The Pink Stink v True Colours : A Freebie for F4J

Earlier today I posted an item about the Family Justice Review that referred to F4J.

This evidently did not go down well. It apparently doesn’t take much criticism to evoke quite a startlingly OTT response.

Matt O’Connor has not sought a right of reply, but I’m happy to offer one. In fact I think it’s quite important that more people should read this charming and classy piece of writing.

So here’s a little free publicity for ya.This, ladies and gentleman is the less polished face of F4J.

PS I’m not a solicitor.

PINK STINK (link to original post)

A while back I was contacted by a publisher seeking my assistance helping PR/Promote a book on behalf of a solicitor called Lucy Reed who had a blog called Pink Tape. I replied that I would rather chew on my left testicle than assist a solicitor profit from child trafficking.

It struck me then that some people just don’t ‘get it’ and never fucking will. The legal profession, like bankers simply don’t ‘get it’. They lack human empathy, understanding, insight or simply view humanity’s failings as an opportunity to convert conflict into profit. These parasitic legions of bottom feeders often try and put a human face on their Dickensian trade and the ‘Pink Tape’ blog did a better than most.

Now maybe that’s because I am in possession of a wardrobe you can see from Google Earth but I like the colour pink and maybe that’s why I warmed to her odd little musings.

But recently the not so juicy Lucy’s mask has slipped a little, the parfum is stale and the shade of pink is quickly fading to reveal her true colours. First of all she accused the children on the Children4Justice video of being actors and now says that the thought of children seeking legal redress for lost childhoods left her feeling ‘queasy’.

She doesn’t understand the meaning of the word.

Given she belongs to a profession that asset strips families and children for financial gain, nothing makes me feel sicker or angrier than the thought of her and her colleagues wringing every last penny out of some tragic parental conflict gone wrong.

No doubt they excuse their involvement in such a wretched business as being in the ‘child’s bests interests’ but like the rest of the cunts who use this grotesque deception to excuse the abuse of children behind closed doors, they deserve our anger and our contempt.

Maybe Lucy has no children. Maybe she is cold blooded. Maybe she just ‘doesn’t get it’. But to dismiss the testimony of these brave children who have demonstrated immense courage and come forward to speak out because they wanted to share their experiences with other children is simply despicable.

I don’t know why I sometimes expect more from humanity but people like Lucy Reed remind me that bigotry, ignorance and prejudice are still contaminating family law. They have learnt nothing. It’s business as usual at Reed and Reed Family Butchers.

And if our children are successful in demanding justice in a truth and reconciliation style hearing one day, I for one hope Lucy Reed will be one of the first up apologising for what she and her kind did to children and families in this country. I pray for her soul that they will forgive her.

Matt O’Connor, 22/2/12

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215 thoughts on “The Pink Stink v True Colours : A Freebie for F4J

  1. Excellent! First thing I read in my news feed this morning, but I bet it’ll be the funniest!

  2. Sadly Lucy’s less than enthusiastic interest in a Presumption of Shared Parenting in legislation, provides Matt credibility for his colourful invective.

  3. Chambers – no it doesn’t. There’s no excuse at all for this sort of uncivilised abuse. If you have a rational point, make it rationally. If you can’t make point rationally, I doubt that you have a rational point to put.

    I have endless sympathy for fathers who are deprived of a relationship with their children because of the malice of their mothers. I believe that the law needs to show a real appetite for identifying that tiny minority of abusive parents and deal with them ruthlessly. However, the breadth and depth of the generalisations in Matt’s “critique” and the intemperate misuse of language mean that I simply can’t take him seriously.

  4. Putting aside all the colourful language and conjurers slight of hand, what we ultimately have here is an industry fighting to keep going, whilst simultaneously seeing it spit of children who are wronged at the back end. Which would most reasoned people say is the greater imperative? The rather clever deflection regarding the children being actors may be a wonderful tool in the barristers formidable arse(enal) but it does not change the fact that these children are real, that they have suffered horribly and that your industry not only did this to them but keeps justifying it’s continuation. I’ve met each one of them and have heard their accounts first hand. It broke my heart and caused me a grown man to weep at what is done to them in the name of others earning a quick buck or fifty thousand. My challenge to you Lucy is to put aside the clever argument and go see these kids, offer your time free to resolve their awful situations. Other barristers have had their children put through private school so that these kids could lose it all – how about your industry giving something back to them? It won’t happen. For what is laid out clear for all to see (at least those outside the madness of family law) is that whilst one heavyweight (in the purple corner) slugs it out with another (in the pink corner) the truth is one stands for ending the abuse, and the other for it to continue so that she can earn money from it. It’s simple really, and very very sad.

    • Pete,
      Read the post. Nobody is suggesting the children are actors.
      With respect to your challenge I regularly act for fathers and for children (and not just through CAFCASS). And, like many barristers I do work for free alongside paid work. As it happens the last two cases I’ve dealt with pro bono have been for fathers seeking contact with their children, one on a pending appeal. Is that the kind of thing you were challenging me to do? It may come as something of a surprise to find this is not anathema to the bar and in fact it is commonplace.

      With respect to your second comment aimed at another individual who has commented on this blog I will not publish it. It is one thing to be abusive to me (although I have my limits too) but I won’t give you a platform to make outrageous and probably defamatory allegations of quite a serious nature.

      I have allowed your first comment as it – just about – falls within the bounds of reasonable discussion, so you can see I don’t stifle respectful debate or publish only views I agree with. But your second comment is pointlessly abusive. I did think your reference to other people’s penis size was illuminating but sadly not appropriate for publication.

      Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m off to represent a dad to see if I can get him some contact. Before I go perhaps I should take the opportunity to apologise for earning what is likely to be about £50 net for a days work. Not much of an “industry” is it?

      Ps please don’t post more abusive comments as I will then have to block you.

  5. Dear Lucy,

    Thank you for the response. I shall of course be civil in future. I would however like to take issue with some of what you say. In your response you say to me that…

    “Read the post. Nobody is suggesting the children are actors.”

    But, in your original post you say…

    “F4J used the Government’s response as a springboard for the launch of a promotional video, apparently [unintentional drafting / syntax error - not quibbling over whether they are real children or real family breakdowns!] of real children involved in real family breakdowns and who express on film their grievance at having been prevented from having a relationship with their dad against their wishes.”

    The use of the word apparently (it doesn’t copy across here as crossed out) make it clear that you are indeed suggesting that they were actors. If as you sarcastically say it was a ‘syntax error’ why leave it in? I think we all know what you were trying to say and why. I’m not sure if you do believe what you’ve seen there as true, or not. Fact is, it is totally true and deadly serious. To suggest it’s some kind of fake to your readers is clearly designed to sway opinion, something a good barrister will naturally be great at doing. But it doesn’t help the children does it, when you make these comments.

    As for the pro bono work you do, that is probably as admirable as it gets for most family law practitioners. I’d like however to point out something that many miss. Helping a few victims through the machine you work in does not negate the fact the machine should not exist, or that the right thing to do is to work towards the end of the entire system ‘now’ that you know what it is doing. Put another way, I would accept that the vast majority of family solicitors and barristers came into the game with relatively good intentions. However, once inside and experienced enough to see the damage it causes so many children – why stay there? Why not use that experience to bring about an end to it?

    I did recently meet a family barrister at Occupy London, I didn’t catch her name mores the pity. Having seen what she was part of she continued to work (paid) but gave up her home and moved into an Occupy Tent, all the money she earns she gives towards Occupy with the intention of pulling apart the industry in which she works. Frankly, if I did recall her name it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to name her anyway. That, to me, is the epitome of a prison guard who’s decided the genocide they are part of needs to be taken down. Helping out the odd victim on the way to the gas chambers for free however does not negate that one still works in the prison camp or that other victims are still taken to be slaughtered for a fee. I hope my point is clear here. As a point of fact, you’ll find that quite a few Nazi’s claimed they helped some jews out of the camps at the Nuremberg hearings – it didn’t help them because they still slaughtered others. As one working in psychology I noted with interest the horror on these guards faces as they realised those small efforts did not get them off the hook; perhaps something those that choose to continue in this destructive family law game would do well to remember. And in my profession it is well know the mechanisms that cause humans to justify to themselves why they do the things they do; unfortunately it doesn’t work at a later date when faced with their crimes as will be inevitable at some point in the near to middling future. No one will swing for what they’ve done so far, but they will have to live with themselves when their crimes are exposed and that I can state is something that will make for a very miserable old age.

    Thank you for allowing my comments. For some of us this is not a profession and we cannot be as dispassionate as those for who it is. For us it’s real and acute agony, watching others play their games whilst children suffer and cry. It’s not always easy to be civil in such circumstances, nor perhaps completely appropriate.

    • Pete,

      You say: ““F4J used the Government’s response as a springboard for the launch of a promotional video, apparently [unintentional drafting / syntax error - not quibbling over whether they are real children or real family breakdowns!] of real children involved in real family breakdowns and who express on film their grievance at having been prevented from having a relationship with their dad against their wishes.”

      The use of the word apparently (it doesn’t copy across here as crossed out) make it clear that you are indeed suggesting that they were actors. If as you sarcastically say it was a ‘syntax error’ why leave it in? I think we all know what you were trying to say and why. I’m not sure if you do believe what you’ve seen there as true, or not. Fact is, it is totally true and deadly serious. To suggest it’s some kind of fake to your readers is clearly designed to sway opinion, something a good barrister will naturally be great at doing. But it doesn’t help the children does it, when you make these comments.”

      I think you misunderstand. THere is nothing sarcastic about my crossing out. It’s an established good practice method for transparently amending blog posts where an error has been rectified, rather than amending it and making it look as if it was always that way. It’s not a marker that I do not mean what I say, but a marker that I have amended something that did not reflect what I meant. I have said in terms that I am not questioning that these are real children telling their stories, and if it needs repeating you have it. I would have thought it was self evident that it is precisely the fact that they are real children who have lived through real conflict that is the source of the concern that I raised. I’d probably have been happier if F4J had made the point with actors although I appreciate that they would say that this would defeat the object of the exercise.

      As for being part of “the machine”, I think it is self evident from this blog that I work within the system with the aim of improving it. I make no apology for doing so. There has to be some system elsewise there is anarchy or vigilantism, which I think is a position that F4J have moved away from since the early years.

      Your subsequent analogy with a Nazi prison guard I’m afraid falls foul of Godwin’s law, which is a remarkable achievement so early on in a thread. This means you don’t get another bash in future comments.

      Other than to say that I am not dispassionate about children and families at all, as I think you will discover if you read the blog more widely than this single post I have little more to add. Both as a professional and in my personal life, I am able to observe the line between strong words and abuse. Sadly this week has been a reminder that some others are not so able.

  6. Lucy,

    I think you’re fab.

    Just felt the need to redress the balance after reading that nasty rant.

  7. in Luton where i am from a man shot himself in the face with a shotgun. cos of a court system that took it upon them selfs to stop him seeing his kid. and it drove him to wanna end his life. witch he did in an 8 hour stand off with the police in a park. now i know he went mad. but we can all go mad and we have all got a point of no return. its just different of everyone what sets you off may not set another person off. but i ent seen my son in two years and we been at court as long. my ex says i am nuts. witch i am not. she has tried to kill herself twice over a boyfriend. so like said different things set different people off. she takes truth and then twists it into a lie.oh and the real reason she wants to stop me seeing my son is. she has a new daddy now. she was even caught teaching my son to call him dad,by her sister and my hole family. i even had a email from her sister through facebook saying her sister was teaching my son to call another man dad. and that her sister is a lier and was coming to me to find out what i said. as my ex often lies about what really happened.[edited to remove material concerning court proceedings and swearing] i love the uk. a bunch of inbreeding monsters run our country

  8. they seem to have you taped. a money-grubbing child-stealing/abusing solicitor without kids of her own.

    who happens to be a lizard.

    i suppose it’s like someone blaming me for all the stupidity of the criminal justice system. i make money out of it. in fact, i often get trials adjourned just so that i can get 50 quid for the adjourned hearing and then the whole 75-100 quid when it comes back on. i rub my hands in glee at the thought of such things. my clients’ interests be damned! mwahahahahahaha.

    nice of him to pray for your soul, though. if lizards have them.

    ah well; another satisfied customer.

  9. Always interesting to see what happens when you scratch the surface with an organisation like F4J. Underneath the PR lurks the largely irrational and frequently abusive ranting of its members who are often exhibiting the kind of behaviour which estranged their ex partners and led to restrictions on ther contact. Very revealing.

  10. With respect, it is not enough to represent fathers who deserve time and contact with their children. As long as you represent ANY individual who is stopping a parent see their children, without good reason of course, you are part of an awful and heartbreaking problem.

    £50 a day may not seem a lot to you and that individual case may not make you huge amounts of money but there will be many other cases that do increase your wages considerably.

    I understand that you are intelligent, I would hope so anyway(!), but please don’t post extreme one-offs in the hopes that the rest of the world won’t notice the holes in your argument. It only seeks to alienate your profession from the rest of society as you, unintentionally, come across as arrogant and superior. (I am a teacher and so know just how our professions can unintentionally patronise the public; be careful)

    I hope that in the future you will consider carefully whether you represent clients who do NOT have a good reason to stop access to their children. It’s not that you don’t do goood things too but they don’t wipe the slate clean and someday you will have to look at yourself in the mirror OR your children will and I hope you like what you see.

    Regards and I hope for a pleasant, guilt free sleep for you tonight.

    Drew

    • @ Drew
      Ok, you’re a teacher and therefore an intelligent person. So can I suggest you go and look up the cab rank rule on wikipedia? That’s the rule that will ensure you are defended in court by a barrister of your choosing if you ever have the misfortune to be accused of sexual impropriety with one of your pupils. I imagine you would want it to apply to you in those circumstances. I don’t make the judgments, the courts do. My job is not to judge but to give my client, whoever they are, the best shot at a fair result. And it’s that same cab rank rule that ensures that fathers who are wrongly accused by mothers of some horrible abuse or other that means they can’t see their kids are also represented by a barrister of their choice, even though they may look at first glance as guilty as hell. THEY need the cab rank rule as much as anyone.

      Of course this means my job involves representing some arseholes. But that’s a necessary corrollary of a system that believes in providing an opportunity for everyone to be heard without snap judgments being made. You want me to be guilty for that? Sorry, no.

      The only extreme one off I have posted was written by somebody else and directed towards me.

      Thank you for your comment.

  11. Drew, fair comment indeed.

    The “cab rank rule” in Private Law is a major problem.

    Disputes about the level of time a child spends with each parent should not be decided in a brutal adversarial arena with one or both of the parents having their ‘champion’ fight for their cause.

    Children deserve better! Leave the “cab rank rule” for criminal, public and corporate law.

    Parents and children need a family law system that encourages cooperation not a winner takes all approach, where the worst elements of human nature are promoted.

  12. I have read some of these messages and from what I can gather a minority are having a go at F4J founder Matts ‘colourful language.’ You are really missing the point. What you negative uneducated people need to do is watch Bob Geldofs documentary on this cause done a while back which you will find on utube. A 4 part documentary I believe. He went through the same problems when he broke up with Paula Yates. Let me tell you something. This man has more balls and backbone than all you money driven head in the sand people will ever have! And you think Matts launguage is bad? Listen to Bob. These guys have really opened my eyes to what is happening. Nobody can judge until you are in this position that so many loving caring fathers are in. I have a 5 year old beautiful blonde blue eyed daughter who I love dearly and I some day hope she will grow up to be a nurse, vet or mid wife who is in a caring profession. NOT a lawyer/solicitor who are out for themselves. Believe me you have nothing to be proud of. Finally, I have said this many many times. If you women or men have a son well some day unless the law changes your son will soon be in the same position as fathers today. If it does change then you have the likes of Matt to thank.

  13. This blog is exactly why lawyers should not represent clients in family law cases. And why judges should not be part of the decision making process. There should be a panel of child development experts and a psychiatrist telling judges what to order. There is no need for lawyers, and no need for judges in their current roles in private law.
    Father’s groups tried the civil and lobbying route for decades to get nowhere. Because of people like you with your smart answers and false arguments groups like FNF/F4J/RFFJ know they are wasting their time being polite. That doesnot mean they are not being civil. That you, a lawyer involved in the business of preventing fathers from seeing their children when it pays, then state their behaviour is proof of why they get nowhere is pure hypocrisy.
    The MoJ have recently released two documents; one stating that lawyers no longer know family law and the other admitting that no monitoring of outcomes has happened in 40 years. Based upon that, justify your £50 a day.
    So far as getting a dad contact, I can predict how that will go. It’ll start at a contact center for two hours a fortnight and you will maintain that client for years as he ascends the elevated court treadmill to a final order awarding every other weekend. You’ll advise against shared residence applications. You’ll hint at outcomes when you have no idea about delivering. You’ll present no empirical research to back up the children needing meaningful levels of contact starting at 30-35%. You will stand back as the mother’s lawyer abuses process with late statements. You’ll let the mother’s lawyer walk over you in court with fresh and unsubstantiated allegations which are obviously false. Yes, you’ll get contact, but not a meaningful relationship.
    And if you think some well earned criticism is aggressive simply because it contains bad language, you need to understand the context. These men are trying to have meaningful relationships with their own flesh and blood. Call them aggressive when they start attacking or hanging lawyers and judges from lamp posts. The evils of denying meaningful relationships to offspring compared to a few cross words? It’s high time the voices of family law professionals gave way to their victims. If you cared to listen, you’d find them to be quite a civil bunch, all things considered.

    • Where have I said that the behaviour of fathers is the reason they get nowhere? where have I said the system functions perfectly or even well?
      what are the two documents you refer to? as to the second, monitoring of outcomes is a matter for the court service and I agree it is lacking and should be improved.
      I agree that mostly fathers are civil bunch. In the four years I’ve been running this blog I’ve never had to put up with such a tirrade, and I’ve usually managed to engage in reasonably respectful discussion even with people who I disagree with. I’ve only banned one person from commenting. I don’t see comments being allowed on the F4J blog. I wouldn’t criticise people for being upset, for being angry, or for being a bit rude. I don’t think that Matt O’Connor’s blog post falls into that category, particularly since he is the figurehead of an organisation who is supposed to be doing fathers a service.

  14. I’m acutely puzzled by the invective that any disapproval of the “presumption of shared parenting” enshrined in statute causes.

    Actually, I’m not really. But I do think that it indicates that, among some people, there is a belief that this shared parenting provision is going to mean that they get 4347 hours of parenting time each year. A belief that such legislation would radically alter the outcome of their own litigation in their favour appears to be the only logical explanation for the degree of attachment to the idea, and the level of abuse hurled upon anyone who dares to disagree.

    Ironically, this phenomenon demonstrates perfectly that there is a risk that, at least in some quarters, the Australian problem is a likely consequence of the proposed legislative amendment. Which might well lead one to conclude it’s a really bad idea in any form.

    Until we actually have some kind of concrete proposal from the government, this all seems a little premature.

    p.s. Regarding the storm in the teacup labelled ‘apparently’ I would suggest that some qualification is required. It isn’t Lucy’s contention that the children in question are real children subject to real litigation or otherwise and in the context of a blog by a practitioner this ought to be clear. Perhaps quotation marks are the ideal middle ground, or “videos of children, whom Fathers for Justice state are describing personal experience”?

    While I haven’t seen the videos, but there might well be a real risk that in doing this the parents in question have jeopardised their contact with the their children. Furthermore, assuming these individuals are still children, surely the attempts to sue CAFCASS would have to be conducted through a litigation friend. I’m not an expert, but isn’t that likely to be the resident parent not the instigator of the filming (who is presumably non-resident)?

    Perhaps I’m just trying to make sense out of something that doesn’t admit much logic.

  15. Hi familoo
    Can you honestly say the system is working?
    Be real spiting out laws that really only mean one thing. Its as plane as the nose on my face. ££££££££££££££££ more money for you more for the court system more founding to the social services for hitting quotas. and most importantly more money for the tax man. fact is the longer this takes the more you earn. and government love that. i am sure you feel you are doing the right thing. but look at everything you have been thought and now look at how much of it is real law as in common law the law of the land. now look at how much is corporate law. that alone should tell you whose work you are doing.Oh and i ent a teacher or a solicitor. I am a welder. So is what i say not worth listening to? as I surly don’t understand the inner workings of law. but i know the inner workings of life and i can see when something is broken. and the only people that can fix a system that is not working is the people working in that system. you are better placed than anyone to change the this you and every family law professional out there. I mean they ent even your mistakes they are a system that is so detached from real life and built on fear not love. to many what if this happens or that. at least your way of doing it means less of the blame falls on your door. as these kids will not be messed up till they are older and one will look at why they will just blame it on drugs video games rock music the bad parents or in your case parent. Please look at the uks kids, now look how many of them have real identity issues. All i am saying is as long as we keep pretending there is no problem the worse it will become. just look like we are waiting till we hand over the world to our kids and saying here you go you fix it…..

    • I have not said the system is working. I do not think the system is working. I do my best to help make it work better. We disagree about the appropriate method for doing that.

  16. P.S. With respect, if in your example ‘familoo’ a mother is accusing a father of some horrible abuse, then it should be dealt with in the criminal courts – Not Private family law where the checks and balances are simply not there to ensure a fair and just process.

    • So if a father accused a resident mother of abuse and wanted to get the family court to do something about it (e.g. transfer residence) the family court would have it’s hands tied until a criminal prosecution went through? And if it didn’t meet the standard for prosecution and conviction?? The kids would stop where they were, in an abusive home. That ok with you?

  17. ‘Your subsequent analogy with a Nazi prison guard I’m afraid falls foul of Godwin’s law, which is a remarkable achievement so early on in a thread. This means you don’t get another bash in future comments.’

    damn you, pesky lizard-woman! i wanted to quote godwin’s law.

    why do some posters think that if all the family barristers went and did something else it would make matters any better?

  18. While I wouldn’t use his exact words, I do share the anger and the frustration which leads Pete and others to use intemperate language.

    I suspect some of my first posts on this blog were a little disrespectful, but over the years I have come to learn that Lucy is open-minded, sympathetic towards fathers, and runs one of the best blogs in the business (not least because she has a thick skin and a sense of humour). She has also given me a great deal of space in the past to present my thoughts on these issues, and hence the thoughts of F4J.

    The mud-slinging is unfortunate, but there is slinging from both sides, even if representatives of the other side are more circumspect in their choice of language. The allegations that our arguments are “irrational” or that we in some way deserve to be estranged from our children (not a very child-focused opinion) are just as bad in their way as those which confirm Mike Godwin’s law.

    Despite what some may think, we have often, here and elsewhere, presented cogent, well-reasoned and well-researched arguments, and it is enormously frustrating when these are merely brushed aside as the ranting of “mad, bad, sad dads” and no attempt is made to engage in debate or present an opposing view. There are some legal blogs – and I had better not name them – which I have followed for years, but on which I have NEVER seen any attempt to justify the position (anti shared parenting, pro sole maternal custody, pro child support rather than proper hands-on parenting) taken.

    It really would be good to see some intelligent and provocative debate rather than the usual, rather boring, polarisation of the two sides. I know Lucy has made attempts to encourage this, but to date with little success.

    So here’s a challenge – if you think F4J are wrong in campaigning for mothers and fathers to be treated equally, for equally shared parenting where there is no good reason to deny it, for courts that are accountable and subject to public scrutiny, for the outcome of orders to be monitored, say so, and explain with good evidence why your position should be preferred, and why it better protects children’s interests.

    • Thanks for your comment Nick. I don’t think I have suggested that you or anyone else deserves to be estranged from their children by reason of their campaigning or membership of any other group or generally (unless of course there was some very good safety reason which I am not suggesting is the case in relation to any particular person).

      As you know I don’t think its wrong to campaign for parents to be treated equally where there is no good reason to deny it, nor that courts should be accountable and subject to public scrutiny. I have sometimes taken issue with the campaigning methods.

  19. Lucy.

    As a Parenting Co-ordinator and Family Therapist as well as the Director of the Centre for Separated Families, I found your original post about as offensive as you and others found Matt O C’s response.

    Don’t poke fun at real life suffering, you may only see a tiny part of it but the wider picture is pretty miserable. Its not material for fun and games and cheap jibes at spelling mistakes.

    The Children Act 1989 is not fit for purpose, it is fairly meaningless as it stands and those of us working with family separation every day, trying to support families to build business arrangements around care and provision for children, need a clear legislative statement about the importance to children of mothers and fathers in their lives.

    Liz Trinder may have done a good deal of research in the area but she is a stand point academic who maintains the status quo by interviewing the people that she has already told us make up the majority of separated families in the UK.

    Gender Analysis demonstrates that research such as Trinder’s only shows one side of a very complex story. You might think dads who are diligent in their analysis of such research are obsessive. I consider that for these dads, the efforts to unpick the tightly woven mask that has been held in place by the likes of Liz Trinder for too long is the only way that they can survive the sense of loss, bewilderment and injustice that comes from being simply disposed of after family separation.

    Whether you love or loathe F4J and their Children4Justice video, they represent a disenfranchised group of parents who are treated abominably in too many cases. The levels of discrimination that are acceptable around fatherhood are appalling in the UK. I hear it in the way that fathers are made fun of, belittled or simply suspected of being weird because they want to spend time with their children. Don’t add to it by using that suffering to have your own little bit of sharp witted fun.

