Equal Rights For Parents

The very lovely Colin asks me 50 times a day has been asking OnlyDads to sign and promote his petition.

The thing is I haven’t. I do appreciate that Colin is coming at this from a good place; and it may seem odd that running a dads group like OnlyDads I am not giving this an almighty push! So I feel I need to explain:

For me, there are dangers in changing family justice legislation that has, at its heart, the principle of putting the welfare of children first. There is (in my view) nothing wrong with the law itself! There are problems in the way this law is being implemented however.

Let me stress immediately, that I believe passionately that the children of divorced and separated parents all to frequently miss out on a continuing meaningful and ongoing relationship with their Dads. And this is nothing short of a national disgrace!

And why is this?

The list could be a long one, but our evidence from talking to thousands of mums and dads highlight these as genuine reasons:

  1. Children’s Act proceedings go on for many years. Many dads I speak to recognise that this ongoing battle with mum does little for their children, so they stop. the efficiency of the whole legal machine needs to be addressed.
  2. Many Dads cannot afford proper legal representation to “fight” for their children. All too often, those who do it on their own, give up half way through. In this regard I am hoping our new McKenzie Friend service will be able to offer real and meaningful support in the months and years ahead.
  3. I really question whether CAFCASS Officers, Judges, and Solicitors/Mediators have sufficient training and education to help them appreciate that having a default position of “alternate weekend contact for Dad” should not be the norm. I would like to see organisations like Resolution revise their Code of Practice to ensure that all members are helped to remove tendencies towards gender presumption.
  4. We can’t shy away from the fact that some Dads let the side down!

The one thing I do know is that Colin is raising important issues. While I can’t sign his petition, I do know no harm will come from having the debate!





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.
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13 Responses to Equal Rights For Parents

  1. Bill McCardle says:

    The problem with the legislation is that it is left to interpretation by a group of people who have no stake in the “best interests of the children”. Equality IN LAW is what I believe Colin is fighting for, equality for the children to having both Parents equally involved in their lives. To allow one Parent to take control of the children upon the breakdown of the Family and allow them to potentially use the children within the court system is unlawful and not in the best interests of the children. Anyone who does not want the “negotiation” of Custody to begin at an equal level make me wonder why, the benefits of starting at an equal level outweigh the downsides….in my honest opinion.

  2. mummylawyer says:

    I agree with a lot of what’s said here. Having my own children has made it harder for me to deal with disputes concerning children. I do not tell any parent that it needs to be every other weekend contact. I tell people that they should make arrangements that work for them both and for their children. Generally if possible they should follow the arrangements during the marriage. If Dad was hands on and was an equal carer of the children then he should continue to be. If Dad worked long hours during the marriage and only saw his children at the weekends then it’s likely that will continue unless he can make different arrangements with work. There is no “one size fits all” contact arrangements and all family lawyers should impress that on their clients.

    Every time I see a Dad (or indeed a Mum as I have had mums in this situation) who says that he will stop fighting to see his children because it’s not fair on them to be in this dispute my heart breaks. No half decent parent should ever be excluded from their child’s life and if that’s how they feel then the system really has let them down I think.

    I look at my children and I see how much they love seeing my OH. I sincerely hope we never separate but experience of my job has told me it’s just not that simple. If we do then I believe passionately that we would commit to sharing their parenting in our different houses. It would be bloody difficult and I have no doubt he’d drive me to want to smack him but not to would be to fall short of what our children need and I strive very hard to put my children’s needs first.

    I don’t think there should be a presumption of equal parenting because I think that’s straying into “one size fits all” territory and I don’t think that’s right. But I do think there should be more of an emphasis on how matters can be resolved right here and now at the very first appointment and they should be listed more quickly. Often by the time you’ve had an initial Court hearing and waited 12 weeks at least for a CAFCASS report the damage has been done. Children have had little contact with the other parent and are now saying they don’t want any.

    I have used reports from a clinical psychologist in place of CAFCASS reports as they have more teeth and come back quicker. But of course you do have to pay for them on top of my fees.

    So in summary I think the system is definitely full of problems but I don’t think an equality of parenting standard is the answer.

    • Bill McCardle says:

      I’m sorry if I misinformed in my last post. The problem I have is that the system allows one Parent the ability to use the children. I want that ability taken away. I believe that the starting point should be Equal parenting (50/50) and then Mandatory Mediation to negotiate the Custody Agreement. Not all parents will want 50/50 and in some cases it won’t work, but negotiation between the Parents and a Mediator is the way to reach it, not Dictation by the Parent who took the children or a costly and combative Court Trial.

