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February 3, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

My last two posts have been about an Irish study that is so flawed as to be useless. Also, it’s insufferably anodyne. Reading it, you’d think that, while Irish child custody law needs a bit of reform, on the whole, it’s pretty fair to mothers, fathers and children.

I referred readers to Roisin O’Shea’s far more trenchant description of Irish family courts that was based on her research into 14 different judicial circuits over a four-year period. To read her study’s results side-by-side with One Family’s effort would convince most people they were reading about two entirely separate court systems.

So I thought this article was timely (The Journal, 1/29/17). It’s written by an anonymous Irish father describing the horrors he experienced at the hands of his wife and the courts. For today’s post, I’ll just quote excerpts from his article and then compare them with O’Shea’s comments.

By way of introduction,

Irish Dad: THE PROUDEST DAYS of my life were, without doubt, the days my three children were born. I was a natural at being a father. I embraced each and every moment and gave my all. I was an involved, hands-on dad from day one.

My family was complete. I was so happy. We led a normal, happy, busy life. I worked hard and we had a decent enough lifestyle. The children were happy. They did the normal activities and they did well at school. However, my world fell apart when I started to notice personality changes in my wife.

On a daily basis, I began to see serious bouts of paranoia, false allegations, pathological jealousy and impulsive decision-making. I was desperately worried for my kids, my wife, my family unit. Everything I had was slipping away. It was frightening.

It started with little things and progressed to more sinister accusations. The more I tried to appease her, the more she started to accuse me…

I knew it all to be false. I was frightened. She began telling me that the kids were “afraid of me”. I was beginning to feel a bit beside myself. I was questioning my own sanity and reality. It affected me very badly.

Then,

ID: My wife brought it through the courts.

O’Shea: In divorce cases where there were dependent children, 71% of the applications were made by women, and in judicial separation cases where there were dependent children 75% of the applications were made by women.

ID: I became an instant “visitor” to my children.

O’Shea: In 95% of the cases observed the primary carer was the mother…

In 93% of the cases before the court, children under the age of 12 resided with the mother.

A standard access arrangement for the non-resident parent, primarily fathers, that permeated across all courts as a default position, was the policy of ordering access every second weekend, for a period of hours during the day, and once or twice mid-week for a couple of hours.

ID: The courts exacerbated the situation by siding with my ex-wife. I tried and tried to have more access to my children. I was denied at every juncture. I witnessed abominable prejudice, bias and downright abuse in the family courts.

O’Shea: Primary carers, the majority of whom were women, often sought to severely restrict or exclude the other parent from the lives of the children, on the basis that frequent contact with the non-resident parent distressed them, and in turn distressed the children.

ID: I lost all I had. I was literally reduced to the shirt on my back.

O’Shea: Where the court ruled to allocate a greater percentage of the house to one spouse, in 95% of the cases the ruling was in favour of the wife…

Of great concern was the common approach of the court to make child maintenance orders where the payor, in 100% of cases the father, was only in receipt of State benefits, the average State benefit observed being € 200 per week. The national insolvency guidelines for 2013 state that subsistence level, i.e. the basic amount a single person requires to live on, as € 237.65 per week.

ID: I pined for access to my children. My children pined for access to a good, decent, loving, caring dad.

O’Shea: In no case were the views of any child heard directly by a judge, the views of the child were expressed through the primary carer or through court ordered expert reports where there were allegations of abuse.

In no case observed did a judge ask to meet with a child in any matter that affected them, despite such rights being stated in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.

And now, the Irish dad’s case deviates from those reviewed by O’Shea. He won. He finally fired his solicitor, took on his own case and, over a long period of time, righted many of the wrongs done to him and his children by a biased court system that is anti-father from the start.

I won my case and was awarded more extended access. I took a successful case against a biased family court judge that resulted in them stepping down from my case…

I now realise that I am one of the lucky ones. I survived the onslaught that is the Irish family law system. I will continue to seek justice for myself and my children in a broken, dysfunctional and abusive system.

I am now helping other fathers who are caught in the same inescapable trap. I know how hard and unjust the system is and I am aware that many, many fathers succumb to it.

Good for him. He fought hard, lost much, prevailed and now is helping other fathers caught in the same outrageous system.

Now, recall that the One Family survey all but ignored fathers –fathers like the one who wrote the Journal article. Only 11% of its respondents were dads. Consider the anonymous father who wrote the article quoted above and ask yourself whether a survey that sidelines the likes of him has the slightest validity.

#fathers, #familycourts, #Ireland, #RoisinO'Shea

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