    Cheap jibes at disadvantaged people might make you feel better and pompous responses about the etiquette of debate may ensure that you remain ‘on top’ in the comment thread, but it leaves this reader with a bitter taste. I hoped for better than this from someone I thought might ‘get’ what is really going on.

    • I never poke fun at suffering, and I acknowledge that pain – but I do sometimes poke fun at the way professionals or representatives of organisations behave.

  20. Lets try to get this straight shall we? Only the judge has the job of deciding whether one party is maliciously preventing contact. The other lawyers don’t. If I act for one party or the other, it is absolutely not for me to decide if they are deserving of representation or not. The law permits anyone to be legally represented in Court proceedings. Who is supposed to carry out this vetting process to determine who is entitled to a lawyer and who is not? And just what is there left for a judge to do once that is over?

  21. I will happily represent anyone free of charge so as to avoid accusations of being money grubbing and greedy if you good folk will tell me how my mortgage will get paid and my children fed while I’m doing that.

  22. The ‘cab rank rule’ where you pick up your ‘champion’ lawyer to win in the ‘adversarial family law’ courts are primary reasons why children’s needs are abandoned.

    If there is ‘abuse’ then the Police/CPS should be dealing with it in the criminal courts, not a half baked system with no real processes in place to ensure all the evidence is before the Court and the system has a chance of getting it right.

    Kids are already being left in abusive homes by the multitude because mothers are not treated as perpetrators except in extreme circumstances. There is little chance that this present family law system protects any more children than a proper evidence based and properly executed criminal trial system would do. In fact it would protect more children as emotionally abusive (many who are physically abusive) parents who make the most allegations and the wildest would be deterred or found out earlier.

    You are quite correct ‘familoo’ about F4J not allowing any comments they disagree with on their forums/facebook etc – F4J are renowned for their paranoia and inability to take any criticism or debate on their own home ground. However, it does not make their argument wrong.

    I simply don’t believe any lawyer or judge is really interested in children and their parents being treated equally if they do not support a ‘presumption of shared parenting’ in law. This inaction and the ignoring of the need for shared parenting legislation demonstrates a clear prejudice against fathers. Many fine words do not make up for this bias stance against dads.

    Marilyn Stowe & John Bolch who write blogs are in favour of shared parenting laws; I don’t agree with some of their other views but at least they see the need for change and how the present family law system is at the very least perceived by the bulk of the population of this country who are generally reasonable people i.e. a force of discrimination against fathers and failing children

    • Chambers, you know from reading this blog that I am in favour of a presumption of shared parenting, it’s just that I think such a presumption already exists through caselaw. It can quite properly be displaced for good reason, but that is in reality the starting point already.

  23. I think you gave been more than tolerant, Lucy. I also think that some of the comments from members of certain groups like FNF and F4J do them little favour when, as I understand it, there own forums are so heavily moderated that anyone who criticises the party line is banned. Then they wonder why their ex’s describe them as “abusive and controlling”
    Most cases I am involved in are resolved by consent and only a minority proceed to a full contested hearing. There will always be a minority of cases that need robust intervention from the court and there are improvements that can be made in the way those cases are managed but, rather than attack the legal profession, the angry dads brigade might have done better to campaign for legal aid to always be made available to both parties in those cases so that equality of arms could be achieved. Instead, some of them, like FNF, welcomed the government’s hatchet job on LA, believing that only hostile mothers were entitled. That is typical of (arguably) well intentioned but misguided pressure groups that represent a small demographic but insist that their subjective experience is the reality for everyone. Like goldfish, they assume that their little bowl is all that exists. When challenged they resort to abuse or silencing tactics when they can get away with it.
    I do think that some reinforcement of the principle of children having a right to a meaningful relationship with both parents would not go amiss but that is all it will ever be- a reinforcement of an already existing principle. It won’t make a great deal of difference in reality and I wonder where the angry dads brigade will go next.
    Just a thought on another issue, Lucy… why would a lawyer, apparently out to fleece or wring every last penny out of clients, publish a book to help LIP’s? What were you thinking of?

    • Obviously Northern Lights I was out to make more money than JK Rowling by publishing my book. Errmmmmm….That hasn’t really happened yet. I spent two years writing it and suffered a pretty substantial drop in income (notwithstanding a charitable grant to help ease the pain) and a pretty heinous increase in overdraft – and I’ve so far made a grand total of a few hundred quid in commission for my efforts. But one day soon I will become the fat cat I have always dreamed of! Mwuhahahaha!! (My role model is Blofeld’s cat)

  24. Take a look at http://www.sharedparentingresearch.info to see how the current system and those working within it are lining their pockets at the expense of the very children they purport to be ‘working in the interests’ of.

    So far as ‘working in the interests of children’ is concerned, take a look at this article:
    http://news.realfathersforjustice.org/index.php?itemid=571

    and this one for the MoJ admission that they have never monitored outcomes:
    http://news.realfathersforjustice.org/index.php?itemid=609

    and this one for NAPO trade union guidance alienating fathers:
    http://news.realfathersforjustice.org/index.php?itemid=572

    and this one for the intended effect of that advice, “Manufacturing Ghost Fathers” research:
    http://news.realfathersforjustice.org/index.php?itemid=558

    and here for the fraudulent academics whose bilge is soaked up by the socio legal professionals instead of the properly conducted research:
    http://news.realfathersforjustice.org/index.php?itemid=632

    [edited for legal reasons]

    and here for how Norgrove misrespresented the Australian experience to the Coalition.
    http://news.realfathersforjustice.org/index.php?itemid=625

    You want more? Just give me a shout. There’s loads. Somewhere, each of the smart, specious one liners spouted by family law professionals has been dealt with – but still we never hear the end of them.

    The entire family law industry runs on false claims and Lucy, you are either against it, or for it. You can’t have it both ways.

    If you can provide similar evidence to the above that the system and the use of lawyers and judges is appropriate I’ll jump over the fence and join you. But family law is the only legal area where hard evidence is ignored.

  25. Let’s stop arguing about semantics, irrelevant fucking swearing and Nazi Germany and get back to the issue: mothers can stop fathers having contact with their children for no reason and the legal system helps them to do so. In addition the cost of legal representation in family proceedings makes it extremely difficult for fathers to fight the system. However I’m more concerned about those utterly useless bastards at CAFCASS having the biggest say in court than a barrister who MUST take cases in order received in Chambers be it acting for mothers or fathers.

  26. Despair is the word I would use, as someone who regularly represents children in protracted disputes between parents I simply despair regarding the more “extreme” comments.

    This general perception of the legal professional is based on a sad lack of understanding by many.

    Sorry rant about remuneration now follows.

    The vast majority of the work I undertake is funded by the public purse, the LSC, making money is not the reason why people do this work,

    Check this http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/10/legal-aid-cuts-fat-cats-lawyers – not sure of latest figures but the average salary for legal aid lawyers of 25k is a figure that broadly reflects salary levels that I am aware of. PS overtime is virtually unknown in this profession however 10-12 hour working days are not unheard of, nor is working evenings and weekends.

    Back to issue.

    F4J and others seem, in my view, to have an entrenched very one sided view on the whole Family Justice System. On one hand you have a view that fathers will always get a raw deal and that the Court will facilitate mothers refusing fathers reasonable contact with children whilst on the other you have a view that the courts grant too much contact in cases were fathers have been abusive or who fail to pay child maintenance.

    In reality what you have are a large number of children whose parents, for whatever reason do not live together and who do not, cannot, or will not agree on the arrangements for their children.

    Short of some kind of anarchy someone somehow needs to arbitrate between parents who cannot sort matters out themselves. The system in England and Wales is the Family Justice System. Its not prefect, nothing in life is.

    Whatever the faults of the current system the polarised and often extreme viewpoints reported on line and in the media are not the day to day reality that I see, the reality is somewhere in between. Parents tend to forget that the courts role is actually to act in the best interests of children not adults. Thats not down to Judges, solicitors, barristers CAFCASS social workers etc its the law – Section 1 Children Act 1989 “…the child’s welfare shall be the paramount consideration.” http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/41/section/1.

    And it may come as somewhat of a shock horror too many but I have seen cases were residence is transferred from mother to father. I have even seen cases were orders have been made limiting a mothers contact to supervised contact only, indeed to indirect and no contact at all. The reverse is also true. I have also had private law cases get so entrenched that the adults lose any child focused view of matters and then public law proceedings have commenced and children have been removed into care. And yes resident parents who fail to obey court orders and frustrate contact have been sent to prison, its rare, but it happens.

    Sorry to F4jJ and M4J et al but the system does not appear to have built an in gender basis. What parents need to understand is that when they cannot agree the court will have to decide and in my experience when a matter is contested the outcome imposed by the court comes in one of three flavours, 1. Parent A does not agree 2. Parent B does not agree or 3. Both do not agree with the outcome. Still stuck in the middle of all of this are the children.

    Lawyers do try to get parents to mediate, we even get parents to attend Separated Parents Information Programs (these actually can have a good outcome and a number of parents have reported positive experiences after attending) we do try to get parents to focus on the best outcomes for children.

    Lawyers can only advise and act on instructions – parents are central to resolving these difficult issues for children and in far too many cases I have seen parents fail to focus on their child’s need rather they focus on their own needs and the adult issues surrounding the issues leading to the breakdown to their relationship. These cases do not get reported in the media perhaps as much as they should but occasionally the depth of difficulties brought upon children by their parents comes out in reported cases such as here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2009/358.html in the case of R (A Child), Re [2009] EWCA Civ 358 I quote directly from this case:

    124. I resile from nothing which I said in Re T. In the present case, however, I propose to express myself in similar terms, but more forcefully, I do so because, in my judgment, the damage in the present case has gone well beyond that foreseen in Re T. Indeed, as I read the papers in the instant appeal, and, in particular, the report and the oral evidence of Professor Zeitlin, and listened to the careful arguments addressed to us, I was powerfully reminded of the first four lines of Philip Larkin’s poem This be the Verse:
    ?They fuck you up, your mum and dad.??They may not mean to, but they do.??They fill you with the faults they had??And add some extra, just for you.?
    125. The rest of the poem seems to me to say more about Philip Larkin himself than it does about the human condition, but these four lines seem to me to give a clear warning to parents who, post separation, continue to fight the battles of the past, and show each other no respect.”

    On one further point much has recently been said regarding a “presumption of shared parenting” I am still unsure what is meant by this, it appears to have different interpretations dependent on who raises this issue. What is not mentioned so often is a need to debate the real child focused meaning of “parental responsibility”. On the issue of “shared parenting” many references have been made to “Australian research” it may be of assistance to all to read at least these two reports:

    http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/fle/evaluationreport.pdf

    Evaluation of yen 2006 family law reforms

    http://www.familytransitions.com.au/Family_Transitions/Family_Transitions_files/Post%20Separation%20parenting%20arrangements%20and%20developmental%20outcomes%20for%20children%20%26%20infants%202010.pdf

    Three reports prepared for Australian Government Attorney General’s Department on post separation parenting arrangements and developmental outcomes for infants and children.

    In the first of the two reports it may be of assistance for some focus to be placed on this one paragraph on internal page 365 of that report –

    The philosophy of shared parental responsibility is overwhelmingly supported by parents, legal system professionals and service professionals. However, many parents do not understand the distinction between shared parental responsibility and shared care time, or the rebuttable (or non-applicable) presumption of shared parental responsibility. A common misunderstanding is that shared parental responsibility allows for “equal” shared care time, and that if there is shared parental responsibility then a court will order shared care time. This misunderstanding is due, at least in part, to the way in which the link between equal shared parental responsibility and care time is expressed in the legislation. This confusion has resulted in disillusionment among some fathers who find that the law does not provide for 50–50 “custody”. This sometimes can make it challenging to achieve child-focused arrangements in cases in which an equal or shared care-time arrangement is not practical or not appropriate. Legal sector professionals in particular indicated that in their view the legislative changes had promoted a focus on parents’ rights rather than children’s needs, obscuring to some extent the primacy of the best interests principle (s60CA). Further, they indicated that, in their view, the legislative framework did not adequately facilitate making arrangements that were developmentally appropriate for children.

  27. Very brief comment:

    Northern Lights says, “It won’t make a great deal of difference in reality.”

    Curiously, in jurisdictions which have tried it, the impact is much larger than one would expect, with some quite far-reaching effects – see Martin Halla, 2011.

    I find Paul’s comments a little patronising – not all fathers’ rights activists are unfamiliar with the Children Act or with appropriate research – and for judges to quote Larkin at parents is despicable (whatever next – Skype-contact?).

    The evidence is that where shared parenting is more or less equally shared these arrangements are more stable and better in every way for the child; where the division of time is unbalanced the arrangement is less stable and tends to degenerate into sole residence plus very limited contact. Not perhaps an intuitive finding, but it’s what the academics say, and we should try to learn from them!

  28. familoo, case law indeed exists regarding shared residence. However, we all know that in practice when a father turns up at the FPC or County Court he invariably (unless the mother agrees otherwise) starts with an hour or 2 here or there for a few months then perhaps if he sticks with it over the next 6 months or so then he might end up with alternate weekends etc A very few against mothers views end up with something that could be called a shared parenting arrangement.

    By not supporting a presumption of shared parenting in legislation those who work in the family courts support the present system with their inaction. A family law system that does not work and discriminates against fathers resulting in many children in this country having little or no relationship with their fathers.

    It is no good the Justices saying that shared residence is a starting point when it is 100% certain that in every lower court in the jurisdiction, they will not start with that if a mother says no. Very likely in many cases they will not get to that level either against a mothers wishes and those few that do have to spend years generally in the Courts to achieve this for their children.

    A message needs to go out from the government that shared parenting is the starting point and the judiciary low and high are duty bound to start from that position. This can only come with a presumption of shared parenting in legislation.

    • Aren’t you conflating shared parenting with shared residence? They aren’t the same, which is one reason Im anxious the governments proposals will lead to more confusion and more heartache.

  29. familoo, there are posts out on facebook and twitter etc that you are not allowing Karen Woodall and others to post on your blog, because they argue well against your position. I do hope this is not so.

    http://karenwoodall.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/a-short-piece-on-free-speech-just-for-the-fun-of-it/

    • Chambers – I’ve read the article you referred to in your link (which I have not edited out of your comment) – I had already moderated her comment through. A bit hasty to suggest I’m not in favour of freedom of speech. In fact the delay in approving was just that I have other priorities apart from sitting next to my computer waiting for the next abusive message to arrive.

  30. Paul, the reality:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2004/apr/02/childrensservices.uknews

    Lord Justice Munby – 2004

    Judge backs angry fathers over contact with children – Call for sweeping changes to family justice system after ‘shameful’ court failures
    A high court judge yesterday launched an extraordinary attack on the family justice system for failing separated fathers and their children.

    Mr Justice Munby, a respected judge of the Family Division, said he was going public with a judgment following a private hearing, while keeping the parties anonymous, because judges needed to “face up honestly” to the failings of the system so as not to forfeit public confidence.

    He called for sweeping changes to the system after a father had to abandon his five-year battle for contact with his seven-year-old daughter following 43 court hearings in front of 16 judges. The “wholly deserving father”, who last saw his daughter in December 2001, had left court “in tears, having been driven to abandon his battle for contact”.

    The delays in the case were scandalous, added the judge, who said he felt desperately sorry for the father, whose case was “far from unique”.

    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article3850658.ece

    Lord Justice Ward – 2008

    Vengeful mothers leave good fathers powerless to see child, says judge

    A senior judge spoke out against child access law yesterday, saying that the courts were powerless to help decent fathers to see their children if vengeful mothers stood in the way.
    “The father complains bitterly, passionately and with every justification that the law is sterile, impotent and utterly useless – we have to acknowledge there is a degree of force in what he says,” the judge told the Court of Appeal Civil Division.

    “But the question is what can this court do? The answer is nothing. This is a truly distressing case. It may not be untypical of many, but in some ways it borders on the scandalous. It certainly is tragic.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/relationships/divorce/6575997/Third-of-family-break-up-children-lose-contact-with-fathers-in-failing-court-system-poll.html

    Lawyers said the study showed that the court system itself was making family break-up more acrimonious with children used as “pawns”….

    Opposition politicians said the poll presented an alarming picture of a system “in a mess” which was all too often leaving fathers “shut out”.

    The poll of 4,000 parents and children was carried out to provide a snapshot of the workings of the family court system exactly 20 years after the implementation of the landmark 1989 Children Act…..

    A quarter of the children said that they had been asked to lie to one parent by the other and 15 per cent said they had even been called on to “spy” for their mother or father.

    Meanwhile half of parents polled admitted deliberately drawing out the legal process for maximum benefit and more than two thirds conceded that they had used their children as “bargaining tools”….

    “The adversarial nature of the system invites people to come and use the courts system as a punch up and the children get used as pawns,” said Sandra Davis, head of family law at Mishcon de Reya, for whom the poll was conducted.

    “It polarises parents and it puts children in the middle of the antagonism.

    “Some fathers back off because it is too painful to carry on litigating, they give up.”

    Tim Loughton, the Tory Shadow children’s minister, said: “This is alarming evidence of the very detrimental impact it is having on the welfare of the children themselves.”

    “Clearly, the court system is failing and is positively encouraging conflict – and continuing conflict.”

    Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader and founder of the Centre for Social Justice, warned that young people were bearing the scars of a divorce “boom” and a resulting lack of father figures.

    “It is a mess, it needs a complete overhaul,” he said. “It is an organisation locked in secrecy and deeply unhelpful to the parents and the children and all too often able to exacerbate the problems that they are about to face.”

    David Laws, the Liberal Democrat children’s spokesman, added: “In too many cases the children become caught up in the crossfire between two warring parties in a system which sometimes encourages the parents to take entrenched positions.”

  31. Wonderful article Karen! As usual you deal with the core realities of the subject seriously and with respect, but to many thier idea of the issue is seen as some sort of game of lets poke fun at those crazy dads that fight to see thier kids, and the more they fight the more they are falsely accused of narcissism. Fathers are caught in an absurd dilema, which ever way they turn they cannot win! I am one of those fathers, I have not seen my 9 year old son for 14 months now, should I just give up on a son I love more than life itself, I refuse to? Is my love for him to be obliterated on the mere say-so of a corrupt and biased court? Is that it now, do I just wave goodbye and forget all about Elliott? I am a human being I have feelings I live with them every day of my life, it is hell! I refuse to just go away as if I was just a sperm doner, was that all I was to my son? I think not!

    I am a member of RFFJ not one father there, who has spent his time striving to contact his children, is doing it for his own self gratification or just a joke or a laugh with the lads I can assure you of that. Our motives are simple and direct… WE JUST WANT TO SEE OUR KIDS, is that to much to ask? Many idiots in the media would have you believe that some fathers are going about it in the wrong way, scaling towers and climbing on roofs, etc,. let me tell you that we have little choice in the matter! When the law refuses to listen, when the law keeps shifting the goal posts, when the law puposely refuses to even enforce contact orders that it itself made in the first place, THEN SOMETHING IS DAMN WELL WRONG WITH THAT LAW! Such is the breakdown and confusion of the present law, many fathers have lost all confidence in it totally. The obvious result… out of sheer frustration and anger, yes we stop the traffic, yes we climb those towers, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU EXPECT US TO DO, JUST FORGET ABOUTOUR KIDS? When I fought my 3 year battle through the children’s courts I did it for my son, for love, for the heartbreak I felt in missing him and for him. In all the reports on the case this love was fully acknowledged by all parties, the judge, the lawyers, even the mother. However, this love was seen as worthless and meaningless, it was just a throw away remark to placate me, even though they could see our love, they took him away, this was evil on a grand scale. Just what idea of the word “love” do these judges and lawyers have? Few, so called professionals involved in this issue, seldom talk about that love, yes family love, affection, the instinctive need we fathers have to be there for our kids, why not? The concept has been forgotten, LOVE IS THE REASON WE FATHERS CARRY ON, is this so wrong of us?

    The whole modern idea of fatherhood has changed, the child does not need a dad it seems, it would seem only the mother can fulfill any meaningful role as parent, I tell you we have gone to far! My own country has let me down, I have lost my pride in this terrible state that sanctions child stealing. Who is to balme for this, it is not me I assure you, it is the fault of our gutless politicians, the brainless wealthy judges, the whole stinking money making racket of the chlldrens courts! Line up you lawyers, get your snouts deep into that trough, it matters not that our kids are losing thier fathers, just fight for your client to win, and hang any idea of what the chlild wants, win and win at all costs! Along the way take a big swallow of your pig swill money! Forget about the word “Love”, forget that many fathers out there are grieving and committing suicide because they have lost all hope in seeing the chldren they love. Just forget that the future is going to be a world of families (if that word still has real meaning) without the need for a dad, just mothers. Pass the the turkey baster ladies! God what a world we live in! God bless you Elliott my son, I love you, always will.

  32. How dare anybody, especially a lawyer, claim the court seeks to act in the interests of children when there is no evidence to show that has been achieved, or even that it is policy.
    Why would an old, boarding school toff, family ticket holding judge from another societal planet, who has done a bankruptcy in the morning and toodled off to a family matter in the afternoon, after his 3 whole day family bench conversion course, sitting in front of two lawyers who themselves are unclear on family law, know what to do. Many of these low ranking administrators are part time, on £400 an hour, and we have found them to sit on cases where one of the lawyers works for the same chambers as the judge.

    Most judges do not know what they are doing, or what they have done, or why. That largely, is the fault of the lawyers. Courts, if they make reasoned decisions at all, do so after hearing family lawyers use tactics that would see them jailed in any other area of law. Lawyers do not and are not the slightest bit concerned with the interests of children, they play whatever disgusting tricks are available in secret courts in front of inadequate judges to undermine the opposition.

    • Courts don’t have policy to guide their actions. They have statute.
      I don’t think your vignette of a fictional courtroom is terribly representative. There are bad judges, and bad lawyers, and a fair few are still “toffs”, but not all by a long shot. You are correct that part time judges often hear cases involving a lawyer from their chambers (or firm if they are a solicitor). The system would grind to a halt if they didn’t. Rather than being low ranking administrators they are experienced lawyers.
      You suggest that the legal profession routinely engages in “disgusting tricks” and tactics that amount to criminal offences so serious that they should warrant a term of imprisonment, and yet you give no details. It is surprising you cannot be more specific about the behaviour that is apparently so serious and yet so commonplace – it must presumably be something more than lawyers representing their client’s best interests, and putting their client’s case within the confines of the court rules? I see the odd rogue lawyer or instance of poor practice but I don’t have experience of what you appear to be suggesting.

  33. familoo, I deliberately used Shared Residence as that is what the LJ’s generally use in their decisions.

    There needs to be a presumption of shared parenting in legislation so that those who few who do not understand or deliberately try to mislead what shared parenting is, can be informed and sidelined respectively.

    Thanks for moderating Karen’s post now.

  34. lucy, I don’t think my comment was abusive in any way. I appreciate that you may feel under attack but don’t characterise us all in the same way. happy to discuss at any time, our differences and convergences of experience and opinion. Kind regards. Karen

    • The reference to abusive was intended to refer to the generality of comments, a reasonable proportion of which has been abusive to one degree or other this week. Yours was not abusive, and I had bot intended to suggest it was, although you were critical of me for reasons which I think were unfair (viz comment moderation).

      I’m also open to debate and discussion, its one of the reasons I bother with this blog (although after this week I’m beginning to wonder what the point is).

      Lucy

  35. Northern Lights

    Lucy, you may well have done so before but, for the sake of clarity on this thread, it might help if you summarised what, in your professional view, is not working and why; how and by whom it might be remedied.

    • @ northern lights. I could do that, but that’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years, across several posts each week. I don’t propose to regurgitate that material in a comment (with which I’m pretty sure most of the authors of the more negative comments would disagree) just because they can’t be bothered to find out my full opinion. It’s all here on the blog already. I may do a separate post when I have both time and energy, but I’m a little weary of this lawyer bashing right now. I wish people would focus their attacks where it might actually have a constructive impact, because god knows there is enough wrong with the system. But what exactly does badmouthing me or pissing me off achieve?

      • But on reflection, there is perhaps one useful link that will tell readers where I have been coming from since I started this blog. I’ve not read it since 2007, but I think I still agree with most of it (my main shift is an increasing sense that transparency is a pressing issue that needs to be dealt with). Here’s the post: I’m going to eat worms post, Sept 2007.

  36. Lucy

    You say at the start of this that you are not a solicitor but your ‘About’ page states: “It is written by Lucy Reed, a family law barrister (that’s me).”

    As barristers are only elevated and higher paid solicitors I would suggest you are playing with words here… but then people in your profession are good at that.

    I thought Matt’s article was well written, if not up to a barristers standard of grammar and use of language and showed a sense of humour entirely lacking in your profession.

    Regarding the work you do pro bono/cheap I think you’re missing the point – whatever the cost, the fact is that you would represent a mother who was openly trying to prevent their child’s contact with their father to the detrimant of the child and still say you were representing the child’s best interests.

    The best way to bring equality into the system and remove the antagonism that is required would be to take the legal profession out of the equation completely.

    I hope that this F4J supporter has met your required educational standards.

