Monday, 14 January 2013

Sharing Mum and Dad: a child's right

Having just watched the Channel 4 Dispatches programme “Sharing Mum and Dad”, I must admit to feeling slightly disappointed in its coverage.  Whilst it was heart-warming to see an example of co-operative shared parenting at its best, the programme totally failed to capture the heart-ache and devastation of those children and parents who have no contact.  Tim Lovejoy stated that in the worst case situation, contact takes places in a contact centre, a lifeline for some parents.  This is not the worst case situation.  For some parents and children there is no lifeline: there is no contact.

According to Ministry of Justice figures, more than 122,000 children were involved in new private law family court applications in 2010.  The majority of these were for contact or residence orders where separating parents were in conflict and unable to agree on arrangements for their children.  Such highly conflicted separations are rarely progressed without hostility and the emotional toll on all involved can have devastating effects and repercussions for many years.  The hostility exercised, combined with the disruption of contact during extended litigation, can promote Parental Alienation – the unwarranted loathing and rejection of a loving parent.  

According to Baroness Butler-Sloss, the court seeks to maintain the status quo when making a court order.  Which status quo would this be?  The status quo immediately prior to separation, where despite their differences, both parents somehow manage to share care for their child – take them to school, bathe them, prepare and share meals with them, read them a bedtime story, take them to after-school activities, help with their homework, visit family, set and maintain guidance and rules, share special occasions and events.  Or the status quo immediately after separation, when one parent prevents their child having any contact or meaningful relationship with the other parent: their child cannot talk about their parent, have their picture, send or receive birthday cards, talk on the telephone, visit grandparents.  Or the status quo after 2 years of litigation, separation and broken court orders when a child no longer knows the other parent and memories of their loving relationship have been dimmed from consciousness? 

The fact remains, irrespective of whether a presumption of shared parenting becomes enshrined in law, we already have legislation which stipulates that the welfare of the child is paramount.  There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that the best outcome for children is achieved by the active involvement of both parents in their everyday lives.  It is the current application of this paramouncy principle which fails these children.  Of course there are situations when proven abuse and violence should lead to caution over contact.  However, in highly conflicted cases, 67% of allegations of domestic violence and abuse are unfounded.  What other reason can there be for a child not continuing to have contact with both parents in light of evidence of the benefits?

Perhaps it is time to shake up our family law system – now, today, whether a change in the law is planned or not.  If one parent refuses or denies contact why can a judge not immediately enforce contact, upholding a child’s right to a relationship with both parents?  Why is contact not enforced until after a lengthy, embittered legal battle – and even then, when court orders are broken, why is there an almost universal failure to enforce?   Whilst I admit I am no family law specialist, I am unaware of any legal reason why this is not possible (please advise me if this is not the case).  I suspect the truth is that the judiciary and CAFCASS are simply too set in their ways and incapable of examining the legislation through a fresh lens.  Whilst I acknowledge the resource implications of immediate safe enforcement of contact, I suggest that this would be a temporary issue.  Once the family courts grasp the nettle and begin immediate enforcement, there would be a reduction in prolonged litigation, and associated costs. 

I appreciate my ponderings may seem naïve and simplistic – but what is more simple than the love that a child and his mother and father share.  Sometimes we need simple solutions that will truly allow a child to share mum and dad.


  1. Brillaint comments Sue and oh so true.
    Cafcass aka Crapcass and the judicary, haven't got the balls to enforce orders...such a shame. Crapcass, in my opinion, should be abolished.

    1. Thanks David

      The phrase "they don't have the balls" was begging to be unleashed onto the page as I wrote .....

  2. Butler-Sloss certainly doesn't seem to understand what status quo means and her reasoning is impossible to follow. Far too much air time was given to someone who really needs to be put out to pasture. The full Latin phrase is 'in statu quo res erant ante bellum': in the state in which things were before the war, which I would take to be the situation before separation and before litigation starts.

    1. Maybe we can't blame the Baroness. No doubt in her personal experience, dad had little to do with raising children - perhaps her mum didn't either? I know judges are meant to be objective and apply the law, but objectivity comes from knowledge and understanding. She could not have appeared much further removed from the reality of life for so many people.

