our-blog-icon-top
NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

November 20, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This article isn’t new, but its interest hasn’t waned (Daily Mail, 1/7/14). I’ll prove that it’s still current in my next post.

It seems that a survey of divorced or separated spouses in the United Kingdom found that a whopping 32% of those mothers believe that their children’s fathers “should have no say in their upbringing.”

It found that 32 per cent of separated mothers thought that they alone had the right to make decisions about their children’s future.

The high proportion found by a survey implies that more than one in 10 of all the families in the country include mothers who do not want the fathers of their children to have a say over the future of their children.

The findings were revealed in a survey carried out for the counselling group Relate.

Those mothers of course often find ready allies in the judges who adjudicate their cases. Across the English-speaking world, the scourge of judges who refuse to enforce visitation orders on behalf of fathers who want nothing more extravagant than a meaningful relationship with the children they’re helping to support has been amply and often reported. In Australia, as historian John Hirst reported in his long essay, “Kangaroo Court: Family Law in Australia,” a judge who enforces a contact order actually violates the law. The precedent was established long ago that, alone among all orders issued by judges in every court (including family courts), contact orders issued on behalf of non-custodial parents may not be enforced by the court’s power of contempt.

Elsewhere, the policy is less official, but every bit as common. Fathers have been complaining for decades about courts that ignore their own orders when it comes to visitation.

Heaping irony on top of injustice, courts also ignore the fact that non-custodial parents whose contact with their children isn’t obstructed by the other parent are far more likely to pay child support. That’s both common sense and supported by much social science. Indeed, the U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement has long admitted the fact and encouraged courts to enforce visitation orders. In vain.

A casual observer of the fiasco that is family law throughout the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland would justifiably conclude that the only thing the system cares about is that child support be paid. So one would think that that same system would do the obvious — enforce visitation orders, but no. Is it possible that family courts’ antipathy for fathers actually outweighs their supposed interest in children? Say it ain’t so, Joe!

Meanwhile, the U.K. survey comes against a backdrop of cases in which British judges excoriated Moms for doing exactly what 32% of them say is their right.

Worries over mothers who want to exile separated fathers from their children’s lives have been coming to the fore in recent months, notably in two prominent High Court cases in which judges questioned why mothers had been allowed to prevent fathers from taking a role with their children…

Family courts trying to help warring couples re-arrange their lives have long struggled with the difficulty of dealing with intransigent mothers.

But the finding follows strong remarks from judges in recent cases over the way mothers are sometimes allowed to exile fathers from their children’s lives.

Last month High Court judge Mrs Justice Parker set down a judgement that warned social workers: ‘Parents who obstruct the relationship with either mother or father are inflicting untold damage on their children and it is about time the professionals truly understood this.’

In another case Appeal Judge Lord Justice McFarlane condemned family courts that had prevented a father from having regular contact with his daughter for 12 years because ‘the mother appears to want an unhealthy exclusive relationship’ with her daughter.

I’d take heart from the fact that family court judges are starting to recognize the tendency of non-custodial parents to shove their exes out of their children’s lives were it not for the fact that nothing ever seems to change. Despite the law, despite mountains of social science demonstrating the need of children for both parents, judges just can’t seem to find it in themselves to do what needs to be done.

Look at what Lord Justice McFarlane said above. Yes, he recognized that Mom “appears to want an unhealthy exclusive relationship” with her daughter. Fine. But it took the trial judge twelve years to figure that out, if he/she ever did. How is it possible to allow a parent to deny the other parent contact with a child for 12 years without doing something to rectify the situation? Judges have the power to enforce their orders, but when it comes to contact orders, they routinely refuse to do so.

Judges are reluctant to punish children further by sending mothers to prison.

That’s understandable, but as John Hirst asks, “Why this talk of gaol?” The idea that the only power a judge has with which to enforce an order for visitation is jail is absurd, and every judge knows it. Faced with a parent who refuses contact between the child and the other parent, a judge can change the parenting time order, order make-up time for the non-custodial parent, order Mom to pay attorney fees and other costs, etc. The pretense that sending mothers to prison is the only means available to judges to enforce their orders is just that — pretense.

Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation think tank said: ‘Fathers must have a role in their children’s lives. Teenagers are much more likely to go off the rails if their fathers are not part of their lives.

‘The problem is that it is very, very difficult when parents split up. There is no such thing as a good divorce.’

That may be true, but some divorces are better than others, and among the worst for children are those in which one parent denies contact between the child and the other parent. Courts can not only make those bad divorces better for children, they can make them rarer. By enforcing their own orders, they can help ensure that the child doesn’t suffer the loss of one parent. By demonstrating to custodial parents that they’re not free to thumb their noses at the court and the other parent, courts can send a message to other parents who might be tempted to thwart contact. That message would be “Such behavior will not be tolerated. We mean business.” If that message were sent, time and again, in case after case, for a few years, you can bet that the habit of denying contact would drop considerably.

And everyone would benefit from that — everyone except 32% of separated mothers, that is.

Donate

National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#visitation, #non-custodialfathers, #custodialmothers, #contemptofcourt

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn