Mothers Have A Great Christmas, Yet Thousands Of Families Lives Are Destroyed

December 22, 2008

 

Just One More Father Crucified At Christmas

Just One More Father Crucified At Christmas

For some families, Christmas will be a devastating time, due to archaic UK laws, failing judges and because inadequate court systems fail to uphold the basic human right of children being able to spend adequate time with both their natural parents.

 

 

 

Children’s rights, as well as fathers rights are a very important issue and organisations such as The Real Fathers For Justice http://www.realfathersforjustice.org   are leading the way to try and make a difference for the sake of our children.

 

Despite numerous studies and surveys illustrating the benefits of a child having access to both parents, many men in the UK still have to battle through courts just to see their sons or daughters,

 

This poses a serious welfare issue for the children concerned.

 

Some men have fought for nine years or more, yet still their court orders are not upheld, allowing the mother to ruin the lives of these innocent children. This is a clear indication that something is wrong with the UK family court systems.

 

Can you imagine how degrading it must be to have to seek a court’s permission just to see your own children?

 

There is an indication that things may be changing, an example is the recent speech by Jack Straw which is available at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/newsrelease161208b.htm but even so, there is a long way to go before fathers are treated as equal parents.

 

When we finally put our children’s rights first, things should change for the better, but until then, thousands of passionate fathers will have to battle for our children to grow up in a fairer and more humane society.

 

For more information and to have your say, visit http://www.realfathersforjustice.org and get involved now.

 

 

Telephone:  +44 (0)778 224 007 2

Email:   info@realfathersforjustice.org


Children’s Rights – How One Mother Can Wreck The Lives Of Six Families Over Christmas?

December 21, 2008

Christmas is truly a special time of the year whether you are religious or not. For whatever reasons, most UK citizens will be celebrating Christmas with loved ones, families or long-lost friends.

 

For some families, however, Christmas will not be the same due to archaic UK laws, failing judges and because inadequate court systems fail to uphold the basic human right of children being able to spend adequate time with both their natural parents.

 

Some parents, mainly men, have to fight for years just to get the right to spend adequate time with their children due to one parent, that either does not respect the notion of father figures, or because they are out to seek revenge for personal reasons, despite the harm it could bring to the innocent party, the children.

 

Despite numerous studies and surveys illustrating the benefits of a child having access to both parents, many men in the UK still have to battle through courts just to see their sons or daughters, despite a serious welfare issue for the children concerned. Some men have fought for nine years or more, yet still their court orders are not upheld, allowing the mother to ruin the lives of the children involved.

 

The fact that tens of thousands of fathers, every year, have to go to court just to be able to see their children is a clear indication that something is wrong. Can you imagine how degrading it is to have to seek the court’s permission just to see your own children?

 

There is an indication that things may be changing, an example is the recent speech by Jack Straw which is available at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/newsrelease161208b.htm but even so, there is a long way to go before fathers are treated as equal parents.

 

Children’s rights, as well as fathers rights are a very important issue and organisations such as The Real Fathers For Justice http://www.realfathersforjustice.org   are leading the way to make a difference in the legal system.

 

I am also a victim of the legal system in the UK; my seven year old daughter has not been allowed to have normal contact with me since September 2007. It has taken 18 months just to get overnight visits back every fortnight and I am not allowed to see my daughter from 21st December until 31st December, just because my daughter’s mother decides it.

 

When we finally put our children’s rights first, things should change for the better, until then, I and thousands of other passionate parents like me will have to battle for our children to grow up in a fairer and humane society.

 

For more information and to have your say, visit http://www.realfathersforjustice.org and get involved now.


Telephone:  +44 (0)778 224 007 2
Email:   info@realfathersforjustice.org


Jack Straw has made an oral statement about the opening up of family courts.

December 21, 2008

 Jack Straw

The Right Honourable Jack Straw MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice:

I have today laid before Parliament the document, Family Justice in View, copies of which will be available in the Vote Office and on my department’s website.

Family courts play a crucial role in our society. They make far-reaching decisions: how to divide finance on divorce, what protection to give victims of domestic violence, for example. And they make life-changing decisions about the future of children: whether they should be given contact with their parents, whether they should be removed into the care of the state, and whether they should be placed for adoption.

The decisions of family courts have profound and long-term effects on the lives of those involved and cumulatively on society as a whole.

