June 5, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Have you ever tried to start a campfire, or one in a fireplace or wood-burning stove and failed for one reason or other? Maybe the wood was a bit wet or your tinder insufficient to start the larger pieces. If that’s ever happened to you, you may recall the sense of disappointment, the let-down you felt as you watched the small flame flicker up, try its best to light the larger pieces, prove unequal to the task, retreat and finally die out. The smoldering tinder sent up one last pitiful wisp of smoke and you knew you had to start over again.
Well, that tiny puff of smoke you see to the east is the dying remains of the British coalition government’s pretense that it might do something to assist fathers in family courts. From the disgraceful, biased Norgrove Report that gave credence to social science on fathers and children post-divorce that was known at the time to be slip-shod and discredited, to the more recent efforts to produce a bill that would amend existing law, there’s been little promise that anything of substance would result. Indeed, those reporting on the proceedings often blatantly misrepresented both the history of the amendment’s efforts and what the bill actually said. I wrote about that here (National Parents Organization, 9/21/12).
But we’re now closing in on the final bill and I can conclusively say that fathers and children get absolutely nothing from it. Of shared parenting, the bill says not one single, solitary word. It’s official; the notion that children should have any relationship at all with their fathers post-divorce is a dead letter. It’s off the table.
We know that because the House of Commons Committee working on the Children and Families Bill has produced a Stage Report letting anyone who cares know what’s been going on with the bill and why it appears as it presently does.
In my previous post about the bill, linked to above, I noted that all it contains that might benefit dads is the rather wistful suggestion that courts make orders that “reflect the benefit to the child of maintaining the ongoing involvement of both parents in a child’s life...” At that time I asked what the phrase “ongoing involvement” meant, and stated the obvious that it can mean anything or nothing.
What does a father’s “ongoing involvement” in his child’s life mean? That’s not defined, so it can mean anything any individual judge wishes it to mean. Perhaps a Christmas card once a year would suffice. What about monthly “visits” via Skype with his child whose mother has been allowed to move with him/her to Australia? I went on to note that, by using such an amorphous term, the bill was essentially leaving it up to the discretion of judges who daily prove themselves to be biased against fathers.
Well, sure enough, I was right. The latest report by the Committee makes it clear not only that the term “ongoing involvement” can mean as little as possible - like a Christmas card once a year - but actually goes further. The report is at pains to emphasize that that’s a good thing. Why? Because they don’t want to “fetter the discretion” of judges.
In responding the Minister noted that the amendment was designed to make explicit the fact that “involvement” does not mean a particular division of a child’s time, and stated that:
We have used the word “involvement” in clause 11 as the simplest, most neutral means of expressing the full spectrum of ways in which a child can have a relationship with their parents, and our debate has demonstrated how difficult it is to try to define precisely what involvement means. If we try to do that, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon said, we are in danger of fettering discretion. Section 8 orders... The courts will use their discretion in each case to make decisions about the type and level of involvement following consideration of all the evidence.
So, just as I said, there is to be no suggestion of shared parenting. There will be not a hint that children need their fathers or that courts should make the slightest effort toward ensuring that a healthy father-child relationship continues post-divorce. No, anything like that would “fetter the discretion” of the judge, and, well, we can’t have that.
After all, these are the same judges who order primary or sole maternal custody in 90% of cases. They’re the same ones who daily ignore the pleas of fathers to be permitted even the minimal access the judge granted them but that is nevertheless denied by the mother in her unfettered discretion. And let’s not forget that these are the same judges to whom the Judicial College offers no training whatsoever in the social science of child well-being following divorce. Every day these people decide what is supposedly in the child’s best interests without knowing the first thing about what promotes that.
And finally, these are the same judges whose practices have resulted in one-third of British youth having no contact at all with their fathers by their teenage years. Those of course are the same British youth who went rampaging through the suburbs of London less than two years ago, setting fires and destroying businesses. The vast majority were fatherless and they behaved in precisely the way kids denied a relationship with their fathers behave — no limits, no boundaries and a seemingly bottomless reservoir of anger.
So clearly, we would not want to “fetter the discretion” of judges like those in any way. They’re doing such a fine job of destroying the British family, driving decent fathers to suicide and ruining the lives of generations of children, why would lawmakers want to tell them what to do? Why change a system that works so flawlessly?
The coalition government’s behavior regarding family law issues has been shameful, the utter abandonment of responsibility in the face of one of the most important social issues the country faces. The fire is out.
Which brings us to a speech given by Labour MP Jon Cruddas on May 13th, in which he makes some pretty good noises about what his party should do if only the electorate will forget its distaste for Tony Blair, et al. Here’s the full text of the speech.
Go to Section Two, about two-thirds of the way through the speech. Cruddas says that all fathers shouldn’t be punished because a few commit domestic violence. He accurately says that more and more fathers want to be involved with their kids. He correctly points out that fatherhood is more than bringing home a paycheck and that children need real relationships with both their parents. He rightly says that children do better with both parents in their lives, even if there’s been a divorce.
All true, all accurate. More to the point, Cruddas is a member of parliament and wants to be reelected. He’s staking part of his bid on the idea that the coalition government has dropped the ball on family court reform and asking voters to let Labour have a try at doing a better job.
Of course, he’s one MP and after all, we’re talking about the Labour Party. Labour has been in hock to radical feminism for years and that’s not about to change. Can you see the party that nurtures in its bosom Harriet Harman, who once concluded in writing that fathers are unnecessary to families and children, actually changing any laws to make fatherhood a rational choice for British men? Nope, I don’t either.
Don’t expect Labour to rekindle the flame.
What we now know to a certainty is that none of the three major British political parties is likely to lift a finger for fathers and children. But all will as soon as dads stop asking for favors and start demanding justice. That’ll happen when British dads and the countless women who care about them and social justice begin to target wrong-thinking, wrong-voting MPs at the polls. It won’t take much to turn the tide. Throw an electoral scare into a few of those people and maybe even defeat one or two and all of a sudden we’ll begin to see the legitimate rights of fathers and children taken seriously and laws begin to change. Until that type of political heat is brought to bear, we won’t.
Thanks to Yuri for the heads-up.
The National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
The National Parents Organization is a non-profit organization that is educating the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents and extended families. If you would like to get involved in our organization, you can do so several ways. First, we would love to have you as an official member of the National Parents Organization team. Second, the National Parents Organization is an organization that believes in the importance of using social media as a means to spread the word about shared parenting and other topics, and you can visit us on our Facebook Page to learn more about our efforts. Last, we hope you will share this article with other families using the many social networking sites so that we can bring about greater awareness of shared parenting. Thank you for your support.