Dr Dolittle I presume?

courtesy of carly & art on flickr

Couldn’t find a pic of an actual push me pull you, so you can have one of post-coital foxes, courtesy of carly & art on flickr to help you visualise the metaphor…

OR : Cooperative Parenting Government Response

Well well well.

Quel surprise.

It’s option 1 chaps: presumption

Addition to s1(2) before welfare checklist:

In the circumstances mentioned in subsection (4)(a) or (4A) the court is to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that the welfare of the child concerned will be furthered by involvement in the child’s upbringing of each parent of the child who can be involved in a way not adverse to the child’s safety 

Forget the outcome, it’s the pathetic number of responses that is the most depressing. Don’t NOBODY complain about this! You can all talk to the flipping hand. None of you could be bothered to respond, except for the disproportionately high number of fathers. Concerned though that the summary implies that no account has been taken of the skew created by the ability of certain interest groups to mobilise better than others, and to treat responses of membership organisations as equivalent weight to those of one individual.

Read all abart it here.

If I am wrong I will apologise. If I am right I will say I told you so. I don’t know if I will be right or not. I hope my response was stupidly pessimistic. Either way, all will be well because there will be a HUB*. Yes, a HUB, which will include, amongst other gems “diagnosis and dynamic content to gain skills in conflict management”. Wha’?


*Read the response, page 5.

[Update : I changed the title and added some fox pron. It seemed funnier. Let’s face it this blog post doesn’t have a whole lot going for it]

79 thoughts on “Dr Dolittle I presume?

  1. The voluntary sector and academia put in a relatively good showing but it does appear that the legal professions did not take it seriously, I agree.

    • Well, I think the legal profession have worked out that nobody’s listening. Not that that is an excuse.
      Also, not sure of the extent to which 5 barristers and 11 solicitors includes the law society children committee, flba, bar council, alc, resolution etc etc. suspect each = 1. unclear which category they have been classed as.

  2. Well I was one of the solicitors. I cannot believe that only 8 of us turned out. Also very suspicious as I am lazy and easily distracted. Did they leave off a zero ?

    • And I was one of the 5 barristers. Assuming FLBA was also counted as “one barrister” thats only 3 other barristers. Incroyable.
      Actually, 67 fathers is pretty rubbish too, albeit proportionately better than other groups. Not sure how many of the “fathers” are F4J, FNF, Fatherhood Institute, OnlyDads etc??? Likewise with mothers.

  3. and there are umbrella groups for mediators e.g NFM. Every mediator would be affected by this but they probably put their faith in a joint response, rather than bombard the DfE individually.

    • well, there are 8 family mediator member organisations under the FMC umbrella by recollection, so assuming they all pulled their finger out and responded (assuming) that leaves practically null points for individual mediators.

  4. It was very disheartening to see the number of legal professionals who responded was so tiny. I think you single-handedly made up 12.5% of the barristers who responded.

    Would have been nice if they’d taken account of the responses to Q8 to formulate how they intend to support shared parenting and include something that might be of help before the complete breakdown of relationship.

    I read your words about ‘The Hub’ and immediately thought of my response when I read it – “A hub? Cut the bullshit; they’re talking about a web site!”

    I was genuinely surprised by the response to Q3 though. Everyone I’ve spoken to has felt that the proposals were only putting into the legislation something that was already very firmly established by case law. I’m surprised that more than half of respondents thought that the proposals would make any difference at all.

    Still, with a sample size that small, statistical anomalies are almost guaranteed!

  5. To not have backed Option 1 shows how incredibly out of touch many family law legal professionals really are with the notion of ‘family’, ‘fairness’ and crucially ‘children’s rights to have a real meaningful relationship with both parents’ (not lip service).

    The top judges get it for the most part; Ryder, Ward, Munby, Mostyn, Parker and even Thorpe etc.

    Many lawyers simply do not get it and simply do not understand the need for this change to a system that is failing so many children.

    In Australia the benefits have been markedly successful in reducing litigation and even showing a drop in domestic violence when shared parenting is introduced.

    The coalition understands this and will just have to drag those many lawyers who are unable to comprehend screaming and kicking into the light.

  6. Northern Lights

    So this is the Brave New World:

    “In the circumstances mentioned in subsection (4)(a) or (4A) the court is to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that the welfare of the child concerned will be furthered by involvement in the child’s upbringing of each parent of the child who can be involved in a way not adverse to the child’s safety”

    Exactly what does this add to the existing legislation and canon of case law?

    Define “involvement in the child’s upbringing”

    I wonder how long it will take the hapless and feckless to realise they have finally got what they asked for- a pig in a poke.

    What a worthless piece of inconsequential drivel.

  7. “Well, I think the legal profession have worked out that nobody’s listening”

    Lucy, you have all had your chance. You yourself responded but no one listens to those who do not speak.