    • John,
      A barrister is not an elevated and higher paid solicitor. The professions are separate and one does not graduate from the one to the other. And, although it may surprise you, many solicitors will be paid more than many barristers.
      I don’t agree with you that the problem would be solved if you just got rid of the lawyers. I do agree that if at all possible people should sort out their disputes without us, but there will sadly always be some need for lawyers in the field.
      I’ve been criticised on this thread both for lacking a sense of humour and for using it inappropriately so I guess I’ll have to make my own judgments.
      I’ve no issue about people’s educational background, although I’m partial to a bit of lighthearted humour when it comes to silly mistakes in press releases (although people are entitled to their opinion as to whether they find my own sense of humour funny I do have one). Im surprised that my insignificant remark about a type in an FNF press release has been interpreted as anything other than a way to lighten up an otherwise lengthy and potentially rather dry blog post. I’ve certainly not received any complaint from FNF nor did I say anything critical about them. I guess in the slightly heated “discussion” that has taken place this week every little thing is being scrutinised and found at fault. My spelling pedantry is a complete red herring, and a distraction from the real issues, which seem rather to have become lost.

  37. familoo, if as a barrister you do not support an introduction of a presumption of shared parenting in an Act, then it’s hard to believe you are serious about reform in the system you work.

    Solicitors like Marilyn Stowe and John Bolch are at least saying on their blogs they would support a presumption of shared parenting in law, perhaps showing they understand that mere tinkering and presentation simply will not suffice.

    I’m afraid your suggestions as I understand it are just about throwing further monies at a black hole of a system that is also institutionally discriminatory against fathers, in the hope that it will make it fairer and quicker (more legal aid etc)

    Not going to work as the resources are simply not available and more of the same is not what is required, as other jurisdictions have come around to over recent years.

  38. John Levis.

    What sense you make John,you have hit the nail squarely on the head in regard to the point you make about lawyers representing thier clients (mum) interests and wants rather than the interests of the child. In my court case my ex’s female solicitor told me straight out that she was under a duty to represent the instructions of her client. I asked her, “what about the ethicality of your conscience, never mind about what your client wants”. The problem was that this solicitor was not able to see the lack of morality of what she was do doing, infact the case was not about the child at all, it was about her making me look as black as she could, hang the truth! The absurdity of this ridiculous advasarial competition between partys is encouraged by barristers, to them it is a case of winning for the client, the child is not truly paramount to them. I believe that solicitors and barristers lack conscience, because to fight one day, to prevent dad from seeing his child, but then the very next she may be doing the very opposite in helping him to have contact with his child, depending on the case they have for the day. This is catagoric proof that solicitors do not consider the interests of the child only what thier client wants. My ex’s solicitor was a true bitch, she did all she could to debase me and to seek out ways to mischaracterize me, even to the point of telling the court that I was using Facebook to leave messages for my son in the future, so that he might read them, to use any website should be our right, as long as we use it responsibly, which i was doing. All i wanted to do in my case was to get together in a room with everybody and talk about what was best for our son, this was the easy solution, because it would become evident who was telling the truth. However, in a court room one cannot say what one wants and you are restricted to the time you are on the stand, there were times when i wanted to say things as my ex gave her evidence, but of course you are not allowed to. The whole system could be easily fixed, but of course that is something the solicitors would not want. ££££. As i have said, if a solicitor can be representing a father one one day, how is it possible and ethical that she can do the opposite the next day and represent a mother? The whole thing should be about the child and what that child wants, my son was screaming out to see me, but i was never listened to. The fact is we fathers do not stand a chance in this biased and corrupt court system.

    • Surely you see that if lawyers routinely acted on the basis of their gut as to whether someone was “in the right” or not this would leave people vulnerable to not being able to find anyone to help or advise them? I know that not everyone can afford a lawyer and it’s pretty awful having to deal with a case without one, but if lawyers made judgment calls about potential clients in the way you suggest that would just short-circuit the whole justice system and that would be completely unaccountable. I can recall a number of clients who looked as guilty as hell of whatever it was that they were accused of, but it wasn’t until the evidence was properly heard that it became apparent that the truth lay elsewhere.

  39. I think it is fair to point out that the original post which prompted these ‘abusive’ responses was itself somewhat mocking of a serious campaign, and accused us of being ‘self-righteous’ and ‘strikingly oblivious to the likely repercussions for the children filmed’. You had been made to feel, you said, ‘a little bit queasy’, though I suspect you didn’t mean that very seriously. My son says that when he hears reference to the courts acting ‘in the best interests of a child’ he feels physically sick, because he knows what that means in practice. When he says that, it isn’t a turn of phrase, he means it absolutely literally.

    It is also worth pointing out that the people who have been guilty of abusive comments here are the most decent, genuine, altruistic and caring people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. If they have been roused to anger and foul language it is probably worth spending a moment or two to understand why that might be.

    I enjoy, as you know, a degree of light-hearted banter and flippancy. We can joke about spelling pedantry (surely you meant ‘typo’ not ‘type’). Others find it more difficult to find humour in their situations, and one has to understand that – this is an issue about real children and real abuse with profound, life-long consequences.

    What particularly provoked Matt’s fury was the suggestion that giving children the opportunity to speak out about how the system had denied them the right to speak might itself be a source of further abuse – nothing we could do to these children could in any way match the utter contempt with which the family justice system has treated them. Next month they will have the opportunity to ask questions of Anthony Douglas.

    The equal parenting community is fairly volatile at present – having waited (patiently and politely) for two years for the promised family justice review, we have been presented with a whitewash which would disgrace an undergraduate. Norgrove’s discussion of shared parenting, which completely ignores every piece of research which contradicts his chosen position, is a scandal. The Government’s response was feeble. CAFCASS, which the Tories pledged to abolish in the first week of government, is merely being patted back from the Department for Education to the MoJ again (and away from the scrutiny of Ofsted) as if it were a child’s ball. It is little wonder that parents who have been campaigning now for many years are losing patience and their sense of humour.

    • Nick, I think Matt is quite capable of speaking for himself. He has chosen not to, at least not directly.

      I have not accused F4J of abuse in the making of the video – that is your term (or Matt’s). What I indicated was that I thought it might have unintended repercussions for the children in question. I stand by that.

      I have not suggested Matt is anything other than as you describe him – I do not know him. I have not called him a cunt, a bottom dweller or a lizard. I have not accused him of being cold hearted, out for financial gain, a despicable bigot, ignorant, prejudiced, a family butcher (whatever that is) or an abuser. Those, including the last are all terms that Matt has used directly or indirectly to refer to me, because I expressed some concern about a campaign tactic (and in fact almost the sole criticism he raises is of me suggesting that the children were actors, which I have not). I merely commented on the video. I reposted his post about me. I made no personal remarks about him.

      And yes, I did mean typo. It was intentional, honest.

  40. Lucy

    Thanks for correcting my understanding of the difference between a solicitor and a barrister – the fact that I represented myself in court for over 6 years trying to see my children and this was never explained to me shows just how removed from the rest of us the legal profession is.

    I’m afraid your arguement about representing a client no matter what the situation doesn’t wash. Based on this thinking, you would happily represent someone like Ian Huntley or Myra Hindley (I know this can’t happen, I’m using them as examples) or the mother of Baby P. and happily see a child put in their care.

    Oh well… as long as they pay the bill eh?

    • John,

      It’s a common misconception that we are former solicitors – one which I often explain to my clients.

      If I were a criminal barrister (which I’m not) I would be prepared to represent either of them at trial of their offences. But I think that what you are suggesting is a hypothetical situation where they were involved in a case about a child. If they were the parents of a child and I was instructed I would also be prepared to act for one of them. Indeed, it would be professional misconduct for me to refuse the brief (cab rank rule). You are using notorious convicted criminals as examples. In real life however, parents are often accused of very awful things but are not convicted of anything – and they may or may not be guilty. If in your scenario they had not yet been convicted it would be important for each of them to have a lawyer to represent them so that they would not wrongfully have a child removed. It would be for the local authority lawyer to run the opposing argument in order to protect the child. The judge would decide. Even if they were parents coming to court with a prior conviction (and this does happen, I have been involved in a case where the father murdered the children’s mother and sought contact) again I would represent whichever party I was instructed to represent. This is difficult for non-lawyers to fathom, but they way I usually explain it is that each lawyer has a separate role, and if they each do their part as best they can it puts the judge in the best possible position to make the right decision. In a case where a parent had a serious conviction for murder or child abuse of the kind postulated here, it would be highly unlikely, whatever representations I might make for the abusing parent, that I would be able to persuade the judge to return a child to my client’s care. On a day to day level its often more finely balanced and more low grade abuse or harm than these extreme facts, but its precisely in those cases that you need a judge to make a decision – the lawyers only ever have one side of the story, the side their client tells them. It’s because we have a healthy skepticism about whether what our client tells us is the whole picture or the only perspective that we are able to appreciate the need for one single person who is in possession of both sides of the story to make the decision. I would never presume to judge a client, because I simply do not have all the information and I could only ever make a very partial judgment. When I have made such a judgment I have sometimes been wrong. The trial process is quite effective at clarify things. For me it is particularly important that someone accused of something very serious should have a lawyer, precisely because nobody knows where the truth lies and it is essential to help the court do the best it can to find that truth.

      Sorry, that’s a bit wordy, but I think it’s important. I absolutely discourage family litigation, but where it is necessary the trial process is the only fair mechanism we have for resolving a straight out factual dispute. I’m obviously talking in terms of general principle here, and I acknowledge that the process does not always work well, for a number of reasons (delay, lack of enforcement etc).

  41. Lucy.

    I have never read so much clap trap in my life as that spouted by you Lucy. The sentence “The trial process is quite effective at clarify(ing) things”, is an absolute ridiculous thing to say and claim and it is not true. In the family courts the standard of proof and the establishment of what is a fact bears no resemblence to that standard reached at any criminal courts. In the family courts facts are basically decided upon at the Judges own discretion and usually without any fact finding having ever taken place. As an example: if the Cafcass court reporter states that in her “opinion” the father is selfish, narcissistic and possibly could be violent in the future, (not that he ever has been or that there is any suggestion he has harmed his child in any way) once the suggestion or that opinion has been put forward to the judge, he will see it already as a fact. To be truthful a murderer, a thief and a rapist will receive better justice than any father in the family courts ever could, but somehow the family courts treat fathers as though they were criminals of that ilk. Yes this is tantamount to criminals receiving better justice than we fathers because the burden of absolute proof is needed to convict in the criminal courts, but a hunch will do in the family courts. Lucy I want to turn myself in, I mean I must be a criminal and have done something evil, because the Judge decided that I wasn’t going to see my son anymore, but the problem is she failed to tell me why and what i’d done! If you are honest Lucy you will know and admit that whatever the court reporter says goes, whether it is factual or not! I am a good father I have never hurt my son in the slightest, I am a pacafist and have never struck a woman, come to that neither a man, and yet as innocent as I am I have no contact with my son. Tell me this, do you think I have the right to know what it is i have done that prevents me from seeing my son, why? There are countless complaints about the fabrications of Cafcass officers, far to many for all of them to be made up, and Lucy you damn well know that Cafcass make things up out of thin air! So don’t tell the lie that the judge can “clarify” things, what a wooly concept that is! What you really mean is the judge, without evidence or proof, will reach a GENERAL FEELING and make a hunch of a decision based upon generalities put forward by the Cafcass officer. Now no judge is going to ignore the advice of Cafcass, so to be on the safe side Dad had better not see his kids anymore, well on the balance of probabilities isn’t that in the interests of the child? is it fuck! Lucy come on you know the truth, spit it out and get honest.

    • Paul Manning – I don’t agree with your interpretation of how the trial process works, or that CAFCASS effectively have an unfettered veto on contact – yes they are influential but they are not impervious to challenge. It is difficult without a lawyer to do this effectively (actually it’s quite difficult with a lawyer) but it can be done. A CAFCASS Officer’s role is to offer opinion and recommendation based on accepted or known fact (after findings are made if necessary). Any CAFCASS Officer that offers a view on disputed fact will quite properly be brought up on that by any competent lawyer, when the opportunity for cross examination arises. CAFCASS Officers do sometimes report fact directly observed from them, e.g. things said to them by a child or party – and there may be disputes of fact about that. It is not uncommon for a party to say that they are misreported or that the CAFCASS Officer has selectively included some but not all information. That is something that should be raised with CAFCASS and if necessary tested in cross examination. What I actually said in my post was that the process of trial i.e. a hearing of disputed evidence, is quite effective at determining those factual disputes. That is not the same as saying that the whole court process as a whole is perfect or even effective.

  42. Lucy.

    Oh! and one other thing before I go. You know in your heart of hearts that in some case or other that you have dealt with that a Cafcass officer has fabricated evidence. Has spun a yarn, has gilded the lilly, has taken liberties, has just damn well lied to side with the mother. And what have you done about it Lucy? You will have done nothing! nothing to blow the whistle, you will just let it carry on knowing that a parent has lost a child based upon lies and fabrications. The thing is Lucy you know in your conscience that you have done deals on the side without the knowledge of your client, because it has been expedient to do so. One day you solicitors will develope a conscience, but it will be when hell freezes over. I know all obaot what you do Lucy, I know every trick in your book and the thing is you know that we know it too. I am telling you that many innocent fathers do not see thier children because of, well nothing at all! NOTHING! I AM ONE OF THEM. On my solemn oath I love my son, he loves me, there is no reason why we should not see each other, none at all! God bless you my boy, I will fight on until my last breath to bring the family courts to book and to get justice for you and me. Lucy please I beg you to blow that whistle, get your integrity back, you will be able to sleep at night again, I promise you.

    • Paul Manning – If those are my instructions I will cross examine on it. I don’t make judgments about whether or not the CAFCASS officer has lied – my job is to assess the evidence and work out the best way of trying to demonstrate the flaws in it – and it is for the judge to decide NOT me.

  43. familoo, Pink Tape, Lucy, whatever……

    I know one of the children, if you could call her that, in the video. And i know her father, a thoroughly decent man who has been put through hell to see her for no good reason whatsoever. He has been put through hell by people like you and your colleagues.

    The girl is bright and intelligent but admits that she wanted nothing more when growing up than to be with her dad. She is real. She is not ‘apparent,’ or any other description designed to diminish her. By standing up to the likes of you and judges, the very cabal who have ruined her life thus far, she deserves credit. As do all the children in the video.

    Sooner or later, reality was going to come home to roost for you and your kind. The legal profession has been stamping out the rights, needs and voices of children for decades. You can’t stamp these voices out, so you belittle them on your blog, just as you do their needs, wishes and feelings in court. Well, I think you can gather from the posts on this blog that the world outside of your window is sick of your mealy mouthed weasel words.

    And before you try to convince us that you are in favour of a presumption of shared parenting, tell us what you have done, who you have written to, how many demos have you attended? And how much money have you earned achieving the opposite?

    • Stu G – I have not directed and would not direct criticism at any of the children involved in the videos. They must be children and young adults with admirable strength of character.

  44. Northern Lights

    Lucy, the reason they engage in lawyer bashing is not just misdirected anger; what some of the most vocal lawyer bashers from organisations like FNF don’t want others to know is that, for all their faux righteousness about greedy lawyers, they themselves (as untrained and unregulated McKenzie friends) earn more from a day in court than a legal aid lawyer.
    The more wily among them know that any presumption in law will lead to as much if not more litigation and help line their own pockets.
    They are the last that should be taking the moral high ground over anything.

  45. false dichotomy: barrister on monday represents a mother. barrister goes in for the kill, uses every dirty trick they can, vilifies the father, hoodwinks the court and generally acts as attack dog for their client.

    same barrister on tuesday represents a father. barrister becomes entirely supine, has no wish to represent interests of client, goes along with every misandrist decision of the court without murmur.

    really???

    can i try to get past much of the bitterness and rage. (and yes as a father who has never [yet ...] been in their position i can entirely understand it. being involved with any case as a party is long, expensive and hugely hugely frustrating. how much more so when it involves the right to be with those you love most when you have done nothing wrong)

    there is simply no point in directing the venom at the barristers. however as one who does not practise family law, is there a case that the system would be less awful if it became inquisitorial rather than adversarial? i know those of us practising in other areas suggest you family barristers aren’t doing ‘real’ law at all precisely because it is all very cosy and by agreement as much as possible. but would it have a chance of being more effective (even with its other myriad faults) if it became inquisitorial?

    • Simply Wondered – the process is quasi inquisitorial. It’s flexibility is part of its strength. However one difficulty with going further down the inquisitorial line is that it would require far greater judicial and court / CAFCASS resource which is simply not going to be forthcoming. In reality it is inquisitorial to a point, but where there is a significant dispute of fact which cannot be got around without a proper trial – it is right and fair that adversarial rigour is applied (I’m thinking of findings of fact on serious and relevant domestic violence, allegations of child abuse etc).

  46. familoo, thanks to the link to a previous blog of yours in 2007.

    I think this comment (3.) in response to your blog sums it up for me:-

    3. Soren Lautrup
    September 7th, 2007 @ 11:34 am
    [Chambers I've edited out the text of the comment since it's already been linked to and it's really long - it's quite hard to read this thread already.]

  47. I am sick to death of anti-lawyer sentiment. Lawyers shouldn’t just take it; they should argue their position as would any other profession.

  48. I’m sorry to disappoint Northern Lights, but McKenzie Friends for Fathers4Justice (unlike FNF) do not charge for their services. We have no vested interest in the family justice system. The evidence is that a presumption of equal parenting (depending on how it is implemented) is more likely to reduce litigation than increase it.

    There is ample evidence that lawyers have abused the legal aid system and they have only themselves to blame if some firms which previously relied on legal aid go out of business.

  49. Fact Finding hearings are half baked at best in family law.

    The balance of probability lark makes the whole process in the end boil down to the individual bias and prejudices of the Judge.

    With no sanction in practice against those who making false allegations in family law, it’s a complete joke if it were not so serious.

    Many times the full evidence is not available or one party just turns up on the day alone with no lawyer to champion his cause.

    Allegations of DV, Child Abuse etc should be dealt with in the criminal courts where they have the checks and balances as well as the expertise (relative to family law) to deal with these matters properly.

    The family court judge makes their findings and that’s it, its deemed to be an unassailable decision. Some of these judges simply do not have a clue and make it up as they go along, others do their best but it is wholly inadequate generally.

  50. I agree with The Fed Up One – so why don’t they?

    The evidence on legal aid, Lucy, is from the Public Accounts Committee under Edward Leigh. Try this: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-archive/committee-of-public-accounts/pacpn071016/

    You’re very brave bringing up the Vicky Haigh case – that’s a whole new can of worms. Were the allegations false? Not so sure…

    • @ Nick Langford
      I don’t really understand how the link you have provided makes the point you suggest it does.

      As to the Vicky Haigh case – I’m puzzled by your bravery remark. I raised it because there are so many comments on this thread (and elsewhere that give the impression that any allegation a mother makes against a father is automatically accepted by the courts. Whatever else that case may stand for it is proof that on occasion the courts do reject allegations made by mothers / resident parents AND that they will change residence where allegations persist. It’s interesting that when such cases are raised it is suggested that the court has got it wrong. It seems to me that the court is criticised whatever it does.

  51. Nick, it’s a shame you have to take a pot shot at other organisations supportive of similar aims.

    Your personal advice to fathers has been seen on on Wikivorce and in your manual, if fathers were to use it, many times their cases would become even more difficult and they would have no choice but to climb bridges.

    Perhaps paying for advice either minimally with FNF etc or substantially with lawyers might be the better option if fathers want to stay in a relationship with their children.

  52. familoo, naming one ultra extreme case ‘haigh’ as if that shows false allegations are generally dealt with well in the family law system, is perhaps not that helpful.

  53. For Lucy.

    In answer to your last reply to me Lucy. It shocks me that you think that what I said about Cafcass was based on mere speculation rather than you believing it was truly based on my experience of dealing with the low lifes at Cafcass. It offends me that you wrote the words my “Interpretation of how the trail process works”, I am telling you as a fact that this was no interpretation, indeed I have been through the courts for 3 years battling for contact with my son. No it was no interpretation, it happened in my case [edited because it contains details of legal proceedings] This is the truth Lucy, you have it on my honour. Do not tell me that Matt Occonner, doesnt know what he’s talking about when he tells you about the secret courts and the corruption that takes palce there, you se he does, Matt knows of the stories like mine, he knows that we fathers have been debased and treted like shit by thise courts, Do not expect him to be civil. If you can’t see what is taking place Lucy, you must be damn well blind. The thing is though, I really think you do know whats taking pace in the courts and at Cafcass, you know that its corrupt as hell, but you just carry on with it as though its all ok and all will be well. You are in denial Lucy, you see, but you prefer to be blind. For Gods sake they are stealing our kids, Lucy I beg you help to us!

  54. Lucy

    Thanks for the reply. It was a bit wordy but you are a barrister, it’s what you do!

    Unfortunately, as usual with your profession, the words don’t actually answer my question.

    I was asking if you would happily see a child put in the care of a dangerous parent over one you knew was a good parent.

    From your words it would appear the answer is ‘yes’ but your conscience is clear because the ‘cab rank rule’ means you have to do it. Really? Can you not declare a conflict of interest? Can’t you say you have knowledge of the client that prevents you representing them? I’m sure this would be the case if the client or their opponent was known personally to you.

    Surprisingly, you do address one issue that worries us as victims of the Family Court system. You say “In real life however, parents are often accused of very awful things but are not convicted of anything”. This is true, but in most cases it is you or your colleagues who make these false accusations, knowing that if repeated often enough, there will be a ‘no smoke without fire’ scenario to the detriment of the father.

    When I first tried to gain contact with my children (my ex-wife just took them away without telling me which didn’t seem to matter to the court), I went to see a solicitor who basically said “We’ll say ‘this’, the other side will say ‘that’, we’ll say ‘this II’, they’ll say ‘that II’, the judge will say ‘xyz’ then we’ll go back to court”.
    In other words the game had a pattern and I was expected to fall into that and pay highly for the privilege.

    For the record, I only used a solicitor once then acted as a Litigant in Person.

    • @ John Levis
      Of course it doesn’t make me happy to think that a child would be put in the care of a dangerous parent, but it isn’t my job to judge.

      You ask if I could declare a conflict of interest – the answer is no. If I returned every case on the basis of my feelings about it, my personal prejudice, politics or religious or moral beliefs – I would not be fit to be a barrister. If a client instructed me to lie for them or to mislead the court and would not accept my advice that I could not do so I would have to withdraw and I would do so.

      We make accusations acting on instructions. That is our job. If we did not put our client’s case we would either be sacked or disciplined. And frankly, what would be the point of a lawyer who refused to act on instructions and acted on his own beliefs about where the truth lay?

      “We’ll say this” is a way of explaining how the instructions you have received will be formulated, not a way of fabricating a position or allegation.

  55. @ Northern Lights

    I have acted as a McKenzie friend a number of times which has involved travelling around the country at the expense of my business and only ever received payment towards petrol.

    Don’t accuse us as being as money grabbing as the ‘professionals’. Some people have a moral compass and principles.

  56. Lucy
    As a 9 year old boy, my father was taken away from me by the family courts.

    As a 20 year old father, I had my son taken away from me by the family courts.

    I will never forgive ‘the system’ for how it has decimated my past, present, and without hyperbole, my entire future.

    I’m a teacher, entrusted every day to raise other people’s children, but for forbidden to raise my own.

    Do you know how that feels?

    Do you know how hopeless and awful and wretched is the feeling I, my father and my son live with every day?. 3 generations of perfectly lovely working class men obliterated by the industry that pays for your grocery bill.

    The late, great Christopher Hitchens said that if you get to the end of your life without having done something for humanity, then you should be ashamed.

    I wonder what that must feel like. Then I wonder at what it must feel like to have done exactly the opposite to that sentiment, for wealth gain. I cannot imagine it. But I don’t have to. I, and my family may be stripped and void, limp with despair and misery, but I’ve never hurt another soul, or perpetrated an industry that tears them apart.

    But I still miss my son terribly, so you have the last laugh.

    Best wishes

    Darryl Westell

  57. @ Chambers, peace, brother; I wasn’t taking a ‘pot shot’, I was merely stating a fact. It wasn’t intended to offend anyone at FNF – I was pointing out the flaw in Northern Lights’ argument.

    If you think the advice I give is in error, do by all means correct it. My aim is sincerely to help and support other parents, not to stir up enmity between different groups. I had thought and hoped that the various groups were all communicating a little better now and putting internal rivalries to one side.

    For the record, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments here; the balance of probabilities standard, especially when applied to serious allegations of criminal wrongdoing, relies too heavily on the judge’s opinion of what is probable or not. In an area of law in which propaganda is preferred over research and evidence, that is potentially very dangerous.

  58. @ Lucy, Edward Leigh criticised family lawyers who allow their clients to go to the expense of an adversarial hearing and do not advise them of the availability of mediation; he accused them of ‘cashing in by keeping quiet’. In another report he uncovered lawyers who were claiming money on legal aid to which they were not entitled; he said,

    ‘There is something particularly unsettling about this because the overpayments are as a result of solicitors making claims for payment against the wrong kind of work – resulting in their receiving more money than they are due, or for claiming payment for work without evidence that it is eligible for legal aid support.’

    (Of course, you might be justified if you accused Leigh, as an MP, of hypocrisy.)

    With regard to the Haigh case, unlike some, I don’t see the problems in the family courts as a simple matter of a battle of the sexes; there are many mothers who have been treated just as badly as fathers and in my view Haigh may well be one of them. Discussion of the case is probably beyond the scope of this thread and may fall foul of the trigger-happy Wall LJ, but some of the evidence presented in support of her allegations seemed quite persuasive.

