Firstly I would like to echo DownButNotOut's comments on this thread.
Secondly, I have heard things about Fathers 4 Justice, haven't we all and the recent deaths of 2 small children whose father claimed to belong to the organisation were recently in the news.
I thought I would check out their website before making too much of a comment on this thread. So, I google and find that there are several groups, fathers for justice, the real fathers for justice, families need fathers and the list goes on.
So, I guess I need to do my research to find out what these groups really are claiming that they do.
It is the extremist groups that sometimes are so "focused" on their cause that maybe they do not look at their membership that closely.
So, going to do some reading and educate myself on the subject of fathers 4 justice before making further comment.
One thing I would say though as regards contact cases: the first thing my barrister said to me as a mother (one trying to protect her children from their father without denying contact) was that I was 90% likely to lose the case. She said that in most cases the judge actually sides with the father. I went into court to give evidence against my barrister's advise (she said I should just have accepted defeat) and it was clear from the outset that the judge had already passed judgement on my case.
Each case is individual, but believe me, I have heard more than enough stories on wiki and the greater media to know that the courts are getting it wrong time and time again.
I have spoken to fathers on wiki who I whole heartedly agree with in regards their individual cases. The courts are getting it wrong on both sides of the fence. Those fathers that should be allowed, aren't and those that shouldn't (or should have some sanctions) are.
We hear too many news stories now of children who are killed by their fathers and it then emerges that the mother had tried to protect her children but nobody listened.
Yes, I believe children need fathers, but they need good fathers, & this can be said in the same vein for mothers.
Several of my best friends on wiki are the men left caring for their children because the mother has just walked away.
I can see this from both sides. I guess what I am saying is that Child Contact Law needs a radical shake up for the sake of our children's futures.
We just need to know how to do that without dare devil stunts and extremist groups almost proving the wrong point.
I support the underlying ethos of F4J, but I cannot support their activities. Targeting judges and Cafcass is not a way to bring about change. We within the system are handed a legal framework by Government and have to try our best with it.
The problem with the law relating to children is that we are impotent to force a mother/father to hand over a child for contact.
Yes we can use the threat of prison, but that tends to make the parent with care dig their heels in even more, and what do we do with the child while the PWC is in prison?
Yes, we can look at transfering residence of the child to the other parent, and in some cases that is what happens. But think of say a 4 year old, who has only ever known, rightly or wrongly, the PWC. Can you imagine the damage we would do to that child in transfering residence to a carer who the child doesnt know and who the carer doesnt know?
The problem with family law, particularly relating to children, is emotions. We have laws, but how do you legislate for emotion?
I have been sacked by a few PWC on court landings when I tell them that they are being unreasonable and that the child has a right to a relationship with the other parent; that the court will try everything it can to see contact between the child and the other parent. How do you legislate for the complete unreasonablness of a parent with care, who is undoubtedly hurt by the relationship breakdown, who is angry that they are forced to see the other parent because they share a child?
What I would like to see is education and I think it is only through education that we will begin to see change. Starting in secondary school, I think that we should attmept to educate that children have a right to a relationship with both parents unless there is a risk or an occurance of physical, sexual or emotional harm to the child.
I think the test for harm should be the same as in public law (care cases) - that is "significant harm" proved by a finding of fact that it has taken place or there is a risk of it taking place. Only if there is such a finding of risk or actual harm should we then close the door on contact - and sadly we have to realise that there are people out there who cannot have a relationship with a child because of the harm they have caused or are at risk of causing to either the child or the PWC.
I also think that a parent with care who forces a case to go to findings, should, if found to have fabricated the allegations, lose the care of the child, as clearly they cannot promote the childs emotional or even in come cases pyhsical welfare of the child. (By causing physical harm, I mean those PWC that make false allegations of sexual harm, which means a child has to suffer an intrusive medical examination completely unnecessarily)
I think the starting point on relationship breakdown should be shared care unless for practical or other reasons that cannot take place. I think that mediation on relationship breakdown should happen swiftly, should be free but should recognise those cases where it cannot help quickly and it is those that should come before the courts.
Delay, particularly if a child is being denied any relationship at all with the other parent, can be damaging to a child, who is wondering where mummy/daddy has gone but knows that they cannot ask the question of the PWC due to the reaction they know will come from the PWC.
And, as Mr Justice Ryder said only a few weeks ago, the courts need to recognise that these cases are as important as care cases, and can cause as much harm.
But that takes me back to Government, who have not prioritised this issue and does not appear to see the need to give us more judges so that there are enough to deal with all cases, swiftly.