  8. Before you ridicule the ‘hub’ idea further, you might care to consider that the idea was one of your pal, Norgrove’s recommendations. In truth, his recommendations went beyond the government’s; he wanted to ground family law reform on the basis of a ‘hub’ plua a leaflet, going one further than the government in that respect.

    The less-than-overwhelming response to the consultation from family law practioners was predictable given their sense of impending doom. Would you retain your enthusiasm knowing that your bread wasn’t going to be quite so thickly buttered in future?

    • Nothing wrong with a hub per se. But I’d hazard a guess it won’t be properly resourced or planned and will not be fit for purpose. The Australians ploughed a lot of resource into their support network for family law reform and I don’t see much sign of that over here. All we have is one thin para in a response about cooperative parenting. Where IS the hub? It should be online now – Norgrove reported a year ago.

      Whilst I have a sense of impending doom I retain my enthusiasm for what I do, notwithstanding the lack of butter.

  9. God forbid that a dad be deemed as capable as a mom. That would be too much equality for Britain in the 20th century (actually, we’re in the 21st, no?)

    What bothers me is that no safety issues seem to have been voiced around parental alienation, implacable hostility, false allegations, defamation of character, legalized abduction, treating dads as dispensable sperm donors, etc. None of that is good for children, and I’m beginning to think these safety issues are knowingly ignored and left out of the debate.

    It seems that no change is being proposed here, and that children will go on being abused (and having their safety compromised) by narcissistic mothers (mostly).

    So why worry about tomorrow’s paycheck?

    • However,

      How is defamation of character a safety issue exactly? Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question.

      Anyway, I don’t think that pigeonholing most mums as narcissistic abusive alienating implacably hostile libellous abducting liars really has the hallmarks of a successful equality campaign.

  10. familoo,

    just to point out he said ‘narcissistic mothers (mostly)’.

    Not most mums are narcissistic as you have misread.

    He did not call ‘most mums’; ‘narcissistic abusive alienating implacably hostile libellous abducting liars’ either.

    You have misread my posts in the past similarly, please would you kindly not put words into other peoples posts, thank you.

    • Chambers you chivalrous fellow, I wan’t quoting, just summarising, albeit that all those terms were words chosen to describe mothers (mostly). The thrust of it seemed to me to be that most / many mums share those characteristics / deploy those tactics – to an extent that fathers do not.

  11. No, perhaps you are right. It’s the SRA’s fault for not coming down harder on lawyers who use mothers as pawns in getting them to lie and cheat.

    • However, the SRA don’t regulate the bar. They regulate solicitors. If the bar DIDN’T adhere to the cab rank rule our professional body (Bar Standards Board) would be after us.

      And now your argument has moved from suggesting lawyers shouldn’t represent certain types of person to suggesting that lawyers collude or even actively encourage immoral and dishonest conduct. That is a pretty strong allegation, and whilst it may well happen sometimes it would be very serious professional misconduct and warrants sanction from either the bar or solicitors’ regulatory bodies. But representing a client who may be untruthful is not something that lawyers should be criticised for – it isn’t for lawyers to judge the truth of a client’s evidence – that is the role of the judge. And doubting or suspecting untruthfulness on the part of a client is very different from knowingly misleading the court. Fathers rights campaigners ought to know very well that sometimes on the face of it a father may appear to be denying the truth because a wealth of apparently strong evidence has been lined up against him – but it would be wrong to deny that father representation in order to clear his name, just as it would be wrong deny the mother the reverse.

  12. Most of us will appreciate that ‘defamation of character’ compromises child welfare/safety by virtue of making the parties of the case public. We have laws against parties blabbing to anyone and everyone about their case, and if you happen to have been born male (very unfortunate indeed) you stand a good chance of being imprisoned for this. If you are female, however, you just need to play your ‘weaker sex’ card, shed a few crocodile tears, and get away with your insolence.

    • No. Publication of the details of proceedings potentially compromises child welfare / safety regardless of whether or not it is defamatory. Parents are not imprisoned for defaming someone. They are imprisoned for being in contempt of court by breaching the court rules on privacy or by breaching an injunction telling them not to publish information. You suggest that a father is more likely to be imprisoned for this type of “offence” than a mother, but the only recent reported case on this topic was a case involving a mother, whose female associate had published her false allegations of sexual abuse against the father. In that case the court took action to imprison the woman publishing the material (Sentence 9 months), and in fact later on the Mother herself was imprisoned for a substantial period for breaching an injunction preventing her from approaching the child. The court published a statement of facts setting out that the mothers’ allegations against the father were false. Look it up on BAILII:

      Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council v Haigh [2012] EWCC 3 (Fam) (first FoF),

      Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council v Haigh & Ors [2010] EWCC 62 (Fam) (Second FoF),

      Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council v Haigh & Ors [2011] EWHC 2412 (Fam) (the care proceedings),

      Doncaster MBC v Watson [2011] EWHC B15 (Fam) (committal)

      Doncaster MBC v Watson [2011] EWHC 2376 (Fam) (purging contempt),

      Doncaster MBC v Watson [2011] EWHC 2498 (Fam) (purging contempt 2)

      Doncaster MBC v Haigh [2011] EWHC B16 (Fam) (publication of agreed information on LA’s application)

      Crocodile tears and feminine wiles don’t appear to have availed this particular member of the weaker sex. I can’t think of any equivalent cases involving imprisonment of a father, although there may be some.

