Fair to Fathers?

Martin Narey has made a foray into commentary about the family court’s role in private law proceedings, in the shape of an article in today’s Times: Britain’s Family Courts are Fair to Fathers  (sorry, paywall).

Of course, he means England & Wales, but let’s not split hairs.

Now I’m all for defence of the courts generally in the face of often unwarranted criticism, but I’m also for criticism of the system where it doesn’t go so well. It’s a big thing to say the courts are fair in absolute terms. Of course they get it wrong sometimes. And recent Court of Appeal authority remind us that they get it wrong in private law cases too, and that sometimes they patently aren’t achieving fairness for fathers (for example A (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 1104).

Anyway, the general proposition of this article seems to be that cases like the “X-box mother” (as it has swiftly become in the press) demonstrates that the courts do not discriminate against fathers – stand down men, Mr Narey has reassured you the system works just fine. The case in question is RS v SS [2013] EWHC B33 (Fam) and you can read more about it on the Suesspicious Minds blog if you don’t have a Times subscription. As Martin Narey and Suesspicious Minds both point out, it is not in fact a case about removal as a result of too much x-box or even really for “permissive parenting” (whatever that is), but a case where there were a number of factors and where alienation featured heavily.

It is fair to say that Martin Narey probably didn’t write that headline – just like Her Honour Judge Harris didn’t coin the phrase “the x-box mother” case. Sub editors have a lot to answer for. But the point is the message that is sent to parents reading this article as much as the intention. Headlines matter (which is a shame, because mine are almost universally naff).

Narey says there are four things that parents should take from the judgment:

The first, and most important, is that the Family Court is bound by law to do not what is best for parents, not necessarily even to do what is fair to parents, but to do what is best for children.” So far, so uncontroversial.

The second lesson to be learnt is that in making decisions about what’s best for children the fact that children are loved is not, on its own, enough.” Yaddi yadda. But of course.

The third lesson is that parents need to co-operate with the courts.” Yep. Not that any judgment or publicity is likely to prevent this kind of intractable dispute – parents do not in this sort of case have easy epiphanies, it is sad to say.

“The fourth lesson is not to give up and to have faith that if it can be seen that it is demonstrably in the interests of a child to live with a father, as it appears to be in this case, judges will do the courageous thing.” I agree. Don’t give up.

However, on the way to his fourth proposition Narey says this:

Fathers who turn to the websites of various fathers’ groups…will be troubled….They will be told that the courts grant residency to fathers in only 7 per cent of cases and that fathers are viewed consistently negatively by both the courts and Cafcass, the public body that advises the courts on the best interests of children. There is little or no evidence to support that belief…decisions are likely to reflect the reality that, before separation or divorce, the mother was most involved in parenting.”

Yet as Narey points out “some…see [the case] as an almost unique departure from a family court system that favours the rights of a mother, it is claimed, over those of a father“.

Based on my experience, I think that criticism of the family courts that is based upon the proposition that judges think that a father’s role is unimportant or that fathers cannot parent as well as mothers is flawed. There are of course individual judges or Magistrates who hold such antiquated views, or who slip from time to time into reliance upon gender stereotypes – but they are few and far between.

However, as recent Court of Appeal authorities demonstrate, there are legitimate criticisms to be made of the way case management of protracted private law disputes can fail parents, more often non-resident parents – who of course are more likely than not to be fathers. And if one counts a transfer of residence as a triumph for fathers rights, this is indeed such a triumph. But in this case, as so often with private law cases that get reported, it comes at the tail end of a lengthy and harmful set of court proceedings during which the mother’s alienation behaviour has harmed the children, and during which the relationship between the father and children has been damaged. It is quite possible that the transfer of residence will fail, or at any rate will not run smoothly.

The 7% figure (assuming it to be accurate) is a red herring – and I suspect it is 7% of all s8 applications (of which only a minority will be really about residence). Transfer of residence as a result of alienation is always going to be rare.

For some parents shared or sole residence is the ultimate goal, a prize, a “win”. This case will not assist the religiously pro-shared parenting, 50:50 equality demanding, rota wielding fathers. It does not contain a point of principle or new understanding of the law that family judges are not already applying in similar circumstances. Transfer of residence is an established, if rarely used, option of last resort in cases of persistent resistance to contact.

