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Fathers 4 Justice - An outsider''s perspective

  • Forseti
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03 Nov 12 #364532 by Forseti
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This is becoming an interesting discussion.

Abolition of CAFCASS – in 2004 Theresa May committed a Conservative government to this in its first week in power, but... The trouble is, although CAFCASS has always been an embarrassment, you will always need an organisation with the same remit as long as there is an adversarial system. Whether CAFCASS has improved is moot; its role has been reduced until it no longer does what it is required by statute, and it farms a lot of its work out to social workers and charities – all this has enabled it to reduce its backlog and cope with the increase in public law work. As far as I know, the official verdict has not changed, that it is not fit for purpose.

A presumption of shared parenting – this is official F4J policy, but I’m not so sure. It appears to have worked well in other jurisdictions, but that is no guarantee it would work here in different circumstances. There is massive opposition to it, which is a good sign it would be effective. I just feel that bolting another presumption onto the Children Act when what is required is far more extensive and radical would be insufficient. Karen Woodall of the Centre for Separated Families has argued very convincingly that a presumption of shared parenting is a red herring.

Remove parents’ status as parties to proceedings – excellent idea! I love this because it is so far outside the box. I agree, though that a CAFCASS guardian would be a disaster; there are some very good children’s lawyers who specialise in this sort of thing, but there aren’t nearly enough. A policy like this would threaten lawyers’ livelihoods, and I’m sure they would seek ways to make the system adversarial again.

Good enough parenting – I’m not sure what this would look like, unless you shifted the onus of proof onto a parent to prove the other was not good enough, rather than – as at present – force the excluded parent to prove that he is good enough.

Other ideas? I am tending towards the Karen Woodall approach, which is to provide parents with support and education outside of a legal context – the ‘therapeutic mediation’ approach. I’m concerned, though, that it is very labour-intensive and could not form a wide-scale solution in its present state – it would be too expensive. Some people are very keen about the Early Intervention (EI) pilot project which was scuppered by CAFCASS but could be revived – essentially it is just a parenting plan. We should also look at ways of removing the incentives for obstructing contact, such as winning sole custody and gaining child support. If obstruction were not incentivised it would reduce, just as divorce and separation would (and have done in jurisdictions where this has been tried).

  • MrsMathsisfun
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03 Nov 12 #364535 by MrsMathsisfun
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This is very interesting. Thanks U6C00 for op. Not been through court system over contact. Have always been able to come to agreement with my childrens fathers, even though my relationship with my second was difficult due to DV.

My work colleague is at the beginning of the battle trying to prove he should be allowed to continue to have contact with his son. The mother has suddenly decided the father is a danger to his child. Now the father has to wait until a space is available in a contact centre, spend and spend £1000''s going through court just to see his son. Who he has loved and supported financially since he was born.

My colleagues solicitor has already told him it will be an uphill battle

  • WhiteRose
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03 Nov 12 #364549 by WhiteRose
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My personal view has always been that if a father is denied contact that he go to Court and get contact.

Quite simplistic really.

However having being involved with a man who''s children have made a ''choice'' not to see Dad, that their ages are taken into consideration with wishes and feeling statements, that being told their health would suffer if they were put through a Court process - Court is not an option.

The children have heard poisonous things about Dad (witnessed directly by Dad and by family and friends during visits) all lies. Nasty, dreadful things you wouldn''t, shouldn''t say to your child.

In these cases - they are difficult to prove in Courts - the children are listened to and Mum can quite legitimately say that she has not blocked contact. However by behaving or saying negative things about him influences them and now they chose not to see him.

How can this be righted? How can someone fight against this? I see it over and over again here on the Forum that 15/16/17 year olds can not be ''forced'' into seeing their Dad. I also see stories that years have gone by and child and Dad have been reunited (some in the most obscure but fantastic way) and the years apart have melted away. But what wasted years, what pain endured by both child and Dad and most of all what of those that are still waiting for that reunion.

  • WhiteRose
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04 Nov 12 #364567 by WhiteRose
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:blush:My PP kind of missed the OP''s question.

My view of F4J prior to going through the divorce process myself and prior to having a relationship with someone who is a Dad - honestly - was that these men were wild, reckless and selfish, everything you didn''t want a Dad to be. Tax payers money was spent keeping these men (and spectators) safe during their stunts.

