June 19, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
As usual, Louis de Bernieres, the British author of the acclaimed Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, gets it all right on the value of fathers to children and the insidious role courts play in the breakdown of families. If anyone finally makes legislators and a know-nothing news media take notice of the disasters visited on society by governmental policies on the family, it may well be de Bernieres. Read him here (Telegraph, 6/16/13).
A matter of a few days after a new survey by Netmums came out showing the British people to be sick and tired of the denigration of fathers in popular culture, de Bernieres characteristically nails it.
He said: “We’ve had enough of this image of fathers, in fact men in general, being perpetrated at all levels, as at best feckless and at worst violently abusive. There has been a relentless attack on the worth of men over the years which has been very damaging to their self-esteem.”
As to Father’s Day, de Bernieres points out that what’s meant to be a day honoring dads for many has been converted into the worst day of the year. That’s all the doing of family courts and family laws that routinely shove men out of their children’s lives despite the vast body of social science that frankly demands fathers and mothers have equal parenting time.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph on the occasion of Father’s Day, Mr de Bernières said that it would be an empty and sad day for thousands of fathers who are deprived of access to their children by vindictive mothers and unsympathetic courts.
Mr de Bernières said he is among those lucky enough to enjoy frequent contact with their children, following the end of his relationship with his partner, the theatre director Cathy Gill, in 2009.
But he said too many have their access limited to every other weekend at best, with many estranged fathers deprived of any contact with their children while the courts investigate their former partner’s “frequently unfounded” claims of violence or abuse.
Mr de Bernières said: “I’m lucky. I have equal custody with my former partner over our two children. But many other fathers suffer real plight. If your children have been heisted by your ex-wife and you can’t see them while claims of abuse are investigated, or she is generally uncooperative and obstructive, you miss out on seeing them time after time.
“Father’s Day is when you feel most desperate. It can be an intensely melancholic day for all too many men.”
Of course when it comes to the social science on the value of fathers to children, English judges don’t learn it. The British Judicial College informs us that it has no social science on family structure and child well-being and frankly wouldn’t educate judges on the subject if it did. So I suppose it’s no wonder judges get it wrong so often on child custody issues. After all, if you have no idea that a child needs its father, you feel no compunction to include Dad in the child’s life post-divorce. Nor would you feel particularly moved to enforce your own orders for access. So what if Mom ignores the court’s order? Little Andy or Jenny neither needs nor misses Dad, right?
But even if the judge does know enough to enforce his/her orders for access, the chances are good those orders aren’t really worth enforcing. We know that a child seeing its father four nights out of the month is insufficient to maintain parent-child bonds. The non-custodial parent loses his authority and is soon seen for what he is – an entertainer, a baby sitter without pay, someone whose sole function is to give Mom a few days off. Again, much social science reveals that the standard visitation order is a sham, a pretense to allow courts to say they’ve ordered “shared parenting,” when in fact they’ve irrevocably split a child from its father. But of course that’s social science again, a thing of which the overwhelming majority of family court judges remain entirely ignorant.
“Every other weekend is not enough to sustain a loving relationship with a child,” he said. “Children need two people, two different personalities in their lives, two ways of living. Two individuals offer two different sets of life skills to a child.
De Bernieres also grasps that mothers and fathers tend to parent differently and that kids benefit from the synergy.
“Furthermore, as a father I can do things with my children that my ex simply cannot, physically. I can horseplay with them in a way she, and other women, can’t – and children need that physical aspect of parenting.”
That physicality that fathers bring to play with children teaches the kids at an early age the concept of boundaries. They learn how much is too much. They learn when they run too fast, sometimes they fall down. They learn to not be too rough with others, that others have feelings and can be hurt. Boundaries. If there’s one thing that characterizes the fatherless child, it’s a lack of a reliable sense of boundaries. We see it often. The British saw it in the riots that tore apart large sections of London almost two years ago.
All this comes at a time when the sustained epidemic of fatherlessness in the UK is casting its pall over ever greater areas of the country and ever more families.
His fears echo those of the Centre for Social Justice, which last week published a report showing that the number of lone parents has increased by almost a quarter between 1996 and 2012, and that in parts of some British cities, such as Cardiff, Liverpool and Sheffield, there is no father present in more than 60 per cent of households.
“If you have generation after generation of little boys with no male role models they will grow up to be no good at fathering,” said Mr de Bernières. “Yet the weight of academic evidence is that children get on best when they spend a sufficient amount of time with both their parents.”
Finally, de Bernieres understands the role of lawyers in the wholesale destruction of the family. As we’ve seen time and again in this country, family lawyers are the first and loudest opponents of equal parenting bills. They know, as judges and legislatures seem not to, that a presumption of equal parenting after divorce is best for kids, is desired by kids and has been shown to reduce conflict between parents.
It’s that last that terrifies the Family Law Bar. Reduced conflict reduces acrimony; reduced acrimony reduces the number of motions and hearings requiring a lawyer. And that reduces fees. Lawyers invented the adversarial process we call justice. In family courts, it not only lines their pockets, it damages children. In child custody cases, it needs to be gotten rid of.
“Marriage has degenerated into an anti-male institution, heavily weighted against fathers, and made worse by lawyers using the adverserail system to ratchet up confrontation over custody of the children when the marriage comes to an end,” said Mr de Bernieres.
De Bernieres is right. Will anyone listen?
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