  13. There needs to be a few cases now involving alienation to develop an acceptance in law that child safety must also embrace emotional security and other non-physical issues where mothers excel as perpetrators.

    • I think that Local Authorities and other agencies are getting better at recognising emotional abuse, and I have dealt with a number of cases in the last few years where care proceedings have been brought arising from protracted conflict in the context of parental separation where the threshold depended entirely upon emotional harm. Ironically, many anti-family courts campaigners are critical of the courts so-said willingness to rely upon emotional abuse in care proceedings. Both groups can’t be right.

  14. I read it in a completely different way; most mothers who alienate children from fathers are narcissistic.

    I feel like I’m in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – All wood burns, therefore all that burns is wood.

  15. Only if you weigh the same as a duck!

  16. familoo,

    thank you for the interpretation of what ‘however’ posted but its incorrect (see matw2) and I would rather read what other people have said rather than a summary of someone else’s slant on it.

    I know its easy to put forward a submission of what we want others to think someone said rather than what they actually said to promote a certain view but I think we can all very probably weight an original post ourselves, without the kind and thoughtful misinterpretations of others.

    Not chivalrous of me, merely constructive.

  17. – “Ironically, many anti-family courts campaigners are critical of the courts so-said willingness to rely upon emotional abuse in care proceedings. Both groups can’t be right.” –

    I think there is something in this comment, there is an overlap of competing views.

    I personally think local authorities are woefully inadequate generally (getting very slightly better) in recognising emotional abuse and understanding the effect it has on children and also taking appropriate action.

    Let’s face it they are still generally in the dark ages when it comes to understanding the severe effect of alcoholism and then taking appropriate action against parents of children whose frequent poor behaviour in addiction (drink and drugs), which affects children so dreadfully.

    Children are frequently left in appalling circumstances to have to deal with drug and alcohol dependent parents by a ‘too understanding of the ‘parent/s” attitude (because its easier).

  18. I struggle with my ex’s barrister going along with her every demand and every allegation. I’ve jumped through many hoops and I still have only 3 hours a week. I try and say “look, its what is best for the children and not me or mother” but he doesn’t listen. If he did, mother would get another barrister. Do you ever say “look I’m not doing this case anymore, what your doing is not in the best interests of the children”?

    • Stu,
      It seems harsh but a barrister’s job is to take instructions from her own client not from the other side. Whatever the barrister’s personal views (and believe me we do have them) it is a barrister’s job to act on instructions not his own view of what would be best for the children. I’m pretty sure that often what I think would be best for my clients’ children is not be what the client would think is be best for them, and equally commonly that the other parent would think I was crackers. Who’s to say I’m right or wrong? If I was to sack a client because I didn’t agree with their judgment as a parent I’d be rightly hauled up for professional misconduct. That doesn’t mean that behind closed doors I don’t give them strong legal advice or tell them they are being daft, bloody minded, missing the point or do my damndest to suggest a better way (which is often something close to what the other party is proposing). I’m not paid to be a parenting adviser, or a judge – I’m paid to advise on law and to represent. It doesn’t mean that I’m not often sympathetic to the other side of the story.

  19. In my experience the legal representatives are the only people in the case who are not obliged to act in the best interests of the children.

    The judge, parents, cafcass, guardians etc – All obliged to keep the welfare of the children as their paramount concern.

    Sadly, I suppose this is where the professional obligations of the legal representatives conflict with the obligations of others involved in a case.

    It’s reassuring that you are willing to give your clients a good talking to, but tragic that so often has no effect.

    It’s a hell of an argument for total reform, and (were this a perfect world) a non-adversarial family justice system. Instead we have the current proposals which I overheard a couple of barristers describing as ‘polishing a turd’ while waiting in the substantial queue for the court office family window.

    • I don’t want to repeat myself when I’ve blogged on this before matw2, so see here: http://pinktape.co.uk/representation/dont-you-lot-ever-think-about-the-kids/. Thankfully my advice is often taken (not always). I guess I’m just persuasive 😉
      I think that those who argue for a non adversarial family justice system on the basis that lawyers act on client instructions miss the obvious point that clients without lawyers will put the same arguments less well, and possibly with more determination in the absence of advice. Also inquisitorial does not necessarily mean no lawyers. Our duty to client is always modulated by our duty to the court as it is.

  20. Thanks for your honest reply. I believe the way barrister’s/solicitors work and the way the law is set up just creates and encourages conflict and disagreement. Shouldn’t you all work to a code of conduct where you defend children’s rights to have both parents in there lives instead of working for the parents who will never agree?

    Anyway , I think you need to set up an argument clinic as in the Monty Python sketch!!

