Dr Dolittle I presume?

courtesy of carly & art on flickr

Couldn’t find a pic of an actual push me pull you, so you can have one of post-coital foxes, courtesy of carly & art on flickr to help you visualise the metaphor…

OR : Cooperative Parenting Government Response

Well well well.

Quel surprise.

It’s option 1 chaps: presumption

Addition to s1(2) before welfare checklist:

In the circumstances mentioned in subsection (4)(a) or (4A) the court is to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that the welfare of the child concerned will be furthered by involvement in the child’s upbringing of each parent of the child who can be involved in a way not adverse to the child’s safety 

Forget the outcome, it’s the pathetic number of responses that is the most depressing. Don’t NOBODY complain about this! You can all talk to the flipping hand. None of you could be bothered to respond, except for the disproportionately high number of fathers. Concerned though that the summary implies that no account has been taken of the skew created by the ability of certain interest groups to mobilise better than others, and to treat responses of membership organisations as equivalent weight to those of one individual.

Read all abart it here.

If I am wrong I will apologise. If I am right I will say I told you so. I don’t know if I will be right or not. I hope my response was stupidly pessimistic. Either way, all will be well because there will be a HUB*. Yes, a HUB, which will include, amongst other gems “diagnosis and dynamic content to gain skills in conflict management”. Wha’?

 

*Read the response, page 5.

[Update : I changed the title and added some fox pron. It seemed funnier. Let's face it this blog post doesn't have a whole lot going for it]

FNF & CAFCASS Draft Shared Care Docs Criticised

Thanks to Family Law Week for notice of this article on Community Care regarding the role Families Need Fathers is playing in drafting CAFCASS Guidance.

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It’s concerning in the first instance that the drafts should have been apparently subject to criticism from respected academics, although it’s unclear from the article what the detail of those concerns were. It appears from the article that the academics were not consulted prior to publication, although this is not entirely clear. We are told however that the issues raised are now being addressed with the document being redrafted in a form more closely underpinned by a research base. That seems sensible, but it does leave one a little anxious as to the quality of the work being undertaken on behalf of CAFCASS if, as appears to be the case, research was not properly understood and incorporated from the start. FNF appear to have thought that this material was of sufficiently high quality to warrant publication, and CAFCASS either tacitly agreed or failed to keep an eye on what FNF were doing on their behalf. 

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It is concerning when a statutory body with one particular set of aims and objectives appears to be allowing a campaigning organisation with a very particular agenda to draft its own practice documents. I find that odd. It is no criticism of FNF, but I’m just not sure that a campaigning body should be tasked with responsibility for work of this kind. FNF along with other organisations, experts and stakeholders could legitimately have an input into these documents, perhaps by way of a working group or committee, but that is quite different from one organisation being able to drive the content of the material that CAFCASS bases its practice upon.

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The guidance is still posted on the FNF website here (no reference to it on the CAFCASS website at all). It reads very much to me as a document designed to persuade CAFCASS Officers who (the authors appear to assume) is likely to be predisposed not to take fathers seriously, as to the benefits of shared parenting and shared residence. It reads more as a campaigning tool than an impartial guidance document and talks throughout very specifically about Fathers being involved in shared care as if the intended reader (the CAFCASS Officer) will start from the proposition that a Mother will always be involved in day to day care in any event. It says more about the mindset and policy of FNF than it does about the mindset and policy of CAFCASS.

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Bizarrely, the document wholly fails to set out the statute and case law pertaining in this jurisdiction (which is increasingly pro-shared care / shared residence) but does annexe statute relating to Australia, which is an interesting distraction. Again, I can only guess that this is because it is felt by the authors that the English law is unhelpful to the argument for shared care (which is not so) and that CAFCASS officers might perhaps be usefully enlisted to persuade the (apparently) reluctant English & Welsh judiciary of the error of their ways. In my experience Judges are often far more well disposed to shared residence orders than some CAFCASS officers, and are certainly (in the most part) up to speed with the law in this area. 

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I do think that guidance for CAFCASS officers is needed: knowledge of the current best practice and higher court authority on shared care is very patchy. CAFCASS officers too often rule out or fail to consider shared care on the basis that the parents don’t get on very well, which is plainly outdated and contrary to authority. Not all Officers labour under such outdated knowledge, but it does happen too often. Clearly CAFCASS officers are busy and anything that helps them keep their knowledge of current guidance up to date is to be welcomed, but it must be a balanced and sound overview: what I’ve seen so far is neither.

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I don’t know if my concerns match with those raised by Joan Hunt and Liz Trinder, but I would like to think that a project funded by the EHRC would be of a higher standard prior to publication, even in so called ‘draft’ form (EHRC website says that FNF have been awarded c£34k to ‘bring awareness and find solutions of how gender discrimination and / or a breach of human rights creates barriers to shared parenting’). Whilst the funding of FNF to undertake work for the EHRC is to be commended, I’m afraid that at the moment this specific document reflects both poorly on CAFCASS’ control of it’s own policy, and upon the professionalism of FNF. FNF are an organisation with a legitimate interest in this area, and a legitimate desire to have real input in documents of this type, but CAFCASS need to take responsibility for their own policy and for the professional development of their officers.