Because for many excluded parents residence is not the end but the means – the objective is no more than a meaningful relationship with the child – and the need to transfer residence is on one level a mark of failure. It is right that courts should persist with attempts to ensure a relationship with both parents, it is right that recalcitrant parents should know that this will happen. But I don’t know how many fathers in this situation – or how many judges -would feel triumphant to have reached the point of transferring residence. Fairness would be to allow child and father a relationship, before it got to the point of last resort. Sometimes fairness is not achievable.

And now for the cat rescued from apple tree happy news item…After ten years of war peace breaks out (thanks Suesspicious Minds again).

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45 thoughts on “Fair to Fathers?

  1. Did Narey/the Times really say ‘residency’? And the govt thinks ‘Child Arrangements’ will help…

    • Oh god he did, didn’t he? And I didn’t even spot it. Gah. He didn’t say custody though.
      Oh. Alright, he only said it twice.
      Gah again…

  2. Despite seeking assistance from Christina Blacklaws and Marilyn Stowe, both very smart and able family lawyers who would have told them otherwise, the Telegraph still head this as a “custody battle”

    I am not old enough to remember when the term “custody” was as new and unfamiliar as the term Residence (which has only been around for a quarter of a century, after all), but I wonder then whether everyone routinely just called them “Tug of Love cases” and didn’t hold with any of this “new-fangled Custody battle nonsense”

  3. This case has nothing whatever to do with the courts treating fathers fairly, and if anything, it proves the reverse, though I don’t think one can generalise from a single case. The judge simply does what is manifestly best for two boys who have been horrendously abused by their mother and whose medical and educational needs have been neglected. Children have been taken into care for less. The only remarkable thing about the case is the very revealing trail of evidence the mother inadvertently leaves. Residence should have been transferred years ago, and the boys are fortunate that the case was heard by Laura Harris and not by one of the judges who had previously heard it and made yet another futile order for contact. It also seems they had a perceptive guardian. Neary’s rather desperate attempt to use this case to exonerate the courts reveals far more about him, I am afraid.

    • I agree. This case indicates nothing other than confirm the impossibly high barriers fathers face in gaining custody and the fact that the mother has to be a totally washed-up basket case with endless lengths of rope exhausted, before custody is reversed.

      One hopes that with child arrangement orders fathers can go back again and again until they get the substantial awards of time that their position as co-parent both warrants and deserves.

      • You hope fathers will go back again and again? Until they can wear everybody down and eke out their damned 50%?
        Precisely what Child Arrangements Orders are hoping to prevent I thought…

        • when i say prevent i mean discourage.

          • No, because courts will continue as usual, deferring matters – particularly if there’s an allegation – and encouraging orders to be made by consent with the father having to build contact as usual, bit by bit. You know how the system works better than me.

            From 2008 until 2012 I had something like fifteen hearings, starting from zero.
            That’s a sick joke. At one point I had mother’s counsel tell me that in his twenty years of family practice all he ever saw a father get was alternating weekend contact and that was what I was going to get, come what may and here boyo is the order I’ve drafted out for you.

            Those are the attitudes that prevail in private family law and are likely to remain because the law itself has not shifted significantly thanks in part to Martin Narey and the rest of the single parent lobby. His article is no more than an exercise in intellectual dishonesty.

          • Paul, I happen to think that for many families those sorts of “Standard” alternate weekends arrangements work pretty well – and strike a reasonable balance between the competing needs of individuals (including the children) and the demands upon a child’s time and attention. Every case is different and there is no basis for saying that it should be one size fits all – but it is a commonly used formula because it fits well around children’s school and social arrangements, particularly where homes are at some distance. In other cases something different is called for.

            I do think that sometimes a gradual approach is beneficial and necessary – the trick is in identifying and distinguishing between drag and purposeful staging. In and of itself a gradual approach is not bad – if one approaches matters from the perspective of a fixed and determinate goal (I must achieve x amount of contact / proportion of time or shared / sole residence order) it inevitably appears as no more than a series of frustrating failures. But if you are looking at what is right and manageable for the child at each stage it can appear rather different.