  59. For Lucy, The GRAND editor judgemental.

    You make me Laugh Lucy, I note you took out the majority of my last posting, well of course you would do that wouldn’t you, it’s the style of barristers to hide the truth when it appears. What I said was the absolute truth, but you can’t possibly have allowed it because it would have proven that Cafcass are as rotten as bad eggs, but you will probably go on supporting them. The thing is Lucy it takes a whistle blower like mo to expose whats going on in the secret family courts, it takes morality and empathy for others. In all modesty I have those kind of ethics down pat, but you, you sit there in judgement and dismiss my comments as illegal and just to detailed for your silly barrister pompous regulations. If you really cared you’d spend more of your time trying to repair the system by telling and bringing out into the open the transgressions of the lying scum that work for Cafcass. I notice you didn’t answer my question, in regard to what you would do if such a scenario, as I put to you, happened to one of your clients. If you knew it to be true and factual that a client of yours was lied about and you knew it catagorically what would you do Lucy? So Lucy, look back at my Cafcass experience, (before you trashed it of course)and tell me if you would ignore such a situation, would you be outraged on your clients behalf? Or would you just ignore it and move on to your next case, as I said you want to be blind, even though you have eyes to see. I know you won’t answer me, because it is not in your interests to do so, you will carry on promulgating a system that is broken in pieces. You need to stop trying to use the system and put your efforts to making sure that its truly just and fair first, when it is, take up your role as barrister again.You and your kind are part of the problem, because you refuse to answer and act on that little voice in your head. The voice that sometimes says to you, “Lucy you know that was untrue, you know that wasn’t fair, you know that you must put it right, it was unjust Lucy”, I know you ignore that voice all the time. The problems in the family courts will get worse and worse, until one of you lot has the guts to change course, and as I said before, BE A WHISTLE BLOWER! if you really care, put it right and stop patching up the old wine skin, new wine needs new skins sayeth the Bible.

    • @ Stu G : I took it out for legal reasons to protect both of us from contempt of court, and myself from a professional misconduct charge. You will see on the about page on this blog that this is a long standing policy which I stick to rigorously and not something I apply in an arbitrary way. I know that it makes it difficult to give your account of personal experience but I cannot and will not publish material if it is potentially prohibited.

  60. 3 things:

    1.
    Lucy said:
    “I am in favour of a presumption of shared parenting, it’s just that I think such a presumption already exists through case law.”

    Rubbish. With each case “judged on its own merits there is no caselaw.” And like I said before, these low achievers in administrative courts do not know statute, let alone case law.
    For instance, I satisfy every tick in the box to qualify for shared residence. Trusting in the (case) law of every successful relevant application in the Court of Appeal I engineered my life around qualifying before applying. Permission to Appeal refused in the High Court,Refused at Oral Hearing. Reason given; “has no chance of success.” No reason given as to why it had no chance of success abd route to supreme court blocked becasue it was vetoed by the Court of appeal, the very court the Supreme Court is supposed to monitor. I have since observed and mckenzied others for free, including high profile public law cases, and can reliably say the Court of Appeal is as capricious as the lower courts.

    2.
    Nick Langford said:
    “There is ample evidence that lawyers have abused the legal aid system and they have only themselves to blame if some firms which previously relied on legal aid go out of business.”

    Quite right, Nick, as ever. Indeed, in my post containing the links above I include one leading to deatils of a corrupt and inefficient lawyer but Lucy chose (for legal reasons of course……) to delete the link. Don’t worry lucy, i pledge to provide you the evidence, boxes of it, if that fool tries to approach you and have links removed. He knows about the information I have on him but he also knows he cannot rely on me being the legal pushover that Rick Kordowski, from Solicitrs From Hell was in the civil court. Funny how this lawyer’s details are (thanks to Tim Line, another good dad with nerves of steel) all already all over the web, but another family lawyer protects him.

    Lucy, in all fairness, you probably know (or perhaps care to know) nothing more of the Haigh case other than what LJ Wall would have you believe. It is an absolute disgrace. [edited - yes you guessed it - for legal reasons. I don't know the details of the injunction and so I'm taking a cautious approach. You of course may do as you wish on your own website. Lucy] Good sentiment, but you used the wrong case to make your point. Find another. ‘Spose you’ll delete this too, Lucy?

    3.
    I defer to John Levis’s comment to Lucy the family law barrister:

    “Unfortunately, as usual with your profession, the words don’t actually answer my question.”

  61. No worries Nick, I may have misread your previous comment and replied too hastily. All the best.

  62. I’ve followed this comments thread with a mounting sense of unease, disappointment, incredulity and finally bemused amusement.

    It’s all actually pretty basic at the end of the day. Matt O’Connor’s diatribe attacks Lucy’s position on the Government’s response to the Norgrove review—specifically on the legislative presumption of shared parenting.

    You can sum it up like this. Norgrove recommended against a legislative presumption. The Government rejected that recommendation. Norgrove reiterated his objection stemmed predominantly from the Australian experience.

    I think we can all agree that we wouldn’t want the problems suffered (and suffered most of all by the children being litigated over) in Australia here.

    So here is a challenge to Matt O’Connor, Fathers4Justice, Families Need Fathers, Real Fathers for Justice, Real Families Need Real Justice 4 Fathers, Justice Needs Fathers or—quite frankly—anyone who advocates this presumption.

    How do you intend to to enact it without damaging children by elongating litigation? What are you proposing?

    Lets have some serious, sensible responses from you all. None of this ad hom, red herring, Goodwin’s Law nonsense. For a change.

    • @ Jim Nately, I am planning to try and write something about the presumption of shared care in a separate post when I have time, but I’m bogged down prepping a nasty child abuse case at the mo. Incidentally, I think what Matt O’Connor criticises me for is nothing to do with my position on the Norgrove review, it’s for my comments about the videos.

      @ All, I will most likely be too busy to moderate much in the way of comments for the rest of the week due to court commitments.

  63. Jim Nately, the vested interests on the Norgrove Panel and others who are fighting change have misled you regarding the Australian experience.

    The reality as set out by Jim Carter of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia:-

    “Far from the Australian 2006 reforms being a failure, the AIFS (Australian Institute of Family Studies) in its 2009 evaluation of the reforms concluded that:

    “The philosophy of shared parental responsibility is overwhelmingly supported by parents, legal system professionals and service professionals”,

    and that a large majority of parents believe that shared parenting is working well.
    Numerous opinion polls in Australia have confirmed those assessments.

    The number of applications for final orders in children’s matters declined by 22% – from 18,752 in 2005-06 to 14,549 in 2008-09 (Australian Institute of Family Studies, December 2009).

    The AIFS report of December 2009 noted that “There is evidence of fewer postseparation disputes being responded to primarily via the use of legal services and more being responded to primarily via the use of family relationship services.

    This suggests a cultural shift whereby a greater proportion of post-separation disputes over children are being seen and responded to primarily in relationship terms.”

    MORE DETAILS ON THIS LINK:

    http://news.realfathersforjustice.org/index.php?itemid=625

  64. Excellent question, Jim, and if Lucy is busy this week perhaps it gives us a few days to come up with a response. It’s worth pointing out that F4J have long had a document (the ‘Blueprint’) setting out proposals for reform, and the shared parenting presumption is a fairly small part of this.

    As a preliminary response I would say that the additional delay in Australia seems to have been caused by the LAT process and not by the presumption of equally shared parental responsibility itself. Delay is a huge problem in our own country even without changes to the procedure or the law, and some have argued that a slightly increased delay might be acceptable if it meant cases were being dealt with more effectively.

    I also understand there have been problems recruiting staff, and other difficulties which may be unique to Australia. If other measures recommended by Norgrove were effective in reducing delay, even if a presumption were to increase delay, it might be absorbed.

    Outside of Australia, in the United States, for example, there have been changes in legislation which have had quite substantial effects including a reduction in litigation (especially re-litigation) and unexpected effects such as a lowering of the divorce rate and the illegitimate birth rate. Looking at the exact details of the legislation – which is different in each state – would be quite a task (especially for non-lawyers).

    It is also the case that beneficial effects show a delay of 5 years or so before kicking in, and of 15 years before reaching their full impact. It may be that the Australian experiment was not given long enough.

    Finally, there have been detailed proposals in this country for reformed legislation; Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice came up with a possible wording, and I believe FNF have done some work in this area. It seems to me that far more work needs to be done studying the detailed wording in jurisdictions (in the US and Europe) which have introduced shared parenting legislation and far more work into the interpretation of the legislation by the courts and its impact on cases.

    One of the problems highlighted by Norgrove is how little the UK system actually knows about itself. This would make any future evaluation of new legislation very difficult. Do we, for example, yet have an evaluation of the 2006 sanctions?

  65. Jim Nately, also see my post 42 on this link where LJ Ward & Munby as well as the head of family law at Mishcon de Reya say the present system is a shambles in their own words.

    There are others such as Marilyn Stowe & John Bolch who say there should be a presumption of shared parenting in legislation.

    There are others in the system who are enlightened and child focussed enough to see that a real change along Australian and other forward looking countries is necessary. Of course the vested interests and/or institutionalised and/or sexist will continue to say everything is all right really and we don’t need a change in law – However, their arguments are increasingly being sidelined by reality and a groundswell pressure that will ensure more and more the truth will come out. Their views will be eventually be dismissed as prejudiced and for self-interest only.

  66. It might be helpful to read the Australian legislation: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2006A00046/Download

    One thing to remember about the reforms is that the emphasis on shared parenting was not the only reform, there is also – inter alia – an increased emphasis on protecting children from domestic violence. It probably isn’t possible therefore to separate out cause and effect, but you don’t hear anyone complain that protection from DV caused additional delay.

    In addition to reducing litigation it was claimed that the 2006 reforms have improved the way in which the system is identifying and responding to families where there are concerns about family violence, child abuse and dysfunctional behaviours. I’m not arguing one way or the other, but some might think a small increase in delay was justified if it achieves that.

    What I am saying is that prolonging litigation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and one has to balance it against other factors. A system which sought to hasten cases through the courts without due regard for those other factors might not work in the best interests of children. This seems to be accepted by lawyers in public law cases, why not also in private law?

  67. Jim,

    Children will be less litigated over through the enactment of simple measures:

    1. Greater transparency of the court system:

    a. Familyman recording system (how the court records data) being extended having improved data quality enforcement and extending the scope of the data that is recorded;

    b. Media reporting (happens in Norway and they seem to be light years ahead of us);

    2. Pre-action protocols:

    a. Not the poorly thought out version in the FPR 2010 but clear guidelines on ensuring that the applicant must demonstrate clear evidence that they have tried to resolve matters;

    b. failure to do so will result in penalties;

    3. Hearsay evidence use should be limited, having conducted a survey on this the biggest complaint is the credibility given to unsupported hearsay evidence in proceedings that are used to deny access. This is the single biggest complaint that fathers have and what supports most accusations of bias by fathers.

    DA

    • @Dadzarmy – Agree with much of that – I’m interested to know what penalties you had in mind? Because penalties / enforcement mechanisms are a particularly intractable problem.

  68. In the civil procedures rules, much is made in terms of how the proceedings are case managed in relation to fullfillment of the protocol, not just quantum but casemanagement (serving a defence etc) is built into the CPR upto trial.

    Rather than limiting a preaction to just trying to do certain things prior, ensuring that failure to comply will feed right through to trial and how each parties prejudicial behaviour is balanced out with the other.

    For example I have a case QB at the minute, I could not meet the Protocol for reasons outside my control the respondents got extra time to defend which I was completely fine with because that is reasonable consequence of not meeting the protocol. I am no family lawyer but balancing applications with preaction adherence could be built into the FPR 2012 so that there is a trade off.

    The issue for family law is the number of permutations the court has to consider is consisderable. It’s accepted that no two relationships are the same, but if the applicant or respondent fails by putting pressure on the court to understand their complex lives, the FPR should address that.

    A simple thing like modelling adherence to parenting plan, hours worked by each parent, likely contact timings against what the parents can do and what is considered desireable for the child could drive the courts decision on future applications. I price derivative contracts in my day job, I can assure you it is not too difficult to model contact arragements into a simple decision tree analysis to indicate who has been reasonable. If you have the Family Man system storing parent plans and participation you could have the reasonableness assessed across 1000s of similar scenarios. We use the same process to ensure traders are not marking curves for pricing outside the markets view of a contract, the trader gets flagged for repeated failures. The same approach could be used for parents, the Judge can be given guidance with the confidence of 1000s of other families.

    P.S I could build a system above myself in 4 weeks that would provide scientifically reasonablity evaluations on parenting plan construction and adherence. I have read Trinder’s analysis of the 250 parents he has carried out in the field extrapolated to millions of familes, she is simply refining within the margine of error, her research is inadequate to support any decision making. Family Law needs large datasets to assist to cope with what is a large problem space, a single derivative contract to be risked can involve 1 billion data points. In the Family Court we use hearsay instead because we lack the scientific rigour expected anywhere else in a professional environment.

  69. I have just finished listening to the radio 4 programme,’One to One’. This week the subject of this popular programme was dealing with the impact on family breakdown. The guest on the show was the writer, Louis De Berniers, author of the best seller, Captain Correli’s Mandolin. Many of us may know that he went through the family courts, after his relationship broke down, in an attempt to keep contact with the two young children he loves. Louis had no previous dealings or experience with the family courts, therefore he had no reason to feel that it was going to be unfair or unjust in anyway. However, he was soon forced to take up a critical and bitter stance towards the system after realising the realities of just how unfair and biased it was against fathers like him. In the programme he says the following “What happens is you have this sudden sense of complete unjust bereavement”, he goes on to say “you are deeply grief stricken, at the same time you are absolutely furious and outraged. The sense of injustice is so great that you can’t understand why other people don’t see it”. This from a gentle man who had no previous axe to grind with the family courts, however it seems he indeed has now! So outraged was Mr De Berniers, that he was moved to become patron of “Families need fathers”. He goes on to relate that in his opinion he thought the “family law system was a moral outrage” and it was “institutionally antimale and anti father”. The most interesting point he made to me was this, speaking with regard to the law system “it is made purposely adversarial, it should not be, because what family lawyers do is just ratchet up the aggression and hostility until your furious with each other over things you would never ever thought of”… “it is vitally important that the adversarial nature is taken out of the present law, as is currently practised, that has got to be done away with!”. Louis eventually went to mediation to settle matters with his ex, he happily was able to reach agreement with her. He expressed how lucky he was in this and that most fathers are not so lucky. In talking about Norgrove he said “I don’t believe him”, he said that we should all be equal, “I don’t see why fathers should have a broken heart and no’one else has a broken heart” he said… Women have broken hearts too, he was told, he answered, “Yes over the breakup, but women normally get residence and are almost insulated against this kind of heart break fathers are not”.

    If you have time I urge you all to go to BBC I player and listen to his wise words. Here is a man who knows the truth of what the courts and the system is like, he speaks with fairness and logic and from bitter experience. He just knows in his heart that the courts are automatically biased against fathers, because he has lived it, like many of us debased fathers out there, but we are still fighting. It makes me happy that he got his kids back, I envy him. Lucy please allow this posting on the blog, what I have said is common knowledge and is out there already, you have little reason to edit it, unless you cant bear the truth to come out that is. Louis had no reason to have any kind of negative opinion about the family courts or its laws, on experiencing them, ask you self this question….. HOW COME HE DOES NOW?

  70. Gorblimey. I thought people were sometimes rough on what I write, but this is something else. I’m impressed by your civility and the public service you provide.

    I’m not a family lawyer and I don’t have a dog in this fight. These are some observations about the nature of the debate above.

    First, the cod-empathy that precedes comments accusing you of poking fun at people and so forth is pretty nauseating. On any fair reading of what you wrote, the accusation is absolutely unsubstantiated. The deduction must, therefore, be that such attacks are designed to cosy up to other people and show that the commentator is on THEIR side. Not only is that unprofessional, but it actively undermines any real debate and is thus irresponsible as well.

    Secondly, whilst any objective observer – which is what I am – can only sympathise with the clear distress and upset demonstrated by some of those who are obviously directly involved with the system it seems to me that they are missing the point. If they want to get the system changed – either substantively or in the way it works – then it is people like me who have to be convinced. Construing any comment which they don’t like on the tone of the campaign to change things, or the methods adopted to change things, as a personal attack is simply self-defeating. The reality is that much of the commentary above is couched in language and terms which operate as a huge turn off to any objective and largely ignorant observer.

    However unpalatable that message is, to turn on the messenger is stupid. It achieves nothing, save to reinforce the perception that the people involved in the argument with the system are incapable of compromise or logical sustained argument and overly prone to abuse (whether all out or in the rather creepy “I can tell you where you’re wrong Lucy” type of way that features regularly above. The issue is whether the emotion can be suppressed for long enough to make solid points calmly. Not because anyone is diminishing the suffering but because that is the only way that works. The problem is that giving in to the pain and anguish, real though it is, is ultimately masturbation – making yourself feel better briefly without achieving anything or helping anyone yourself or anyone else.

    Thirdly, given that the future of the children of those who do not stay together will be decided within the legal system for the foreseeable future, insulting lawyers is a poor tactic and is, again, giving into the urge for momentary satisfaction instead of focussing on a goal.

    Fourthly, there is a failure to think about WHY there has to be third-party involvement in the decisions. It is because the parties cannot agree between themselves. Even assuming that such a failure is ALWAYS the fault of one party alone (thereby removing the issue entirely from real life) it is obvious that the decision maker cannot approach the decision on that basis. Otherwise the argument would be nothing more than “He did.” “I didn’t” and the level would be that of the school playground.

    It follows that a voice is needed for those who are unprepared or unable to argue for themselves. The denial of that basic proposition demonstrates that the person issuing that denial is selfish. They would not wish to be denied such representation, but are content to deny it to others. It is impossible to take such people seriously because they are so obviously only looking out for themselves.

    Once a voice is needed you have a lawyer. That you may not like them personally, or what they say, is irrelevant. It is obviously ridiculous to allow one party to censor what another party is saying. Even if what the other party is saying is unfair, spun or outright lies, it must still be dealt with. That is the only way to be even remotely fair.

    You do not have to be involved to appreciate that this is the essence of justice. No one denying those essential propositions (with which all civilisations over the last 2,500 years have agreed) can be taken seriously. Attacking people for doing that job because YOU do not like what happened to you is not going to win any arguments. Individual decisions must be fought on the basis of the individual merits. Unfortunately, when people try only to shoot the messenger, the message I take from it is that it’s all they’ve got. That is precisely not the message they want to convey.

    It seems to me that asked the question “would you rather rant or persuade” too many people are opting for “rant”. In so doing they damage their own credibility and make me (and as I say I have no legal knowledge of the issues at all) think that whatever was relied on to prevent them having what they wanted was correctly relied on. On the basic law of averages that is unlikely to be true for all these people. Things do go wrong and decisions are not always right. But you can’t segue from that into loudly declaring that your particular decision was wrong because YOU say so, whilst simultaneously abusing people simply because you don’t like how they did their job, and expect to be taken seriously.

    Ultimately, the decision as to whether to approach the matter in a way calculated to succeed is one for the party – as it is in any matter where there’s an argument, legal or otherwise. In a family context, depressingly, behaving in the way above is – if the shouts of injustice are correct – also letting down the children. If this is a serious push for justice, addressing a serious issue, then the people doing the pushing should behave seriously. Too much self-indulgence above, for that.

  71. @Chambers

    I wonder if you realise that much of the time if you have a Circuit Judge dealing with a finding of fact hearing in a family case they are often in fact exactly the same people who hear criminal cases in the Crown Court.

  72. Below the Link to interview with Louis De Berniers talking about his experience of the family courts..

    Listen to the truth here.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b01cjwtg?rpSt=one+to+one&rpSrp=1.0

  73. Simon:

    I have a lot of respect for Lucy and also am ware of matt’s media persona, but I found her FJR review rather insulting and intellectually beneath the level of which I know Lucy operates. I have blogged about it and feel that while she has made a recovery to her normal standard in the comments it was a attempt to personal the father’s concerns about the Family Courts.

    In particulars defence of Trinder, ”

    So what possible work in the field has or could she have done that what be representative enough to make such generalisations about the Children’s Act. I am sure if Trinder had credible research to add to the argument the FJR committee would not have relied so heavily on the discredited Dr McIntosh. Lucy ignores the reason why Trinder’s piece in the Guardian was universally criticised was not simply of an absence of data, it was because it smacked of a lack of balanced judgement, more political rather than scientific. The general public saw it as a further gender discrimination in the guardian those familiar with the relationship between Trinder, Dr McIntosh and the FJR committee and saw it as a another naked attempt to save face against the public rejection with the “all men are potential rapists” propaganda.

    Lucy refers to Trinder’s arguments being based on experience carried out in the field, Lucy must be referring to the 2 pieces of research by Trinder of recent note, both of which were at the University of East Anglia (68th ranked in Europe). The largest was a court based dispute resolution study that was conducted on a sample size of 250 people over a 2 year period. During that period 250,000 children would have went through the family justice system, if we were to assume that 2 children = 2 parents, you are looking at a sample representative of ~ 1/1000th of the actual sample size. Assuming geographic, demographic affects across the sample it would be next to impossible for Liz to have obtained anything discernable from the statistical noise.

    Since the research which was sponsored by the Ministry of Justice (“MOJ”), and “supplemented with qualitative interviews with district judges, lawyers and CAFCASS officers from the three areas” the data was like the FJR just for show. Lucy seems to be suggesting that Liz’s research from the mightly University of East Anglia based on limited datasets for studies sponsored by the Ministry of Justice makes Liz immune to the massive criticism she unleashed on herself. Is it possible Lucy though the public would not see Trinder was simply trying to provide a paper thing argument to defend her paymasters and deflect criticism from her buddy Dr McIntosh (another discredited Social Care scientist)?”

    So it was not the messenger that was being criticised it was Luch from undermining her credibility which she had built up over many years and the attacks on Nadine. If you knew the story of what Nadine went through in these courts (which I only have various statistics of) you would not attack her. I don’t like people who attack through their partners and Matt was rightly justified in his response.

    I am wavering back now since Lucy has allowed others of intelligence to criticise her post and I respect that, we also need more than Karen standing up to to Trinder et al.

    I will ammend my post to reflect that.

    DA

    • @Dadzarmy Sorry, don’t have time to respond to the Trinder points (save to say that I have yet to have time to follow up some of the links to various research that are on this thread – that is something I want to do and to post about when I have time but currently massively busy), but I did want to say this: I don’t think I my remarks amounted to an attack on Nadine O’Connor. I indicated that she had been busy and all over the place on radio etc (which I think is her job as PR bod for F4J) and if you go back to the original post you will see that the worst phrase I used about F4J (not her specifically) was “self-righteous” (if it is relevant now that was a reference to some remarks made by her on twitter during that period). Hardly the world’s worst insult. And in fact not what Matt O’Connor was complaining about I think. But anyway. Water under the bridge.

      Thank you for your comment more generally though. Appreciated.

  74. I admit my writing style was somewhat skewed my my feelings about the attacks on Nadine, but I sort of surprised at the acceptance of Trinder’s research by someone I respect.

    I will wait your response, I suggest going to the Exeter University research page about Trinder and following the links. I spent a Sat trawling through them and it was not very impressive tbh.

    DA

  75. I have to wholeheartedly endorse Simon’s point: accusing everyone who disagrees with you as amoral, greedy, biased, perpetrating a conspiracy or whatever is, at best, unhelpful.

    At worst, it seriously undermines all arguments put forward. It also, regrettably, indicates a lack of emotional control. This enables people who are minded to to sneeringly suggest that the reason why the posters are SO vehement in their disparaging of the legal process and lawyers is because the accusations are, in part, true. That the individuals engaging in the yelling are angry because they were the controlling partner in the marriage and object to the imposition of a formal framework for resolving disputes outside of the controlling or even quasi-abusive frameworks within the marriage.

    Statistically, this is unlikely to be true. In fact, it I would wager that for almost all the commenters, it isn’t. But, with a few notable exceptions, that accusation could be levelled at many of the commenters here. Ironically, of course, this pushes the prevailing opinion in completely the opposite direction to the one intended…

    Something to think about—rhetoric is a fine art and overuse of pathos (and in particular, anger) can undermine a logical argument.

  76. I didn’t read what was said about Ms O’Connor as criticism. I don’t really have an opinion about the research, which I haven’t read in any detail, although I am vaguely aware of it. However, Opinion Polls are generally regarded as being capable of accuracy (subject to the refining techinques) if the sample consists of 1,000 people. If there are 60m people in the country then that is 1 in 60,000 people. On that basis, the sample utilised in the research is statistically relevant.

    This illustrates part of what I was saying – although, obviously, your comment has precisely the tone that moves the debate along. It is clear that the mood amongst the commentators is against the Trinder research. I am a perfect balanced sample here because I genuinely have no opinion and your comment at 103 above caught my eye because it seemed to offer the prospect of reliable research. But – just like in Court – your argument improves if you only make good points. If you want to criticise the research on a statistical basis then the question is has it been thus criticised by a statistician? It may have been – I don’t know. If so, your criticism is supported. If not, why not?

  77. Having got that little rant of my chest, there are a couple of substantive points I ought to make:

    @Chambers—oh, come on. It’s no use suggesting that Norgrove et al have a vested interest and have misled the people while cheerily engaging in the most egregious example of selective quoting I’ve seen for a while. The very next sentence begins, “however” and proceeds to present the problems. Deliberately misrepresenting quotation only harms your argument.