Family cases can be conducted in the magistrates’ family proceedings courts, in county courts, and in the Family Division of the High Court. All of those with responsibility for these proceedings are well-trained and work to extremely high standards.

It is vital that these courts – like any others – command the confidence of the public, if the public – including the parties involved – are to accept their decisions. This can best be achieved if justice in these courts is seen to be done.

For entirely legitimate reasons, the privacy of parties to family proceedings must properly be protected. This is of enormous importance to adults, and an overwhelming imperative in cases involving children. At present, with some exceptions, neither the public nor the media is permitted to witness proceedings in these courts.

However, many argue that the current provisions to safeguard privacy and confidentiality go too far – leaving family courts unfairly open to accusations of bias or even injustice.

In contrast, there is a greater degree of openness in the youth courts. For example, the media are allowed to witness and report proceedings in the youth courts, so long as they do not identify juvenile defendants, and youth courts have a wide discretion to allow others to attend. These rules have worked effectively, and their spirit has been well respected by the media.

Media attendance

Mr Speaker, the debate about opening up the family courts has intensified in recent years, and two successive consultations have been carried out in 2006 and 2007. The results of those exercises were inconclusive, with strong representations, on the one hand in favour of improving transparency, and on the other in favour of maintaining the current position.

In recent months, the Parliamentary Under Secretary with responsibility for access to justice, my honourable friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice), and I have been actively considering how we can shed more light on family courts whilst preserving the imperative of the welfare of the child.

The government has now reached a conclusion. I am therefore announcing today that the rules will be changed to allow the media to attend family proceedings in all tiers of court.

The media will understandably be subject to reporting restrictions, similar to the youth courts. The courts will be able to relax or increase those restrictions in appropriate cases, and will have the power to exclude the media from specific proceedings altogether where the welfare of the child or the safety of the parties or witnesses requires it.

The overall effect of these changes will be fundamentally to increase the openness of family courts while protecting the privacy of children and vulnerable adults.

Judgments pilot

As well as allowing the media to attend family proceedings, there is a need to increase the amount and quality of information coming from the courts.

At present, anonymised judgments of the Court of Appeal, and in some instances the High Court, are made public. But this is not the situation for the county courts or the family proceedings courts, which deal with the bulk of family law cases.

We have therefore decided to pilot the provision of written judgments when a final order is made in certain family cases.

The courts in the pilot areas – Leeds, Wolverhampton and Cardiff – will, for the first time, routinely produce a written record of the decision for the parties involved. In selected cases where the court is making life-changing decisions for a child, they will publish an anonymous judgment online so that it can be read by the wider public.

Disclosure of information

Mr Speaker, the consequences of family proceedings are so significant that the parties involved will sometimes need to seek advice or support from a range of people, including legal advisers, family members, medical practitioners and elected representatives. To do so, they must be able to discuss and share information about their case.

In 2005, we made changes to the rules of court to allow people to disclose certain information to specified individuals. But after two years in operation, it became clear that those rules remained unnecessarily restrictive and complicated.

Following a consultation last year, the government has now decided to relax the rules on the disclosure of information in family proceedings.

Parties and legal representatives will be able to disclose more information for the purpose of advice and support, mediation and the investigation of a complaint, or – in an anonymised form – for training and research. In more cases, the person receiving the information will be able to disclose it to others for the purpose it was originally disclosed without seeking permission of the court.

But to protect the anonymity of children after proceedings have concluded, the decision of the Court of Appeal in Clayton v Clayton will be reversed.

Most of the key changes which I have announced today can be made by rules of the court, without the need for primary legislation. But some will require legislation, including the reversal of the effect of the decision in Clayton v Clayton and the potential opening of adoption proceedings. On the latter, we will be consulting about what approach would be most appropriate.

Conclusion

As a government, we are committed to improving the visibility of justice in this country; to lifting the veil which sometimes keeps justice from view.

The measures I have outlined will help to build a transparent, accountable family justice system which inspires the confidence of the people it serves, while continuing to protect the privacy of the parties and children involved.

I commend this statement to the House.


Dads – the new terrorists?

December 21, 2008

Tough new laws have been drawn up to tackle fathers who refuse to pay for their children. But are the powers a step too far?  A leading North- East solicitor thinks they are.

