Britain’s Family Justice Review is barely a week old and already it’s been met with a fusillade of enraged opposition. Indeed, of all the articles written about it, only one even comes close to agreeing with the review’s main conclusions – that fathers are not entitled to equal parenting of their children, that fathers are not entitled to a “meaningful relationship” with their children post-divorce and that grandparents have no right to a relationship with their grandchildren after the kids’ parents have split up.
It’s not just Tory Minister of Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith who’s ticked off, but other members of PM David Cameron’s cabinet as well. Smith, for one, plans to scuttle David Norgrove’s review altogether. I hope he succeeds.
But the press not only disagrees with Norgrove’s recommendations, it does so with a vehemence rarely seen. And why not? After all,England has had at least two decades in which fathers have been fighting for equal rights and highlighting the many injustices of family courts along the way. Those messages have gotten a fair amount of press coverage.
So have the consequences of fatherlessness that are on public display every day. It was just a few weeks ago that Britain’s youth were seen rampaging through the streets setting fires and damaging shops. They may as well have been carrying placards bearing the words “This is What Fatherlessness Looks Like!” Cameron realized at the time the connection between the riots and family breakdown.
So now Norgrove is calling for more of the same – a family court system in disarray, fathers without children, children without fathers and youth without the discipline and respect for others that fathers instill.
Exactly what qualified Norgrove to head up the review is coming into question. A businessman with no experience in family law, it can be fairly said that he has no grasp of what goes on in family courts, what needs to be fixed or how to fix it. If he does, his review betrays no hint of it.
To give a hint of the type of brickbats being tossed in Norgrove’s direction, try this on for size (Daily Mail,11/7/11). It’s Sonia Poulton who’s writing.
As a single mother from a single mother, I am decently equipped to comment on the issues attached to raising a child without the father – from both sides of the coin – and this report is a travesty.
Talk about sending out the message that family no longer matters. I am appalled by Norgrove’s refusal to see the error in his recommendations and I support IDS (Iain Duncan Smith) denouncement of them.
Unlike Norgrove, Poulton understands that children need both parents during marriage and after divorce.
Personally, and judging by my observations of decent family surroundings, including all three of my brothers and my sister, I am under no illusion that, generally, the best environment to raise a child involves a man and a woman in the paternal and maternal roles.
Boys and girls need both sides of the gender equation. They were created by man and woman and that is also the most naturally balanced condition for children to thrive in.
And to her credit, when she and her husband divorced, amid extreme acrimony, they always placed their child’s welfare above their own.
Even during times of recrimination, we have never lost sight of who is the priority in this – our child – and her right, yes HER right, to enjoy a relationship with both parents.
Amazingly, that one simple point is what’s lost on the anti-dad crowd. One of the arguments we often hear against fathers’ rights is that “it’s not the parent’s right, it’s the child’s,” as if a child’s right to a father can, in some way they never explain, exclude the father. As Poulton says, it’s the child’s right to both parents that’s vital to his/her well-being. So if a child has a right to be parented by his/her father, then that means the father must be able to parent the child.
Unlike those opposed to the rights of fathers and children, Poulton sees and understands the havoc family courts wreak on both.
This group (Fathers For Justice) is comprised, primarily, of men who have been blocked at every turn, legal and personal, from retaining a decent relationship with their children.
So it is hardly surprising that they feel forced to resort to the type of headline-grabbing tactics that they do.
I have watched grown men obstructed from seeing their children weep long and loud. They have been on the receiving end of the justice system which almost exclusively operates in favour of the mother.
Poulton warns David Cameron that embrace of this family justice review she rightly calls a “travesty” could have profound consequences.
I think it’s time that someone had a word in David Cameron’s ear.
He needs to know that his plans to be ‘the most family friendly government ever’ is backfiring with a speed and intensity that he may want to be prepared for.
If that’s the platform Cameron campaigned on, he had indeed better put as much distance between him and misnamed Family Justice Review as possible. So far, I’ve counted exactly zero calls for its adoption and a great many calls for it to find a home in the round file on the floor.
The closest thing to approval I can find is this article (The Independent,11/7/11). But even it contains not a word of support for the Family Justice Review. In fact, it only mentions the thing once and that’s to report the fury with which it’s been received.
Its author, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, rambles pretty much aimlessly from topic to topic, never pausing long enough to say anything substantive about any of them. To the extent that she ever gets down to brass tacks, it’s to dredge up the old chestnut Poulton buried in her article.
We are caretakers of our young and have no absolute “rights” to them.
Fair enough, but again, children do have rights to parents, or should at any rate. Indeed, many treaties and conventions say explicitly that. So how does Alibhai-Brown contend children should exercise those rights? You guessed it, by leaving it up to Mom.
I would not have co-parented my son with his father, but I never stopped contact. In the early years though, I kept my child away from the mistress, partly because it was unbearable for me and partly because his young heart would have been even more divided. It wasn’t rights, but responsibility that guided these decisions.
So unquestioningly entitled does she feel, that it seems never to occur to her that she’s the one making the decisions about her son’s access to his father. “I would not have co-parented my son…” “I kept my child away.” “Because it was unbearable for me.” The fact that she sincerely believes that she did the right thing is no defense at all when a child’s rights to the care, love and protection of his father are not in the child’s hands, not in the father’s hands, but in the mother’s. A system that depends on the good will of irate mothers embroiled in bitter divorces is a system guaranteed to separate children from their fathers. England’s does exactly that every day.
Allow me to make a modest proposal, considerably less extreme than Swift’s. I propose that for the next 20 years, all family courts inEngland simply reverse their decision-making process. That would mean that over that time, 90% of child custody would be given to men with 90% of child support paid by women. Women would be given the same modest visitation rights as men are now, but, as now, that visitation could be thwarted with impunity by custodial parents. Fathers would be able to make unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse and domestic violence for the purpose of keeping mothers from their children and, when their lies were uncovered by courts and police, those fathers would go unpunished. If mothers complained, they’d be ridiculed by the press and figuratively told to “put on a Wonder Woman costume and go climb a building.”
After 20 years, I wonder if the Yasmin Alibhai-Browns of the world would sing the same tune they’re singing now. Somehow I doubt it.
But of course realizing the simple symmetry of such a solution would require them to mentally see a side of things other than their own. Unlike so many women like Sonia Poulton, they’re not good at that.