  3. war on drugs, obesity, alcohol abuse, fatherless children.......all symptoms of incompetent and self-interested govuernment. don't hold your breath in the hope of a solution any time soon

    1. I would rarely recommend holding your breath and waiting for things to sort themselves out. However, this is the recommendation of CAFCASS in many cases of Parental Alienation: give them time, give them space, they may change their mind and want to see you. CAFCASS and the judiciary need educating on PA - and need to be held to account for their failure to handle cases appropriately.

  4. Brilliant article!!! The Baroness was far removed from ther real world.. The Family Court ensured my elder children knew that "if they didn't want to see their father, this court will not make them!! I want that message sent to the children" said the Judge, advising me to keep away over Christmas... Why ?? Because the writer of the first CAFCASS report went off on long term sick and another had to be appointed to produce a fresh report, the contents of both were no more than listing the woes and anti-daddy sentiments of the children and their mother.... and these went unquestioned or unchallenged... It is now over four years since separation and these children have been alienated from me... and their mother continues to practice alienation to this day.... I realised after many £thousands that I stood no chance as a father in the family courts... they were so biased towards the mother, her solicitor and not the children...

    1. Excellent book: Children Who Resist Post-Separation Parental Contact: A Differential Approach for Legal and Mental Health Professionals... by Barbara Jo Fidler, Nicholas Bala and Michael A. Saini .

      This book has an excellent section on how professionals should investigate for signs of parental alienation

      ( )

  5. You've banged the nail right on the head Sue, I watched the programme and felt somewhat let down because so much was left out, left unsaid, not a mention how some parents use parental alienation or how on a single unproven accusation contact is withdrawn and months go by before you get a hearing. No mention whatsoever on Cafcass officers very biased views against the parent applying for contact or the various methods they use to prevent contact from taking place.

    1. I think the issue of false allegation is a massive one. My personal feeling is that any allegation sould be investigated. However, does contact need to stop whilst this investigation takes place? The overwhelming majority of allegations are only voiced when a court application is sought, rarely reach the criminal justice system and are subsequently deemed unfounded. Can we not enable safe, regular, appropriate contact to take place whilst the investigation is carried out without putting a child at risk? Any separation from a parent has a significant potential to cause immediate and long term distress and trauma to a child - well into adult life, just as any other form of abuse or personal violence.

    2. I agree Sue, as a Cafcass officer this is a tension that I struggle with daily. Walking away from court knowing that a child who often was having regular contact with the non-resident parent frequently will now have to wait a minimum of 16 weeks before contact can be considered whislt the allegations are explored. Leaves a very bitter taste!!

      I am also concerned that due to changes with funding there will be a significant rise in allegations made, which will increase the amount of children being exposed to a potential break down in their relationship with their non resident parent.

      A question I frequently ask myself is entrenchment in private law proceedings emotional abuse????

    3. Thank you so much for your comments. All of the people I know who have chosen to go into social work have done so because of a desire to help people. An adversarial system in family law is inappropriate: by its nature this entrenches the battle between parents who are de facto in disagreement or they wouldn't be in court in the first place! It is the child's needs which should be uppermost, foremost, at the centre. In my opinion, the whole system needs to be revamped and resourced with this in mind. I would be interested to know more about the training that CAFCASS officers receive and how they apply this in dealing with conflicted cases. I am currently carrying out my doctoral research into Parental Alienation. If you felt able to contact me with an email address, I could send you further details, though I fully understand if you do not feel it appropriate to do so.

  6. Thanks for the article, I have not seen my children for a year now, the courts drag their feet and nothing seems to get done about it, I can't go to the police even though what she is doing is against the law, I feel like I have on one on my side and the mother can act with impunity.
    Gary SLetcher

    1. There is a lot of support out there Gary. My only advice is to educate yourself, seek out all the practical and emotional support that you can find, and be true to yourself and your children. Be the best you can be for them.