  4. Lucy, where has anyone mentioned 50-50? Very disapointed that you have presumed that substantial means 50-50. In this case the father had to go back to court time and again to see that the children’s needs were met. I can’t see what other option he had.

    • Noone’s mentioned 50:50. This is not a 50:50 case and not a case which supports those sorts of arguments is all I was saying. But it will of course be interpreted as such because any “victory” for fathers is seen as a point scored in favour of some rigid concept of “equality”.

  5. Male Northern Lights

    What is really missing from this article although referred to in Nick Langford’s post and your own, Lucy, is the role that delay and impotent district judges in the lower courts play in creating the all too familiar scenario of a child so alienated from one of the parents that little can be done by the H.C. Judge who eventually gets hold of the case. Re A mentioned above is one of those stark examples that periodically gets coverage but represents merely the tip of the iceberg.
    I have known this to happen to mothers as well so I’d be reluctant to define it as a problem arising from any anti father bias, per se.
    Deal with delay, false allegations and judicial impotence (or “poor case management,” to be polite) and the overwhelming majority of these cases would never reach the stage of requiring such drastic action which may well backfire in this case anyway, given the age of the children now.

    • Male NL – I agree it is a problem for mothers also, I have had female clients experience precisely the same kind of judicial flailing about achieving nothing and failing to bite the bullet that you describe. I think that is happening less often but it is still too often. I think that a fresh pair of eyes is often very helpful in these cases – whether that is a fresh lawyer, a fresh judge or a fresh cafcass officer / guardian.

  6. I wonder why it is so hard to recognise that when it comes to understanding the complex and painful emotional dynamics that get enacted between parents who have separated, often using the children as weapons of war, that there are professionals out there who have the qualifications, skills and experience to work with these families in a way that involves understanding the reasons for each parent’s feelings, helping parents recognise how these feelings get acted out (even encouraged) within a Court system that easily becomes adversarial, and seeking real long term solutions based on a proper understanding of the needs of the whole family (separated or not). There is no need to be ‘for’ or ‘against’ one parent if your aim is to understand the whole family and where each is coming from based on their own history, experiences, traumas etc.

    As a Clinical Psychologist who has also worked as an expert witness in Public and Private Family Law for many years, I am constantly amazed by the time and money wasted and the vast damage caused to children by endless Court proceedings where none of the involved professionals has a real handle on why the parents are behaving as they are or crucially what can be done to stop it in the long term.

    Why not have the ‘fresh pair of eyes’ you suggest be someone who works day in and day out with complex family dynamics and also has a raft of strategies to deal with the ‘damage’ therapeutically, rather than assume that the existing professionals within the Court system are going to have all the answers? Surely by the time you have added up the cost of Court time, lawyers fees and the impact on the children of living in a state of anxiety and uncertainty whilst their parents slog it out in the Court arena, it would have been cheaper to get a decent expert’s report and a bit of properly formulated therapy in the first place.

    • Lisa,
      I agree with much of what you say but sadly the simple answer to your question “why not have a psychologist as a fresh pair of eyes” (paraphrased) – is that nobody has the means to pay. It was always a problem for the working but not wealthy who did not qualify for legal aid. Now there is no legal aid it is nigh on impossible for most families to pay, and therefore usually an entirely hypothetical source of assistance to a judge or to cafcass. I wish it weren’t so but that is how it is. Even if such an instruction is “necessary”.
      Lucy

      • Familoo, what Lisa is referring to is a focus on rebuilding lives. That has to be confronted and effected somehow. The lack of joined up thinking here is frightening.

        I have an expert report which recommended continuity of professional involvement beyond the finding of fact (in a false allegations/emerging alienation case). This was simply ignored by the court. Mother remained in charge, her position bolstered by copious amounts of free legal aid, and the case inexorably dragged on. We (child and I) started off again with four hours a week of unsupervised contact, less than what was occurring before. The only basis for that was resistance from the mother and the kind of vacuous thinking shown in your comments above on time arrangements where clearly neither you nor the courts have read up on the subject.

