselves. It is a lack of foundation that has led to this situation.

    We need to set a precedence that lays out the guiding standard or aspiration for the best possible outcomes, and work from that point to the final remedy / solution that fits the unique family before you. No cases are equal, and today neither are parents. The family courts lotto has no positive predictable outcomes. For a place that deals with ‘no cases are the same’ they seem to churn out very predictable results and outcomes time & time again.

    As a Resident Father, I hold all the power & control, and if I was of the kind of mind my ex was, I could manipulate, and destroy the relationship my child has with their mother. With little or no repercussion for myself.

    I don’t like having this imbalance of power, but the courts granted it to me as the best alternative to our own case. The switch of residence was a enacted remedy to stop ongoing abuse by the mother of her elevated parenting position. This abuse went on for 3 years, and my battle was an impossible up hill struggle. I have no bargaining power, not equal playing field. The automatic out of the gates, winning position was held by the mother from the off. There was no presumption that I was in any way equal or capable of parenting, and therefore I was presumed lesser a parent, and she was in pole position as primary carer all the way.

    Had there been a presumption of parenting prior to going to court, then maybe the fight would never have started, as my ex may have respected socially accepted equal parental position. Akin to an employer who is unlikely to treat a female employee any differently due to knowing and appreciating equality laws. Even if she hadn’t, the courts would have started things off from a much more balanced view, I am sure. Years of proving my innocence and years of lies being compounded and exposed allowed the courts to finally view me as a parent worth considering. The default presumption was that I was not and that held for a long and damaging time.

    The Children’s Act does not need re-writing. It has some great sanctions and remedies already. The use of a Contact Order, which clearly relegates a parent from an equal footing to secondary position is akin to a Parenting ASBO or ASPO (Anti-Social Parenting Order). It sets time sanctioned times and methods for how a parent can see or communicate with their child. This ASPO is the current default remedy to any father going to court trying to maintain or establish a relationship with their child. The Contact Order (ASPO) is very powerful and when issued to a parent who clearly can’t be treated as equal/shared, puts in place the control and protection that might be determined as needed in a given case. Sadly, every case, automatically sanctions a parent as Non-Resident. Time sanctioned and limited controls bounding a parents ability to raise their child.

    It is my contention that no such sanction should be placed on any parent unless it has be proven to be needed for child welfare or practical reasons.

    Counter the current Contact Order norm (as is today’s presumption), with what should be a Shared Residence Order norm, and you’d instantly see less fathers being given the ASPO from day one. No longer would it be automatically presumed that just because a dad seeks a relationship with his children, and the mother opposes it, that he should be relegated to a Non-Resident Parent from the off. No longer would it presumed that the person holding the baby is the Resident Parent, to be empowered to undermine the other parents role. This blind trust model enacted today is dangerous, and it is much more dangerous that a trust model that assesses everything from an equal stance.

    Dangers exist in every parenting model, we can’t get away from that fact. After parental separation too many bad, abusive parents are entrusted with Residence automatically without any proof beyond their gender and the fact they posses the child. The parent not holding the baby, and normally male is treated as lesser and with scepticism and distrust. The trust has to be earned before a court will entertain anything like equal treatment. This can take years and thousands of pounds to prove, if at all. Meanwhile the ASPO is applied, and the other parents ability to be non-compliant is legendary.

    It’s a no brainer. Equality in the workplace is a no brainer, and we all get it NOW, so why do we struggle to grasp the concept that equality in the family should also be the expected norm? Are we just not ready for such a radical notion?

    In my mind, anybody opposed to a Shared Parenting Presumption is in reality in favour of inequality / unequal parenting, and biased / discriminative presumptions that fit an out dated and frankly abusive model that fails children and their parents from the very onset of family disharmony. The existing system has done nothing to prove otherwise that this model is broken, and causes untold harm to families who need help and support, not automatic sanctions that make them feel undermined, belittled and disenfranchised in their parenting roles, responsibilities and duties.

  19. David says:

    Sorry for such a long reply above, but I think the two issues; campaigning fathers, and Shared Parenting are worthy of such an explanation. I’d like to here what others think.

  20. terry walsh says:

    i never joined any fathers groups. but unlike some i find that they did help in small ways.i only wish i had the guts to do something of my own but the depression was intense and a full time fight with myself.my own mind.What i mean is i was actually inside my own head , nothing to stop it, like distractions, because all the things you enjoyed, writing,reading,playing & listening to music,your football team,and silly as it sounds, looking after and feeding water to your plants, one by one stopped.it equalled to a tramp, housebound with a fight against insanity and believe me its the weirdest most frightening thing to happen…you cant ask for help, there is no one on this earth with an answer, not the most recognised specialist can make you carry on normally,day after week, after year, its impossible…i know. How can you have two children aged 5 & 8 suddenly taken away by the mother for nothing more than evil spite, when you are given access from day one and the court never being given any reason by the mother for allowing this? how can the court let the father go through the whole pretence that he has justice behind him to make sure he is a part of his childrens lives.and this is over a number of years that had to go to the crown court because of the mother not obeying anything at all and not even bothering to turn up to court sometimes.not a word said,no protection for the father with the rights on his side,just total inhumane ignorance every session year after year, and the sickening smile of the judge giving the same access that by now was pointless because the mother had told the kids who knows what about their father, and the fight has finally gone from him.the kids were strangers now groomed not to want a father, and at the age of 9 & 13yrs even phone, birthday, chritmas cards all stopped.and all allowed to happen by the justice system of this country,not a reason given or apology for taking your life completely and turning you into a wreck and a suicidal non human being that cant cope with living, and is hoping for death to stop the hurt inside.the children are 16 & 20yrs old and i am nothing more than dead inside and hopefully soon outside too.this was a crime committed by the courts with no need of even answering for it.WHY AND HOW? WHY AND HOW? CAN ANYONE MAKE THIS FATHER CARRY ON DAY TO DAY AND PRETEND HE HAD NO CHILDREN? I SWEAR IF I CAN I WILL HAUNT THE PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS, BUT A REASON WHY WOULD BE A START, FAR TOO LATE BUT A START.HOW CAN YOU GIVE THOSE FEW YEARS BACK YOU DIRTY GRINNING JUDGE WHO WAS SUPPOSED’LY ON THE LEGAL SIDE OF THE FATHER.YOU ARE RESONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF ME AND OTHERS.

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