  7. The Baroness is completely out of touch. She seems to assume that it is in the best interest of children to live in the one place, usually with the mother. Even the child featured in the programme who has adapted so well to living in two homes and who is able to enjoy a loving relationship with both parents, has disproved her somewhat suspect theory. Many parents share care of their children willingly and their children thrive because of it. They are the lucky ones. For many dads, the only way to retain contact with their children can be a lengthy battle through the Family Courts often at great cost, financially and emotionally. The children caught in the middle of this conflict are ultimately the ones who pay the price.

    1. I couldn't agree more Yvie. I see myself as fortunate in that I have an amicable relationship with my ex-partner, and we agree on what works best for each of our children. This was different for each of them, and changed as they grew up and developed their own friendships and interests. We remain flexible and co-operative - putting our children's needs first. As the family in the programme, we didn't need to resort to the court system.

  8. Amazing totally amazing this needs to be published and shown to everyone.

  9. Sue,

    Prior to my separation the "status quo" in our house was that the children spent most of their time being cared for by me (around 90% of the time) as I worked nights on a week on week off basis. When my ex & I separated it would have been easy to continue with that arrangement. I pushed for shared parenting in order that kids could spend quality time with both of us, however, tbe ex resisted at every opportunity and the law backed her. I am now reduced to being another non resident parent who has to suffer the ex dictating contact depending on how she feels. As a result my kids have suffered & are not as happy or settled as before. The law regarding family contact in the UK is seriously flawed & needs a major overhaul to make things fairer all round and most importantly to meet the needs of the children involved and not just revolve around the resident parent.


    Colin Dunlop

    1. Thank you for sharing Colin. I wonder what it would take for a complete overhaul? As for me, I intend to continue to raise the issues and continue with my research which I will disseminate as widely as possible. It isn't the only answer, but the more evidence out there, the more it is talked about, the more difficult it is to sweep under the carpet.

  10. In my experience of family courts for nearly 3 years, to much emphasis is placed on the mothers feeling's and wish's... what happened to the court being solely interested in the child's best interests?? When any one parent put's their own feelings before their child's, in respect of relationship with the other parent, then this needs to be looked at, and help given to that parent.I believe there is some good data and evidence to show what negative impact parental alienation has on children. perhaps all couples who are together should see this before they give birth to their child?? too many parents (mothers) believe it is their sole right to keep their children away from the father, and the family courts go along with it for many years.. causing heartache and separation. the courts do this i believe because they do not want to upset mother, as this could effect the children?? this has been going on for years, before our eyes, and is nothing short of child abuse. until parents see their children as gifts from god and not the following.... meal tickets to housing, benefits to stay at home, weapons of controlling other parent, financial aid from the other parent and so on... things will not change.
    Whilst trying to change the law in family court's how about this government introduce emotional&family studies in schools?? teaching children of a certain age what it actually means to have a child? what happens to children when they do not see one parent or both? perhaps they could even have the children talk about how they feel not seeing (in most cases) their fathers?? as in london alone nearly 50% of children come from single family's??

    Today's society should hang it's head in shame... from policy makers to parents. rant over.

    1. Rant away. Keep ranting. This needs to be talked about. It needs to be out there.

  11. Your comments I feel are really quite on the mark. What the program failed to delivier is comparisons to the swedish, dutch or even in some states in the united states were joint parenting clearly is working.

    I have spent over 3 years being accused of all sorts of things all unfounded and the basic connection between criminal and civil courts are quite frankly a joke. I agree un unfounded allegation in my mind is a lie, a lie to a court of law should be pergury, however the system its self is to blame for it organisation.

    I do have contact with my daughter alas i think if Ihad not studied family law for the last 3 year and be able to think on my feet i would not. This is not a fair system it has no morality at all and the question of the UK as a democracy has to be bought into question as the basic democratic right of seeing ones most valued gifts "their children" is bought into question.

    Lets me also add this and I think it puts it really in the cold light of day, the teachings of the Torah the Jewish Holy book has provisions for joint parenting, something that was written over 5000 years ago with this in mind the British System is more backward thinking than Biblical teachings so now can we attach the words "Modern Democracy".

    1. I often wonder how many children lose out on a relationship because the family law process is so difficult to get to grips with. Without financial resources and specialist knowledge, litigants are left to fathom their way through an often unsigned minefield. Even if a parent manages to start the process, maintaining the battle in the face of such adversity takes an emotional toll on far too many.

