Posts Tagged ‘family justice review’

Do We Value Fathers in our Society?

I was interested to read that there are now plans to introduce legislation to promote a child’s ongoing relationship with both parents.  We all know that what that really means is legislation to register that the father’s relationship is just as important as the mother’s relationship with their children.  Not so long ago, there was a
huge furore, rightly so, by father’s rights groups because the Family Justice Review didn’t think spelling it out was necessary.  They stressed contact with both parents was a given, so there was no need to say anything specific about it.  My experience both when I was a family lawyer and now as a therapist is that it is so much harder for a father to maintain a close or sometimes any relationship with his children after divorce or separation.  My experience is that if a mother alienates her children against the father or subverts contact, then the court really can do and does do very little about it.  It is all very well, bringing a mother back to court for breaching a contact order, but if the only sanction is to have a Judge say that you must allow your child to have contact, then the situation will continue.  Sometimes, very rarely,the court removes the children and places them with the father.  That is because the Court will say that it is emotionally abusive to make your children not want to go for contact.  However, if you balance, that emotional abuse against taking children away from their mother where apart from no contact,they are settled and happy, then 9 times out of 10, the court will decide its best to leave them where they are. There are many fathers up and down the country who would dearly love to see their children and have a full and meaningful relationship with them.  There are many children up and down the country who don’t see their father because of how their parent’s separation has been handled, normally by the resident parent.  Those children will grow up feeling that their father has abandoned them or that their father is not a sufficiently good person for them to have a relationship with him.  Given that every child is made up of half of each of his parents, thinking that your father is ‘bad’ is not a great way to foster self-esteem or encourage healthy adult relationships in later life.  If we can’t stop mothers alienating children or being implacably hostile to their ex-partner in front of the children, then at least we can provide some sanction which will release the children from that bind and enable them to have a good enough relationship with their father.  Will legislation that simply promotes an ongoing relationship with both parents achieve that?  I think not.  Will it make any difference to what has been going on and silently sanctioned by our Courts for years?  Again,I think not.

Sadly, for all those fathers who suffer so much by being marginalized in their children’s lives, this legislation when it comes, will be too little, too ineffective and just another
example of  wasted rhetoric.  If the Government  means business and truly believes that our society, present and future would be better if children had a good, loving
unfettered relationship with both parents, then legislation needs to be
introduced which reflects that.  The evidence is there, it needs to be acted on.

Family Justice Review – A blow to Fathers?


The Family Justice Review which was published today has rejected calls from campaigners for father’s rights.  Those calls sought for the review to recommend legislation that made it clear that a child should have a meaningful relationship with both parents and that both parents should have equal contact rights.

The fact that the review has failed to do that, does not in my view mean that a child should not have a meaningful relationship with both parents, it means that it is not written in law.  What is statutory is the Children Act which puts the welfare of the child first.  That means that any court, hearing a dispute about where children should live or how much contact they should have with each parent has to look at the children’s needs first.  It is the children’s rights which are being looked at, not the parents.    

However, I completely understand  Families need Fathers and Fathers for Justice responses to this review. They feel that their cause of wanting to have equal rights to their children has been set back.  Fathers have successfully campaigned to put their name on the residence and contact map over the past few years.  What campaigners understandably feel is that a child’s right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents has not been supported by this review and that not to enforce it by statute means that many fathers will lose out when they want to spend more time with their children. 

The fact is that neither parents rights are enshrined in law, only the child’s rights are and that is legislated for by the Court looking at what is in the best interests of the child.  What fathers are saying is that the Courts seem to find in favour of the child spending more time with their mothers than with their fathers and that if a mother really is opposed to contact, then apart from the threat (sometimes carried out) of removing a child from the care of the mother into the care of the father, the father is out of the picture.  Fathers feel that this Review will mean that they will go back to feeling marginalised.

The Review’s reasons for not enshrining in law parents rights is that the Court needs to look at the child’s needs and that is what they do.  The Review also envisages that if there is a right to a meaningful relationship with both parents, then there will be much more litigation as fathers will issue applications for contact or residence of their children quoting just that.  It will also mean that there will be much litigation over what ‘a meaningful relationship actually means.’  The review is seeking to avoid more acrimonious litigation and wants parents to come to their own arrangements.  Whilst that is clearly a good idea, people only resort to going to court when they are desperate.  It is only in those cases that fathers feel that they need some support from the Law in order to play a real part in their children’s lives.