April 23, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Apparently uncomfortable with his absurd take on the case of C vs. P & Others in the previous week’s blog, John Bolch revisits the matter here (Marilyn Stowe Blog, 4/19/18). As I said yesterday, Bolch managed to find that a family court judge was acting in the best interests of two children when she left them in the care of their mother who had denied all contact with the father and behaved abusively toward them. He did so because, in the nine months following those findings, Mom had improved her behavior. What didn’t occur to either the judge or Bolch was that the judge had no reason to believe the mother would change her ways, so, at the time, the judge was leaving the kids in the care of an abuser. That’s hardly acting in their best interests.
Now Bolch has been moved to address the comment to his previous post by Paul Apreda who’s a trustee of the organization Families Need Fathers (FNF). Much as I did, Apreda pointed out that Justice Russell not only allowed parental alienation to begin, she allowed it to continue.
An all too familiar story of the failure of the Family Justice system to act swiftly enough or with sufficient determination to resolve intractable contact disputes.
He went on to reveal a question by a father who’d just entered the family court fray in a child custody case and had sought the advice of FNF.
This man was in the process of splitting up from the mother of his children and had come along at the earliest stage to learn more about what might happen and how best to manage the process. He listened to the others at the meeting recount their experiences and progress of their disputes over child contact. When it came time for him to speak he said ‘So from what I’ve heard the only way for me to ensure that I remain in the lives of my children is to grab the kids, make allegations against my ex and refuse to negotiate.
Apreda later related that event to the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby.
I shared with Sir James that I had struggled to come up with a convincing argument against that approach as we all knew how effective it was. I asked the President what advice he would give me so that I could use that on the next occassion. Sir James said that he hoped that I would NOT encourage that sort of behaviour. Naturally I gave him that assurance BUT I couldnt help feeling that we all knew that such behaviour was the most effective for men to ensure they are not excluded from the lives of their children. It seems this case may re-inforce that view.
Apreda and several other commenters noted that mothers often use that tactic in custody disputes without undue pushback from judges or anyone else. They’re not supposed to, but they do. They do because there are seldom any adverse consequences for taking that tack.
So how should a father act? That’s what Apreda asked Munby, but interestingly received no answer. Munby told him what the father in question shouldn’t do, but not what he should do to avoid losing contact with his children. Apreda was asking for advice from the most important jurist in Great Britain’s family law system and got nothing. That invites the conclusion that there is in fact nothing fathers can do to achieve that humblest of goals.
Bolch? He’s hand-in-hand with Sir James.
Well, I can understand why some fathers feel that such behaviour may be their best approach, but I am fully with Sir James on this one, as I’m sure are all family lawyers, and indeed every professional involved in the family justice system.
There are many reasons why such an approach is wrong, not least because it is likely to backfire, as the court is likely to see through it and then take an extremely dim view of the father’s actions.
Nowhere does either Munby or Bolch respond to the question. Neither says some version of “As long as you’re a good, loving father who’s not a drunk or a drug addict, who doesn’t abuse the children or your wife, you’ll be OK if you do such-and-such in court.” You’d think it would be simple, but of course it’s not. The silence of the two is deafening. It fairly shouts “Dads, there is nothing you can do to ensure continuing contact with your children. Nothing!”
Having nothing to say on the topic raised by the father Apreda quoted, Bolch of course falls back on his usual boilerplate.
It is absolutely fundamental, and there is no excuse for not knowing it: in a dispute about children, the single most important issue is their welfare. Everything revolves around what is best for the child’s welfare.
That is arrant nonsense as countless cases demonstrate. It is not “best for the child’s welfare” to lose its relationship with one of its parents, absent unfitness or abuse. And yet British courts march resolutely forward tossing fathers aside like yesterday’s trash while crowing to the heavens that it’s all for the good of the kids.
As a growing mountain of science demonstrates, that is simply false. Children need both parents and it’s long past time that family courts got the message and acted on it. There is no excuse for not doing so.
Bolch of course is another matter. The man hasn’t a clue and I see no prospect of his finding one.
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