  12. Great comments Sue. The UK somehow twists the meaing of 'best interests of the child'. My experience of a CAFCASS officer was that of incompetence, fallacious reasoning, absurd conclusions and a complete failure to determine facts; all of which assists the malicious alienating mother with her insidious campaign.

    Until these incompetent and/or biased CAFCASS officers are replaced with well qualified people who know what malicious alienation and implacable hostility is, absolutely nothing will change and these objectionableparents who emotionally abuse children will continue unchecked.

    Regards Martin RUSHTON

    1. Thanks Martin

      How can anyone determine the best interests of a child when they fail to investigate the facts and underlying causes? How can they assess a child's true wishes and feelings when they remain ignorant of issues such as Parental Alienation? By failing to acknowledge PA, CAFCASS and the judiciary contribute to the ongoing emotional abuse of children.

  13. Our elected Government plans to bolster the legal right of a child to have a meaningful and on-going relationship with both its parents, post separation/divorce. It recognises that family law, as it currently stands, all too often fails to serve a child’s best interests in this extremely important respect.

    The Children Act (1989) rightly instructed the judiciary to serve the child’s paramount interests. However, over recent decades the judiciary - Baroness Butler-Sloss included - has singularly failed to understand or accept that a child’s paramount interests are, in the vast majority of cases, actually best served by facilitating and enforcing its meaningful relationship with both its parents. Instead, the judiciary has remained persistently wedded to the archaic ‘single parent/primary carer’ model; an approach which has, sadly, led to a generation of fatherless children.

    Relocation law is a prime example: it rides rough-shod over any notion of shared parenting by placing thousands of miles between children and one of their parents. Plainly, a child cannot benefit from the meaningful parenting of both its parents, if those parents are living on opposite sides of the world. Relocation law - Payne v Payne (2001) - is the work of Butler-Sloss.

    The judiciary’s approach is out of date and simply does not reflect the modern-day realities of 21st Century shared parenting.

    The aim of our Government’s proposed legislative changes is to make it very explicit to the judiciary that, for most children in litigated cases, ‘best interests’ equates to ‘shared parenting’.

    Let us hope that any amendment to the Children Act (1989) will be robust enough to safeguard a child’s right to be parented by both its parents. Let us also remember that this issue is not about parents’ rights: it is entirely about childrens’ rights.

    Furthermore, let us be absolutely clear that Shared Parenting does NOT, as many critics would have us believe, necessitate a precise 50/50 split of parenting time. This would plainly be highly impractical in most cases. Rather, it is expected to range upwards from 20/80. The 50/50 headline is a red-herring being put forward by those opposed to shared parenting.

    Another objection from the critics is that a legally rebuttable presumption of shared parenting will endanger children. Very plainly, Shared Parenting will only be granted to those parents who are not a proven risk to their children. Unsubstantiated allegations lodged by bitter and disgruntled ex-partners – intent on using ‘their children as weapons’, to coin a phrase adopted by Sir Nicholas Wall, a former President of the Family Division – ought not to be enough!

    It is a great pity that the judiciary has failed to be proactive on Shared Parenting. For example, in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, Sir Nicholas Wall was presented with 15 contemporary scientific psychological and sociological research reports which all demonstrated, beyond all reasonable doubt, the verifiable benefits for children of maintaining close and meaningful relationships with both parents. This irrefragable scientific evidence went ignored or relegated by him. In contrast, our Government, to whom the scientific evidence was also presented, is taking full heed.

    This is precisely why our elected Government needs to legislate. Child welfare is far too important to leave in the hands of a few un-elected High Court judges, who often seem to be out of touch with modern society and family life.

    Best regards
    Bruno D'Itri

    1. Thanks for your input Bruno. My knowledge is more on the psychological effects of alienation and high conflict separation. This desperately needs to be better incorporated within the family law system to achieve better outcomes for children now and in the future.

  14. When parents separate or divorce, the court automatically seeks to anoint one parent (usually the mother) with the legal status of ‘primary carer/resident parent’. It then bestows upon that parent a grossly disproportionate degree of power and control over the children vis-à-vis the ‘secondary carer/non-resident parent’ (dad).