  21. Very illuminating, hadn’t read that because it was before I had cause to learn about family law (ok, that statement was naive and I freely admit it).

    I don’t mean to imply that lawyers don’t care about children, more that their first obligation is to their client, which is not necessarily the same as the rest of the court.

    For example, have you ever had a case that you wanted to lose? For example an alcoholic parent that was fighting for their children to be returned, and you knew for certain that it wasn’t in the best interests of the children?

    I don’t envy the job that you have to do sometimes, occasionally (and I accept that it is probably the minority of the time) fighting a cause that you know could be harmful. Still the interests of justice and your professional obligation to do your best for your client dictate that you must still represent that client.

    I shouldn’t continue to post on this though because I’m detracting from the topic of the original post. I’m sure you’ll (rightly) moderate this comment out if you think it’s appropriate.

    • I have cases I would like to have a different outcome all the time. But you can’t do the job if you think like that so you have to park your own personal views and preferences. I’m a parent – there is no right decision, and I think that what is evident to professionals that is not always evident to the parents is that in many cases both parents genuinely think they are making proposals that will promote the best interests of the child, even though their proposals are incompatible with one another. I know from experience that it is dangerous to judge a case where you only have instructions from one party, even though it is tempting – you can form a view about a case but it is not until you hear all the evidence that you realise that view has been mistaken. That underlines the important function of courts where there are disputed matters of fact.

      I don’t mind tangents as long as they’re interesting and vaguely polite!

  22. […] a real meaningful relationship with both parents' (not lip service). … Excerpt from: Dr Dolittle I presume? : pinktape.co.uk ← Getting Involved in Your Child’s Education, Parenting Advice From drkit.org […]

  23. I’ve discussed this in a couple of other online sources over the last day or so and responses to those messages have led me to a concern about the wording of the proposed change.

    There are at least 3 terms in the new clauses which are ambiguous.

    1. “involvement” which has no specific definition here but involvement could be taken to mean no contact but input into medical and school decisions.

    2. “at risk of harm” this is the most contentious of all, which I’ll come to shortly.

    3. “suggests” is extremely open. It implies that the judge need not have much evidence, only a suggestion. This is contrary to the normal balance of probabilities standard of proof.

    Elsewhere in the Children Act, it is always a risk of significant harm. Here, the wording noticeably omits that word. It does not quantify the type or severity of the harm, nor the likelihood of that harm occurring. In my view (though the wording is clumsy of course) it ought to be “significant risk of significant harm.” Otherwise, the combination of these issues mean that some suggestion of a risk of harm (with a little bit of evidence) is sufficient to justify no involvement (whatever that means) in the child’s life.

    Let me give you a ridiculous example; I have a private detective follow my ex partner around, who reports that my ex sometimes fails to look both ways before crossing the road. I therefore request no contact on the basis that there is a risk of harm to the child if my ex has contact.

    How about a more common example; I pick my child up for contact and experience no problems. Shortly afterwards, I get a visit from the police who tell me that ex has reported I was hostile with her at handover and I get a caution for harassment. before long I’m served with a non-molestation order (obtained ex parte). Here the evidence is flimsy as false reports happen with depressing frequency, but it is enough to SUGGEST a risk of harm (the risk not being significant and the level of harm arguably also not being significant – unless it’s a regular occurrence).

    I’m somewhat concerned that the choices made in the wording of the clauses are very deliberate, and that this somehow lowers the threshold for arguing for no contact, or cessation of ‘involvement’.

    • Catch up Matw2! Even F4J worked this out months ago. Ambiguous? Dur Yeah. Assume you didn’t read the consultation at the time. Plus, one man’s “ambiguity” is another’s “flexibility”, which is the watchword of family law. One man’s wishy washy is another’s discretion. etc… Yes, involvement can mean many things. It should. Different levels of involvement are appropriate in different cases.

      You wrongly state that wherever it appears in the Children Act risk of harm is significant risk. It’s not. Significant harm is the test in care proceedings. A risk of harm, even that which is less than significant, is relevant as part of the overall welfare considerations, and must be taken into account when decisions are made. A low risk of minor harm, whilst relevant, is not going to weigh heavily.

      Your ridiculous example is of course just that. Your second example is more realistic – to a point. I’m not sure that one incident of being hostile at handover is sufficient without more to warrant the making of a non-mol nor in itself to get you to risk of harm – but lets put that to one side and assume that the allegations of behaviour are sufficiently serious to do that. Yes there would be enough to suggest a risk of harm, but a bit like the interim test for a care order (reasonable grounds to believe risk of significant harm), evidence that initially is sufficient to suggest something may be a risk will ultimately have to be tested whereupon the court will have to say whether the facts that lead to the suggestion of risk i.e. the allegation that you were hostile / violent whatever, were true. If the allegations of violence were proven the risk flows. If they are not proven they didn’t happen and the risk falls away.

