If women knew that to separate from their partner meant that they may lose their children – maybe they would take more time before choosing to separate where the reasons are relatively trivial. Many men lose their children following demands for more money from their wages, or following their partner’s infidelity. Both parents are equally valuable for a chid’s balanced development and this doesn’t change when couples fall out.
The parents named on a birth certificate have equal legal parental rights. Men are accepted as main care-givers along with women in our society today – and children in their formative years, often bond just as well, if not better with the father than the mother. However, as soon as feuding is present, the family courts often give mothers a superior position and fathers can find themselves treated like villains without any rights to their children at all.
There are thousands of children prohibited from contact with their fathers or limited to the contact that a mother will offer them, often at her whim and regardless of the child’s needs and wishes. Children are being quite literally not seen and not heard and fathers are finding themselves virtually extinguished from the family and court scenario…apart from perhaps when the system arrives at demanding maintenance payments from them. Courts will even prioritise the benefits for a child of a new partner/father (‘completing the family unit’) over and above the maintenance of the child’s existing relationship with their biological father.
Within family court hearings, the court relies on reports from Social Services and Cascaff to ensure that children are ‘given a voice.’ Yet most children are not given the opportunity to express their experiences to either authority and most reports are written devoid of any contact with the parties at all and based on a single telephone interview with each parent. Many fathers report Cafcass phone interviews opening with unjust and biased accusations towards them. I think we need to ask ourselves, if there are instances where the court deem the child ‘better off’ within the care of the mother and her new partner – then surely there are also instances where the child may be better off within the care of the father and his new partner? And yet he family courts continue to order child after child to remain with their mothers, even against the child’s own wishes and even in cases where their have been safeguarding concerns and/or prior abuse.
The state says, ‘We do not like people to take abuse into their own hands. We like the state to be involved.’ It is a father’s first nature to protect his family. If the state is going to demand that he does not – than surely the state need to step up and do the protecting adequately themselves? Yet there is no standardised procedure involving the expertise of trustworthy child psychologists, to truly ascertain the state of the child, or the truth of events that have occurred where there have been allegations of child abuse. If children cannot rely on either a parent or the system for protection, disrupted value systems and all manner of associated imbalances and behaviours are likely to ensue, including profound mistrust and negativity towards authoritative bodies. Children with disrupted value systems often develop mental health problems and profound emotional neediness; many turn to substance abuse , self-harm, crime and even suicide. Psychology reports teach us that there are certain critical moments in a child’s development, where it is crucial that particular connections and perceptions of reality are nurtured, for the child to blossom healthily and then thrive in society.
With solicitors hourly rates currently averaging £250.00 per hour and free Probono advice and representation only available via a highly subjective referral from a solicitor, the CAB, or an MP; there is no sure, systematic route for fathers to take within the legal system, in support of themselves, or their children. However, mothers without any evidence whatsoever can easily be granted ex-parte temporary residence orders and prohibited steps orders and also legal aid – enabling them to swiftly get to work to oust their chid’s father out of their lives. For many, this lop-sided legal aid dynamic effectively steals fathers equal rights to their children away before they even get as far as the court room. Often fathers ex-parte orders are not granted, based on ‘lack of evidence’ – even in cases where there have been allegations of child abuse concerning the mother, therefore leaving the child in possible danger. Fathers with equal rights who remove their child from an abusive family home, are likely to receive an order with a penal notice attached, directing them to to return their child to the same unresolved situation, or to risk imprisonment. Many fathers report bias against them as can be witnessed from the following example:
A four and a half year old little girl reported to her father within an access visit, “Daddy my neck and head have been hurting all week.” Upon questioning her as to why this was, she grabbed her own throat hard enough to choke herself and then said, “(stepfather’s name) did this.” When the father reported this to various professionals, he described their focus as ‘determinedly ignorant.’ Instead of responding to an alarming report from a scared little girl, each authority highlighted the father’s wording of the reported event as ‘unrealistic for a child,’ therefore deeming the allegation to be false. The father’s wording was, “My daughter told me that her step-dad strangled her.”
I have spoken with many, many fathers both nationally and internationally who report the same scenario again and again: an ex-partner who they feel is ‘using their children as a weapon’ while prohibiting contact. Granted, in some cases further questioning revealed events or conditions which changed my initial picture and situations that perhaps offered them more obstacles than other dads – but on the whole these men have no mental health history, no criminal history and no former dealings with Social Services. The increase in home produced videos uploaded to social networking sites from fathers left stripped to the core and in shock, in the face of a system full of closed doors – video footage calling out to everyone, someone, ANYONE to help them out of the nightmare that they find themselves in – are a testament to the cruelty of this current state of affairs for fathers, their children and their families.
There are countless groups now in support of fathers and therefore much information out there readily available for those who find themselves enmeshed in the family court system – however, with no requisite to legal aid, fathers are left to either pay their own fees or to self-represent and many feel far too afraid to embark on such a task. *The subject of self-representation will be discussed in full in a further article.