    In many acrimonious cases an embittered resident parent uses this power to exclude the second parent from the lives of the children. The courts are reluctant to punish this abhorrent behaviour, their rationale being that to punish the primary carer is tantamount to punishing the children. With no deterrence, this behaviour is set to continue.

    Quite naturally, an unjustly excluded parent will employ the very costly (£200 plus per hour) services of solicitors and barristers in a desperate effort to regain contact with his children. Truly obscene sums of money begin to flow from broken families into the coffers of the law firms. The Family Justice Industry feeds upon the love an excluded parent has for his children.

    A presumption of Shared Parenting would permit a loving parent to be fully involved in the parenting of his children, post separation or divorce, without the need for costly and lengthy litigation. In Australia, for example, litigation reduced by circa 30% following the introduction of Shared Parenting legislation. Of course, in those relatively few cases where there is a serious and proven risk of harm, contact can and should be restricted.

    Plainly, a similar reduction of circa 30% in British family court litigation would prove extremely damaging to the Family Justice Industry. It is little wonder, then, that the Law Society is vehemently against a presumption of Shared Parenting. Family lawyers are not saints; we should not naively assume that their leaders would place genuine justice for parents and children ahead of their desire to maintain their income stream.

    The judiciary is no better. Sir Nicholas Wall – the former President of the Family Division – sought to blame parents for “using their children as weapons”, without accepting in the least that it is the System itself which facilitates, encourages and fails to deter such abhorrent behaviour.

    The real scandal is that the Law Society and the judiciary appear to have succeeded in persuading our Government to significantly dilute its original Shared Parenting proposals. There is now a very serious risk that the unsatisfactory status quo is set to continue.

    Shame on the Law Society.
    Shame on the judiciary.
    Shame on the Government.

    Bruno D’Itri

  15. History teaches us that powerful and wealthy “special interest groups” have direct and very influential access to Government officials and that they often get their own way, irrespective of what is actually ‘good’ or ‘just’ for society.

    The raison d’etre of the Law Society is to serve the interests of the Legal Industry. Of this, there is no doubt.

    The Law Society is perfectly aware of the extensive and compelling scientific evidence demonstrating, beyond all reasonable doubt, the significant benefits for children of remaining in meaningful contact with both parents post separation or divorce.

    However, the Law Society is also very aware that Shared Parenting legislation is likely to be highly damaging to the interests of its members, as profitable litigation would significantly decrease.

    The Law Society thus faces a real dilemma…

    Should it stand up for the interests of children and support Shared Parenting legislation or, instead, should it stand up for the interests of its members and oppose Shared Parenting legislation?

    It has opted firmly for the latter, and is using all of its sophistry and guile to try to convince our Government that Shared Parenting legislation will be harmful to child welfare.

    Some Government officials, such as Alan Beith, have been taken in. Other Ministry of Justice officials have also been seduced and have stated recently that Shared Parenting legislation is NOT actually expected to alter outcomes in family justice cases. The sole purpose of any new legislation, they have said, is simply to try to dispel the widely-held (but, according to them, quite unjustified) "perception" of anti-father bias in the system! Apparently, hundreds of fathers are only imagining that they are not able to see their children!

    We must do ALL we can to expose the shockingly immoral and self-serving behaviour of the Law Society in order to serve the genuine best interests of thousands of children.

    Bruno D'Itri

  16. There are three major flaws in the views of the Baroness.

    Firstly, she makes the erroneous and very misleading presumption that those calling for Shared Parenting legislation want a rigid 50/50 split of parenting time.

    Most reasonable voices who have campaigned for Shared Parenting (such as Families Need Fathers and The Custody Minefield) have acknowledged for years that a rigid 50/50 split of parenting time would be impractical in many cases.

    Instead, they have called for the significant and meaningful involvement of both parents, in order that the child may benefit from being properly parented by both its parents. Theirs has always been a qualitative approach.

    Of course, in order for a child to have a significant and meaningful relationship with both its parents, it will need to spend some minimum quantum of time with both parents, but this need NOT be 50%.