      • Ajax Hammond says:

        I agree. Whoever has the child gets money and puts pressure on the other parent. The longer they have the child (and it is a long time because court proceedings are exceptionally slow and can be slowed down even more by asking for ‘more time’ to file things) the harder it is for them to argue for an even split in custody. Because, it is ‘in the best interest of the child’ to keep the status quo. Where has the child been living for the last year? With the mother who cut the father out? Well then, let’s just keep things that way.

        The law itself isn’t terrible but it is completely misinterpreted and abused by everybody involved. It has turned into a money making machine that is NOT in the best interest of the child, but there’s no one to turn to. In fact, many women are taught to falsify an assault charge. Even if the charge is EVENTUALLY dropped, it will completely cut their ex out of their children’s home and life for at least a year. If they plea early to try to repair the family, it becomes a black mark against them which can be used in a custody battle to show an unfit parent. If they defend themselves and the charges get dropped, or they are aquitted later, the lengthy time and financial cost of their legal defense puts the other parent in the light as being a single parent that the children have become familiar with.

        The police seem to think that, statistically, men are more violent than women. Unfortunately, that is a false statistic. Studies have been done that show the rate is very much equal with women far more likely to use a weapon. However, domestic assaults on men by women are far under reported both because there is a social stigma to men asking for physical protection from women. The police share this stigma, and if a man complains to them about being attacked by their wife/girlfriend/etc they typically ignore the plea. If the opposite happens, charges are laid regardless of the outcome of the investigation as a defacto policy taken by most police stations. There has been court examples of judges admonishing the police and their prosecutors for having such a policy — even when clear evidence was put in court that they did in fact have such a policy — but aside from a bit of a tongue lashing, the charges stuck and the trial went forward all the same showing that the police were well within their right to behave this way.

        And so the disaster continues. A law in Australia changed the default position of a divorcing family to 50/50 custody. They saw an 80% reduction in family litigation. The same law came to Canada and was shot down under the guise of ‘not being in the best interest of the child.’ There is serious corruption in the ranks and the deception is perpetuated for one reason: MONEY. What parent wouldn’t fight for their children? And family law proceedings are long and messy…and there are a lot of mouths to feed from the courts to the lawyers to the mediators, children’s aid and all the expert witnesses in between. It is a huge industry and the people in charge of it are the ones profiting so there is not going to be any changes. On top of this, women’s rights groups have abused their position and have turned a plea for equality into a battle to eliminate the rights of men almost entirely. There are no publically funded men’s shelters. There are no publically funded men’s victim supports. Apparently, men cannot be victims.

        What men are faced with are unjustified charges that strip them of their rights and freedoms as citizens, place them in costly litigation, and isolate them from their family. Then, though the wheels of justice spin slowly for all other reasons, a bitter ex can gain an order for child support almost immediately. It is hard to imagine how it feels to be torn apart by the system and have to give your paycheck to to very person who lied to make it happen in the first place. it is not right to hit someone, but imagine the public out cry if a man hit a woman, then had the police haul her to jail and then force her to live somewhere else and to lose her job. Imagine if she then had to face thousands of dollars or legal fees, or a criminal record, and on top of that could not see her children. Finally, she has to pay that man every month or else be arrested and charged with a further crime. And should she go near her children, she will be charged with a breach for being too close to her ex. How this is ‘just’ is beyond me. And how women rights groups can continue to advocate this kind of treatment of ANY human being is one of the most disgusting things I have ever witnessed in my life.

        Sadly, this happens every day. Countless thousands of times a day. And who pays the biggest price? It is, of course, the children who see their bitter parents given the weapons to tear each other apart right before their eyes. Now they have a bloodied parent that cannot help them, or maybe even gives up on them, and another parent who has made a deal with the devil and has a blackened heart. These are their new role models.

        It is no wonder our society becomes more depraved every year.

  3. Tweetawix says:

    Just an observation but I see Men using the term EQUALITY in place of where women will often use the term Feminism. I do not see men fighting for the causes of Masculinism, now are we missing a trick or is that real equality?…

    A 50/50 starting point would be a great idea, it would also change mindsets at the start of a relationship, perhaps leading to more responsible behaviour by both parties knowing that the love and responsibility will always need to be equal…

    • Bill McCardle says:

      The term Equality I use is for the Children. So often in Custody Battles I see Parents fighting about their rights but with the “best interests of the children” being the deciding factor, the Parent’s Rights should not take precedence, it should be the children’s rights. Their rights should be to have an equal relationship with both parents unless there are extenuating circumstances. Invariably we have both parents claiming all sorts of terrible things in the court room in the hopes of “Winning” the court battle while the children are merely “Baubles” to fight over. Keep the Parents out of the courtroom by ensuring there is no one Parent in control of anything to use as leverage. Grant the children their right to equal access to both Parents and make the Parents focus on the “best interests of the children” and not themselves. They are divorcing each other, not the children.

