President of the Family Division Says Courts Are Not Best Suited To Resolving Conflicts Over Child Contact

October 1, 2010
  • President of the Family Division says that the traditional adversarial system in British courts compels separated parents to argue against each other when trying to arrange contact with their children. Children are often used as ‘the battlefield and the ammunition’ after separation

The President of the Family Division says that children are often used as ‘the battlefield and the ammunition’ after divorce or separation by parents wishing to punish each other for the breakdown of their relationship.

Lord Justice Wall, the senior judge in the family courts, was speaking at the annual gathering of Families Need Fathers which has branches all over the UK. He stated “often, the parties are fighting over again the battles of the relationship, and the children are both the battlefield the ammunition.”

Against this background the adversarial system of the courts doesn’t help. “One party wants a divorce, or residence or contact: the other opposes it. One party makes an application, the other resists. The adversarial system is engrained.”

Lord Justice Wall described break-ups as ‘a serious failure in parenting’ that requires an extremely responsible and child-centred approach to prevent harm to the children. “Parents, in my experience, often find it difficult to understand that children both love and have a loyalty to both parents. There is nothing worse, for most children, than for their parents to denigrate each other.  If a child’s mother makes it clear to the child that his or her father is worthless – and vice versa – the child’s sense of self-worth can be irredeemably damaged.”
With 136,000 couples divorcing annually and, each year, up to 20,000 parents going to court to determine disputes over seeing their children, this issue affects a large proportion of the population and its effects will be felt among generations of children who have suffered following separation.

Many children lose touch with one of their parents in these circumstances and are, consequently, likely to suffer in many respects over the course of their lives. Families Need Fathers is chiefly concerned with the problems of maintaining a child’s relationship with both parents during and after family breakdown. They offer information, advice and support services for parents who could otherwise spend years without achieving a positive outcome for the children. One of their key resources of is a 50 strong network of local branch meetings where anyone can get free help and support from separated parents who have themselves struggled to see their children.

To learn more about the charity’s other services, such as a helpline and a website, call 0300 0300 110 or visit www.fnf.org.uk.


Child rights fathers rights

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I Need Advice – Am I A Bad Father?

June 12, 2009

I never write personal blogs like this, but I actually need help and for once in my life I am asking for some help and advice.

Today, my 7 year daughter turned up at my doorstep clinging to her mother saying “I don’t want to see you Daddy, I want to stay with mummy”. I squatted down and calmly said “why not darling” what is it?

To give you some background. Monday  just gone (June 8th I was told by my ex that my daughter was invited, by her best friend, to a Holy Communion in a nearby church.

I responded by saying that it was my day with her on Sunday and that I should be allowed to take her to the church on Sunday. I acknowledge the parents might know our situation and be reluctant to see me as it has been 2 years since I have been allowed to pick up my daughter from school.

There were many email communications throughout the week between myself and her solicitor as she was only offering an overnight Friday in return to taking 2 Sundays away from me (my only day to spend REAL quality time with her).

Today  she turned up and said “if you had agreed to what our daughter wanted then everything would be ok”.

Seriously, am I a bad father for insisting I should be able to take her to her best friends’ Holy Communion.  I do understand that my ex may be friends with our daughter’s best friends’ parents, but surely if it is my court ordered day to be with her, they can just ask me to take her.

Today is the first day I have really questioned |if I should have had a child. My best achievement in life is my daughter and I have always been there and I will always be there. But to experience what I did today, my whole world has been shattered into tiny pieces as my whole reason for feeling a better person, does not even want tom spend time with me, after a hard, 2 year battle just to get access back.

What have I done wrong?

What am I doing wrong?

How have I had this happen to me when my child is my world?


Families Need Fathers Produce Essential Book For Anyone Representing Themselves In A Child Contact Case

June 8, 2009

Families Need Fathers has just produced an essential book entitled “Give ‘Em Some LIP!” (LIP meaning Litigant In Person). This is an essential read for anyone that is either a McKenzie friend or representing themselves in court.

I have been fighting my own case for almost 2 years now and my McKenzie friend has been great and this book will hopefully help me to be better prepared in court and know what is the best thing to do for progress.

The book has been produced by top McKenzie’s and professional advisers such as Jeff Botterill and Ruth Glover and is available at:   http://www.fnf.org.uk/shop/index.php/fuseaction/shop.category/categoryid/21

I hope this book helps all of us progress to a happier future.

Let me know any comments on the book.


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.


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