    Many who are vehemently against Shared Parenting legislation are finding it extremely difficult to counter the widespread and powerful scientific evidence in favour of Shared Parenting. They have commissioned a couple of academics in an effort to discredit Shared Parenting, but the evidence in favour of Shared Parenting is overwhelming. The general consensus among social scientists is that Shared Parenting is beneficial to children. There are parallels with the Oil Companies commissioning academics to try to convince us that Global Warming is not happening!

    Instead, opponents of Shared Parenting are rather desperately (and mischievously) attempting to shift both the debate and their attack upon the notion of 50/50. The Baroness succeeded in getting the Express Newspaper to headline this 50/50 notion!

    Secondly, whilst the Baroness concedes that children benefit from Shared Parenting when their parents are behaving "sensibly", she states that the children of parents who are not behaving "sensibly" cannot benefit from Shared Parenting, as this would be harmful.

    In the very common scenario in which the court-appointed Primary Carer (usually mum) is upset and aggrieved with any aspect of the separation or divorce, and refuses (or is emotionally incapable) to behave "sensibly" and refuses to facilitate contact , the Baroness suggests that the Secondary Carer (usually dad) should NOT be involved in the parenting of the child. The Baroness appears quite unable to perceive firstly, the injustice of her argument and, secondly, the long-term damage to the child in losing one of its parents. The Baroness gives paramountcy to the wishes and feelings of the Primary Carer mother.

    Thirdly, the Baroness appears completely out of touch with the current Zeitgeist concerning 21st century parenting. She is firmly wedded to the ideology of the 1960's and 70's which strongly held that children needed the nurturing of their mothers and the financial support of their fathers. In no other of the Baroness's judgments is this out-of-date ideology so stark as in the judgment of Payne v Payne (2001).

    Bruno D'Itri

  17. Having spent the last 5 years representing myself, I watched the programme with interest and noted 3 main points in the programme.
    (1) Tim Loughton's statement to the effect that the current changes were made to 'prevent judges favouring mothers';
    (2) Baroness B-S's response to the issue of shared parenting - "of course that's not right";
    (3) The psychologist's confirming that children are not confused by sharing homes which undermines one of the judiciary's primary doctrines - confirmed by Baroness B-S that, 'children should have one home'.

    Despite the lack of objective reporting and exclusion of NRP's views, overall the programme showed the family court system to be pretty much what it is.

    However, although I don't agree with the majority of the FJR report under David Norgrove's leadership, the report did contain one important recommendation that most people overlook: The recommendation that Residence Orders should not be made in the majority of cases, which would make it pointless raising false allegations in the first place - i.e. alienating parents would not be able to obtain sole residence. Implementing that recommendation WOULD have been a big step forward. Shame the government didn't have moral fortitude to do it!

    1. Children are not confused by having two homes. It is a pathetic fallaciously reasoned excuse used to support malicious alienation. Simples.

  18. The ‘Children and Families Bill’ was debated in the House of Commons on 25 February 2013. A transcript of this Parliamentary debate can be found here:

    Tim Loughton spoke passionately and with much insight about the very real problems many non-resident parents (usually fathers) face in trying to maintain meaningful contact with their children. He was particularly scathing of resident parents who use the ‘system’ to exclude non-resident parents, and of the ‘system’ itself which fails to deter or prevent such abhorrent behaviour.

    In contrast, Sir Alan Beith appeared completely ignorant of these realities. He maintained that no shared parenting amendment was necessary.

    Beith suggested that the Paramountcy Principle would be undermined by the proposed shared parenting amendment.

    Loughton made it very clear to Beith that the proposed amendment plainly specifies that the paramountcy principle remains ‘paramount’ and that contact would not be ordered by the court if there was a verifiable risk of harm to the child. This plain explanation did not seem to satisfy Beith.

    Loughton recounted the fact that, of 3 million family breakdowns in one particular year, 1 million fathers lost all contact with their children. Plainly, this cannot be good for the welfare of those hapless children.

    Loughton explained that the shared parenting amendment was designed to serve the Right of a child to be parented by both its parents.