Now - after going through separation and divorce and having a relationship with a Dad - I see men who are desperate. Men who have explored every avenue, who have gone through the process and the system and who want/need to keep the cause in the headlines. To remind people like who I was before, that this is a very real issue.

That Dads can be stopped being part of their childs life.

It did surprise me that this can happen (how Naive the pre-divorce me was! My simplistic view may be shared by many; you want contact, you go to Court and get it) but then again going through the emotions of separation and divorce I think that only those that have gone through it get ''it'' - my strongest support whilst I was going through my own journey was from people who were going through their own journey themselves (here on the site) my friends in happy relationships just didn''t understand.

In the same way, maybe people can only truly understand this issue once they have gone through it or someone they care about is going through it. I have a better understanding of their [F4J] issues now, but can''t call myself a supporter. FNF are fantastic for support.

I know people think - ''He doesn''t have contact with his kids? What has he done wrong''

Maybe the only thing ''wrong'' that has happened is that the other parent or the system has failed. But what is wrong most of all is the child doesn''t have Dad in their life.

  • Now Gone From Wiki
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04 Nov 12 #364574 by Now Gone From Wiki
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I have read this thread with interest. My background is that my STBX disappeared and ''hid'' so that so that I could not even find her to start proceedings for contact. Sh emotionally abused our 12 year old son to the extent that he now wants to live with me.

The 2.5 months during which she hid my son and herself were the worst of my life. I found Wikivorce very quickly and also joined Families Need Fathers and went to some of their meetings. As someone not eligible for Legal Aid nor with the resources to afford a solicitor because of all the debts she left me with I found FNF to be absolutely amazing in providing practical advice.

They advised me on the correct applications to make at court, how to represent myself as a litigant in person, what to write and also introduced me to the concept of McKenzie Friends.

Every step of the way I have found both Wikivorce and FNF to be essential to a person like myself who is dealing with someone who has not just decided to end the marriage but also attempt to destroy me through unfounded allegations, hiding, preventing contact etc.

I know there are lots of ''absent dads'' out there but I wanted contact quickly, and my son wanted to see me, and my STBX abused us both. The system allows this to happen and no one really cares that I am a loving father who is concerned for the safety of his son as I was treated at every step as if I was an abuser trying to track down a ''frightened wife''. Scheming women like this don''t deserve the protection offered by the system but unfortunately the system is unable to detect those who need help from those who don''t.

Anyway, it is still rumbling on, I am still getting help from FNF and my son is now back in my life. He wants to live with me and will never forgive his mum for what she has done I suspect.

Thank goodness that FNF and F4J exist and I don''t care what others think of this statement!!

  • rubytuesday
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04 Nov 12 #364589 by rubytuesday
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This is probably one of the most interesting threads I''ve read in a long while. A proper, grown-up discussion on parenting after separation. (Which I know probably wasn''t U6''s original point).

While I support a legal presumption of shared parenting (which does not mean an equal spilt of time), I don''t think that as a stand-alone policy it will necessarily work. I believe that a wider, more holistic approach to supporting separated families post break-up is needed. In Norway, for example, where there is a legal presumption of shared parenting, there is also a compulsory national shared parenting support programme for all separating couples, called "Forever Parents". There is [in Norway] a huge amount of community support for parents and significantly a massive amount of input to support fathers. Gender equality is at the heart of everything and there are men in childcare, men in the early years sector, men in caring roles, it seems to be generally accepted that men as well as women will care and women as well as men will work outside of the home.

Currently, in the UK, when parents are expecting a child, there is any amount of reading material available, support from Doctors, Midwives, ante-natal classes, visits to the Maternity Hospital prior to admittance, the option to have a home birth, a midwife-led birth or under the care of a Doctor, etc. But on separation there is none of that support available for parents, children or families - everyone tends to be in the position of running around in the dark with scissors and hoping that no-one gets hurt. But what if all that support and information that is available ante-natal is also available during separation and on-going afterwards? While this is what happens in Norway, I''m not sure that it would currently work in the UK (as much as I would like it to) because men are discriminated against and pushed out of society. There needs to be a huge change in cultural attitudes for such a move to work successfully. AS a society, we do need to accept that men are not just breadwinners, and women are not just baby-making and rearing machines, and that both parents are equally capable of raising happy, healthy, well-balanced children.