    Particularly if you go beyond the Executive Summary there are a lot of serious issues raised about a) delay and b) how the outcomes may result in children being dealt with like property.

    @ Dadzarmy,

    1) Use of pre-action protocols. Interesting… I’m not a practitioner, but my understanding of the protocols is that they’re largely used to push people towards alternative resolutions by holding a sword over recoverability of costs. If you don’t play nice, your chances of costs recovery suffer and indirectly the party suffers financially.

    As the theoretical aim of family litigation is to promote the best interests of the child, it’s difficult to see how or why any outcome-focused penalties attached to protocols could work.

    Unless you’re advocating we return to allowing recoverability of costs? Which is a very interesting question both in terms of the potential to discourage pointless litigation and the potential to discourage legitimate litigation…

    2) Transparency. Definitely support the idea of better, outcome-focused stats.

    Media, not so much. It would be interesting to know how the Norwegians work it, but the Hemming effect makes me nervous. (The Hemming, or Haigh, effect being, of course, an attempt to re-litigate your case in the Court of Public Opinion.) Unless it can be worked in such a way as to prevent that kind of thing happening, I’m very definitely in the “No” camp on that one.

    With this caveat: I do endorse the expansion of the rights of journalists to be present in family courts so they may get an insight into what actually happens in them. Just that articles should not be named. We can’t possibly know what damage (if any) children may suffer as a result of having their lives being dissected in the media, and I can’t see any major benefit.

    3) Statistical modelling. It is very interesting—I’m not entirely sure what you mean though.

    Are you talking about trying to predict outcome based upon known starting facts? I can’t help but wonder if this conflicts with notions of free-will…

    Or simply trying to base studies upon larger sample sizes?

    4) I do think someone running a blog, even a professional person, ought to be entitled to regard the PR machinations of pressure groups with an irreverent cynicism.

    For better of worse, the F4J PR machine really kicked in after the government’s response to Norgrove. If we can’t get snarky about PR in the modern world where spin is usually more important than fact, then I’m entirely serious when I say we’re all completely f*ck*d…

  78. For Simon Myerson.

    Simon I read you last posting, and I have to say that your’re just not being realistic in any way at all. After having had a child you adore and love taken from you and prevented all contact with, and for no good reason, and human nature being what it is, good fathers tend to react rather badly and angrily at this sort of thing, (an under statement indeed) It’s as if you are saying that the Jews had no right to complain when the Nazi’s cruelly penned them up in cattle trains and shipped them off to be gassed. I imagine this sort of scenario:

    The normal low ranking SS guard, Claus, was under orders from his superior to assist in rounding up the rats from the ghetto’s. He did what all his fellow soldiers did and obeyed orders, knowing that they came from the Fuhrer himself, and after all he was assisting in the betterment of his fatherland. Claus did his duty and managed to capture a whole family of Jews and made sure that the children were separated from their parents when shoving them into the cattle boxes on the train, children at one end, parents at the other. As he was about to go off and round up more of these vermin, a father called to him through the bars of one of the over loaded cattle carriages, “Sir please may I take this journey with my son who is in the first compartment behind the pulling engine, why have you separated us from our children?” Claus stopped, turned around and walked over to look sneeringly at a ragged man who was in tears. Claus removed his SS hat, took his crop slapping it hard against the cold bars where the grief stricken father was, he jumped back like a scared kitten. He answered the filthy Jew man… “Juden if you don’t like it then you must get together with your friends when you arrive at Belsen and change the policy of our leaders. Until then I will obey MY orders for this is the law of our country, and while it is I shall obey them! Now take your blubbering away from me you little weak man”.

    On arriving at their place of work, so the Jews thought and had been told so, the train was unloaded. All the children gathered at one end of the platform and the parents at the other while snarling dogs kept them in their places. Hundreds of eyes peered hard looking for their child, and hundreds of tiny hands were waving back. The crying man broke free in a quest to run over to his son to protect him from a dog that was snapping around his sons thin white legs. A guard, midway between the platform and the 2 crowds, saw the man coming. After raising his mauser and taking careful aim he shot the man dead as he approached, the poor man fell to the ground in a heap at the guards shiny boots. The guard looked down while the poor man took his last breath and shouted, “Fool, don’t you people know that you are powerless to do a thing here, you should have thought about this when you were back in Germany when your rat leaders would have helped you change things, HAHHA”. The guard marched away towards the screaming children, only to catch sight of a small boy throw himself under the wheels of a fast train that was full of high ranking officers on their way to receive orders from the Reichstag headquarters. A train that happened to be passing by on its way to the big city, Berlin, where all the power was and all the important decisions were made by all those very important people who also were just obeying orders for the good of their country.

    It seems to me Simon that you have never experienced having a child removed from you, perhaps I may be wrong. If you had you would know what it feels like to suffer, to be affected so deeply that it disturbs your sleep and your whole pattern of life. And every time you see a little boy playing with his father, you weep bitterly, and wish so much that you could see your own son again. It also seems to me that you lack empathy in expecting fathers to remain dispassionate and inactive and calm and reasonable when they feel and experience the horror of our own country acting like Nazis, and repeating history again, don’t expect us to be normal, we have been made abnormal! You will say there is little comparison with the Nazi’s, you know what, you’d be so wrong, so damn well wrong! This is what many of us bereaved fathers feel like! So don’t talk about your logical discussions and constructive polite conversations, where we can all iron things out for the good of our sweet children. Do not expect us NOT to be abusive in some way and in the way we might express ourselves, your ‘re just asking for to much man! Get real Simon! If you care, then YOU change the system, you barristers, you solicitors, STOP THE TRAIN AND MAKE IT TURN AROUND AND STOP THE HORRORS NOW! You have the legal wherewith all to do it. We fathers have nothing left to do, but climb bridges and stop traffic, until someone realizes what is happening here in the good old uk! As you may see, im mad, im angry, im down, im fed up of this all of it! All I want is to see my boy before he throws himself under a train. I want to be there for him, because I love him dearly. Let us fathers see our kids, that is all we want. YOU EXPERTS GET TOGETHER AND CHANGE THE SYSTEM, WE FATHERS HAVE NO FAITH IN THE LAW ANYMORE, why the hell do you think we climb those bridges? Because its all we have left, dont you see?

  79. @simon myserson – I note that you are not a family lawyer but welcome your sympathy for the individual fathers who have expressed their distress,

    I am not sure whether your allusion to ‘cod empathy’ was diirected at me, however, to set the record straight, I have over 20 years experience of working with both mothers and fathers as they go through family separation. My comments are very firmly based on what I have witnessed during that time, both with families who require only a little support to get things right and those who have found themselves at the sharp end in the family courts.

    As the Director of the Centre for Separated Families, an organisation with over forty years experience in supporting families, I have seen how the social policy and legal framework within which parents make choices after separation, oth increases the likelihood of conflict and discriminates against one parent usually the father.

    Our work is underpinned by gender analysis, a tool which, in this arena, illuminates the way in which policy and practice impacts upon the choices that parents make after separation. a gender analysis of the work of the academics that have shaped social policy and, rhe legal frameworks such as the Children Act 1989, demonstrates beyond doubt the gendered intentions of the architechts. n other countries, where gender mainstreaming requires all such policy to be analysed for iimpact on outcomes, a greater equality can be observed in the choices that parents make about their roles after separation.

    This is a serious subject, affecting many families at a very deep level. I do not consider it to be fair game for levity and witty banter by those who respesent the interests of families.

    Perhaps iit is only when one has been through the appalling process of family separation that one can fully understand the grief and suffering that it can bring.

  80. @ Jim Nately, I think you do Chambers a disservice. His use of selective quotation was necessary precisely to show that the studies by McIntosh et al exclusively relied on by Norgrove were not the only interpretation of the Australian experiment. The official government report to which Chambers refers was far more positive.

    It is Norgrove who is guilty of selective quotation. There is a huge body of evidence and research about shared parenting amassed over the last 30 years which Norgrove ignores entirely in his report.

    By relying on a very small proportion of that work – the small proportion which, coincidentally, argues against shared parenting – he has failed to do his job. The Government is right to reject this part of the report.

    @ Simon Myerson, for someone new to this and – by your own admission – ignorant about it (as we all were once) the interview with Louis de Bernieres is a very good place to start. It shows both the shock and disbelief of a reasonable and intelligent man faced with the reality of the family justice system and the unthinking prejudice (from Yasmin AB) with which we daily have to contend.

  81. Jim,

    Firstly apologies I cannot give out my name since I am need to protect my identity because I don’t want to identify my ex or my child inadvertently.

    Interesting points I won’t continue with the F4J debate that’s a done deal for me and adds little to the very reasonable and interesting discussion.

    The pre action protocol adherence plays out alot in the decisions taken in terms of how the court sees the party having been prejudiced by the party that failed to follow the protocol. If you swapped quantum and contact you are getting the anology between the two. The traditional preaction proceeding arrangement is the Personal Injury format, if you failed to allow the defendant a chance to have all the information to defend and make a decision before bringing the action, defendant gets to delay defence, strike out the application (abuse of process) …. The same could quite easily apply to Family Law, where the applicant having made no effort to make the defendant aware of the claims with independent evidence, is allowed to ask the court to throw out the claim or amend the claim. The FPR preaction from what I understand assumes it is all self contained and that prejudice prior to the proceedings by a party does not carry through to the court proceedings. I dont think I have seen FPR that make references back to the preaction protocol adherence of a party (Lucy has a great abridged version http://pinktape.co.uk/2011/01/family-procedure-rules-2010-abridged-version/)

    Regarding the media issue, I think that we get the Hemming scenarios because we get so little transparency. If the cases were more visible to the population I think we would get less visibility of the wierd individual cases and more of the case of considerable public interest. Instead what happens now is we get the drip drip of whatever case sounds the most consumable for PMQs or newspapers. I blame both the MP and the Judge for the Haigh scenario, Hemming supports alot of women [edited], I don’t think I have ever heard of him championing fathers and he has not used a lot of due diligence on that one and allowed the Family Court to make an example of her.

    I think like traders we will get better risk management (less biased, outrageous, whatever you want to call it decisions) if we use statistical analysis of the way parties behave if the parties use a computerised preaction process, a website where they put in their parenting plan arrangements:

    1. Mother + father submit parenting plan (contact arragements) using website by date.

    2. Mother + father review and edit changes for review. Father might want 3 days a week but child has to be at school and lives far away from the school so better to have 5-2…

    3. A point of acceptance is reach or not reached. The court can use a comparison with other 1000s of applications whether the couple individually, or together have behaved unreasonably, even given the many permutations of the plan.

    i.e an unreasonable mother not being flexible, not providing time to the father … 2 unreasonable parents who don’t agree or make reasonable applications… Father being unreasonable in not being flexible… compared to what 1000s of other couples agree on.

    Judges, lawyers, barristers waste millions of hours on this sort of thing, relying on anecdotal accounts which end up with the Judge literally guessing what might be really happening and in making a guess will try and ensure that if there is error in the guess that the error is skewed towards the non resident parent (if he cannot make heard nor tale of the parents actions why risk making a decision that would affect the child). And so we have a cure for court bias, and address the wasting of expensive lawyers/Lucys etc.

    An unreasonably parenting plan or failure to abide by one should always punish the unreasonable parent appropriately, money if their conduct adds to the other parties costs, contact increased automatically if the prejudiced parent wants more contact, stopped from making applications if etc if failing demonstrationg vexatious behaviour.

    I would have a Family Law iphone app to fill this stuff in so it can be entered more easily.

    Anyway I could talk about statistical measures but thats the jist of it.

  82. I have never had a child taken away from me, or been prevented from having access to a child and, as I have said, I acknowledge the genuine distress that must be caused when that happens. But my point is that in the real world – hard, unsympathetic and unpleasant as it may be – the outpouring of emotion simply does not achieve the desired result. If I may say so, the responses to me have been far gentler in tone (for which I am grateful and appreciative) than earlier comments and I do invite people to reread their earlier contributions with that in mind.

    As I have said, I don’t believe I have anything to offer on the substantive issues. My mother was a social worker and academic, specialising in what was then known as marriage guidance for over 30 years: my knowledge, insofar as it exists, comes from there (I voluntarily attended the lectures: was I insane?) and I am ready to believe that it is a little out of date. However, it does enable me to say, with some robustness, that the proposition that everything must be kept serious is counter-productive. Jeering is unacceptable. But a little light-heartedness relieves pressure and can help in alleviating strain. That someone else may not feel like smiling is their right, but unless they are the butt of the joke (not the case here) they do not have a veto. Accusations based on that are, in my view, not worth taking seriously because they feed paranoia. It isn’t a betrayal of anyone or anything to say that something which can bring a wry smile is ok.

    That just leaves Douglas Manning’s comments. Comparisons with the deliberate murder of 6,000,000 people on the basis of their religion simply make the point that there is a lack of perspective here and, if you are incapable of seeing the difference then I am afraid the problem is yours. Your obvious upset is clear enough when you move on to describing how you feel: there is no advantage to be gained in emphasising it with silly comparisons.

    I don’t say that simply to be rude: I say it because it answers your accusation of a lack of empathy. Forgive me, but I was empathetic. I took great care to say exactly what would make me sympathise wholeheartedly with your position. How on earth is that not empathy?

    The reality is that you didn’t like what I said because I asked you to change your behaviour. Your response, apart from the bathetic analogy, was to switch responsibility on to me and other lawyers to change the system. That way you can continue to behave as you wish and not be responsible for other people’s responses in any way. I’m sorry, but that isn’t being an adult. I actually described how to get me – and, I suspect, plenty like me – on board. If you don’t want to make the sacrifice that entails then that is your privilege. Just don’t blame me for it.

    One final point: the proposition that lawyers must change the system begs the question of whether the system needs changing. I completely understand that you feel an injustice has been done and you may be correct in that. But the only way that strangers, like me, will accept that, is either if you prove it, or if we take you on trust. As I said, no proof is currently being offered and the way in whihc the issue is being approached does NOT lead to trust. That is, ultimately – and sorry to be so harsh – not my problem. Accordingly, the ball is in your court. In the end, well-disposed neutrals can only say what would make them into partisans. If you want to ignore that, you may. But it won’t get you anywhere.

  83. A.Watson – Yes I do know. Family law findings of fact are sad joke compared to criminal proceedings.

    Jim Nateley – Suggest you heed Nick’s words. The Norgrove panel were selective and misleading, protecting their own interests rather than children and families. Not unusual in family law unfortunately.

  84. @105 Simon Myerson

    “The problem is that giving in to the pain and anguish, real though it is, is ultimately masturbation – making yourself feel better briefly without achieving anything or helping anyone yourself or anyone else.”

    I’m not sure whether you are a parent or not Mr. Myerson. I simply say this; I genuinely hope that you never have to learn the hard way about the pain and anguish that being separated from your children brings.

    I think I’d best leave it at that.

  85. @3 Jonathan James

    “I have endless sympathy for fathers who are deprived of a relationship with their children because of the malice of their mothers. I believe that the law needs to show a real appetite for identifying that tiny minority of abusive parents and deal with them ruthlessly.”

    You miss the point completely. This isn’t simply about a ‘tiny minority of parents’. This is about a legal and public policy framework that assumes that mothers are ‘good’ and have the right to decide what happens to children after separation and that fathers must prove their worth in order to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children.

    Even where a court ratifies a 50:50 parenting pattern, mums and dads enter the real world where they will be asked who is the ‘primary carer’. A ‘primary carer’ is identified by every single agency that parents might turn to for help as the parent with the child benefit entitlement. That parent can claim child benefit, child tax credit, make a claim for statutory child maintenance and will get housing credits from the local authority. The other parent will get no financial support whatsoever and may be required to make a statutory child maintenance payment – despite providing half of the parenting.

    The truth is that we we live in a pretty unsophisticated society that still believes that children are best with mum and that questions, vilifies and accuses dads who want to continue to have a parenting input into their children’s lives.

    Inside or outside the family courts, dads can expect to be treated as second class parents and, the more they complain, the more the lone parent organisations and the academics point and say ‘that’s why we should be keeping children away from their fathers’.

    The most significant thing contained in the Review is the removal of the concepts of ‘care’ and ‘contact’. Perhaps this may herald a change of emphasis in the way that the courts view ongoing parenting relationships.

  86. For Mr Myerson.

    Simon, I say with the utmost respect to you, that “ignorance is bliss”, and it is obvious, by what you say, that you are truly ignorant of what is taking place in the Family courts and to the poor fathers that have any connection with it. You ask for proof as the whether the system needs changing, you have it already. Go to my earlier posting about the experience of Louis De Berniers, the famous writer and author and read what I have put. Go and listen to the Radio 4 programme ONE TO ONE where he is interviewed. Now ask your self this question, WHY ON EARTH WOULD A GENTLE MAN LIKE HIM JUST CRITICIZE THE FAMILY LEGAL SYSTEM JUST FOR THE SAKE OF IT? He had no axe to grind with the family courts or any reason to believe that they would be biased in favour of mothers, NO, not until he experienced for himslf how corrupt and unfair they were to him.

    You have little idea of the horrors of those courts and how they debase fathers, if you did you would believe me because of what ive seen first hand in that hell of a place. You mean to tell me that it is right that when fathers ask to see thier own childs school reports or thier medical records, but then refused, you are telling me that there is some good reason for that refusal? Thing is simon if you knew what was happening you be appalled, but your ignorant of the facts, that is the problem. Go and listen to Mr De Berniers, is he lying for the sake of it? if so, why should he? He is telling the truth, people like you cant see the truth, you dont want to see it. Yes this country of mine is no better than the natzi’s, they take our kids away for shit all!

    • @ Douglas Manning – In the same way that others have declined to accept the Haigh case as evidence that the system is prepared to disbelieve mothers, the example of Louis de Berniers is just that – an example. I haven’t had time to go and follow the link through, but however compelling his story is it does not evidence a general proposition that there is widespread failure, which is what Simon Myerson was suggesting the father’s rights movement would benefit from providing (although it may well be that there is quite widespread failure to achieve effective justice for fathers – this single example doesn’t prove it).

  87. @ Nick Langford: I must respectfully disagree. It is does not require semantic wizardry to convey the reality of the AIFS report. The full report is below, and I can only invite people to read it and assess for themselves whether or not Norgrove and/or father’s rights groups are misrepresenting the content of the report.

    http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/fle/evaluationreport.pdf

    @ Chambers: Stamping your foot and saying over and over again “it says what I say, they’re all self-serving, and as is everyone who disagrees with me” does not, in my view constitute line of argument that is capable of response.

    All I can do it reiterate what I said above. It is for people themselves to decide.

    I can only add to both yourself and Nick Langford that even if what you accused Norgrove of is true, that it does not justify the deception you attempt.

    But ultimately it only destroys your own credibility.

  88. @Simon Myserson.

    If Lucy or any other lawyer/barrister/solicitor needs to relieve the strain, one tactic might be to make fun of each other and parody the way in which the legal profession carries out its work, instead of doing it at the expense of the people they are supposed to be serving. I would have no problem with that kind of stress relief at all.

    Family separation should not provide subject matter for the light relief of anyone involved in the family courts. If you want to have a laugh or even a wry smile about it, either do it in private or don’t be surprised, indignant or shocked by the response.

    And I am sure that your mother would advise you not to meddle in things, about which, you have no knowledge at all. And furthermore to be grateful that you haven’t because if you had, you wouldn’t be smiling at all.

    • Karen, I thought you read this blog? If you do you will know that I often make fun of myself and other lawyers. And I say again that I have not ridiculed the fathers, the mothers or the children involved in these cases, only the system, the public statements that are made and stances that are adopted by organisations and those who act for them (the PR and the Policy if you like) – this is more often using ridicule or parody in relation to CAFCASS, social workers, the court system, the Adoption Tsar… and yes, occasionally of fathers rights groups like F4J who are not unknown for using parody and black humour themselves. Why is it ok to make fun of all groups other than those representing a particular perspective? That seems to me not to be the free speech that many on this thread have been so anxious to exercise?

      I also think that it is unhelpful to criticise those who are not aligned to any particular camp in this debate for expressing an interest and offering an observer’s perspective on how the debate looks. The shape of our justice system is a matter of public interest and not a topic upon which only the aggrieved are entitled to a view. If you suggest that those without direct experience do not have a valid contribution to make to the debate they are unlikely to be very interested when their support is sought.

      What Simon Myerson is saying is that those aggrieved with the system may have a point but they aren’t making it very convincingly so far. Conviction, passion, repetition do not make an argument. It’s a shame that his good guidance is criticised rather than internalised by some of the commenters on this thread.

  89. I did actually listen to it and I thought it was very sad and upsetting. But the lawyer in me asked two questions: first, is there another side to it? Secondly, is it a one off?

    I don’t think those questions are unreasonable. How many times do they need to be asked before the message gets through that there is considerable goodwill out there but that the case needs to be made? And that accusing everyone in sight of being part of the wicked evil system simply alienates potential support?

    I have read the thread again and I am convinced that there may be a real issue here (I was particularly struck by what Paul Staveley said at 121). I freely admit that, as, thank God, this hasn’t been an issue for me I haven’t really followed the argument. But I think that’s the test really. I knew F4J as being a group of people who stood on roofs and shouted. If I thought about it at all I thought that they may have some reason for shouting, but that I didn’t want to listen to shouting – largely because in my experience shouters behave as they did in the earlier comments above. The issue is how to progress on from that point. I think it needs a body of evidence, presented in a considered way, on the basis that people are not automatically against it. People would, I believe, be willing to listen.

    That doesn’t mean the argument will be won. There may be things priorly to be said against either equal access, or the proposition that the current arrangements do not provide it. I don’t know. What I do know is that the shouting above won’t work.

  90. Karen.I don’t need the abuse, thank you. Being po-faced isn’t equivalent to moral rectitude and, I’m afraid, if you lack a sense of humour or proportion the problem is yours.

    The proposition that ignorance about the substance (which I acknowledge) should prevent a contribution to a discussion about the TONE of the debate (about which I know a great deal, and regarding which I make my living advising people about) is daft. If that advice was followed there would be non possibility of persuading the public of anything at all. The self-defeating nature of the viewpoint is so obvious that I can only assume that you succumbed the need to be rude. That is a reasonable illustration of what happens when people don’t approach things sensibly.

    Finally, this isn’t “in public”. Lucy provides a service which people have to find, read and contribute to. If you don’t like what you read then get involved or don’t read it. But don’t pretend that you’re offended by something you couldn’t avoid, because that is simply inaccurate.

  91. Lucy, and you will note that when you do make fun of yourself and other people in the legal profession, I have nothing to say at all!

    The reason it is not ok to make fun of the father’s movement is because fathers face discrimination. I assume you would not make fun of disabled people or of the organisations that represent them? That is because you believe that the discrimination that they say they face is real. Well the discrimination that separated father’s face is also real, read on.

    Fathers face discrimination in the current system of financial support to the separated family. Its a fact. You can see it described in Paul Stavely’s comment at point 121. Actually some mother’s who lose the fight in court also lose their residence order and along with it their entitlement to claim Child Benefit. This small group of mothers become ‘non resident’ parents and they are the most invisible group of disadvantaged parents of all because to not be the primary carer of your children in a society that venerates motherhood, is to be somehow less than a woman.

    However, the majority of parents with care are mothers and Paul is right, it is absolutely possible to ‘win’ a joint residence order in court as a father and yet find yourself the following day in a disadvantaged position whichever way you turn.

    The ‘parent with care’ title, conferred by the receipt Child Benefit, stands, regardless of whether you have a joint residence order or no order at all and as Child Benefit is paid overwhelmingly to mothers, (it was designed to be paid to mothers through the development of a piece of social policy called ‘from the wallet to the purse), it is mothers assume the parent with care.

    At the Centre for Separated Families, where we do a lot of work around equalities and family separation, we asked a group of separated parents the question ‘who decided to be the primary parent at the point of separation?’ All the mothers said ‘I did’ and all of the fathers said ‘she did’. A non scientific study I grant you, but try it asking the question yourself, I can guarantee the outcome.

    Child Benefit not only confers the status ‘Parent with Care,’ it is the gateway to all of the other benefits that are framed around the separated family. Housing entitlement, all the other support of the state then follows. The other parent then becomes known as the ‘non resident’ parent with all of the negative stereotyping that the label confers. And as Paul says, when father’s shout and complain and climb up things, everyone points to them and says ‘look, that’s the reason why they don’t get to see their kids.’

    Dads dont get to see their kids because we are still held tightly within a gendered system that was designed to give women the power to control their own and their children’s lives after family separation. The lone parent model of social assistance, which has dominated our social policy for forty years was designed specifically to liberate women from dependence upon men, transferring support instead to the state. The Finer report from the early seventies describes this in detail.

    Dads therefore cannot make choices about how they parent after separation because they are pushed directly into the role of non resident parent which only equates to the requirement to pay Child Maintenance (although this is, very slowly changing. At least now the Child Maintenance System is being reformed as we start to unpick legislation from the past)

    The changes in the Child Maintenance System and the potential for a legislative statement about the importance of children having relationships with mothers and fathers herald the possibility that we might be able to rebalance our social policy to benefit mothers, children and their fathers too. But I do not underestimate the forces ranged against such a change, they are formidable indeed and include some of the most prominent academics such as Liz Trinder.