    In contract, Beith intimated that the amendment served the Rights of Parents rather than those of their children.

    Beith suggested that the amendment would cause non-resident parents to expect 50% parenting time with their children.

    Loughton made clear that the amendment was qualitative rather than quantitative in its design, and that it was plainly non-prescriptive regarding parenting time.

    Beith stated that the popular press was touting the idea of 50/50 time, and that non-resident parents would therefore arrive at the same understanding.

    Loughton stated that the misrepresentation of the amendment by the polular press would not prevent the Government from going ahead in the interests of child welfare.

    As the new legislation is enacted, the press and the general public will need to be educated as to exactly what it entails and what parenting arrangements can be expected by separating parents.

    Overall, I’d say Loughton won the argument.

    Beith’s position remains very closely wedded to that of the Law Society.

    It is no too difficult to speculate as to why the Law Society favours the current status quo and why it is against shared parenting legislation. Plainly, there are considerable vested financial interests in the continuation of non-resident parents going to court to re-establish or enforce contact with their children.

    Precisely why Sir Alan Beith follows the Law Society’s stance so closely requires a little more fanciful speculation, perhaps concerning the methodology and efficacy of lobbying by special interest groups!

    Bruno D’Itri

  19. I’ve just been fiddling with the zoom function of the SatNav on my new car.

    I zoomed right out and managed to get the whole of Western Europe on the screen. This wasn’t particularly helpful in assisting me with my 1 mile journey to the local shops!

    Incidently, as a man, I feel compelled to use the SatNav for each and every journey, even short, familiar routes I could probably drive blind-folded!

    Anyway, while I was fiddling, it made me think about the Children and Families Bill, and about the need to ‘zoom out’ for perspective.

    There has, of course, always been a direct link between societal norms and legislation.

    Most significant shifts in societal norms have led to changes in legislation, but this has usually involved a tough struggle!

    Anti-discrimination legislation for people of different race, gender and sexual orientation all eventually followed in the wake of changes in society.

    However, in each case, the resistance from what I shall call ‘the forces of conservatism’ was powerful. There were significant vested interests in the status quo, and those who stood to lose out were not going to accept change without a fight!

    In each case, honourable campaigners for justice and reform were discredited, undermined, attacked and even murdered.

    Martin Luther King Jr’s letter from Birmingham Gaol touches my heart each and every time I read it. It is the quintessential call of any person facing discrimination and demanding justice.

    Now, I perfectly accept that Matt O’Connor of ‘Fathers 4 Justice’ is NO Martin Luther King Jr!

    However, his argument for justice for children is, in my view, Righteous. It is Good. It is Honourable.

    A child surely deserves to enjoy the love, care and guidance of two good and responsible natural parents.

    The ideology of parenthood of the 1960′s and 70′s saw the mother as the ‘natural’ carer and the father as the ‘natural’ financial provider. Family legislation reflected this ideology.

    Of course, societal norms have now changed. In 21st century Britain, BOTH genders are now viewed as natural carers and financial providers.

    Has legislation fully caught up with this societal change? No.

    Do fathers face systematic gender discrimination? Yes.

    Is this discrimination indirectly perpetrated via the legal constructs of ‘primary carer’ and ‘non-primary carer’? Yes.

    I am a good, responsible and conscientious parent. I know I am, because a judge found me to be so!

    And yet I was forced to endure two periods of separation from my beautiful children: firstly for 8 months and subsequently for 1.5 years.

    I now see my children once a month in a motel room in Eastern Europe.

    Any genuine ‘meaningful involvement’ in my children’s lives has been significantly undermined.

    I am not alone in my experience.

    There are thousands of perfectly good and caring British parents (mainly fathers) who face similar discrimination.

    To the “discrimination deniers”, to those who seek to preserve their vested interests in the status quo, and to those who are simply unaware of the discrimination, I say, think of that child, think of what he is missing, think of what you might say to him if he asked you why he couldn’t see his dad.

    Let us open our hearts and our minds.

    Let family legislation reflect modern parenthood.

    Let us support Tim Loughton MP and his shared parenting legislation in the Children and Families Bill.

    Bruno D’Itri