This has been brewing for some time. I need to get it off my chest because it is impeding the drawing of a breath of fresh air, like a particularly difficult phlegm bomb (sorry, that is disgusting but it does rather convey the unhealthy and rather unpleasant irritant to my wellbeing that this has become).
The Family Court is variously criticised for –
- relying on instinct / preconceptions / stereotyped gender based assumptions* about childrens needs (court is biased in favour of mothers / against fathers)
- not relying on instinct / preconceptions / stereotyped gender based assumptions about childrens’ needs (court is so insistent on promotion of contact it will not listen to mothers who allege dv)
- failing to have regard to evidence (failing to accept that a piece of evidence proves the thing a person thinks or says it proves)
- having regard to evidence (specifically, severing of the natural primal unique essential (etc) biological maternal bond is more detrimental than any other harm so the other stuff doesn’t matter, or generally having regard to any evidence that tends to undermine MY evidence, or “I know I can’t prove it but I still SAY it’s true”)
- failing to apply a sufficiently high standard of proof (i.e. being prepared to make findings on the “more likely than not” basis instead of treating every allegation as untrue unless it can be proved to the criminal standard of “satisfied so I am sure”)
- failing to apply a sufficiently low standard of proof (if a mother alleges it it is practically criminal to suggest it is not so)
- failing to act sufficiently swiftly / robustly in the face of allegations of abuse (he is violent / abusive, now why won’t you let me stop contact?)
- failing to act sufficiently swiftly / robustly / creatively in the face of false allegations (I am not violent / abusive, she if fabricating it, why won’t you do something to stop her alienating my child?)
- failing to use the tools it has
- using the enforcement tools it has
- being secretive
- being too open
- too readily / too often removing children from parents
- not removing children from parents often / promptly enough
It really can’t do wrong for trying to do right. Now I’m no apologist for the Family Court and I don’t think the Family Court is right ALL the time (and nor as it happens does the Court of Appeal)….(And by gum there are LOTS of things that are VERY wrong with the “child protection” and “family justice” systems)… But nor do I think the Family Court is wrong ALL the time.
On the internet, where everyone’s truth is THE TRUTH, any decision which is not consistent with *my truth* means the judge, lawyers, social workers (etc) are paedophiles, child snatchers, corrupt, liars… I *know this* because there is a picture of the judge circulating on facebook with the word “paedophile-enabler” written above his forehead in red. Yes people, the internet is a truly scary place.
Sometimes it feels just a little bit like the Family Court is stuck in the middle of some dysfunctional entrenched conflict that is focused on adult agendas rather than childrens’ needs. Oh, wait….
Sometimes I think that everybody needs to blame somebody and the one person they can all agree on is the judge.
In my dark days it feels like the public discourse boils down to a very long-winded and disguised mantra of “You don’t agree with me. Therefore you must be wrong”. Everybody is chanting, shouting, hissing – but nobody is communicating.
But I ask this : where your truth or your view of another person is fundamentally inconsistent with the person on the other side of the divide (whether that is your ex or a social worker) – how else should we resolve those disputes other than through a court, applying the law and relying on evidence?? What BETTER system is there? What better system could there be?
Trial by instinct? Presumption that children should live with their mothers always? ALWAYS?
Trial by who shouts loudest, by who uses the most colourful or inflammatory language, by who is most dogged and persistent in their denigration of the other, trial by “the things a four year old says must be true” – or trial by who is better at running Facebook campaigns? Should we give the child a line-up of adults she might like to live with and ask them to pick them out?
Easy to criticise. But how would YOU improve it?
Answers on a postcard (please send it to Michael Gove not me, I can’t bear to read the replies).
* yes, I know I have generalised here as between mums and dads for the sake of brevity – these are the general patterns I see, but of course individual cases have the female and male parties transposed, and indeed not every case involves a male : female pairing.