      The choices in the wording are of course entirely deliberate. The Government has just responded to a consultation arising from the Family Justice Review, and in the course of that consultation it put forward four alternative proposals (none of which anyone liked very much for varying reasons), and these are the responses. It’s highly politically sensitive and no doubt an impossible drafting brief. You can’t please all of the people any of the time when it comes to shared parenting.

  24. I did read the consultation at the time, and responded to it. Some of the ramifications are occurring to me now after conversations about the published response. Also, I’m learning as I go when it comes to the law and the recent Karoonian v CMEC judgment set me to thinking about how specific the wording is and the possible consequences of a single chosen word.

    I have avoided joining F4J and FNF. I have no doubt that they have issues with the wording though, and I likewise have no doubt that they’re a lot quicker on the uptake than I am.

    I’ll consider myself lawyered on the ‘significant’ issue though 😉

    How does the scenario change if the police gave me a caution which I accepted rather than go through a harassment criminal prosecution? Here I could not prove my innocence so that suggestion of risk can’t ever fall away.

    I’m curious on your view, your post laments the poor response but doesn’t necessarily express a view on whether the change is positive or not. Most people I’ve heard from do not think it’s a positive change (or that the change will have no effect at all). The only positive response I’ve seen is from Marilyn Stowe’s blog.

    • Matw2
      A caution is an admission of criminal conduct thereby avoiding the need for criminal proceedings. You can’t go behind it in a family court. I think you are oversimplifying. A caution for relatively minor behaviour on a single occasion, lets say for the sake of argument not in the presence of the child, perhaps in the heat of separation – I don’t really see that is necessarily going to create some permanently subsisting immutable risk that is a bar to contact / meaningful involvement (whatever terminology you choose). And even if there is a risk you can easily manage / reduce it by avoiding such flashpoints (use a third party or neutral location for handover). I’m oversimplifying myself, but hopefully helpfully. Of course all of what I have said fits equally well with the current law, which brings us full circle to the question of how much difference these words will make.
      I suspect that the circling you and I have been doing to work through all of this is precisely the kind of “working through” that will be a bar to the resolution of many cases in the early stages of the introduction of the new law at least, more so where most parents will not have lawyers to run through this with them.
      My response to the consultation by the way is here: http://pinktape.co.uk/courts/as-one-door-closes-another-opens/

  25. It is rather worrying to think that an experienced family law professional can blithely go along with those common scenarios of an ex-parte non mol and a caution. As described, both those situations give rise to an actual risk of harm or ‘unfitness’ being presented by the mother, not the father. Creating unjustified consequences for a father, presumably, for balance-sheet purposes, seems to capture neither the court’s attention nor the professionals who make their grubby living from so-called family justice.

  26. It is you, rather, who misses the point as in neither scenario was the issuance of the non-mol or caution supported by the OP’s stated facts and yet you’ve gone along with it as though they were, presumably as you do in real life. Courts tend not to overturn non-mols and fathers rarely get the instant return hearings when these phoney non-mols (just like the example here) are granted on no notice, preferring to roll it all up with contact issues that take months and years to resolve while the non-mol remains in place. That’s the system which no-changers like you really prefer, one that needs to be kicked into touch along with much else that passes for family justice.

    • Paul, We were talking about a hypothetical scenario, one which I acknowledged was very thinly sketched out. I wasn’t “going along” with anything or adopting a “no-changer” approach as you suggest, just trying to respond to the question posed – which wasn’t about the validity of the order as I recall (frankly I’m losing the will to live with this thread and can’t be bothered to look it up). I think you are creating dispute where there need be none and I think that is a bit mischievous. Can we let it lie please…

  27. Apologies for acting like a dog with a bone but allegations of conduct that give rise to no notice non molestation orders are often phoney and I have the view of a magistrate – someone who issues them – on that. The trouble is, he’s not always able to distinguish at the outset between the genuine and the bogus, though he may suspect, until it’s too late. Late, that is from dad and his child’s standpoint. You read Professor Parkinson’s paper. He spoke of the danger of bifurcating family law into simplistic abuse and non-abuse categories with the obvious risk that inbetween-type abuse – typically represented, say, by mothers who deny contact, never really gets identified and dealt with as an issue in itself. The family courts like father-perpetrated physical violence because of its tangibility and easy-to-deal-with solutions that reinforce the state of denial surrounding the abusive behaviour of contact-denying mothers.

    • Well for what its worth I think that (abusive) relationships are far more complex than male abuser v female victim – and I think that most judges see that too. Less sure about Magistrates but then I’m a cynic when it comes to Magistrates.

  28. Thank you for taking the time to respond to all my questions.

  29. I expect judges are just as familiar with phoney non-molestation applications as magistrates are. With regard to how they dispense the law and sort out contact/residence problems, I can’t see how magistrates are any worse than judges seeing they are probably better grounded as to how the real world works.

