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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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HomeCulture WarWhere’s the justice for fathers? Part One

Where’s the justice for fathers? Part One

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HOW morally bankrupt is a Conservative government that promises to drive the woke out of politics but has nothing to say about fathers? The government’s agencies and courts routinely separate fathers from children, make fathers pay for children they never see, and insult them with every clichéd assumption about ‘toxic masculinity’.

Freedom of Information requests that I submitted to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) reveal that more than twice as many petitioners for shared arrangements for the care of children are men. Yet female petitioners are three times more likely to be awarded primary care. The vast majority, over 88 per cent, of primary carers are female. The vast majority (93 per cent) of child maintenance payers are men. Most of the authorities involved in these decisions are women. The MoJ is 58 per cent female, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) 70 per cent, and the Children & Family Court Advisory & Support Service (CAFCASS) 90 per cent. Meanwhile, teachers are 83 per cent female. Yes, even teachers have a statutory role in rationalising the separation of fathers from children

The Conservative manifesto’s only reference to family law is a promise to expand ‘Pathfinder’ courts. These were piloted in 2022 with the promise that they would protect victims of abuse and encourage resolution of disputes by allowing judges to review information in advance of a hearing, thus avoiding confrontation in the courtroom. In January, the government announced the courts would be extended nationwide, providing no evidence for success, except statements from the same stakeholders that instigated Pathfinder in the first place. None of these stakeholders represented fathers. 

By contrast, interviews I have conducted with people subject to Pathfinder proceedings suggest that they exacerbate delay, expense and alienation. Other research shows that men already find child arrangement cases even more stressful than divorce and are 20 times more likely than mothers to commit suicide after a family court’s ruling.

Women should care. The chances are that when their sons grow up they too will be separated from their children, accused of abuse, impoverished by legal costs, and traumatised by separation from their children.

Everybody and any government should care about the impact of all this on children. The consequences of fatherlessness are no secret. They are extensively documented in the literature. Children from fatherless homes are more likely to be poor, become involved in drug and alcohol abuse, drop out of school and suffer from health and emotional problems. Boys are more likely to become involved in crime, and girls are more likely to become pregnant in their teens.

The median duration of marriage at divorce is just under 13 years – not long enough to bring up a child. It is a fact that by the age of 14, some 46 per cent of children in the UK today are not living with both natural parents. In 2022, a quarter of all families were single-parent families, covering more than 4million children. About 120,000 children are subjects of family court disputes at any time. 

Most politicians, lawyers, and academics have no comment. An exception is Baroness Meyer, the widow of Sir Christopher Meyer, the British former Ambassador to the United States. She doubts Pathfinder will reduce lengthy proceedings and thence alienation (of which she has personal experience after her first-husband abducted their two sons). 

Although the charity Families Need Fathers welcomes Pathfinder’s aims, its CEO Sam Morfey told me he still wants the government ‘to reassess the Family Law system in England and Wales’. He said that despite claims of its superiority, the outcome of the current system for children remains largely the same: ‘contact with dad every other weekend and half the holidays’.

Matt O’Connor, the founder of Fathers4Justice, was less equivocal. He said bluntly that Pathfinder is a ‘sham’ and a ‘distraction’ which makes nothing easier, and in some cases makes cases harder.

Pathfinder North Wales was praised by the parties I spoke to. They said it used the official guidance to rebut false accusations. By contrast, Dorset was condemned by those I interviewed for its reluctance to intervene. For instance, a judge refused to hear the parties, told them to ‘grow up’ and ordered them into a private conference, which exhausted the remainder of the hour allocated to the hearing. The judge then refused to make an order, thus condemning the father to more months without access.

No one is saying this type of dispute resolution between parents is easy. But real reform demands prior changes to institutionalised bias; this the government needs to address first, starting with the law.

In the next part of this defence of fathers and quest for reform I will list the seven fundamental changes that any incoming government must address if British children’s need for their fathers is to be recognised and if fathers’ rights with respect to their children are to be restored.

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Bruce Newsome
Bruce Newsome
Bruce Newsome is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas Permian Basin. He is also the author of the anti-woke satire "The Dark Side of Sunshine" (Perseublishing, 2020).

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