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.  

August 12, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

OK, now I get it. For some time now I’ve been calling for Marilyn Stowe, the British barrister who posts the Marilyn Stowe blog, to fire John Bolch. He’s so routinely wrong, so self-contradictory, so smugly ignorant that I figured she’d be embarrassed enough by him to finally dump him from her page. After all, when one puts one’s name on a website, one takes some responsibility for what gets published there. By even the laxest of standards, Bolch is an embarrassment.

Now I know why she’s still giving him a forum (Marilyn Stowe Blog, 8/10/16). She agrees with him.

Now, for a long time I thought Bolch was just dumb as a post. I thought he didn’t have the requisite gray matter with which to analyze the known facts and draw obvious conclusions about family law issues. And he may well be. But there’s more to it than that. Bolch is doing nothing but plumping for the status quo, i.e. no change in fathers’ ability to maintain real relationships with their kids post-divorce. That explains his pretense that, really, pretty much everything in family courts goes as it should in this best of all possible worlds.

True, last time he managed to disgorge a few lines about how, well, maybe everything isn’t perfect in family courts, but never let on what he thought might be amiss. And, given the fact that he’s never once criticized anything about those courts, it’s hard but to conclude that his statement was anything but boilerplate. The secrecy in which family courts operate has been roundly criticized by many, including three of the most prominent and highly-placed jurists in the land, but for Bolch that secrecy is unassailable. Are dads routinely sidelined in their children’s lives by family courts? That too is fine by Bolch because, after all, the law says judges must act in the best interests of children, ergo they are doing so. Social science? Bolch has never heard of it.

Which brings us to the doyen of the website herself, Marilyn Stowe. It seems certain commenters and others aren’t happy with Bolch’s take on family courts. Stowe feels their pain, really she does. She promises.

Of all the hundreds of topics we have discussed on this blog over the last nine years, shared parenting after divorce is perhaps the biggest button pusher. We receive a flood of forthright comments whenever we write about this very emotive issue.

There are many angry commentators out there convinced that the family courts are unfair to fathers and they tell us so at length.

Yes, all those fathers complaining about family courts are just being “emotive.” There’s not a chance of course that they have anything real about which to complain. Does Stowe remember when women complained that men treated their problems in exactly that way? Remember when woman who griped were often called “hysterical?” Or maybe it was just “that time of the month.”

Stowe dismisses dads in much the same way. Bless their poor misguided little hearts; maybe they should just take one of those little pills and lie down. Everything will be alright in a couple of hours.

If I have understood it correctly, their view appears to be that shared parenting arrangements after divorce should be completely 50-50 and that any deviation from this is a violation of their rights as parents.

No, you haven’t understood it correctly. No shared parenting advocate I’ve ever encountered in any way demands strict 50/50 arrangements. The claim that they do is a straw man, an easy and entirely fictional argument to knock down.

The trouble is that strict 50/50 time sharing isn’t the result for which we shared parenting advocates argue. On the contrary, we consider it a good starting point but understand that anything down to 33/67 works well for kids. Family situations vary so that precise 50/50 arrangements are often impossible for parents to make work. Even a casual glance at shared parenting bills, laws, websites, mission statements, etc. would have told Stowe that her statement was nonsense. But she made it anyway, strongly indicating that she either didn’t know or didn’t care about the reality of what shared parenting advocates argue for. Sound familiar?

Whether you believe this philosophy to be correct or not, the fact remains that English law actually does not give parents any ‘rights’, as hard as many may find that to believe.

Hmm, that’s not absolutely false, but it gets close. Yes, British law doesn’t speak in terms of parental rights, but European Union law definitely does. Brexit has been voted on but not put into effect, so for now at least, British law must conform to the dictates of the various conventions that make up the Union. One of those of course, the Convention on Human Rights, states that the right to family life and to associate with one’s family members is just that, a right.

But whether British parents technically have parental rights or not is scarcely the issue about which shared parenting advocates complain.

This key piece of legislation clearly states that the central focus of all family disputes involving children should be their best interests. If any party in a parenting dispute has rights, it is the children themselves.

Just so. And, like Bolch and every other professional opiner who opposes children maintaining meaningful relationships with both parents following divorce or separation, Stowe sees no connection between children’s best interests and their relationships with their dads. That raises the obvious question of whether she has ever read any of the science on children’s well-being as it relates to parenting time post-divorce. There’s a great deal of it and it pretty much all points in one direction – shared parenting. Not two years ago, 112 experts in the field signed on to a consensus report that called for shared parenting except in certain fairly narrowly-defined instances like parental unfitness, child abuse or persistent, unresolvable parental conflict.

In short, in all but the rarest of cases, the science on children’s best interests informs us that children should maintain real relationships with both parents when they divorce. But British judges are not so informed. They announce to all the world that they’re acting in children’s interests without knowing the simple fact that, first and foremost, a child’s interests lie in not losing one of its parents when the adults split up. It’s a simple concept, and an obvious one, but neither those judges nor Stowe nor Bolch manages to grasp it.

But I would urge all the campaigners and commentators out there to remember that the welfare of each child underpins the system and that first and foremost a child’s welfare starts with the relationship of the parents to each other.

Wrong and wrong again. The “welfare of each child” emphatically does not underpin the family court system. On the contrary, the children of divorce are ill-served by that system. To serve their interests, courts would, in about 95% of cases order either equal parenting time or something close to it. British courts miss that mark by a country mile.

Nor does the child’s well-being “start with the relationship of the parents to each other.” That’s utter nonsense. Parents divorce because their relationship with each other isn’t very good. If Stowe’s statement were true then, by the very fact of divorce, children’s welfare would be sabotaged. In fact, parents who don’t get along particularly well can still function competently in a shared parenting arrangement. Again, the fact appears in the scientific literature, but Stowe doggedly refuses to read it. And then or course there’s the fact that shared parenting arrangements have been shown to ameliorate parental conflict over time. That is, those parental relationships Stowe considers so important are actually improved in shared parenting arrangements.

Stowe gives Bolch a forum because the two agree. They think the current system of denying fathers to children is just hunky dory, that if judges are saying they’re acting in children’s interests, then they are, and that ignoring the overwhelming weight of science on children’s welfare is a good way to ensure that welfare.

It doesn’t get much crazier than that, but – what can I say? – it’s there in black and white.




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.

#child'sbestinterests, #divorce, #sharedparenting, #MarilynStowe

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