        • Paul,
          It’s not vacuous – the truth is not every case is an alienation case, and even those that involve alienation sometimes have at their core a kernel of genuine concern, albeit way distorted and exaggerated to monstrous proportions. They are difficult to distinguish from cases where there is a genuine issue. I agree that implacable hostility to contact without good reason needs to be identified early and the nettle grasped.

  7. Get real you commentators ! What actually happened was [edited]
    I wish a belated happy New Year to one and all …..!

    • Ian (forced adoption),
      I’ve edited your post for all the usual reasons, and also because it contained a striking amount of minute detail that goes above and beyond both the Bailli version of the judgment AND the recent Booker article, to the point of the mother’s physical appearance and number of officers involved in the enforcement. From which I surmise that you have some direct involvement in the case (advising the mother?) or a hotline to Christopher Booker. No doubt you will let me know if I am mistaken. Either way I think it is unwise and inappropriate for me to publish the information you would have me publish. It really is very tiresome Ian that you keep attempting to publish stuff you KNOW I won’t publish.

      • Actually, some of the information you refer to that I thought was unique to you was in the booker article. So perhaps you are just regurgitating that?

  8. Dear Lucy

    I don’t know if you have read Christopher Booker’s second report on the ‘X-box’ case. The mother has already accused Laura Harris of racial bias, which is serious enough, but she is now appealing on what appear to be two rather worrying grounds: namely that two witnesses who Laura Harris treats as eyewitnesses were in fact nothing of the sort.

    The teacher who claims to have witnessed the mother behaving badly at a parents’ evening was not in fact present at all, and a witness who gave evidence about one child’s school attendance has never taught him. Far from being direct their evidence was based entirely on hearsay.

    Booker also makes the point that Laura Harris made an order requiring the children to be taken to their paternal grandparents’ house without considering how the mother was supposed to do that when 1) one of her sons is taller than her and both sons were refusing to go and 2) the house in question is 50 miles away.

    To make matters worse, the boys have run away repeatedly and there have been five violent incidents involving the father where the police have been called, once by concerned neighbours. The situation has deteriorated so badly that the boys are not now living with their father but with his parents.

    I don’t think the Appeal Court is going to be too impressed by Laura Harris’s judgement.

    • Yes, I’ve read it. I don’t know how accurate it is. It is rather what I predicted might happen. It is a sad feature of alienation that the transfer of residence can be traumatic or can fail. For those struggling to follow this thread the updated judgment is here and the Booker article is here.

      • AND THE LATEST NEWS FROM THE MOTHER IS HERE !!!
        [No its not, I've edited it. I'm not going to assume that a third party has given consent for you to disclose the contents of a private email]

  9. Lucy,
    I never ever publish anything obtained third hand or that could identify parents or children.Most of Christophers Booker’s cases come from me in first instance via parents who have contacted my site. I repeat what the parent tells me that is not contradicted by the local authority or by the other parent.backed up by evidence from documents/photographs supplied by him/her and the judgement when published as in this case.or what is already in the National press.
    In this case astonishingly I am on the same side as the social workers but against that of the Guardian and the judge !
    Lastly I would emphasise that our family court judges seem to have forgotten the word “compromise”.They are far too ready to uproot children from home and from school to transfer residence from one parent’s to the other or from parent to “state care” all for “risk” or other trivial reasons.
    In this case where kids were refusing to see their father(and I believe that both parents should have contact in nearly every case) the judge should have given them a choice .”Either agree to see dad regularly as I prescribe,or you will go and live with him for good !” I am sure the boys would have chosen regular contact ;End of story.

    • Thank you Ian, very illuminating. But of course you and I both know that I have had to edit out the names of children and parents from your comments on a number of occasions, so your first sentence is not strictly accurate.
      It doesn’t seem from the judgment as if there was much room for compromise in this particular case, but who knows.

  10. If that father was left exposed, without help, then there is every chance things will go wrong. After all, his children have been thoroughly messed with.

    Situations like this call for the involvement of a Dr W or Dr Z who have many years clinical experience dealing with alienation.

    It is about time too that courts paid a little more heed to the condition of alienation and treat the risk of it rather more seriously. That case dragged on for years [edited - legal reasons]. The only way of tackling alienation is getting in early and giving the child lots of time with his non-abusive father. With assistance provided if he needs it.

    • Dr W has retired. Not sure about Dr Z.

      • I expect Dr W got fed up with it, what with being described as an “evangelist for alienation” by counsel acting for [edited] social services, when his clinical work showed that he was anything but. I would describe him as very pro-parent, mother and father, with a good understanding of child psychology and child development. When it came to sorting out true from false allegations of child sex abuse, he made police and social services look like rank amateurs, if not evangelists for father evil.

    • And no funding for either.

      • The funding can come from social services and NHS budgets. They cause half the problems and ought to be obliged to clear them up.

        • yeah, good luck with that….

          • No need for the facetious retort. Both doctors I mentioned retained their NHS links and both work or worked as consultants for NHS England. So I don’t see what the problem is in principle. A court could force a referral via the child’s surgery which in some cases would be sweet justice seeing that these GP quacks seem only too delighted in making their own false referrals for child abuse to social services.

            With regard to Ian Josephs, he doesn’t know what jungle he’s entering when he starts interfering in a private law dispute. The characteristics of such cases are usually entirely different to public law cases he normally deals with.

          • Paul, I’m sorry but the court has no power to do that, or to compel the NHS to provide services in furtherance of its objectives. It can permit or recommend disclosure of a report or judgment arising from the proceedings to a GP or other medic / professional for the purposes of therapy or assessment but it cannot order those services to be provided. Every health trust has its own thresholds for service provision.

            Even a local authority where it holds PR would have pretty limited ability to obtain services – the same problem with the NHS exists, although the LA might be able to buy in private services at its own expense, subject to its own statutory duties, budgets and internal approval. In practice it is highly unusual for this to happen. And that would only be applicable in cases where there was a care order.

            So in short there is a very big problem with accessing this sort of expertise for families without means, or where there is no legal aid.

          • I have been following this with interest and whilst I completely agree Lucy, that the current system for accessing mental health/therapy services via the NHS faces the constant problem of families not meeting the (usually rigid) threshold criteria, I don’t agree that, in the future, it will necessarily be the only way to access services.

            As far as I know from colleagues in NHS positions (adult and child), the NHS (in England certainly) is becoming more and more of a specialised service designed to offer ‘treatment’ only in the most acute or severe areas of need with other mental health/therapy services being commissioned to be provided by other agencies, often third sector providers. I am no expert on commissioning but I can see a huge gap in services for families in Private Law who are ‘at risk’ of becoming chronically embroiled in conflict and where ordinary avenues of help might not be specialised enough to work. I am actively looking at this gap and how it might be met in an affordable way and it may be that, in future, different groups can begin to work together to create partnerships, social enterprises etc which might even, with the right lobbying, publicity and political support (I can dream!) turn into the kinds of services that could be commissioned by the new ‘joined up’ health and social care commissioners.

            I am also aware that in certain parts of the country (Sussex) there has been an expert witness pilot where there is a Multi-agency team including specialist social workers, Clinical Psychology (child and Adult) Psychiatry (child and adult) and a range of multi-disciplinary social services and health staff who offer expert assessments at Pre-proceedings and in Proceedings and the team can also offer interventions. I am not involved in this personally but have had an interest (partly as I used to live and work in that area) and I believe the team is joint funded by Health and Social Services. So it can happen, and these kinds of teams were exactly what was suggested by the Bearing Good Witness Report in 2006 (ish) in the days when they still thought experts could be useful but should be better organised and paid for (at least in part) by centralised funds (NHS, Social Services). Youth Offending services were re-organised in about 2000 into multi-agency services where each agency (including Police, Education, Probation, Health etc) had to stump up a body (secondment) or a pot of money to employ a body…Again, why not have multi-agency expert witness ‘teams’ where Social Services, Health, CAFCASS (whoever their parent agency ends up being) and MoJ all have to fund a body or pot of money, and create teams who can offer assessment and intervention in complex public and private family law cases. Whether the views of the team are accepted as ‘independent’ by parents’ lawyers is an issue but I can’t see how that would be worse than the current situation where parents’ Solicitors have a snowball in hell’s chance of getting an ‘independent’ expert assessment or any kind of timescale where a real therapeutic intervention might be given a chance.

