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…