    I think that you are starting to understand why your flippancy about the fathers movement caused such outcry and lead to attacks in return. I realise through reading this thread, that what I have taken for granted in terms of my wider understanding, is not readily visible to the outside world and, though we at the Centre for Separated Families having been saying it for 12 years, it needs spelling out.

    It is a serious business and trying to push through to a more egalitarian place, where children are able to have relaxed and flexible relationships with both of their parents is no walk in the park. The family courts are only a tiny fragment of the overall issue and those of us who work across the whole spectrum of family separation, understand what a critical time it is in terms of securing the kind of changes that might bring us into line with countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, where parents are not strait jacketed into gender roles at the point of separation and their choices are wider in terms of their relationships with children.

    Fatherhood/boys/men have too few supporters in this country and supporting them as a woman lays one wide open to attack, accusations of betraying the sisterhood or even of being accused of cosying up and therefore nauseating people.

    But I stand by what I have said and what I believe, which is that children benefit from meaningful relationships with their mothers and fathers after separation as much as they do when the family lives together.

    And Simon might just learn a thing or two about real life if he too internalises instead of criticises, things that he knows absolutely nothing at all about.

    • Karen, I don’t dispute much of what you say about the systemic difficulties men face, although I think you omit to mention the opposite side of the same coin as far as the difficulties faced by women is concerned. However, I’m sorry but I can’t let your remark about discrimination pass without comment. You say:

      “The reason it is not ok to make fun of the father’s movement is because fathers face discrimination. I assume you would not make fun of disabled people or of the organisations that represent them? That is because you believe that the discrimination that they say they face is real. Well the discrimination that separated father’s face is also real”

      It’s not ok to make fun of the father’s movement? At all? Is this really your position?

      I don’t think that any group should be immune from criticism or having a bit of fun poked at them. I do agree that disadvantaged groups should not be discriminated against and I don’t agree with gratuitious rudeness. But you seem to elide the two concepts (poking fun and discrimination) into one another. In answer to your question yes I’d be quite happy to poke fun at a feminist if s/he’s talking rot, or at an organisation representing some other minority or disadvantaged group – if they were adopting a foolish position that was worthy of comment. That doesn’t mean I would countenance making racist, disablist or sexist jokes or that I would take that to a level that would obviously cause offence. As far as I’m aware members of many minority or disadvantaged groups retain a sense of humour and I for one would never dare suggest that nobody could make a joke about something daft I said simply because I’m a woman, and oppressed. I’m also rather offended at the suggestion that a member of a disadvantaged group can’t take a joke – they don’t need protecting from all challenge or critique, they need protecting from discrimination.

      No, I’m sorry, giving fathers groups immunity from being criticised, challenged or poked fun at is a licence for poor behaviour and for sloppy standards of debate, as I think much (but not all) of this thread demonstrates. No one group has the monopoly on outrage. There is a lot on this thread which is pretty anti-feminist and potentially offensive to many women (and not all of it joking either) – but you don’t see me whining that I am a woman and have a right to absolute protection from everyone else’s opinion.

  92. 125 @Lucy

    “however compelling his story is it does not evidence a general proposition that there is widespread failure, which is what Simon Myerson was suggesting the father’s rights movement would benefit from providing”

    If you look at who is given money to research family separation, there is little wonder that we keep getting the same results. They are almost exclusively standpoint academics (and a pretty small group at that) who set out to prove that it is women who are disadvantaged through family separation and that mothers should be the gatekeepers to fathers’ relationships with their children.

    It’s a bit of a double bind – it is not possible to get the funding to do the in-depth research necessary but, when organisations and individuals like F4J and others attempt to produce a different perspective, it is dismissed as being the biased rantings of fathers rights activists.

    123 @Jim Nately

    I’m not sure whether you have read all of the report or, as most have done, simply taken the distilled version provided by the same stand point academics who got to Norgrove? The case made against the Australian reform is far from universally supported by the evidence.

    • @ Paul Stavely it cuts both ways. Gov are criticised for having inadequate stats, but when they commission research that is criticised too. Single cases do not prove a pattern. The hard evidence may not be there on either side (still haven’t had time to chase all links yet).

  93. For Lucy on the sands, the Ostrich!

    Now what made me think you’d say that Lucy? Of course Mr De Berniers was just lying along with thousands of all the other fathers out there, we just make it all up you know, because we want to be awkward?? Not!! Iv’e just realised that there is no proof out there you’d be prepared to accept anyway. What you are doing Lucy in this blog is being selective as to what you allow. I have already given you the evidence and proof and my bitter experience with Cafcass and the courts. Conclusive evidence which you have ignored and refused to put here on this blog, now that is not my fault is it, BUT IT IS YOURS? I wish I could meet with you Lucy, I would show you document after document that proves the corruption in the system. However, I know you would not look at it, because if you did, you’d have to concede that something is very wrong somewhere once you had taken it in. Thing is, you dont want to see the proof, you prefer to say that we many fathers MUST be making it all up, we all must be lying, but we arent! I get the impression that you have a vested interest in keeping it going the way it is, why would you want things to change, you dont! Shame about the story in the news papers last month about Paul Pegram, he was a member here. Paul couldnt take anymore of not seeing his loved ones, I know they loved him too, but he hanged himself. The whole thing drove him mad eventually, all he wanted was justice and to see his kids, you wont agree but as far as im concerned the courts and its unmerciful ways just about killed him, as good as murdered him, I know, you wont agree with that, but I knew how he felt in his heart. Lucy, there is no need to disallow Paul’s details here, the matter is in the public domain anyway, so at least show him some respect on here. God bless you Paul and your loving children.

    Lucy all is well in the garden for you, there is no evidence concrete enough to persuade you, its just impossible to convince you. You will continue to take instructions from a father one day, aiding him to keep contact with his kids… the very next day you will be instructed by a mother to do all in your power to stop the father seeing his kids. How the hell can you do that? Oh I know, its not up to you, the judge makes all the decisions, so you can salve your conscience when he has, and then wash your hands in your part in it all. After all you were just following your orders, get the best deal for your client possible, Ive heard it all before! I could not do your job Lucy, it would give me a struggle, a dilema of conscience to act in such a way. However, I would work in a system that got the parties together in a room and let it all come out, just as Mr De Berniers suggested. I would fight to make mediation compulsary and I would take more notice of what the child actually wanted, not just the parents wants, which you are under obligation to carry out. Now THAT would work Lucy! why arent you fighting for it?
    As I said there is no proof that you would accept Lucy, you like it the way it is, but God does it want fixing by you lot! We dads cant do a thing except continue to be angry, Sorry!

  94. It is very encouraging indeed to see people commenting on this blog who have no experience of the family law system. You are indeed the very people whose attitudes we need to affect and on reflection it is true that reading the comments above could alienate rather than help family law campaigners. However, as Karen rightly says, the uninitiated can be wrong. Appearances can be false. Whereas lawyers and those who work in the family law system are motivated to use the courts’ secrecy and machiavellian powers to keep up false appearances and claims that the system works, we are not. We are all veterans of a system that has damaged our own and other children. Karen Woodall is rather unique in that she is one of the few professionals who advocates for a proper system that, if it ever happens, will put her out of work. Such altruism rarely prevails over conflict of interest in UK family law.
    One of the welcome newbies on the blog commented that we should provide evidence. We have been doing that for decades. The governments of every country have been producing extremely high quality research clearly showing the damage done to families and children by the current family law system. It is either not passed to policymakers or thrown in the bin. A tiny proportion of it is here:
    http://www.sharedparentingresearch.info
    The campaign for court reform or better still, abolition of the court system, was won before the court system even got going. It started anyway. They justified it by hiring a cabal of academic fraudsters, centered in [deleted] who ignore quality empirical research and claim none exists to support a child’s need for a father. Her derisory work is given precedence over that of dozens of hands-on child development specialists from eminent institutions worldwide. (And Lucy, I expect you not to delete this for legal reasons, if [deleted] wants to come after me she has ample opportunity and I would love to face her in court).
    Real child development experts know more than any lawyer, any social worker and any judge, but there are no such experts employed directly by the courts. Coincidence? We think not.

    The legal argument was supposed to have been won in 1989, with the new Children Act, and in 2003, when the usurping of the intent of that Act by the legal profession was supposed to be corrected by the advent of the Early Interventions Project. That project was sunk by the Ministry of Justice despite having been specifically directed and funded by Parliament.
    So we have a history of the unelected legal, social and civil service professionals deliberately ignoring Parliament to continue with the current system. Politeness has got us nowhere, other than being on the receiving end of condescension, snide smirks and procrastination, whilst they fill their pockets with our children’s pain. Now, it appears our children are to be the targets of the same professionals in the same way – now that they are speaking out, revealing and expressing for themselves the pain the system has caused them.

    • @ STu G I HAVE deleted it. You may be happy to face a libel action in court. I am not however. Publish it on your own blog if you want to defame.

  95. @Simon Myerson. I do not consider that my comment to you is in any way abusive. I admit to succumbing to more than a bit of comment fatigue, but surely you can take a bit of light hearted banter, I find it relieves the stresses and strains.

    I have, in my response to Lucy, given you some more substance. I may be, in your view, ‘po faced’ about it, I make no apologies for that or any of the other things that you have said about my comments (which I could construe as being ‘abusive’ but don’t, as I know that what I say in public could very well lead to people disagreeing with me and even being angry with me).

    So there you have it, some things were said by some people who were angry and a couple of others got indignant about it and felt it wasn’t a fair fight being played by the proper rules. And some people wanted more detail and other people just wanted to shout. And the rest of us po faced mortals went back to the real world with an unpleasant taste in our mouths.

  96. I’m a little puzzled by those here who are new to all this and are demanding the supporters of equal parenting ‘prove’ our case – that was never the point of this thread. As the gentleman giving directions to Dublin said, ‘I wouldn’t start from here’. No disrespect to Lucy, but I wouldn’t.

    If you really want to understand this very complicated system which cannot be explained briefly in a blog post, the obvious place to start is 40 years ago with Keith Parkin’s letter to the Guardian which launched Families Need Fathers. The situation it describes will be very familiar to fathers today, and it’s on their website. More recently I prepared a document for Fathers4Justice called Family Justice on Trial – it does what it says on the tin.

    Some of the most common complaints by fathers are:
    • Secrecy – the system is unaccountable and closed to external academic or political scrutiny; the best defence of this the system could come up with was that it was ‘reflective of a long standing tradition, of general but not universal application’.
    • Failure to monitor outcomes – judges simply do not and cannot know what is in a child’s best interests; Norgrove said, ‘well, they think they do’.
    • The primary carer doctrine – explained by Paul Stavely above: the traditional sole-maternal-custody-plus-limited-paternal-contact model which is unstable and generates conflict.
    • Failure to enforce orders – contrary to popular belief, most campaigning fathers are awarded contact; the courts neither monitor it nor enforce it when orders are breached.
    • Delay – simply appalling; many cases take years, some take a decade or more.
    • Balance of probability – allegations of criminal behaviour (violent assault, sexual abuse, etc) should be evaluated according to more than a judge’s view of what is probable; an entire industry is devoted to manipulating this view through disseminating anti-male propaganda.
    • CAFCASS – slow, incompetent, poorly educated and trained, dominated by ideologically driven unions, not fit for purpose.
    • Lawyers – fathers’ groups like FNF and F4J survive because we do a better job of getting fathers contact than lawyers do.

    If you don’t trust fathers’ accounts of the system, there are plenty of judges who have been critical of it. James Munby has criticised its delay and its failure to enforce orders, ‘There is much wrong with our system and the time has come for us to recognise that fact and to face up to it honestly’; Nicholas Wall has condemned its adversarial nature and tendency to entrench conflict; Sir Paul Coleridge has remarked how the failure of successive governments to legislate has resulted in judges making up their own law. Wall summed up,

    ‘The court process is stressful for both parents and children, it is expensive for those who are not publicly funded; it is slow and adversarial. It tends to entrench parental attitudes rather than encouraging them to change. It is ill adapted to dealing with the difficult human dilemmas involved, notably when it comes to the enforcement of its orders.’

    Official reports have revealed massive failures and weaknesses: last year the Public Accounts Committee showed CAFCASS was not fit for purpose; Norgrove demonstrated how little the system knows about itself, and fails to use IT; one of Norgrove’s many ‘data gaps’ is the failure of the system to monitor outcomes for children, in 2006 HMICA said, ‘The efficacy of most Court Orders in family proceedings remains largely unknown’.

    In 2009 lawyers Mischon de Reya revealed that half of parents deliberately spin out proceedings (presumably the half whom this benefits), and a fifth make them as unpleasant as possible for the other party. When she was President Elizabeth Butler-Sloss denied that delay was used tactically; the Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs didn’t believe her. Why does the system allow itself to be misused in this way if not for gain? In 2010 endless voices were raised within the industry predicting meltdown, implosion and crisis; NAPO threatened to strike. They were only silenced by the commissioning of the Norgrove report.

    Anyone who is really interested in understanding what fathers are protesting about should read Taken into Custody by Stephen Baskerville. It might open a few eyes.

    P.S. while Karen is one of my heroines – along with Erin Pizzey and Camila Batmanghelidjh – I have usually appreciated Lucy’s sense of humour, and while I don’t think she always ‘gets it’, I also don’t think she intended to offend. Though she might like to apologise to one young man who is fed up with being poked after he was described as ‘apparently real’.

    • @ Nick Langford – I thought I’d already clarified he’s definitely real! And I am sorry if he was upset by any confusion. :-)
      PS What are you quoting from Mischcon de Reya?

  97. Lucy,

    As neither you, nor Simon are the arbiters of change, I think I shall retire now, I have just remembered that I don’t like the sport called bear baiting.

    Best wishes

    Karen

  98. Policy Briefing Paper: Parental Separation, Children and the courts, Mishcon de Reya, 16th November 2009

  99. @ Nick Langford – damn, I hope my lack of a sense of humour has not toppled me from sharing a pedestal with those two giants of humanity!

  100. 133 @Lucy

    “I don’t think that any group should be immune from criticism or having a bit of fun poked at them.”

    Go on then, Lucy. I dare you to poke fun at Doreen and Neville Lawrence and those who campaigned against the discrimination that they faced. No. of course you wouldn’t and neither should you.

    • @paul stavely
      1 individuals not group
      2 gratuitous
      I have no reason to poke fun at them. They behave with dignity and speak much sense.
      Not equivalent to what I said at all.

  101. Familoo, check out my post 42. it has a link to the head of family law at Mischcon de Reya’s view that the present family law system is “adversarial, an invite to a punch up, children are used as pawns and fathers back off because the litigation is too painful.

    Also you may be interested in Ann Thomas’s view at the law firm (IFLG) – I was at Westminster when she made the speech:-

    “How can we, in the English legal profession, have gone so wrong, have failed so many children, have inadvertently engaged in gender discrimination almost 2 generations, have fallen so out of step with many other countries and, most of all, failed to acknowledge trends in parenting patterns, especially in international families, over the past 40 years?”

    http://www.iflg.uk.com/documents/moving_country.pdf

    Simon Myerson,
    as above to familoo, post 42. has links to LJ Ward & LJ Munby saying the family law system is a shambles (in their own far more eloquent words). There are plenty more similar views from enlightened lawyers and judges.

    Jim Nately,
    its no good repeatedly saying I am repeating myself then in the next Para for you to say “I reiterate” :-) – If you had actually read my posts the first time around instead of just reacting you would have noted that I was quoting the shared parenting council of australia (government funded organisation), I also provided a link http://news.realfathersforjustice.org/index.php?itemid=625

  102. For Lucy, the I’ll settle for the system gal.

    You say that “compulsary mediation is not mediation”, God has spoken people, why is it NOT mediation? What you really mean Lucy is that it’s not to mothers advantage to be forced into mediation, whereas the vast majority of fathers would willingly go. In your remark there is the definite whiff of not to mums advantage abaout it.I can’t possibly think why someone would not want to go to mediation, not if they have the interests of the child at heart. But perhaps therein lies the rub, because all most fathers want, is not to score points against our ex’s or to dafame them, but all we want is to see our kids, therefore we would mediate. I am suggesting here that the propensity to concentrate on making dads look bad comes from the female and that can be better effected in the adversarial courtroom arena. Yes Lucy you are right compulsary mediation would not be to mums advantage at all! It shocks me though that you give the impression that its better for the lawyers to gather as much mud as possibe and sling it as hard as they can at the the mum and dad in question. Whereas dont you think that this would be at least more constructivly done, if at all, in the prescence of a mediator? In that way at least the truth will eventually come out, instead of being able to hide behind a lawyer and get them to sling all the muck in a sort of legal way. Your wrong Lucy, compulsary mediation is still mediation, and even if it was made compulsary, it’s still the only fair way.

    • Again, putting words in my mouth Douglas. That is not what I said.
      If you care to look at the website of any family mediation organisation (or indeed any mediation organisation generally) you will see that one of the central tenets of mediation is voluntariness. For both parties, be they male, female, mother or father.
      And if you care to read other posts you will see that I support more mediation, and am training to be a mediator. I just don’t agree with compulsory mediation.

  103. I accept the ‘apparently real’ comment was an editing error, but you don’t think I’m going to let you forget it, do you? ;)

    The Mishcon link is here: http://www.mishcon.com/assets/managed/docs/downloads/doc_2397/policy-briefing-paper-parental-separation-children-and-the-courts.pdf

    Took me ages. The data was acquired by OnePoll, so it lacks strictly academic credibility.

    @ Jim Nately, moving the argument on slightly, the objection to the reports by McIntosh and others which reject shared parenting is that they concentrate on the small minority of parents where there is a high degree of conflict, domestic violence, mental health difficulties, substance abuse, etc. Principles which should be applied to the generality of parents should not be based on this group.

    The point of a rebuttable presumption is that it is rebuttable, and will not therefore be applied in unsuitable cases. The studies which StuG has tirelessly compiled all advocate shared parenting, and many are meta-analyses and thus collate data from very large samples, but they all acknowledge that shared parenting is not suited to all cases, merely to most. No one is arguing that the principle should forcibly be applied even to the most unsuitable cases.

    Unfortunately there is ideological opposition to shared parenting from some quarters which leads to a misrepresentation of the data. The official figure for the number of parents who take their cases to court is 10%. F4J dispute this, as it derives from a study (Blackwell & Dawes 2003) which measured something else entirely. We believe the true figure is much higher. There is a deliberate effort to conflate this 10% figure with the 10-15% of litigating parents who are highly conflicted in order to argue that shared parenting is not an appropriate solution for any cases which come to court.

  104. Marilyn Stowe (partner) in a family law firm / award winning blogger – on morning tv welcoming the governments proposed reforms with shared parenting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lO1LnJThNGY

    The real reason why the Family Justice Review has failed – Marilyn Stowe

    http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2011/11/03/the-real-reason-why-the-family-justice-review-has-failed/

  105. For Lucy, the Ostrich with the very long neck that is soon to become a mediator.

    God woman the most encouraging sentence ive read from you yet! Huge pat on the head!

    And why would a woman or man not want to go to mediation Lucy? What would be thier motive in NOT wanting to go, what is it they are hiding?

    Your answer will be, “I think it is important that they go voluntarily without force”. Ok ok,, but why?

    • Douglas – they may be hiding something. Or they may be the victim of abuse and fearful of mediation. There could be all sorts of reasons for not wanting to go, some good, some bad.
      Of course it’s important people go voluntarily without force not least because any “agreement” is worthless if one party is not willing to implement it.

  106. Lucy the all wise one.

    Ok, I thought you’d say that, I was prepared for such an answer. Presumably then such abuse will be comfirmable by the police or one of the parties has a criminal record for such conduct, otherwise it’s just one party saying that it happened, hearsay etc etc. sorry that’s not good enough.

    As I’ve said muck slinging is better done in the court arena its more effective for mum. whether its true or factual or not, and usually that muck sticks firmly to dad, mum seems to have a shield around her to deflect it, why is that? No smoke without fire, (thinks the judge), Hmmm… better make sure about this can’t risk it, the childs welfare is paramount after all and all this mud, well it could be true, Judge cogitates… “sorry dad, but on balance I think you ought not to see your kids” Case dismissed.

    • @Douglas Manning

      If you cannot maintain a veneer of politeness towards people who disagree with you I’m going to block you from future comments. If you want to debate fine. If you want to mouth off and rant at a woman you disagree with and the general misandry of the world go elsewhere please.

  107. Douglas Manning,
    Please moderate your tone or desist from posting as if you continue it will give the blog owner a fair excuse to close this thread.

    Also it gives the lawyers an excuse to focus on responding to your weak arguments and complain about your tone, rather than debate with the other posters who are informed and moderate in their language.

    Plus I do not personally agree that familoo deserves to be addressed in this manner repeatedly.

    familoo,
    please consider not allowing such post through as they distract from an important discussion. Thank you for hosting it.

  108. Nick,

    Thanks for the informative post. Not that I actually ‘demanded’ anything, still less that the case for equal parenting is proved. I merely pointed out how to garner neutral support. If you aren’t interested in that or you feel you can do it better, that’s your call. No one has to take help just because it’s offered.

    Having said that, I did find your post helpful and I would like to make 2 points. The first is that the comments by really quite significant judicial voices don’t sit with the suggestion that the legal system is conspiring against equal parenting. They are more indicative of a real debate, albeit one which does not move at the pace or in the direction that you would necessarily like.

    The second point is on your point about balance of probability. As I’m sure you know that is the civil, rather than the criminal standard of proof and I am – via my criminal work – familiar with the proposition that criminal offences should be proved to the criminal standard whatever the proceedings. The difficulty with that view is that where the focus is the child (a third party) rather than the parent, the system simply has to be able to identify conduct which, although it cannot be proved to the criminal standard, nonetheless is felt to place the child in danger. The alternative is the risk lots of cases where the danger is not ended because the conduct can’t be proved to the criminal standard. Eventually a child will die.

    I do, obviously, understand that the way matters are currently structured the risk is that parents (mainly fathers) are prevented from having appropriate access because of the caution about a risk which does not in fact exist. But this is one of those areas where the law and society have to make a choice about whose interests may be damaged. As far as I can see, there is no option that eliminates risk here (I would welcome being told of one). The issue is WHO faces the risk. As a society we habitually decide that risk should be faced by adults rather than children. There is no pretence, as far as I can tell, that this produces justice in every case. Instead there is an acknowledgment that we cannot do that, so we must take a cautious approach.

    That is not a conspiracy and it isn’t evil. It is a choice which can be challenged and changed by providing an alternative which will work at least as well.

    The reason for my comment is to emphasise – again – that to persuade neutrals the case must be made. The same applies to your comment about secrecy. It simply isn’t right that the best defence of the current system is the one you gave. The best defence of the current system is that the law has, for over 80 years, taken the view that discussions about children (in any type of case including criminal cases) should not be publicised. That position is readily understandable and your argument loses, rather than gains, by the failure to acknowledge and confront it.

    I absolutely agree that secrecy brings its own dangers and I agree that the discussion should be had and I agree that I don’t know enough about the arguments to reach a decision with which I would be comfortable (why people think that ignorance is wrong in this discussion is wholly beyond me. I would have thought that the opportunity to educate a willing subject would be eagerly, and courteously grasped, but there you go). But the arguments must be squarely faced and – in common with any other legal issue – you are best placed to persuade anyone if you put the case against you as firmly as it can be put and THEN demolish it.

    Douglas,

    I am a qualified mediator and mediators as a body are uncertain about compulsory mediation. The concern is that a non-consensual process will be at the mercy of the uncooperative and that the number of failed mediations will cause people to lose confidence in mediation as a tool for resolution. I ought to say that behaviour in mediations can be downright bizarre. Because people are asked to actively involve themselves in the process you get an enormous amount of emotion – even in things like a road accident or breach of contract where emotion doesn’t figure greatly. Spending an hour convincing someone not to walk out isn’t unusual.

    You can imagine what can happen in an emotion laden family situation. When you remember that mediation is a relatively new thing and that most mediators still regard themselves as fighting for legitimacy, you can understand the reluctance. As it happens, my view – for what it is worth – is that compulsory mediation is worth a go, because I find that it is possible to help participants become bound up in the process so that – even unwillingly – they become committed to finding a solution. I think it should be an experiment and the results should be monitored, but I think it should be tried. Almost all studies say that a settlement reached at mediation is one with which the parties are happier than a court imposed solution and – particularly in the family context – that has to be worth aiming for.

  109. To Lucy and Chambers

    I cannot see where I have been impolite in any way. I have asked a series of questions regarding why a person would not go to mediation, I have been quite serious in asking them. Further, my quips as to why they would not go are included, and my beliefs that the court is biased against fathers, is suggested here in a humour framed based logic. There has been much talk on here about a sense of humour,I suggest you both get one quickly! If it is you find my comparing Lucy to an ostrich, or the wise one, which Is certainly my opinion of her and I have a right to hold it, then you want to try and develope more of a thicker skin. I detest snobbery and I also detest your elitist attitude of ignoring many fathers here that have given you thier experiences as to why the whole system is corrupt. And yet you have the ordacity to ask for proof of that bias against fathers with evidence and facts, we have posted them here, you go on disallowing them, This blog is a farce, and it is not possible to prove to you a damn thing, because it is obviously fixed to suggest that you are always correct. As for maintaining a veneer of politeness, I have indeed maintained that in truth all along. Mouthing off, I deny it completely, I have done no such thing. If you fail to see where I am coming from, then I am sorry for you. As for misandry, I find such an accusation absurd, try going to the family courts and being told by your Ex what it is you have to obey, and that you can’t say in a letter to your son that you love him. If it is that you again do not post this here, you will prove nothing but one thing, that you ARE refusing the truth to be posted, and yet you ask for facts, YOU WON’T POST THEM! Well having a thick skin I shall have to indeed go elsewhere to get that truth out, whatever happened to kindness and consideration and patience? BUT YOU LOT STOP ASKING FOR FACTS, THEN YOU EDIT THEM OUT. You dont really want the facts, you want whipping boys. Respects to you all.