  30. He or she doesn’t need to bother with presumption. It’s more a matter of assessing two individuals, listening to them, looking them in the eye and hearing what they have to say for themselves, rather than have a barrister preaching though a megaphone on their behalf, distorting the facts and evidence to suit and drowning out the unrepresented voice. It’s in the natural order of things that children need to be raised by both a mother and a father and that’s the long and short of it. 75, 80, 90 per cent of cases which come to court can be sorted out in ten minutes of inquisition and a tough-minded attitude to resolving problems, even if its not done in a courtroom. You can pin up on a noticeboard what will happen to couples if they choose to enter the courtroom to litigate, so they know exactly what the likely outcome will be before they bother to step in. If contact orders are persistently disobeyed the child changes home if the other parent wants it and can provide, no matter the initial discomfort. Johnny will do alright anyway with ‘dad’. It comes down to assessing individuals and situations and making fast decisions, not messing around for months on end, wasting resources to report banal tales of everyday normality back to a judge who never reads them anyway beyond the last page. I’ll happpily produce a standard pro-forma S.7 report for the family justice system if you like leaving you only to fill out the names and permutate a few scenarios to keep you all happy that’s it’s a ‘unique’ ‘child-centered’ solution.

    • D’you know what Paul? I don’t actually need to listen to you bashing the legal profession as if we don’t give a shit about real people. I’m really not in the mood today. And its just rubbish to paint the legal profession in this way, apart from the odd bad apple (which applies in any walk of life, including parents). No more please – I’m too weary.
      As for the proposition that we don’t need the presumption, I thought that the whole point was that we absolutely had to have it because the system is broke without it?

  31. Hi Lucy. Unfortunately i don’t know of any other barristers who blog therefore you are going to get a lot of the rubbish thrown at you but I don’t think its personal.

    I think of my ex’s barrister as an asassin. He is there to shoot me down where ever possible. It got to the stage on Monday that every suggestion to move things forward was being dismissed. The children’s solicitor was becoming very frustrated with him (BTW, the guardian forgot to turn up).[edited] You can understand my frustration.

    Anyway try this to cheer you up!

  32. I’m sorry familoo, but everything that Paul has said here is correct, and the legal profession better start listening, because it is not only fathers and grandparents and extended family any more who are fed up. Ironically, it is also the police, and some are now calling for the imprisonment of lawyers and judges who pervert the course of justice by condoning (if not outright inciting) perjury.

    You say you are weary? Please think about the weariness of the 100s of thousands of families that the legal profession has broken over the last half century.

    • Indeed However, SOME do call for the imprisonment of lawyers who they say are perverting the course of justice. I have had such calls made about me for simply disagreeing with a bully. It’s not very pleasant and it’s not justified. We are the wrong target.

      I’m not comparing my frustration or weariness with the anguish of parents who are excluded from their child’s lives. I’m simply pointing out that lawyers have feelings too and deserve the same basic courtesy that you would afford to anyone else – we are pretty thick skinned and fully expect to be criticised as a result of the work we do. But that does not make any and all criticism justifiable or acceptable just by virtue of our profession.

  33. I think if you have the strength to isolate yourself against government polls that state that 95% of the population is in favor of shared parenting, and I think if you have the nerve to imply discriminatorily that fathers are more unsafe than mothers, then yes, you’d have to be fairly thick in the skin.

    And that’s actually what makes the law society the right target. Because there aren’t too many others that are bent on justifying institutional child abuse in quite the same way.

    Take away the lawyers, introduce shared parenting, make allegations a matter for the criminal court, and the majority of moms dead-set on divorce would no longer be set up and played like the pawns that they are.

    • Well if I DID disagree with the notion of shared parenting, and if I DID think (or imply) that fathers are more unsafe than mothers…But that isn’t in fact the case.
      By the way The Law Society is solicitors not barristers.
      Incidentally, you seem to be implying (discriminatorily?) that mums are more mendacious than dads. Am I misunderstanding you?

  34. A little. The way I have come to feel about these things is that mums are destroyed emotionally almost as much as dads are, but in a very different way, by virtue of the fact that they are set up to believe that they are entitled to control and dictate and bully, and that if they play the game and make use of the cards in the right order, they can get on with their life without the nuisance of a pain-in-the-neck ex. Only there couldn’t be a greater deception than this, and when they learn that the hard way, the only recourse is more madness, cruelty and allegations – which in turn pumps up the already very inflated statistics disgracefully used and abused by so-called women’s and single-parent charities. And a downward spiral from thereon.

    None of this is helping anyone, let along the kids.

    • Well I agree with your last sentence. I have to say that after ten years in the job representing all sorts of mums, dads and children, I reckon that mums and dads are pretty much level pegging in the “feck up your kids” stakes, albeit that they may go about it in different ways. And I think that the willingness to blame parents of one gender over parents of the other is part of that destructive process. Parents are to blame. Not evil mums, or evil dads. Parents. And the shit life throws at them.
      Excuse my french. I’m at home in my civvies, my manners get sloppy when I’m not besuited.

  35. Familoo, if you had a family justice system that mechanically rewarded dads for behaving like nincompoops and playground bullies, you would have dads behaving mechanically like nincompoops and playground bullies, and you would have moms all over your blog complaining about them.