The stories that fathers have shared with me are enough to soften any heart – good men, paying their way, law abiding, hands-on fathers, loving husbands. We cannot get behind closed doors to examine the subjective lives of those behind them, but these are also men who once faced with the family court system subjugated themselves to a gruelling inquisition into every area of their lives and attended courses provided for them, passing every test of character, responsibility and ability – still to find themselves ousted out of their children’s lives and through lack of financial means, often unable to contest the verdict any more. Some men, cannot bear the strain and false allegations alongside grief and concern for their children and most certainly crack and turn to substance abuse, alcohol or other crutches. Very sadly, the shock, humiliation and feelings of absolute impotence – for some men, steals their lives altogether.
Within this topic over the last sixteen months, I have wanted to inspire women to see clearly the fodder that parents become for the family courts if they allow themselves to become involved in a superficial manner – and to urge them to ‘play fair’ and to prioritise their children’s needs and wishes. *This article does not refer to conditions where children have had to be removed from a parent due to physical abuse nor does it assume that all women are bias and unfair in court. I have wanted to encourage fathers to never give up – to hang in there regardless of how hopeless it can seem; if only to tell their grown up child one day, that they did. I think it is important to preserve the memory of themselves for their child/children by being able to put something solid against any allegations that have been made against them in the past. I witnessed one eighteen year old lad who had been prohibited from seeing his father since he was a toddler – saying to his dad just a couple of hours after reuniting with him, “It’s really great that you haven’t been around in my life actually, because you’re nothing to do with any of the crap that happened.”
They went on to have a full loving father-son relationship with each other to this day. In this example, the father didn’t even need any proof that he had tried to see him – or really loved him. So as despairing as it is to be cut off from one’s children, it is good practise to not throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak and to preserve relationships whilst there can be no constructive movement.
*Please do not assume that a father being stopped from seeing his children, ‘must be a bad father.’ In most cases you will be wrong and will only be adding to a burden that is already almost to heavy to bear. Please ladies, don’t assume that all men are the same as the men you have had bad experiences with and please, make the children the priority in any separating partnership.
Fathers are not asking to be given priority over mothers, or even over step-parents, they are not asking to be the main care givers, they are not even asking that other men don’t father their children in the case of family breakdown and a new figure entering the family home. They are asking – and now in some cases demanding, to be treated as an equal party where there is family breakdown, and for mothers to be seen by the family court as just as vulnerable to errors as men, and to be held equally accountable for their actions.
* Fathers are asking for the ‘red carpet’ currently automatically laid out for a step-parent who has entered the family home, to be withdrawn entirely and for step-parents to be treated as equal parties in the case of family breakdown, just as vulnerable to errors as biological parents – and just as accountable for their actions.
* Fathers are not asking for support to father their children, but to be able to remain a regular feature in their child’s life following family breakdown, without prohibition from the mother via the family courts.
* Fathers are not asking for the law to force their children to see them, they are asking for a more thorough vetting system within the family court procedure, so that children who wish to see their fathers, can make themselves heard.
* Fathers are not stating that mothers or step-parents abuse children, they are requesting an equal position within the family/criminal courts where there are allegations of abuse, and where ex-parte, residence and prohibited steps orders are being applied for.
* Fathers groups are not just fighting to connect with their estranged children again and they are not fighting to prove themselves as fathers, they are attempting to draw attention to the state’s apparent refusal to address this issue, as a matter of urgency – now.
Parenting is a serious commitment to prioritize the health and happiness of our children.
· When partnership conflict arises, it is crucial that children are properly considered and are not allowed to become possessions, weapons, emotional sponges and extensions of either parent’s negative experience.
· Where parents choose to separate – it is crucial that they appreciate that the child is not part of the conflict and that the child’s relationship with each parent, is seen as quite separate from their own.
· When a child reports abuse from either parent, it is imperative that the child is able to choose to reside safely with the other parent, or within their greater family environment.
· Family proceedings presently rely heavily on often distorted and devious reports from our corrupt Social Services and Cafcass organizations, who rarely meet the children and parents in question.
· For many children their ordeal is prolonged further as they find themselves in a strange room, with an ‘authority’ watching over them while they meet a parent for an hour or so, that used to tuck them up in bed and take them to the park.
· Other children wake up in someone else’s home, with parents that aren’t theirs – being told that ‘everything will be alright.’
Each child has a whole family – so when the main home is suffering trauma and separation, there is still opportunity for the child to reside within another family home with people that they feel safe and familiar with.
· If children were given the opportunity to reside with other safe family members, either permanently or whilst their own home was unsuitable, then there would be less need for fostering and adoption.
· In turn there would be fewer vulnerable children open to the recorded abuse of the care system.
I have spoken with far too many parents to be able to recount each and every story and prior to writing this article I considered which I would pick if I were to include some sample case histories. Then I realised that the most profoundly impacting way for readers to appreciate these fathers stories, is for you to meet them yourselves.
Over the next few weeks, I will be interviewing fathers who have tasted the sourness of the family court system and wish to share their story. If you are reading this article and would like to become involved, please do get in touch here: https://anotherangleforthebrave.com/contact-2/
Thank you for reading. Comments welcome.
© 2015 Sarita Perrott. All Rights Reserved.