  110. @ Chambers & Paul Stavely,

    I can confirm that I have read the parts of the AIFS report I linked to above (pp 137–230 inclusive). I do appreciate though, that this is not necessarily an option for everyone.

    As far as I understand, the AIFS report is the primary source. The link posted on the Real Fathers for Justice website from the Shared Parenting Council for Australia is a commentary upon the AIFS report, produced for the purpose of claiming Norgrove’s analysis of the AIFS report was misleading and therefore of pushing the interests of SPCA (the clue is in the name, perhaps.)

    Not that I wish to suggest that I discount the SPCA’s commentary. However, it is in my view wholly illegitimate to suggest that Jim Carter’s press release can, or should, be preferred as a source to the AIFS report itself.

    I should also add that it definitely doesn’t help the cause that I’m actually having to explain this. I think it would be clear to pretty much everybody that the official AIFS report is a better source than the SPCA press release. The argument that it isn’t, with respect, is untenable.

    It’s important that I stress that nobody here is claiming the family justice system is perfect. It often is slow, it often does encourage adversarial positioning, there are major problems with enforcement (although that can cut both ways) and it may well afford too much discretion to the judiciary. There are a lot of options, and hopefully the non-contentious aspects of the Norgrove review will be implemented in full.

    But on the question of a legislative presumption of share residence, I remain sceptical. But I won’t take a final view on that issue until we have seen the proposed wording.

    @ Douglas Manning
    If it can be shown that one party in a family dispute has, beyond a reasonable doubt, committed an act of domestic violence or child abuse then he or she ought to be charged, tried and convicted. Whereupon questions of contact are likely to become an irrelevancy.

    The “balance of probabilities” test means “is it more likely than not that a specified act of violence or abuse occurred?” It is still a reasonably hard bar to cross.

    Let me put it this way—would you entrust your kids to a person who is more likely than not to have a history violent behaviour, albeit that you don’t know this beyond a reasonable doubt?

  111. Northern Lights

    I’m a little bemused to see the most vociferous lawyer bashers happy to endorse and promote a lawyer like Marylin Stowe when it suits them.
    As for compulsory mediation, I have no idea why (even if it was feasible) they think it would lead to better outcomes for them in the relatively small proportion of cases that will inevitably end up before the courts. For many of them, it will only cause further delay.
    I am aware of mediation services charging more than £200ph so I await a fresh wave of vitriol aimed at them and their self interests.
    I think dadzarmy has raised some very valid issues which can and should be addressed; issues which will remain regardless of any rebuttable presumption of whatever. They are issues which have prevented the realisation in full of the CA ’89. Perhaps FNF and their ilk should appoint him as a campaign director because it seems to me that the rest of them are either tilting at windmills or blindly attacking anyone who questions their position.
    I suspect the gov will include some statement in line with what they want in legislation.
    Then what, guys?

  112. Just wanted to add that the perception that all solicitors are in it for the money and biased is unfair. The support of senior members of the legal profession was invaluable in overturning Payne v Payne and the comments of senior partners of Mischon De Reya and The International Family Law Group was as critical as our own.

    Some fathers get a devastatingly raw and unfair deal which has nothing to do with children’s needs and more to do with the peculiar and antiquated parenting history and practices of individual judges which they think are normal.

    That said, there are also some bloody good judges, but the inconsistency in the application of law, amd the ‘wide ambit of discretion’ given to individuals who range from the capable to the inept is the main problem.

    There are some shocking solicitors out there, and I’ve seen barristers refuse to ask to appeal because of fear that it will damage their standing with the judge, while others will ‘respectfully’ tell the judge they are being ‘outrageous’. Some solicitors who routinely advise a mum to go for supervised contact where there are now welfare issues. Others who bend over backwards to be fair. Stuart’s description of some solicitors is accurate in my experience, but it’s too sweeping to suggest it’s representative, any more than to suggest all dads are angry and a potential risk unless proven otherwise (a view which can exist).

    I back shared parenting because the welfare research supports it. A couple of studies in Australia have raised concerns, but if you go beyond the exec summaries the sample sizes are small and the research is hardly authoritative.

    Pink Tape has on the whole been a thought provoking and reasoned blog. As I know, when you raise your head above the parapet, it will occasionally get an arrow aimed at it. Sometimes it’s best just to ignore it and carry on (but it’ll be doing your traffic ratings no end of good lol).

    Michael

  113. The above was written on a blackberry, and my fingers are too large, the screen is too small… and I should really wait and use a PC. My proof-reader would shoot me!

  114. …and that should have read ‘where there are no welfare issues’. True though. I was helping the mum who was anxious at her daughter not being with her, but horrified when the solicitor suggested contact in a centre and no overnights. A little TLC and support was what she wanted, no 12 months of battles and an ex who then thought she’d turned into a malevolent cow.

    Oh… and I see no problem with mandatory mediation. Being honest, we should have had that for all legal aid cases several years ago, but only a third of solicitors mentioned it to their clients (according to the LSC). Still… 33% did!

    Michael

  115. Jim Nateley,

    The reality is as follows from the conclusion of the Australian government commissioned report. The reforms are positive and applications are lower even at this early stage.

    Evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms, dated December 2009 by the AIFS

    CONCLUSION QUOTED BELOW:

    “16.2 Conclusion

    The evaluation evidence indicates that the 2006 REFORMS to the family law system have had a
    POSITIVE impact in some areas and have had a LESS POSITIVE impact in others.

    Overall, there is MORE use of relationship services, a DECLINE IN FILINGS IN THE COURTS IN CHILDREN’S CASES, and SOME EVIDENCE OF A SHIFT AWAY FROM AN AUTOMATIC RECOURSE TO LEGAL SOLUTIONS in response to postseparation relationship difficulties.

    A SIGNIFICANT PROPORTION OF SEPARATED PARENTS ARE ABLE TO ORT OUT THEIR POST-SEPARATION ARRANGEMENTS WITH MINIMAL ENGAGEMENT WITH THE FORMAL SYSTEM.

    There is ALSO EVIDENCE THAT FDR IS ASSISTING PARENTS TO WORK OUT THEIR PARENTING ARRANGEMENTS.”

    http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/fle/evaluationreport.pdf

  116. Douglas Manning,
    your posts continue to be unpleasant, misinformed and unhelpful to those of us making an argument for change.

  117. Northern Lights,
    I’m sorry to hear you continue to be bemused.

    It goes without saying (for most of us on here) there are some excellent lawyers, Cafcass Officers and judges out there; however the SYSTEM SUCKS.

    Hopefully the above Para will help to clear up any confusion you may still have, no need to thank me.

  118. Northern Lights,
    P.S. I fully agree with you that Compulsory Mediation is a nonsense; causes delay, is expensive and is just another method of garnering more monies from parents.

    WITHOUT an expectation in the family law system of parity in status of the parties Compulsory Mediation is another sick joke.

    Parity in status will only be achievable with a Presumption of Shared Parenting in legislation.

  119. Nick Langford

    @ Simon
    Thank you for taking the time to reply; I may not have expressed myself clearly in an attempt at brevity – as I said, there are more detailed and more long-winded versions of these arguments available. The quotations from judges were designed to illustrate the fact that it isn’t only fathers’ rights campaigners who criticise the system; they weren’t intended to argue for shared parenting.

    Balance of probability – the problem with the ‘erring on the side of caution’ argument is that if the allegations are false it is very likely that leaving the child in the custody of the parent making the allegation will expose the child to harm or abuse, quite apart from the harm of being separated from the other parent. It is essential therefore that the system determines the truth of these allegations at an early stage, but it is very poor at doing so, and the softer standard of proof tolerates a less robust approach. I accept that this problem is more to do with the inadequacies of CAFCASS.

    There are no options which eliminate risk entirely, but there are things the system could do better. There are differences between true and false allegations and patterns which emerge. Ask any father with experience of the system and he will tell you what allegations will be made at each stage of the proceedings – they escalate and they tend to follow a familiar pattern. There are techniques for assessing the truth of allegations (try this link: http://bordersmclaughlin.com) but there is resistance in the UK.

    Secrecy – I hope you will forgive me, but the explanation you have given – that the law has taken a particular view for 80 years – confirms my point that the practice is habitual and traditional. The quotation (from Pelling v Bruce-Williams) really does represent the only argument the judges in the case could come up with. There is an alternative argument that open courts would intimidate witnesses and compromise the process of justice. I don’t dispute that there are valid arguments for a closed court (others include practicalities such as the size and architecture of the courtrooms) – I merely think that the consequences of secret courts are so devastating to the exercise of justice that all other arguments are annihilated. There is no evidence that a child has been protected by this practice, or harmed in jurisdictions which are open.

    @ Northern Lights
    Compulsory mediation – I don’t share Lucy’s view that mandatory mediation is not mediation. There are good arguments for expecting couples to use mediation first before progressing to court. There is an over-used quotation from a Judge John Lenderman of Florida who said, ‘I’m totally convinced mediation should be mandatory. Every judge that I’ve talked to around the United States says mandatory mediation is the way to go’. There is support in the UK; Judge Nicholas Crichton is quoted by Liz Trinder saying, ‘I do not see a difficulty in saying to people, “If you want access to a judge in a courtroom, which is a very expensive facility and not necessarily the best facility to try to resolve your problems, you have first of all to try one of a range of options to see if we can find another solution to your problem”’. Mishcon de Reya proposed a system under which an application for contact or residence would not be possible without a certificate confirming that mediation had failed (they called it Family Therapy).

    The problem with voluntary mediation is best expressed by Stephen Baskerville (I really do recommend his book), ‘no rational party concedes anything in mediation that they know they will win in court’. As long as litigation holds out the promise to the resident parent of being able to control the other parent’s contact with their child, resident parents (and their lawyers) will prefer litigation over mediation; removing that option until mediation (of some form) has been tried (other than in cases which are obviously not suited) makes a great deal of sense, and I note that Simon thinks it worth a go.

    One problem with running a pilot, incidentally, is that (as the ill-fated EI project showed) mandatory mediation would not be possible without legislation – once that legislation is in place surely every case would have to conform?

    There is a further point that the best results seem to be obtained in mediation when children and financial issues are considered together.

  120. Commenting on a few other points…

    Lucy, sorry but I don’t see how you can believe that a presumption of shared residence exists. I’ll grant that it may in individual courts, and before individual judges (that old thorny issue of discretion again… or preference… or bias… or a lack of consistent guidance). I can tell you that the head of an FJC said in court that shared residence orders were rarely made in THEIR court… and not in the too distant past.

    I disagree that common law gives any assurance of consistency. If we look at whether a residence order needs to exist for there to be a contact order, one of our most senior judges was ‘plainly wrong’ in his recall of Ward’s earlier judgments. As a result, we’re left with a court of appeal judgment and conflicting case law since those who should be most knowledgeable… are entirely fallable (and on some pretty fundamental points… and ignoring the no order principle). The cases… In Re S (A Child) [2010] EWCA Civ 705 Thorpe LJ quotes Ward LJ in Re B (A Child) [2001] EWCA Civ 1968, ignorant of Ward’s further clarification in Re G (A Child) [2008] EWCA Civ 1468. Points of law are cherry picked dependent on the individual judge’s prejudices or partial knowledge of case law.

    We have a President of the Family Court and Head of International Family Justice who seem baffled by stare decisis and when it applies… having believed (and I have this in writing) that the guidance in Payne v Payne represented a binding precedent on the lower courts. Wall’s predecessor felt the same. Wall told us in a published speech that due to this, a review of Payne was only possible in the Supreme Court. After a little pressure and campaigning, it transpires that they were completely wrong… and the only point of law from Payne was that child welfare must be the court’s paramount consideration (an absolute farce, and one not that deftly dealt with by the Deputy Head of Civil Justice who had to be parachuted into the Family Division to sort out the mess). 10 years of misapplication of precedent?

    What the courts have given us is a system that is so complex that even the most senior judges make howlers. We have huge inconsistency in judgments which is why no solicitor or barrister will (understandably) dare to predict an outcome for their client (unless, perhaps, they have an inkling of which judge will hear the case).

    Solicitors’ and barristers’ duties are to represent their clients wishes… whether fair or foul. Judges hold responsibility for safeguarding child welfare, and have manifestly failed.

    We have a system which has preferred the ‘single parenting’ model since the inception of the Children Act. Has society (and have children) benefitted? We have the highest teen pregnancy in Europe, the unhappiest children in the developed world with the worst family relationships (according to the UN in 2007), high youth crime, high levels of mental illness/self harm/teenage depression. On all measures, the preference for single parenting has been a failure… and the judiciary have been at the root of this.

    CAFCASS have had their criticism, so have solicitors, but it is the judiciary who carry responsibility for poor case management, poor judgment, and laziness.

    A case not that long ago where social services were found to have lied and fabricated evidence… it’s in the ‘unpublished’ judgment… but no action is taken. Not even a reprimand for perjury.

    Parliament need to rein in judicial discretion, give much more detailed, statutory guidance, and we need a far simpler system (rather than one where your chance of understanding or knowing ‘points of law’ comes down to the time you have to wade through hundreds of pages of judgments to attempt to fathom out which points of law. No wonder a complex and expensive industry has grown up out of trying to get the best from a system which is inefficent, disorganised, poorly conceived, and entirely haphazard.

    That’s why parents get angry. They have a responsibility for their children’s lives, and when they enter the courts, they see a self indulgent and incomprehensible system where they had believed we have ‘the best system of law in the world’.

    We don’t.

    Michael Robinson http://www.thecustodyminefield.com

    • Hello Michael – you were languishing in spam. Sorry.
      I don’t believe there is a presumption of shared residence. I do believe there is in effect a presumption of shared parenting. Not the same.

      Lucy

  121. For Jim Nately.

    I appreciate your comments to me Jim. I have to say, however, that I can’t wholey agree with them. You should know that it is all to easy for one of the parties to make an unfounded, convenient and timely accusation of violence against the other and perhaps even towards the child in question. And I agree with you when you say that such a matter should be dealt with in another court other than the family court. If, BIG IF… such is provable by other witnesses, (other than the party alleging the violence, perhaps the mother) or a police record of the incident is on file and availabe, if no such confirmation is available, then I believe that it should not be considered at the family courts AT ALL and dismissed as untrue! I am afraid I dont’t much care for your expression “on the balance of probabilites”, Just because A father may exhibit anger during the court process after perhaps being at court 20 times over 2 years and having been made to jump through every hoop put before him, (to me his anger would be understandable, ive been there)…this does not make it probable or more likely that the accusation of violence is true, not that you you have suggested this Jim. Either violence can be totally proven or not, if it is not, there should be no use or need for the expression, “balance of probabilites” to even enter into it! Most, and I mean most, fathers who are not seeing thier children who I meet at RFJ have been accused of this by thier Ex, and I believe it is only to convenient for her to say so at the time in the family courts. To tell you the truth, I myself have been accused of violence by my Ex, although there is no police evidence of such or any corrobaration of such by anyone she could call. And yet the mere mention of this factor is enough to suggest to a judge that a child may, (BIG MAY) may be at risk from the father (or mother). I am a pacafist by nature and I can not strike another human, however this fact matters not when an accusation of violence is made against you, the problem is the Judge will, and usually does take it into consideration. My firm belief is that any alienating parent may say what ever they wish to, it does not make it so or true. And yes i would let someone care for my child that has ‘only been accused’ of violence, accusations mean little to me, facts and proof are needed, Im sorry im not that judgemental Jim. INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.

  122. Northern Lights: Dadzarmy is what FNF should have been and what it’s members wanted it to be.

    Lucy: There needs to be more debate like this for the wrong reasons you still managed to get a good discussion going here.

    All: Seems to be alot of intelligent people wanting to find a common solution lets make it happen!

  123. @ Douglas Manning,
    Regarding your point about people posting “facts” and evidence about the family courts.

    Many of these facts or pieces of evidence are details of a poster’s own experiences of their own legal battles over their children in the family justice system.

    There are three points that should be made:

    1) It is illegal—a potential contempt of court—to publish these. It is unreasonable for you to expect Lucy to publish material that could render her liable to be held in contempt. Furthermore, a breach of court rules by a practicing barrister could leave Lucy open to professional misconduct proceedings, with potentially career ending consequences.

    It is wholly unrealistic to expect someone hosting a blog to allow comments that could get them fined, imprisoned, or unemployed.

    2) While anecdotal evidence is interesting, it isn’t an alternative to empirical, or better yet, statistically significant data. Various bits of research have been criticised for using too small a sample size. The sauce that is good for the goose will do for the gander.

    3) When people write about their own experience with their own children being the subject of litigation, the accounts will necessarily be subjective—highly partial and very emotive. While these accounts provide an insight into how certain individuals view the family courts, their lack of objectivity does reduce their value considerably.

    I appreciate that you will no doubt be irritated by this comment. Unfortunately, points 2 and 3 above are so fundamental to a persuasive argument that a failure to recognise this can only undermine your credibility further.

    @ Michael Robinson,
    Regarding the attitude of solicitors towards various solutions and the example you mention above.

    I could well imagine that such lawyers exist. That said, I’ve never met them. What I have seen, unfortunately, is how lawyers these days are more risk adverse and feel the need to run through options that could almost certainly be disregarded.

    Or, put another way, it’s less hassle to tell the mother that she can apply for “contact-centre only and no overnights” than risk her turning round 3 months down the line and complaining.

    Any barrister refusing to ask for permission to appeal on an arguable (and, obviously, appealable) point ought to be referred to the BSB.

  124. For Michael Robinson. Comment 169

    Michael I congratulate you on your knowledge and the logical way you present the case You’ve put, I could’nt agree more with your coherent argument, with every word of it! It encourages me greatly that minds like yours have a full and fair grasp of what’s really happening with the judicary, thier poor and unfair decisions are well highlighted by you. The inconsistency of decisions made by various judges is laughable, it depends on thier leanings and background and whether or not they really make a proper effort to examine past case law and precedent, most do not! Its shocking how much misery these judges are inflicting on parents, usually the poor father, thier responsibility is to know the law and apply it with care, how they have failed miserably in thier supposed claim that they are protecting our children, my belief is they are doing the very opposite. Thank you again, wish thier were more like you with your good reasoning abilities on the subject.

  125. Not the first time I’ve languished in spam Lucy, but thank you for retrieving me.

    For me, shared parenting commences when both parents have the opportunity to collect and drop off from the school gates, midweek overnight as well as weekend and holiday time. Sorry to say this still isn’t happening for too many, who are relegated to the position of alternate weekends…

    Why are these things important? It affords the opportunity to get to know your child’s peers’ parents and teachers informally which has many benefits for their development and enables a more ‘normal’ family life. Their friends are more likely then to attend both parents’ houses, school problems can be resolved earlier, the child benefits from both parents being involved in schooling (which we know aids academic achievement from countless studies). Currently, too many children don’t benefit from these arrangements. Why?

    My view is that many in the judiciary invested more time in career than childcare. For them to accept the studies is perhaps to accept their own parenting and priorities were less than ideal.

    Michael

    • @ Michael Robinson – I agree with what you say about the significance of being at the school gate. I don’t really think your sweeping assertions about the parenting of the judiciary is fair, and it probably isn’t evidence based.

  126. To Chambers. comment 165.

    Chambers I respectfully ask you to desist from your superior and condescending attitude towards others on this blog. May I suggest that you take your offencive and personal comments elsewhere, if not I beg that you do not comment on my posts here. I find you are lowering the tone to what you only consider a valid point of discussion. I also ask that you refrain from presumptions that I know nothing about the legalities of the court process, I in fact do. If i approach it from the standpoint of a father who has been through the courts, that is a matter for me and not you. I ask you to stop your pomposity please. I notice that Lucy did not edit my comment to which you refer to, which I am greatful for, it is not for you Chambers to tell her what to edit or what to allow here, I am sure that she knows what is allowable, as do I, it does not prevent me from trying to publish it in any way I can, and I do understand Lucy’s position completely. You make little room for others ideas other than your own. I ask that you try a little humility. For all I know we are on the same side and that is to change a system that is failing us fathers terribly I attack it from that point of view ONLY. I am not against mothers at all, however I firmly believe, as does the wise Mr De Berniers, that the courts are anti father and anti male. I care little if you find that comment disagrreable, and I also ask you to stop supposing that I do not know what Im talking about, I in fact do my friend, more than you could ever know. Now lets disist from the personal attacks and get on with it.

    • @douglas manning I’m not going to entertain a spat here. Chambers asked you to be polite, which I happen to think was justifiable. Your response is neither polite nor fair. Chambers has been expressing a view with which you don’t agree (and for that matter with which I don’t always agree) but he has been doing so appropriately. I have already warned you I will block further comments if they are abusive. I will allow this comment through, but will simply block you from posting on the blog at all if you attempt to post further abusive messages. I’d like to draw a line under this please so Chambers, please resist the temptation to respond. ;)

  127. Jim Nately, Comment 172.

    Thanks for the diatribe Jim. How about you addressing my points though? Do you agree or not that an accusation of violence that is unsubstansiated should not be considered in the family courts? You have already stated that if there is a resonable grounds for such it should be a criminal matter, I got that. However, I can tell you that to many fathers are accused of this without foundation and the mud stll sticks anyway. As for you continuing to suggest that I am biased because I have been involved in a court process, I find that rather a poor argument to make, the best way of knwing the reality of any process is experiencing for yourself.

  128. To Lucy comment 178.

    I am withdrawing from the thread here, which you will be relived with Lucy. I am at a loss as to why my comment at 172 was in any way unreasonable, not to the point, offensive. I my self have not posted any offensve remarks at all, However this posted by Chambers was highly offencive to me:

    “your posts continue to be unpleasant, misinformed and unhelpful to those of us making an argument for change”,

    If you dont see that Lucy that is unfortunate, To be accused of those things is an outrage to me, and can only come from someone with a huge ego, which chambers probably has. Perhaps Lucy you could spell out to me just what is wrong with my posting at 172? It is a well founded one born out of good experience of the truth, I thank you for allowing me on here Lucy, good day and beat wishes. I withdraw to fight on else where for the rights of good fathers. Goodbye.

  129. Thanks Michael for hitting the proverbial nail where it matters – the Judiciary. Your analysis is spot on imho.

    familoo, temptation resisted as requested. On another point I still though genuinely cannot comprehend how you think the present system in this jurisdiction is shared parenting orientated.

    Sadly unless the parents agree a shared parenting schedule before they get to Court then only a minority end up with it and it can take quite some time to get there.

    Alternate Fri-Sunday & holidays is not sufficient for it to be called shared parenting.

    • Chambers, well I think the answer is in your last line. When I say that there is a presumption of shared parenting I acknowledge that this does not necessarily mean the type of shared parenting that falls within your definition -i.e. more than alt fri-sun & hols and involvement in school drop offs etc. Whilst I too would like to see more dads being able to spend more time with their kids I think that shared parenting can have a broader definition than you would probably be comfortable with. I really treat it as having a meaningful involvement in a child’s life and regular contact. There is I think a wealth of arrangements that can and do exist (and work quite well for individual families) that are capable of falling within a definition of shared parenting but which would fall well short of your definition. I know that I am setting myself a trap by using the word “meaningful” – it is highly subjective and many would say that anything less than 50% of a child’s time is not meaningful. I don’t really subscribe to that because different families have different needs – and I’m not just talking about the differing views of mums, or wielding “the child’s best interests” to fend off more contact – different fathers have different needs too. A father within my extended family has agreed arrangements with his ex wife for one overnight contact and one day / overnight each weekend. That works for them – he is not disgruntled – they have agreed a set of arrangements that is mutually workable given their other life commitments. And he is most definitely an active and involved parent with a very meaningful relationship with his kids. Who are we to say that is not shared parenting? It’s not only about quantity. It’s about context.

      So, I do still say that shared parenting is promoted by the family courts, but I also acknowledge that this may not always meet your narrower definition – and I also acknowledge that there are times when your version of shared parenting would be perfectly appropriate but the courts do not facilitate that, or do not facilitate it quickly enough.

      I suspect we are not so far apart in our views on this issue, but it’s about understanding one another’s terminology. This potential for linguistic confusion is precisely why I am skeptical about how helpful the introduction of statutory wording will be – like another commenter I will reserve judgment until I see the proposed wording, but I wouldn’t be prepared to stake my house on what the Government’s definition of shared parenting will be, would you? I’d place a small bet on any wording that the draftsmen can come up with being susceptible to misinterpretation by those who are inclined to hear only what they want to.

  130. If you take the judgment in Re K from July last year (the review of Payne) the judiciary do not believe that alternate weekends and holidays amount to shared parenting either – hence Re Y would not apply.

    On this technical point, have to say that in case law, alternate weekends and holidays is not deemed shared care or shared parenting.