Tomorrow (November 5th) The Department of Education will release the Government''s draft clause on shared parenting. The Government''s response to the recent public consultation on shared parenting will be published alongside the clause, and other documents relating to the proposed legislation. I expect there will be little change to the current legislation. The Government seem to be trying to attach bits of Lego to a Meccano structure (the Children Act 1989). It would make far more sense to completely de-construct the Meccano structure, get rid of the Lego additions and re-build the Children Act, from the ground up.

Courts are no place for families, they are places for criminals and those accused of criminality. In Australia, when a legal presumption of shared parental responsbility was introduced, alongside that were the introduction of the requirement of parents to attend family dispute resolution before filling out family court applications, (except where there were welfare or DV concerns), an increased emphasis on the need for both parents to remain involved in the children''s lives (inc a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility)a greater emphasis on the need to protect children from abuse and family violence and finally, legislative support for less adversarial court processes via the Less Adversarial Trial process (this is more closely directed by a Judge, unlike here,where the Judge is little more than an umpire).

So you can see, from the examples of both Norway and Australia, where is a legal presumption of shared parenting that other structures have been built to ensure that parents have the support and access to family-orientated services that they require upon family break-up. This simply isn''t the case here in the UK (and I will include Scotland in this because although mediation is the preferred option prior to court applications, it is yet to become mandatory). Simply having that legal presumption of shared parenting is not enough.

Change is long-over due, and I know that those who have campaigned for many years for this much-needed change do at times, feel despondent and as if they are banging their heads against a brick wall because it often appears that families, and children are not high on the priority list of those who do have the power to make change. Or is it perhaps, that they are simply scared of making such large and far-reaching changes?

We need to accept that when family break-up occurs, that all members of that family are considered when decisions are being made, currently it is only the child (or children) that is subject to proceedings that is considered - the impact on other children of the family (step or half siblings) are not considered, nor are the needs of the parents. I have yet to find a legal definition of what the "best interests of the children" actually means. Why should it not be "the best interests of the family" that are considered? To look so narrowly at a problem is myopic and creates far more problems than the one that is trying to be resolved.

There is obviously a clear need for organisations like F4J and FnF, both to highlight the issues that fathers face, and also for the pastoral care that FnF in particular offers (F4J tends to have a more informal pastoral care, with members linking up and offering emotional support to each other, rather than in a structured format like FnF branch meetings). But there is also a clear need for Wikivorce, as unlike either F4J or FnF, we are not a campaigning organisation and are all-inclusive, welcoming everyone who is affected by the devastation of family break-up and our members being able to offer advice from differing perspective, rather than polarising the situation as may happen with the F4J or FnF fora.

  • Elphie
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04 Nov 12 #364591 by Elphie
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"parent was classed as "good enough" to look after the child/ren alone before separation, why shouldn''t they be good enough afterwards? Perhaps implementation of this is something that would reduce the ongoing problem of spurious and irrelevant allegations. "You say he was violent and abusive yet you left him in charge of the children while you went on holiday with the girls? And now he''s unfit to parent?" This is something that could be tackled at first hearing and reduce the need for supervised contact."

But how would this be proved? I, personally, dont know of any HAPPY family''s where the mother leaves the children with the dad to go on a holiday, let aloneunhappy ones, where the mother might well be thinking of the consequences after seperation.....Maybe the dad is left with the children occasionally for a night out, once every few months, and maybe she''ll leave the kids with him for an hour while she does the shopping. But, as a father, how do you prove that in court months after the fact?
In my case, I never left my baby alone with dad while we were together, after finding stbx uncontrollably anger at our baby one day. If I went out shopping I took him with me, never went for an evening out anyway so that wasn''t an issue. But I didn''t tell anyone about it at the time. Partly because I was ashamed and partly because I was still trying to fix our relationship and didn''t want close friends and family to think badly of him. So, as a mother, how do I prove I didn''t trust him alone with the baby while we were together? It still boils done to one word against another.

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