March 6, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Sometimes the anti-father bias of family court smacks you right in the face. It certainly does here. And it does so all the harder because the writer is a blogger on family law issues and presumably knows something about them. He’s done enough blogging on the subject that Marilyn Stowe has given him space on her blog site. Stowe’s is perhaps the most prominent British site dealing with family law issues.
Her guest blogger is John Bolch. He begins by pointing out the obvious — that family courts are under almost continuous fire from the news media and fathers’ rights advocates — and proceeds to the unarguable — that often family courts deal with difficult cases. Fine.
Then Bolch offers an example of one of those tough cases — the case of a child named “Y.”
The case concerned a child, Y, now one year and eight months old. Her parents had had a “tempestuous” relationship, involving violence and drug and alcohol abuse. They separated when Y was only four months old. Her father then applied for a contact order.
The case came before Mrs Justice Pauffley in the High Court for a ‘fact finding’ hearing, in which she would make decisions regarding various matters in dispute between the parties, before the case proceeded. Such hearings are comparatively unusual in private law children matters, but Mrs Justice Pauffley said that it was “altogether necessary in the quite extraordinary circumstances of this case”.
Those circumstances included an allegation by the mother that the father had sexually abused Y (repeated by the mother to about 100 individuals on Facebook); a test on a sample of Y’s hair proving positive for cannabis; and various injuries found on the child. Mrs Justice Pauffley had to investigate these matters and, if possible, determine the truth of the mother’s allegation of abuse, and also look at how Y had ingested cannabis and how her injuries had been caused.
Having considered the mother’s allegation that the father had sexually abused Y, Mrs Justice Pauffley found that there was no evidence to support the allegation. Further, she was convinced that the father had done nothing of a sexual kind and had to be exonerated. The mother, she said, had seemingly invented the allegation “for her own malicious purposes”.
As to Y ingesting cannabis, Mrs Justice Pauffley was not able to make any findings as to how and to what level Y had been exposed to the drug. She did, however, record that the mother had a long history of drug taking. Further, she was highly critical of the mother for shaving Y’s head the day after she learned that Y had tested positive for cannabis.
Lastly, Y had recently suffered various injuries: a swollen eye, burns on one hand and bruises on her face, all within an 18 day period when Y was in her mother’s care. Mrs Justice Pauffley found them to be unexplained, but did comment “that Y was quite extraordinarily unlucky to suffer three within so short a timeframe”.
Mrs Justice Pauffley concluded with some comments about the father’s contact with Y. She said:
“I have no doubt at all that, left to her own devices, the mother would be preventing Y from having a relationship of any kind with her father. Her feelings of hostility towards him and what she believes he has done are extraordinarily intense. There is nothing seemingly about which she feels more passionately.
“Seldom do I see such strength of feeling even in the most bitter of private law disputes.”
Bolch concludes his piece with these words: “So, next time you pick up your pen or reach for your keyboard to criticise a family judge, stop and consider just how hard a job they have to do.”
I hate to tell him, but that’s not a hard case; it’s an easy one. The only (at the time of this writing) commenter aptly pointed out exactly that.
I can’t see what is so difficult, faced with telling evidence, in having to call a delinquent delinquent. Or is it that courts have hitherto opted for Easy Street and habitually shied away from the problem of calling out delinquent mothers?
Indeed, the case of the child ‘Y’ is about as cut and dried as can be. As Bolch himself described it, on the one hand we have a father against whom there are no findings of unfitness. On the other we have an illicit-drug-using mother who apparently abuses her daughter physically, lies to the court, fabricates abuse charges against the dad and somehow gets the little girl to ingest pot. She does all that in the spirit of parental alienation and goes on to do everything she can to keep the dad out of his daughter’s life.
The conclusion couldn’t be clearer to anyone with sense and a desire to do what’s best for Y. Dad should get primary custody, Mom should get only supervised visitation. Mom should be sent to some form of parenting classes until she’s demonstrated a grasp of the basics of child care and can prove to the judge that she understands Y’s need for her father. That done, she can be gradually reintroduced into Y’s life free of supervision. During all that time, she should pay child support in accordance with her earning ability. Simple. And obvious.
So we must pause to wonder how Bolch can possibly believe — and want us to believe — that his represents a difficult case. The unavoidable answer is that it’s only difficult if the judge is determined to award custody to the mother. In that event admittedly, the case would become pretty sticky. After all, how does a judge go about convincing him/herself or anyone else that it would be appropriate to give primary custody to Y’s mother? That would require mental gymnastics that would qualify one for the intellectual equivalent of Cirque du Soleil.
So Bolch’s belief that the case he described is a tough one means three things. The first is that British courts take it for granted that Mom will get primary custody. The second is that Bolch agrees. The third is that they’re both so blind to their own anti-father bias that they don’t see the obvious — that Dad should have custody of Y and it’s an easy call.
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