          • Thanks for your comment Lisa, really interesting. I’ve been thinking about how the structures might change to deal with this lacuna – I wondered if it would be within CAFCASS’ statutory functions to buy in its own psychological or therapeutic services, but I confess I have not checked this against their actual powers / function and I very much doubt they would see it as their role OR that their budget would permit it, OR that their budget would be expanded to enable it. I’d be interested to know if the Sussex pilot you refer to is private law or public law – it sounds a lot like FDAC, and in those cases LAs are prepared to fund such schemes partly because it is hoped they may lead to a longer term saving. CAFCASS and HMCTS and LAA are now all under direct ministerial control so it should be possible to make it join up – but of course it is the MoJ who has cut Legal Aid and created the problem in the first place, so it is unclear why they should have a moment of clarity and come up with any better system!! Hope you come up with a workable brainwave cos I’m v despondent about it all.

  11. Paul :- Only too easy to say I don’t understand without pointing out why.
    I believe contact of some sort should always be allowed to both parents no matter what their faults (short of criminal convictions for crimes against children maybe)
    I also believe that judges are too ready to uproot children and take them from residence with one parent and transfer them to another ignoring children’s wishes when a compromise solution of enforced contact could solve the problem without that;
    LUCY:- I am glad you admit that the court “has no power” to compel NHS to provide services because you are in effect admitting the court’s powers are actually limited.In that case what legal power does a court have to prevent parents from communicating with their children for years by email ,phone or in any other way? To molest =to intentionally annoy so can hardly apply legally in such cases where children are only too anxious to hear from their parents.

    • Well Ian, In the first case they have no statutory power or inherent jurisdiction. And in the second they do. So your suggestion doesn’t follow at all.

  12. I see it is Booker Bashing Time again as the Dread Christopher Booker reported on a private case.

    Also Martin Nairey, hired as a campaigner by the Forced Adoption lobby and then becoming the Forced Adoption Czar is now claiming fathers are discriminated against.

    He must know that because of the theories of P.A.S. and Reversal of Residence because of Implacable Hostility and Refusal to Cooperate mothers are very heavily disciminated against. Particularly by female judges.

    Unhappily these cases originate in a background of families and ex’s feudin’ like hillbillies or Sicilian mafiosi with the kids becoming involved. Posters would do well to heed the advice of Lisa Wolfe.

    There are funds if the ex’s are sent to mediation.

    But it normally results in a Reversal of Residence attempt using the above theories, often egged on by outside parties.

    Lastly Martin Nairey knows quite well the victim parent cannot “cooperate” with the court any more than women or “heretics” could cooperate with the witch trials or the Holy Inquisition. Such is the frequent bias of female judges against mothers.

    • Winston, I think Mr Booker is probably capable of defending himself. Martin Narey’s article is one in which he argues that fathers are NOT discriminated against (whether or not you agree with that) – have you actually read it?
      What is your evidence for a particular bias on the part of female judges? Or are you just assuming that all women think alike?

  13. Lucy:- With respect the courts do NOT have statutory power to forbid children or parents to send emails,to write on facebook, or to phone each other ;Ithink you know that quite well.
    As for “inherent jurisdiction” ,a meaningless phrase when applied to legal authority for the actions taken by a court….
    No they have NO STATUTORY POWER to act in such draconian fashion, as confirmed by the judge in Vicky’s recent criminal case !On the contrary the courts infringe the human rights of children and parents at every turn twisting ,bending,and even breaking the human rights laws to do so.At the same time they go through the same performance but in the opposite direction for suspected terrorists and convicted foreign criminals, to stay in the uk to care for their kittens and/or dubious girlfriends !