    I’m afraid there is no getting away from the fact that this is gendered.

    The programmatic response that gender doesn’t enter into it and parents are solely to blame has been repeated verbatim by the lawyer community over the last 2 decades. It no longer washes.

    • My point is not that gender doesn’t enter into it – gender is highly significant. My point is that neither gender can claim the moral high ground (as a class).

  36. Yeah, well, it would be absurd to generalize, but in a lot of cases it might be reasonably safe (if we are honest) to say that it is the underdog who has the moral high ground.

    If tomorrow we swung to the other extreme and had a default presumption that dads had residency status, controlled child benefit, and dictated contact, and mums had to pay maintenance and endure relentless discrimination and ill treatment from the CSA, employers, lawyers, judges, so-called rights organizations, the media, schools, health officials, and so on, there’d be no question about it.

    Under such a regime, in my books anyway, mums (if only in some abstract sense) would occupy the moral high ground.

  37. No, I was under no illusion that you would. You’d have to be a man and have had certain experiences. Simply biologically speaking, I don’t think that is going to happen.

  38. Now you mention it, the presumption should have been issued in the form of statutory guidance right back in 1990 when the Children Act was first rolled out. And the last twenty two years should have been devoted to the creation of a body of law which enshrined the principle that both parents matter – that they matter terribly to the healthy development of a normal child.

    All this brouhaha over a phrase comes from the froth and angst whipped by no-changers like yourself and worse the DV/single parent lobby, those who have presided for too long over a cosy, self-serving presumption that the best interests of children are aligned to the interests of their mothers, no matter how delinquent those mothers themselves may be and who thus prefer the current broken system that in no small way is now contributing to the unhealthy levels of no-dad-around, family dysfunction that now blights society in so many ways.

    Barristers in particular are highly conflicted by definition, pushing a mother’s case when they know full well she has none and when the law itself says the interest of the child must come before all else. And you’re very happy to deploy the panoply of oppressive tools like shoving fathers into contact centres or applying for phoney non-molestation orders without notice. And when this is pointed out to you, you can only waffle or put fathers down, hence your little slights here and there, such as your patronising remarks to me, or, more widely, referring to lip’s with their ‘trademark plastic bags’ as though we’re akin to a bag lady. That’s insulting.

    The proposed phrase does no harm. It is good. However, the root-and-branch dimension to the solution must not be overlooked as without changes to the culture and practices of those autocratic fiefdoms, including the Bar Association, who dominate family law, I can see only slow, marginal improvement for fathers and their children. Family law needs to implode almost, creating room for the involvement of more genuine forces within it, possessed of an honest interest in our children’s lives, so that fathers forced to seek contact don’t do so fearfully, half-demoralised or with such low expectations that they’re sent away happy to see their children ‘every other weekend’ (but only, of course, when they’ve proved themselves ‘safe’.

    • Paul Gilson – It would be nice if you could make your points without being quite so pejorative.
      One correction, insofar as barristers “push a case” they do so within the constraints of their professional conduct rules (which doesn’t prevent arguing the weak but does prevent arguing the unarguable) and by definition they are as constrained to do this on behalf of female as male clients. So your proposition that barristers are the tools of maternal oppression of fathers is based upon a false premise – whatever your other complaints about the way in which the bar works it does not operate only to represent mothers or parties of a particular type or gender.
      You make some complaint that I have been insulting and patronising. I’m not sure what patronising remarks you are referring to so it’s difficult to respond to your criticism on that front. As for a reference to plastic bags, which I vaguely recall making but can’t remember where – it is not an insult but an observation. Litigants in person come from a range of backgrounds, have widely varying educational backgrounds and cope from extremely well to extremely badly with running their own case. For many keeping their paperwork organised is a real struggle. They often come to court with their papers in a massive muddle, very often in bags or makeshift filing system. The plastic bag is often a pretty good flag that a litigant is struggling or that there is likely to be material produced that nobody has seen hitherto.

  39. And why, incidentally, is it that I have to be on constant moderation?

    Is pre-approval your normal practice?

    • Everyone is on moderation. See “rules of the blog” here. It’s not just you. People often attempt to publish material which is potentially defamatory, abusive or more often which is in breach of the rules on privacy concerning children proceedings. Don’t be so chippy. 😉

  40. Your suggestion that I have floated the notion of the bar or legal profession generally, acting as willing agents in the oppression of fathers by mothers is simplistic guff on your part, perjorative in itself. There may well be a grain of truth in what you say but that is your take on things, not mine. Please don’t practice your profession’s dark arts on me, thank you.

