February 19, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Finally, John Bolch delivers himself of this gem.
And the final myth is one that all of this fatherhood talk brought to mind. It is this: that for separated fathers courts and lawyers are the enemy, preventing them from retaining a relationship with their children. I find this particularly ironic, given that every day courts and lawyers do entirely the opposite, working hard to ensure that father/child relationships are maintained. If a father is denied contact with his child by the mother, where does he go? To the court. And the court will do everything it can to ensure that contact does take place, unless it is one of those relatively rare cases when it is not in the interests of the child. As for the lawyers, those acting for the father will do all they can on his behalf, as I did many times myself, and even those lawyers acting for recalcitrant mothers recognise they have a duty to consider the child’s welfare at all times. In short, courts and lawyers are the friend of fatherhood, not the enemy.
It’s the Bolch way. Just make some assertions that are dramatically at odds with known facts and – presto! – whatever problem you’re writing about is immediately solved. Plus, writing in that way is so much easier than learning relevant facts, applying logic and arriving at sound conclusions. That takes so much work!
Bolch reminds me of a cartoon I saw many years ago, a supposed “how-to” piece entitled “Keeping Bugs Away.” The first panel showed a kitchen counter with numerous cockroaches on it. The caption was “Bugs.” The second panel showed the same counter with no cockroaches and the caption “Bugs kept away.” See? Simple as that. Bolch is the same. Are there annoying facts that dispute his sunny view of family courts? He simply writes them out of his narrative.
The problem being, as the cartoon made clear, that fiction and reality are often quite different. Bolch’s fictional version of what fathers confront in family courts bears little relation to the reality.
Let’s see what longtime advocate for family court reform in the U.K., Glen Poole, has to say about how courts treat fathers (The Telegraph, 6/3/15).
The fact is, we live in a society where it is the accepted norm that women should demand equality in the public sphere, while maintaining special privileges in the private sphere.
And probably the most sacred of those privileges is motherhood, where the reproductive slogan, “my body my rights”, gives birth to a deep sense of lifelong entitlement that can be summed up in the maternal mantra, “my baby my rights”.
This presumption that women own their children obviously has a biological basis, which has become hardwired in our collective psyche and written into our laws. In 2015 it is still the case that mothers and fathers do not have equal rights. As the former Equal Opportunities Commissioner, Duncan Fisher, explains:
“In UK law, a father can only be a father if the mother approves him. She can do this in two ways – marry him or invite him to sign the birth certificate. If neither of these happens, he is not the father until the family court approves him. A man has to be vetted by the mother or the state before he is allowed to be a father.”
The entire system of parenting in the UK is set up around the presumption that mother knows best and that when parents separate there should be a primary parent (nearly always the mother) and a secondary parent (nearly always the father).
The role which is reserved for the secondary parent is unfair, unequal and for many, a deeply unfulfilling way to experience parenthood.
What does Bolch have to say about the cold, hard facts as listed by the former Commissioner for Equal Opportunities? Not a word. Moreover, what does he say about the fact that roughly 90% of custodial parents in the U.K. are mothers or that one-third of British children virtually never see their dads? Does he seriously contend that it’s because the Dads don’t care about them? Bolch has never explicitly gone that far (although we can surely expect him to do so any day), so how does he explain the dramatic absence of fathers in children’s lives? Not a word.
Now, what prompted Poole’s remarks was a study done by Harding and Newnham that casually announced that British courts don’t discriminate against fathers. Here and here are what I wrote about that study. In a nutshell, it was incapable of making the findings it made due to bad methodology, principally selection bias. But even the authors of the study admitted in its pages that its findings couldn’t be extrapolated to the general run of family courts or the people whose fates are decided there. That admission didn’t deter Harding from claiming in print that the study was representative, but the fact remains that it’s not.
But more to the point is that the very few fathers who applied to the courts for custody of their children and were successful, did so only because their children’s mothers were so deficient as parents and as human beings that even the family courts couldn’t turn a blind eye. To its credit, the study made that abundantly clear.
In the majority of these cases there were current or past child welfare related allegations against the mothers…
In the first, and largest, category (of fathers seeking sole custody) were cases where the father sought to become the primary care giver or have his status confirmed because the mother could not cope. In 16 cases a change of residence was sought, from mum to dad, because of child welfare and safety concerns that had manifested in recent crises. In 4 further cases where dad was the established primary care giver for over 1 year the child had initially been placed with him due to mum’s inability to cope due to drugs or mental health issues.
Indeed, in several of the cases studied, the local child protective agency all but ordered the father to seek a change of custody saying that, if he didn’t do so, the child would be placed in foster care.
And just so we’re clear, the only reason these fathers dared seek custody was that they understood that their exes were so defective as mothers or so incapable of even trying that success appeared possible.
[T]here was a clear correlation between the presence of very serious child welfare concerns and applications by fathers for residence orders.
This is the British family court system that Bolch finds pristine and the staunch ally of fathers throughout the land. The reality is that, the only way fathers get custody of their children is if the mother is a basket case, usually a drug addict or mentally incapable of being a parent. Needless to say, few mothers fall into those categories with the result being that equally few fathers get custody of their kids.
Imagine if mothers faced the same obstacles to even minimal custody of their children. Imagine if 90% of moms were refused custody, because that’s about the number of dads who are. Would Bolch be so smug, so glad to ignore the realities of family courts?
And if custody is that difficult, simple access is hard enough as well. Bolch of course wouldn’t dream of asking a few fathers what they thought of family courts. He’d never inquire about the often-recorded resistance of those courts to enforce fathers’ “rights” of access. He refers casually to his time as a lawyer, but never mentions the 90% of fathers who can’t afford legal counsel and are left to shift on their own.
No, for him a few lines extolling the wonders of family courts and contradicting the lived reality of countless fathers and the science that backs up their claims are enough to keep those nasty bugs – the demands for family court reform - away.
Marilynn Stowe ought to put Bolch out to pasture. He’s an embarrassment to her and her website. A man of the least principle would have quit in disgrace long ago. But not Bolch. And doesn’t that speak volumes about the man and his message?
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