IT COULD almost be anti-terror legislation – the power to take money from bank accounts without consent and without a court order, the power to freeze accounts, seize the proceeds of house sales, impose curfews, and confiscate passports and driving licences.

However, this is not a new law to help MI5 tackle extremism. The powers are contained within the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill and have been designed to help the authorities recover money from non-resident parents – usually fathers – owed for their children’s upkeep.

The Government announced a major overhaul of the child maintenance system last year and the legislation is currently working its way through Parliament and could be given Royal Assent within weeks. The bill will see the much-maligned Child Support Agency (CSA) replaced with a new more powerful body, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (C-MEC).

Few people would question the need to abolish the CSA, which has been dogged by controversy and complaints ever since its launch in 1993. However, a leading North-East solicitor has warned the extent of the powers due to be handed to the new commission will only increase the heartache for separating families – and lead to even greater confrontation and friction.

Kim Fellowes, from North-East-based solicitors Dickinson Dees, sits on the National Committee of Resolution, a 5,000-strong association of family lawyers committed to the non-confrontational resolution of marital and domestic disputes. She is chair of Resolution’s child support sub-committee, which means she has become a national expert on the CSA – and has been involved in legislation battles in the House of Commons and Lords over the CSA and child support, advising both Government and Opposition.

Miss Fellowes believes officials at the Department for Work and Pensions are secretly delighted that the bill has been given such an easy ride through Parliament and should emerge relatively unscathed.

“These new powers will affect every single family going through separation in the North-East,” she says.

She believes the commission’s ability to take maintenance payments without prior approval from a court could prove extremely controversial. She says: “For fathers, this means the safety net of the court has been removed. Someone might not agree that they have been sent to prison for a criminal offence, but at least they know they have been tried before a court.

The difference here is that there is no court scrutiny.

“And if the father believes he is being unfairly pursued or harassed, that could mean a severe backlash for the mother as she will get the blame. The risk is that even a separation that was previously fairly amicable could become strained.”

One of the most worrying aspects, according to Miss Fellowes, is that the powers are being afforded to the successor of an organisation like the CSA – which has a well-documented history of making mistakes. One report compiled during the agency’s early days found errors in 86 per cent of cases.

Improvements were promised. But a fresh report carried out by the National Audit Office in 2006 revealed a one-in-five chance that payments were inaccurate. Miss Fellowes and others believe the powers included in the bill are so momentous that they may even breach human rights regulations. She predicts strenuous legal challenges once the powers begin to be applied, possibly in the autumn.

She also raises concerns about other aspects of the legislation which could impact on families in the region. The Government wants to encourage separating couples to make their own maintenance arrangements. The new commission will be responsible for raising awareness about the importance of maintenance payments and will provide an information and guidance service to help parents make effective arrangements. It is envisaged that such services will actually be provided by voluntary organisations, such as Citizens Advice.

With already tight budgets, it is feared the voluntary sector will not be in a position to provide the necessary help. The commission will also have the power to write off arrears owed by some fathers without paying any compensation to the carer who has lost out.

Since the CSA’s launch, many thousands of cases have built up where money can never be recovered because the CSA failed to take enforcement action within the a period six years of the payments being due.

“The Government has got a lot of bad publicity in the past over the CSA and now it wants to reduce its workload – and the outstanding debt owed to the CSA of £3.3bn. To do this they are sending people packing by getting them to make their own arrangements and will be writing off arrears,” she says.

THE Department for Work and Pensions declined to comment on the criticism of the bill. However, a spokesman pointed to the latest figures which show the CSA collected more than £62m from nonresident parents of North-East and North Yorkshire children during the past financial year. More than 50,000 children living in the region are now benefiting from maintenance payments to their carer, officials say. They claim recent improvements in the CSA have formed a base from which the new commission can build from.

Speaking about the figures, which were published at the end of a three-year drive to improve the CSA, the organisation’s chief executive and the new child maintenance commissioner designate, Stephen Geraghty, said: “The Child Support Agency and its operational improvement plan has delivered real improvements to the child maintenance system in areas such as customer service, compliance and collection and this creates stable foundations on which the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission can build. In the meantime, the CSA will continue to pursue parents who evade their financial responsibilities. Our message to them is clear. Act now or we will.”

Link to Original Article


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