    My point is a different one. By taking on a weak or, just as likely, non-existent case for the unholy benefit of an undeserving mother, merely because your profession says you must, then you are engaging yourself in a process that is both abuseive and corrupting at the same time. Abusive because the life of as child is potentially harmed. And corrupting because the law should not function in a way that is ultimately harmful and inimical to the true welfare interests of as child; the guiding principle of paramountcy should equally apply to the bar as much as the court, however hard that principle must be for you to swallow. You have an obvious conflict of interest which you cannot easily resolve under the constraints of the way your profession currently operates. My suggestion to the bar is that you examine ways in which you can resolve this conflict or stay out of family law altogether and allow a more fairly-minded generation of child-oriented family therapists to take over instead.

    I’ve seen it happen time and again. legal professionals who act as a mere mothpiece for the promulgation of false allegations of child abuse or domestic violence, knowing pretty much full well that such allegations are as lijkely as not to be phoney and where the true hidden risk is more so one of alienation where a deserving parent becomes irrationally rejected by his child partly as a result of the court process to which he and his child is subjected. I’m sorry but your profession has to wake up and start showing some leadership and responsibility in resolving this unhappy state of affairs.

    And please no trite arguments about this affecting mothers as equally as fathers. It doesn’t. I know of no ordinary, normal, sensible mother reduced to seeing her child for months on end in a contact centre. You have to be a basket case for that to happen; one of your LiP-like bag ladies perhaps. But I know plenty of fathers who have while they comply with the mantra so beloved of family law professionals that they have to prove themselves ‘safe’.

    There is discrimination and bias against fathers writ all the way through in family law. There are barriers to fatherhood writ all the way through society these days too. The problem your profession has is as much one of woods and trees just as it is a collective unwillingness to deconstruct a system that has brought you so much past gain while you inflict unhappiness on the lives of children and their fathers. You’re Edward’s army and you need to turn back home ‘tae think again’.

    • Paul, I don’t really want to get into a war of words with you about who has been the most pejorative. However, this is what you said: “Barristers in particular are highly conflicted by definition, pushing a mother’s case when they know full well she has none and when the law itself says the interest of the child must come before all else. And you’re very happy to deploy the panoply of oppressive tools like shoving fathers into contact centres or applying for phoney non-molestation orders without notice. And when this is pointed out to you, you can only waffle or put fathers down, hence your little slights here and there, such as your patronising remarks to me, or, more widely, referring to lip’s with their ‘trademark plastic bags’ as though we’re akin to a bag lady. That’s insulting.”

      You may not have meant it to suggest that you had “floated the notion of the bar or legal profession generally, acting as willing agents in the oppression of fathers by mothers” but it does. That’s why its quite important to be careful about language.

      Incidentally, this comment in your most recent response “There is discrimination and bias against fathers writ all the way through in family law. There are barriers to fatherhood writ all the way through society these days too. The problem your profession has is as much one of woods and trees just as it is a collective unwillingness to deconstruct a system that has brought you so much past gain while you inflict unhappiness on the lives of children and their fathers.” appears to me to suggest much the same thing.


  41. You’re taking on phoney briefs where a mother’s case warrants no more than five pounds worth of free legal aid and five minutes of tough love advice from you. And if she doesn’t follow that advice she should have her free legal aid chopped off and be left to sort it out herself rather than have you hang on stretching out her case as best you can for the next unpteen months so that the father and his child enjoy minimal amounts of contact begrudgingly consented to by his ex-partner who is left free to more or less dictate what she wants and compromise a child’s future by doing so.

    That’s the profile of a typical private law case that nearly everyone will recognise.

    • See, again you’re saying things you don’t mean. Your comment appears to be directed at me as an individual, which I can only assume is careless wording. If not its a very serious allegation about my ethical approach and professional conduct. Which is NOT accurate.

      I recognise that publicly funded mothers bring applications which do not have much merit. In those cases where the client cannot pass the means merits test the funding should be pulled and an advocate has an overriding duty to the LSC to notify them – which I do where appropriate.

      I recognise some of your profile, but I also recognise other scenarios, which I won’t bore you by setting out.

      As I’ve already said I’m not singling you out by switching on comment moderation but I do moderate for a reason and on occasion I will decline to publish comments. I’m considering taking that approach with future comments from you, partly because I think you are walking a fine line and partly because its getting a little bit circular…

  42. Nothing of what I say generally is directed at any individual. ‘You’ in the English language can convey different meanings, dependent on context or individual style of the writer.


  43. Why is the number of fathers who replied “disproportionate”?

    Disproportionate to what?

    Do you mean that more fathers responded than mothers? If so, say so, but what conclusion can you draw when there are so few of either gender?

    It’s a long, long time since I did family work and for the avoidance of doubt I am not and never have been a litigant in family work myself. But I always had the feeling that a mother who refused contact as ordered would always, in the end, get away with it, and I fear she still will.

    • Andrew – disproportionate in the sense that in most family cases there is one dad and one mum, so about 50% of the parents are male and about 50% female – you would hope and expect to get a similar breakdown in your responses to a consultation on the topic of shared parenting. In fact there were far more dads who motivated to respond, which skews the results quite significantly when the government appear to have counted each individual response as value 1 and each institutional / organisational response as 1 also.

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