    • Ian,
      Leaving aside the question of enforcement the powers under s8 CA and FLA 1996 Pt IV are capable of covering the sending of emails or phonecalls as you no doubt know. Of course they must be used appropriately and in line with the other statutory requirements. But there is a power. A judge exercising the inherent jurisdiction would have a broad power to injunct in specific terms if warranted on the facts of a particular case. Of course in terms of prohibitions on communication between parent and child article 8 considerations apply but that doesn’t mean there is no jurisdiction, just that it may not be appropriate to exercise the discretion, again depending on the circumstances.
      I don’t know what you are referring to when you talk about Vickys recent criminal case so I can’t comment.
      I’m not arguing with you about what powers the courts should have – we’re talking about what powers they do in fact have.

  14. Ian, in care proceedings – your sphere of interest – allegations of say sexual abuse, often run in association with more obvious concerns of child care including other forms of abuse or neglect. This runs in stark contrast to typical private law cases where allegations commonly arise in quite different circumstances. The father is typically, well, just normal. Alienation – the irrational rejection by a child of one of its loving parents – is a common feature of high conflict private law cases.

    Your comment above – that both parents should have contact – could be regarded as rather naive in that you are stating the obvious. You touch on what most private law cases are all about; the unjustified denial of contact. You seem to lose sight of that fact. In the case you’ve decided to immerse yourself in, the facts fully supported the transfer of residence. You will also find if you dig deeper that fathers generally-speaking, are more supportive of NRP contact than the other way round. Moreover, children, particularly boys, often do better at school and with their social development when they have their father as resident parent. The courts, regrettably, cling stubbornly to the view that children of separated parents are best brought up by mothers which is why endless lengths of rope are dished out to undeserving delinquents like the mother in this latest published case.

    With regard to access of services, a “child in need” – as mine was designated – has legal, mandatory recourse to services. The question is, which services? In this particular case, social services took the view that the mother required indoctrination by a domestic violence refuge and that criminal justice services could be forcibly applied to me. I naturally saw it rather differently. When the facts turned on the good Dr W’s intervention, we were basically left high and dry despite the fact that, in theory at least, my child was still a Child in Need. All they did was abandon the core assessment as well as their ill-conceived, half-baked child protection plan. The shoulder-shruggers in social services, police and doctors too, were all too embarrassed presumably to emerge from their holes to say “we got that one wrong, what can we do to help?” All they did was bleat Baby P to defend themselves. That’s a good example to demonstrate the lack of joined-up thinking and, probably, absence of basic professionalism.

  15. Paul,I receive a minimum of 10 – 12 calls per day ,every day and nearly half are completely new calls .I have no special sphere of interest ,just interest in seeing that children are not disrupted and seized from or by parent or State without a beneficial cause.
    I agree that it is difficult to judge who is in the right between parents so I do not try to do so,and I have no bias in favour of father or mother .I try to advise on the basis of undisputed facts as confirmed in the judgement;
    In this case as in others I can only repeat that INDIRECT CONTACT (emails,phones,etc )should always be permitted to both parents without exception.Also a change of residence should only take place if there is proof of physical or sexual harm to a child .Lastly the children should be allowed to express their wishes in open court.
    In the case we are debating there was no evidence of real harm,the boys both wanted to stay in the same home and the same school,and there was no reason to forbid the mother any indirect contact with her sons after they were snatched on xmas day !.
    I repeat that if the boys had been given the choice between regular contact with their father or permanent residence with him they would almost certainly have chosen contact and all would have ended happily.Nothing naive about that (speaking as a hard headed businessman!)Many family court judges make orders of “no contact at all diect or indirect” and those judges should be locked up for needless cruelty to children whose phones and laptops are confiscated to enforce the order! Intead a father was jailed for a month for waving at his children as they passed by on their way to school and a mother was sentenced to 3 years prison for speaking to her daughter in a petrol station.
    When possible I read the judgement or the social service position statement and start from the premise that if everything in those documents is true does that justify the action taken by the courts?The answer alas is nearly always no !

  16. […] judgments by female judges in private law cases, such as RS v SS, which I wrote about here and here. The judge’s findings in relation to the mother’s allegations are pretty stark; the […]

  17. […] judgments by female judges in private law cases, such as RS v SS, which I wrote about here and here. The judge’s findings in relation to the mother’s allegations are pretty stark; the […]

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