  4. ThinkingFox says:

    I’m with Bill. Children’s rights should start with a presumption of equal time with each of their parents. How that equal time is balanced, in the interests of the children, is the follow up step.

    The current presumption, and generally in favour of mothers, does little to serve the interests of the kids, and in so many cases contributes hugely to the destructive emotional blackmail and entrenched positions that end up destroying families and costing a fortune.

    Children first. 50/50.

    • onlydads says:

      Rob – you put your views over with passion.

      I have no doubt that in many many cases 50:50 will serve children for the best. But I have come across too many cases (lots and lots) where the Court has been right in ensuring mum (and in many cases, Dad) does the bulk of looking after. Each case is so very different. I think that is part of the problem with any assumption other than “welfare of the child is paramount”

      …we need to share a pint or three 🙂

  5. Bob, you’ve certainly triggered a debate here 🙂

    Firstly, I appreciate the viewpoints of the dads who are posting here, but some of the language they use is not doing absent parents of either gender any favours.

    Secondly, my children have experienced manipulation from the absent parent – it doesn’t necessarily follow that “all mums are manipulative bitches” any more than “all dads are feckless”.

    The legal system is in the unfortunate position of needing to evolve its family law from an adversarial approach (as is typically found in other areas of the law) to a compromise approach. When that compromise needs to be effected between two people who used to love and empathise with each other and are now both wrapped up in emotional pain, it is very easy to slide back into an adversarial approach. Lawyers and McKenzies Friends like @mummylawyer and Bob are to be commended for their work in keeping their clients on track.

    Having experienced numerous court cases surrounding contact where the other parent would not negotiate, I personally would like to see contact and residence orders completely removed from the normal court proceedings and moved towards a series of case management negotiations where all parties involved are expected to work together for the best interests of the children and where the reporting done by professionals is aimed at drawing out the best of each of the parents (and step-parents, grandparents etc.) involved.

    “My way or the highway” is not a negotiating position, by the way. That includes the stance of the legal teams.

    We all, as parents, need to recognise that there is no one size fits all solution, nor should there be. Each family, each child, each parent is unique. Sometimes, as much as it hurts us, the child’s best interests will truly be served by an imbalance in the number of hours they spend with each parent. Sometimes, no matter how we try, we can’t separate our needs from those of our wonderful kids. That’s why we need neutrality in those who support us and those who should help us negotiate. Sometimes we don’t get that either, and both we and our children lose out.

    Never ever give up, though. If I had, I would not have had the wonders and the stress of the past 18 years with my darlings. Our children need to know we care enough to keep on trying. I know of someone who came back from being homeless and without hope to having ever-increasing contact with his kids; if he can keep on going, so can we all.

    • onlydads says:

      Wow. This is a powerful argument. Re-writing the law book and moving towards “case management negotiations” with all parties involved gets a huge initial “thumbs-up” from me. You are right of course – trying to resolve anything as complex as family break-up in an adversarial setting is really doomed from the outset.

      Thank you for your comments – they are insightful and communicated clearly. As always 🙂

      Bob x

  6. It’s a noble cause, no doubt, but whilst it would appear that many parents want joint custody following divorce to be mandatory, it isn’t always in the best interest of the child.

    Saying that, it is in the best interest of the child for them to have a meaningful relationship with both parents so I agree that the way in which the law is applied is in serious need of review.

  7. Bill McCardle says:

    What I think is being lost here is my strongest argument. Upon Separation/Divorce, take away the ability for any Parent to use the children by granting the children Equal Parenting 50/50 and negotiate/mediate/discuss from there. Do I think 50/50 is the best for all situations, no, but I believe starting a discussion in regards to the best interests of the children with both Parents on equal footing is certainly the fairest and most advantageous position if we want to avoid conflict. Once both parents understand that they do not have any control over the other (emotional maturity doesn’t always show itself during these times), then they can sit down and make the necessary decisions for the children and hopefully focus on the future and not the most recent and painful past.

    • onlydads says:

      Hi Bill – am sure your central argument hasn’t been missed. You have put over your points very well indeed.


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