    Michael

    • @ Michael Robinson – I’ve just scanned through Re K (link here) and I’m not sure what your point is. I don’t take from that judgment that the courts have expressed any formula or minimum requirement to count as “shared parenting”. In fact at pa 145 Black LJ says “The ways in which parents provide for the care of their children are, and should be, infinitely varied. In the best of cases they are flexible and responsive to the needs of the children over time.” Unless I am missing something in the judgment (and I did read it quickly) the judges do no more than describe cases that did equate to shared residence both by way of label and reality, but they do not define the boundaries of that category or tell us what would fall outside its bounds.

      Am I missing something?

  131. To Jim Natally,

    I accept the points on ‘risk aversion’, and this is perhaps why Wall has been so frustrated about the unnecessary number of finding of fact hearings.

    I can’t off the top of my head remember the judgment from Mostyn, but he comments on the case before him, and the ridiculous number of allegations (I’m a Mostyn fan and not critical of all in the judiciary). He goes on to say that when couples separate, a fact of life is they can be unpleasant. One wonders if this more pragmatic and human view might filter through to those you speak of.

    Perhaps the legal profession and all those involved in proceedings should have a legal duty to the paramountcy principle above their clients’ instructions, and need to justify recommended courses of action if challenged, and in particular if the LSC are paying for an unnecessary circus.

    I’m not suggesting all solicitors are risk averse, or recommend courses of action which aren’t child centric. That said, better ground rules and accountability lead to greater consistency… Surely a good thing.

    Michael

    • @ Michael Robinson (re your reply to Jim) Gosh – if the parties and the court can’t agree on what is in the best interests of a child I don’t fancy a lawyer’s chances in trying to get that judgment right. That’s a recipe for confusion and would put lawyers in an impossible situation. We already have a duty to the LSC though if a client’s case is without merit to pull the plug on the funding.

      On the fact finding point for me it’s not so much the number of fact finding hearings (there probably are too many) but the period of delay between allegation and finding, during which a child’s relationship with a parent is held in limbo in order to protect from risk. It prejudices parents who are subsequently, many months down the line, exonerated. That limbo period can’t be gotten rid of – it is a necessary protection – but we do need to get better at minimising that so that the case and the parties lives can move on in whatever is the appropriate direction. The problem with this is getting to the point of findings more swiftly when there are increasing numbers of LiPs, not enough judges, listing delays and almost inevitably delays in police and social services disclosure. Robust case management can help but it can’t fix that problem.

  132. Nick Langford

    We need to be very careful how we define shared parenting: somewhere on the spectrum between no interaction at all with one parent and 50/50 we have to draw a line. We also have to distinguish between shared legal custody and shared residential custody. Most academics define shared parenting as at least a third of the child’s time, or sometimes 35%. If we accept a definition much less than that we risk draining the term of meaning.

    One of the things we are seeing is an increase in fairly traditional arrangements being ordered by the courts – sole-maternal-custody-plus-minimal-paternal-contact – but being labeled shared residence orders. This enables Anthony Douglas to say that half of residence orders are shared, and it absolves the court of having to enforce the orders, but it isn’t shared parenting.

    I was involved last weekend in a fairly lively discussion about shared parenting. The academic position is that for stable relationships to develop and to be maintained the split has to be much closer to 50/50 than 35/70. The basis of the argument was that if groups such as F4J want the courts to recognise shared parenting, fathers have to play their part and make sacrifices with regard to their leisure time, their jobs and their other relationships. They may have to move, they may have to change jobs, etc. I concur entirely with this argument.

    • Nick, see my comment just now to Michael. I don’t buy into the mathematical formula approach. 35% of what? All hours in the child’s week? All waking hours? All hours when not asleep and not at school? Averaged out to include additional holiday time? You say we have to be careful about the definition and have to draw a line somewhere – why? And how can this be anything other than arbitrary?

      I don’t think that a rigid definition is meaningful or useful. I worry that it risks diminishing the important role that parents (dads) play in their children’s lives even without in fact spending vast amounts of time with them (and before anyone jumps down my throat that doesn’t mean I think that contact should be minimal, just that there is meaning to be gained even from arrangements that not all dads would be happy with). I think the formula approach runs the risk of creating a sort of hyperinflationary effect, I think it drives or enhances dissatisfaction and that this is a factor in the continuation or flaring up of conflict.

      I am planning to write a post about shared residence / shared parenting soon, but haven’t had time to do so this week…

  133. As an observer, a similar position to others I think, be careful that you do not end up doing what others have done in allowing the establishment to provoke you into in-fighting. D Manning you did well to stop banging your head against the wall when you did. Others, do not be seduced by the blog owner, she is part of the power structure that will continue to prevent change. She benefits from it, as do her supporters. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by trying to persuade this person. Change will come. Gather your strength from solidarity and leave her be, she gains strength and a growing sense of self righteousness from your suffering.

  134. Nick Langford

    @ Lucy, I’m not advocating a rigid formula for shared parenting, I understand that it has to be flexible, but the ‘quality versus quantity’ argument has been misrepresented to reduce quantity to minimal levels – there cannot be quality without quantity.

    I look forward to the post on shared parenting; can I suggest that before writing it – if you haven’t already – you have a read of the research which is accessible through StuG’s website. I do think that before we offer opinions we have a duty to examine the data, and reading it has been quite an eye-opener for me. Linda Nielson is a good place to start.

    The flaw in the ‘quality versus quantity’ argument is that the studies on which it is based don’t distinguish between frequency of contact and duration, nor do they record the amount of overnight contact which is the most important developmentally. Where researchers have found a lack of correlation between quantity of contact and children’s outcomes (e.g. Amato and Gilbreth) they were examining data that recorded frequency rather than duration. There is also a tendency amongst researchers to gather data only from mothers. Nielson’s meta-analysis shows that the typical 15-20% of their time children spend with their fathers really isn’t enough.

    We should give more credence to these meta-analyses because of the comparatively larger sample sizes. Some studies use very small samples; one notorious and very influential study used a sample size of six.

  135. inflagrantedilecto

    Now I’m not trying to throw a spanner in all your research, case law and facts and figures….but have any of you watched Noah Baumbach’s film The Squid and The Whale…well like all good works of fiction it seeks to tell us that the unintended consequences of a shared parenting mindset…is a parental choice which has a severe impact on the boys in the film. Screwed up might be a more apposite title for the film…..living between 2 sets of parents….taking essential items back and forward…in black bin bags…or not being allowed to take essential items across the boundaries…..cannot ever be called child centred or really in their best interests unless the parents listen to their children and amend their pre-thought ideas about shared parenting from a child’s perspective if things start to go wrong.

  136. I’ve seen Scott Schedules with an out of date packet of crisps among the ‘serious allegations’ put forward by counsel. It’s the President of the Family Court who thinks there are too many finding of fact hearings (although I agree about the delay issues too).

    On ‘what is shared parenting’ within case law, C v D [2011] expands further, as does Re Y. The points being that there are numerous authorities where the court differentiates between how (in particular) leave to remove cases should be considered with the quantum of time being a key aspect linked to the relative importance of parental involvement in welfare (and the impact on a change in the status quo). Where there is clearly a primary carer, as in Payne (in reality the alternate weekend scenario), Re Y should not apply. Where care is shared, Re Y should apply and leave to remove is less likely. The court then goes on to apply different tests to whether leave to remove should be allowed based on the quantum of time, surely reflecting their believe that this impacts on the quality and relative importance to maintaining the child’s relationship with the NRP and maintaining the status quo.

    A brief comment on the father that’s happy with one night a fortnight. If you flipped tables… and it was a mother whose ‘life choice’ was to prioritise other parts of her life before the time they devote to their child, society may be somewhat harsher than you’re being with the father (I know the women in my office would!). I have no doubt that there are possessive mothers who want the father out of the child’s life completely, previously partnered to feckless fathers who don’t see themselves as having a role in the child’s life. The post-separation relationship may work for them, but I doubt it’s the best for the child (albeit you can’t force people to be committed parents). Not only to I doubt it, but my doubts are based on extensive child welfare research.

    Research is unequivocal that children do better where both parents take an active involvement in the children’s upbringing, schooling, extra-curricular activities, social life etc. Just because a few fathers (and occasionally mothers) may prioritise their career or hobbies before their child, I’m not sure it’s something we should be praising or even approving of, or putting forward as a reason for there not being a presumption of shared care.

    Broken Britain comes from adults doing what they want, and the courts encouraging the primary carer model. Bad for society, and as research shows, not in the welfare interests of children. Maybe nice for the individual parent and satisfying their more selfish priorities or vitriol.

    No doubt Ormrod would approve… and I believe his reasoning still echoes in certain courts… ‘‘He was not sympathetic to husbands who maintained that they could bring up the children as well as their wives, saying that such men either neglected their children or gave up their jobs and became so engrossed in the children that they grew up in an unnatural environment.’ I hope one say we will see this dinosaur thinking erradicated from the courts. It’s not representative of society, and the research is conclusive that it doesn’t serve child welfare.

    Michael

    • @ Michael Robinson – I have to say you are applying your own views about parenting to other people’s children. Who is to say that the example of a dad from within my own family is not a committed father? Not you, for sure. And the fact that society can be harsh on women who don’t conform to s stereotyped notion of motherhood is neither here nor there.

  137. I don’t think it is necessary for Lucy to ‘have a read of the resarch’ before writing a post about shared residence/shared parenting. 1. It would take her weeks to read enough to satisfy herself and her readers that she has covered everything. 2. We can read it ourselves if we want to. 3. As Lucy is a practising barrister, not a psychologist or social scientist, I think she would add more value to the debate by writing from her pov rather than try to synthesise research. I hope this is seen as a constructive suggestion!

  138. Inflagrantedilecto,

    You make a great point… mainly that people are influenced by fiction, their own particular experiences, and then apply these to a whole field of societal modelling and reasoning to the exclusion of expert evidence, research, and factual findings.

    Have you thought of entering the judiciary ;op

    I’ve watched as the Australian research findings were waved as definitive proof that there shouldn’t be a presumption of shared parenting, but the detail of the reports is ignored… as are the scant sample sizes… as are the other Australian studies which have positive conclusions. Cherry picking. Similarly, there have been cries that delays were caused by the change in law in Australia, without having looked at the causes… e.g. problems with recruitment and inadequate resourcing.

    For some considerable time, the courts and Cafcass were influenced by a study by Carol Smart into post separation outcomes. The report was significantly flawed, being based on a sample of only 30 children, and all from a particular social grouping and in latter childhood (e.g. teens). This research was often put forward to support the primary carer model.

    http://www.thecustodyminefield.com/factsheets/TCM-ResearchSupportingSharedCare.pdf may be a better place to start… and includes studies with sample sizes of 40,000. Perhaps somewhat more robust, and more reliable than a fiction film.

    Michael

  139. @ Douglas Manning.

    My comment #172, which you criticise as a “diatribe” in #179, was written in response to your post #158. When I wrote that, all that had been published was up to #163. I wasn’t deliberately ignoring your points—but obviously I can’t reply to comments that, although submitted to Lucy for moderation, haven’t appeared on the site yet.

  140. familoo,
    I think you demonstrate sadly in your post #182 why much of the judiciary and the legal profession are so markedly out of kilter with the majority of parents in this country.

    Alternate weekends is the traditional standard that the English&Welsh Courts try to impose on the vast majority but it is based on the old days when generally dads went out to work and mums stayed at home. It simply is an outdated schedule for the majority of families in this country. Where both parents work and the care of children is shared equally between parents in intact families.

    Alternate Fri-Sun plus holidays is seen as the minimum by the majority of fathers and by many of those concerned for children’s welfare. It is an arrangement that the family law system nigh on forces as a maximum generally for those that are unfortunate enough to cross its threshold into, with a big hullabaloo from those working in the system even getting many schedules to reach this minimum.

    For those fathers who are happy with this then that’s fine, however for those parents who know that their children need more than this for their own well being it simply is not good enough for children.

    If there are no practical concerns e.g. distance – Then a shared parenting/care regime should be the starting point and depending on the individual parents circumstances then looking to share the care/parenting/financial responsibilities as equally as possible should be the aim.

    In this jurisdiction there is not a shared parenting/care presumption because I am afraid your definition and what the Courts consider as standard does not generally fall into what could possibly be called by the ‘reasonable man’ as such.

    Not forgetting that even this minimum of alternate weekends is a struggle for many fathers to achieve in an institutionally discriminatory family law system.

    As for a definition of shared parenting/care TIME/SCHEDULE, lets look at the Australian Shared Responsibility Act 2006 instead of reinventing the wheel:-

    The concept of substantial and significant time is defined in s 65DAA to mean:-

    (a) the time the child spends with the parent includes both:

    (i) days that fall on weekends and holidays; and

    (ii) days that do not fall on weekends and holidays; and

    (b) the time the child spends with the parent allows the parent to be involved in:

    (i) the childs daily routine; and

    (ii) occasions and events that are of particular significance to the child; and

    (c) the time the child spends with the parent allows the child to be involved in occasions and events that are of special significance to the parent.

    As for a GENERAL definition of what shared parenting/care is; again lets look at the Australian definition:-

    http://frsa.org.au/site/Shard%20Parenting.php

    What is Shared Parenting?

    Children ‘belong’ with each parent and spend significant time in each home.

    Children have fun time and ordinary time with each parent.

    Children are part of two extended families -grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends etc.

    Each parent nurtures, listens and talks with the children.

    Parents share big decisions that affect children.

    Each parent is involved in children’s activities such as school, sport and social life.

    Each parent is aware and cares about their child’s physical, emotional and intellectual wellbeing.

  141. inflagrantedilecto,
    perhaps using your logic of using movies to base policy on we should get rid of all GPs as the movie ‘Shipman’ portrays doctors in a rather poor light.

  142. familoo,

    P.S. I agree with you that a rigid definition of shared parenting schedules is unhelpful, which is why the Australian and other more enlightened jurisdictions are not specific but do provide strong principles.

    Nick, is certainly correct that there is in reality no quality without quantity.

  143. There should also be provisions in any new family law bill to deter false allegations and alienation:-

    * the order of costs, at the Judge’s discretion, against a parent who has been proven to have “knowingly” made false allegation in Court, and

    * unspecified actions, at the Judges’s discretion, against a parent who has purposely alienated or deliberately maligned the children against the other parent

  144. Wow. Matt sounds like such a great guy. The type of easy-going, level-headed guy who’s so full of humility and grace that I just wish all children had the opportunity for him to be their father.

    Matt’s writing seeps Atticus Finch on my screen. The kind of grown up man we laydees have been searching for all of our lives.

    I simply cannot imagine why he’s found himself in the situation his has.

  145. familoo,
    there is commitment and then there is commitment.

    In your example, if the father in your family is happy with a minimal schedule of time with his children then that’s fine for him, although the mass research shows it is probably not best for his children.

    When other fathers want a shared care/parenting arrangement for their children because they know as committed fathers the research backs what they know that it is best for the children.

    Then the family law system should be bending over backwards to help children have this relationship with both of their parents, rather than doing all it can to keep to outdated and old stereotypes of father and mother roles.

  146. Lucy,

    Our whole system of law is based upon other people applying their own view of parenting on other people’s children.

    It seems you may be supporting that it’s fine for this father to prioritise hobbies and career while leaving childcare to the (ex) other half… surely that is the stereotyped (and somewhat 1970s) view?

    Sadly, there are parents who prioritise their own wishes above their children’s needs.

    Michael

    • Michael Robinson (yr comment 1.30pm 04/03) I’m supporting the notion that different things work for different families. What I didn’t say was that in the example I gave the father was prioritising hobbies and career whilst leaving childcare to the ex – that is your stereotype and as it happens not the rationale for the family arrangement which I described. The family law system is judgmental – parties bring their disputes to court for precisely that purpose. But that is no justification for being judgmental about other people’s parenting or life choices. I don’t agree that the parents who seek the most contact are the “best” parents or that they are necessarily better at prioritising their own wishes above their children’s needs.

  147. Julie,

    Interesting point about does Lucy need to read all the research or at least have a good understanding of it to comment in a blog. I think the piece on the subject would be more informative if she did.

    Wouldn’t it be better if those in legal profession were better informed on the subject of child welfare? The benefits for the barrister would be a more authoritative knowledge which might better serve their clients’ arguments.

    I’ll give you an example… Comment in court that relocating a child aged 5 wouldn’t be that disruptive, it’s not the same as if they were studying GCSEs.

    Evidential welfare view… a child’s personality is primarily formed up to the age of 7, where adaptive and maladaptive schema are developed (coping and cognitive thought patterns which shape their interaction with the world around them thereafter in life). A dramatic change in the status quo carries a greater risk at that point, with potential impact on attachment, abandonment anxiety, etc.

    The court’s uninformed thought, based on no expert knowledge ‘oh the child is young, they’ll cope’. Child welfare in family law is too often based on opinion and prejudices rather than knowledge and expert evidence.

    Sadly, those who make the decisions about children know a great deal about the law, but seem to have read very little about child psychology. Maybe the courts would better serve children if this was reversed.

    Michael

    For those interested, Dr Jeffrey Young has developed this new, 21st century branch of psychology, bringing together Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, psychoanalytic object relations, Attachment Theory, and Gestalt therapy.

    • Michael Robinson – re your reply to Julie.

      We are lawyers, not experts in child development or anything other than law (although I dare say that we probably do gain a certain amount of “expertise” over the years). You are confusing the roles. The system is designed so that the decision makers are informed about matters of child development and welfare by those with expertise in the relevant discipline (CAFCASS, social workers or via instruction of experts). Now you can criticise CAFCASS or other agencies, but this does not mean that the answer is to create some kind of polymath representative (more likely a jack of all trades). When we need to know about a matter of child development or psychology we go to those who know best.

  148. Which brings us back to Matt’s rant. In language I wouldn’t use, but the emotion is appropriate.

    Family law doesn’t serve children, it does asset strip families and leave them in poverty, its practitioners are too often ill-informed. Judgments are generally only overturned if ‘plainly wrong’… mostly wrong doesn’t seem to figure, as the appeal court will defend a trial judge’s discretion above and beyond the child’s welfare. It encourages parental antipathy with its adversarial system.

    Leave to remove… some firms expect a downpayment of £10,000 to £30,000, with costs of up to £100,000 forecast.

    The Family Justice Review was spoiled by self interest, and let’s be honest… a presumption of shared parenting, more mediation, more detailed legislation and less judicial discretion go against the financial interests of the legal profession… even if they do better serve child welfare.

    With a clear conflict of interest, perhaps the judiciary should go back to being non-political and stop lobbying. The legal profession should probably follow suit, as their motives are too easily questioned (even if, on occasion, unfairly so).

    Michael

    Michael

    • Michael (yr comment at 2.38pm 04/03) –

      Yes, judgments are only overturned if plainly wrong. That is the legal test for an appeal.

      I’d quite like to know which firms are asking for such staggering downpayments. Perhaps they’d like to instruct me? ;) (seriously, no I don’t want names – I’m sure it does happen but I don’t think that is likely to be representative)

      I don’t think that a presumption of shared parenting, more mediation and more detailed legislation and less judicial discretion go against the financial interests of the legal profession at all. Generally speaking legislative reform results in more work for lawyers for a number of years until the law “settles”. I see no reason why that should not apply in the case of a presumption of shared parenting.

  149. I’m not defending FNF, but feel it’s fair to clarify a point from an earlier post. Families Need Fathers (FNF) do not ‘have’ or offer McKenzie Friends. They list independent ones, but similarly may advertise solicitors too in their publication.

    There is a code of conduct/guidance, which those wishing to be listed on their site must agree to first.

    Some of those listed do offer their services for free, and the majority tend to do more free than paid work.

    I don’t agree with Lucy’s comment that there will always be a need for family lawyers, and that the expense of a more inquisitorial system is prohibitive.

    In courts now, you get two litigants in person without any solicitors at all. It is possible to dispense with them (an uncomfortable thought perhaps). The high cost of solicitors and barristers could be diverted. Why is it necessary to tie up large courtrooms when matters could be resolved around a table? Why do we need to pay judges more than we pay our MPs, Circuit Judges more than we pay our Ministers, and High Court Judges more than we pay our Prime Minister? Why do the judiciary in the High Court require 13 weeks holiday a year? See… lots of savings exist if people think outside of the box, and of a better system rather than protectionism.

    The high costs involved that concern you stem from perpetuating an inefficient, poorly organised, overly complex and self-serving system.

    Wasn’t it Butler-Sloss who advised legal students not to go into family law? I can see the day when solicitors have no involvement in private family law… it’s a way off, but it may well happen. For many, you’re inaffordable already, and belts are being tightened.

    When legal aid gets further cut, the system will have to be adjusted to better cope with litigants in person, and when that happens, the argument may be that the system should be inquisitorial rather than adversarial, not least that there be afforded an equality in arms in light of Article 6 of the HRA, and that solicitors in private family law (and McKenzie Friends) should be consigned to history.

    Michael

  150. Just think how much money could be saved if court hearings actually happened when scheduled. No paying for a solicitor and barrister to sit around for half a day!

    That’s more savings for you.

    Imagine if CAFCASS only became involved when there were genuine and serious welfare issues. That’s another saving.

    Imagine if courts routinely enforced their orders… that would save repeat returns to court.

    Imagine if more solicitors learnt to type, rather than having secretary’s do their typing for them (surely one of the last professions who do!)… and then needing to read and pass back the documents for correction.

    Do away with the concepts of residence and contact all together (unnecessarily divisive) and have a rebuttal presumption of parenting time which could be tailored in mediation according to parents’ circumstances… reduced litigation.

    Do away with CAFCASS entirely. If there are serious welfare issues… have the matter dealt with in public law and with social services. There we go… we’ve removed another massive tranche of cost.

    If there are serious allegations of DV, have this dealt with in the criminal courts, and costs only recoverable if allegations are proven… another saving!

    See… I can keep coming up with savings all day if you want me to… and just to fund a more inquisitorial and less adversarial system.

    Michael ;o)

    • Michael – re cost cutting.

      You suggest reducing judicial pay and cutting their 13 weeks of holiday per year. Judges are well paid, but they also work long hours, deal with a lot of stress and abuse, and in family work spend their days dealing with violence abuse and conflict. It is a pretty thankless task. I think there are limited savings to be made from this if one wants to retain judges and to attract new entrants from a broad range of backgrounds. Remember, many judges take a pay cut on entry to the judiciary already.

      You say “Just think how much money could be saved if court hearings actually happened when scheduled. No paying for a solicitor and barrister to sit around for half a day!” – no argument from me there.

      “Imagine if CAFCASS only became involved when there were genuine and serious welfare issues. That’s another saving.” In my experience, since “proportionate working” came in it’s a battle to get CAFCASS to do anything other than a Schedule 2 letter saying either “Ooohhh. Risky – fact find / expert” or “no role”.

      “Imagine if courts routinely enforced their orders… that would save repeat returns to court.” If you mean automatically the problem with enforcement remedies are that they require a fair hearing in order to comply with art 6.

      “Imagine if more solicitors learnt to type, rather than having secretary’s do their typing for them (surely one of the last professions who do!)… and then needing to read and pass back the documents for correction.” I think you’d be surprised at how many do their own typing these days. But I think also there are probably sound efficiency reasons for doing work this way – solicitors dictate very fast and their time is freed up to do other things that actually require their legal skills, rather than admin. At any rate it doesn’t apply to the bar where the vast majority of us do all our own typing.

      “Do away with the concepts of residence and contact all together (unnecessarily divisive) and have a rebuttal presumption of parenting time which could be tailored in mediation according to parents’ circumstances… reduced litigation.” Disagree for reasons already explored.

      “Do away with CAFCASS entirely. If there are serious welfare issues… have the matter dealt with in public law and with social services. There we go… we’ve removed another massive tranche of cost.” That doesn’t save cost, it shifts it. And in fact probably increases it. Incidentally if matters are dealt with as public law there are significant art 6 implications, which would probably result in a need to make legal aid automatically available for all parents as it currently is in care cases.

      “If there are serious allegations of DV, have this dealt with in the criminal courts, and costs only recoverable if allegations are proven… another saving!” Dealt with previously. Disagree.

  151. Northern Lights

    I have to say that I have noticed this phenomenon of certain people swamping legal blogs when one of their sacred cows raises its head. It is almost as if they believe that they can bludgeon others into submission.
    To address a couple of points that remain untouched (I think), Dame Butler-Sloss did advise law students some years ago to avoid the field of family law but the reason as I recall, was that there was comparatively little money in it.
    The “equality of arms” issue is best addressed by ensuring that all have access to qualified legal advice and assistance, not by undermining that access even further.
    As for FNF, I know it does advocate through its heavily censored forums the use of their own McKenzie friends who charge for their services (no skin off my nose but the two are inextricably linked) so they have vested interests too and should be honest about that
    Lastly, the idea that a change in the law will disadvantage lawyers is ridiculous. Lawyers will always be needed to guide the court through the law whether it changes or remains the same. Some cases will always need the intervention of the court and it is wishful thinking to believe that a presumption of this, that or the next thing will make much difference.

  152. [...] been a bit “Alice in Wonderland” around here lately. I last posted on 22 February and it was like the moment when Alice ate the cake. Quite apart from my sudden and unexpected [...]

  153. Postscript – my publisher reminded me today of comment 14 on this post: http://pinktape.co.uk/2011/03/simplerecipe/ , which was the prompt for him contacting Matt O’Connor.

    Ah, the things we forget…

  154. [...] conflict inherent in the current system to know that something needs to change (see, for example, this blog from Pink Tape @familoo). Before we decide exactly what needs to change, we need to answer some [...]