Sadly, only a few people have contacted me through this site. The surprise is that they have all been men. Instead of mothers reaching out in the spirit of sisterhood, it’s dads emailing their stories to me. Though it’s only a few, there’s a definite common theme— a lack of fathers rights.
In all of the emails, the fathers feel at a disadvantage when it comes to contact with their kids after a breakup. I feel sorry for a couple of these men. In their emails they come across as real, desperate dads fighting a losing battle. But, I also know that there are two sides to every story and a reaction for every action.
Fighting for fathers rights to contact…
In 2010, the people behind www.separateddads.co.uk wrote an open letter to then Prime Minister, David Cameron requesting a review of the family court system.
For many years now women have enjoyed equal rights in this country… yet men who are separated from their partners and children continue to be treated as secondary parties in the Family Courts…The courts, Cafcass and others tend to be biased towards mothers and what they want, often prioritising the mother’s emotional welfare over the child’s needs…Fathers are too often the last party that the courts consider. We, for our part, would rather not be going to court at all, but do what is necessary to enable us to maintain relationships with the people who are of paramount importance to us in out lives. We implore the new government to prioritise a wholesale review of the family courts system, and to address the continuing discrimination against fathers to favour equal rights for fathers and mothers. – John Rowlinson on behalf of www.SeparatedDads.co.uk
Mr Rowlinson got it wrong..
The full version of the letter is available at http://www.separateddads.co.uk/equality-family-courts-open-letter-from-separated-dads.html
Read it for yourselves and see what you think—factually inaccurate is what springs to my mind. I’d urge Mr Rowlinson to contact me should he need any letters writing in the future.
The Ministry of Justice however…..
To the dads whose emails seemed genuine, I’ve been digging around the murky depths and found something interesting. In 2006, the Ministry of Justice commissioned a report into the outcomes of applications for contact orders after parental separation. It’s broader purpose being to find out if the family courts do, in fact, routinely discriminate against fathers.
Published in 2008 using information from 300 separated cases across 11 courts in the UK, the report data showed that out of the completed cases 79% ended with an order or agreement for face-to-face contact.
Fathers rights – A de facto presumption of contact
The report states that, in fact, most non-resident parents who apply for contact get it. While some don’t, it is rare. The courts work on a de facto presumption of contact, so unless there are good reasons why not there should be contact. Contrary to Mr Rowinson’s beliefs, it seems that fathers entering family court for contact do so from a position of power. One solicitor remarked that the judges have been bending over backwards to give fathers contact. Even with domestic violence cases, the courts still bend over backwards to assist and accommodate fathers.
Fathers rights – have they got it wrong?
Unhappy customers will often give a bad review. Maybe Mr Rowlinson was one of the small percentage of dads whose experience of court was a negative one. One solicitor interviewed commented:
They [fathers] can be worn down by the process if it’s prolonged. Expense is a very real issue, or they can just be disadvantaged because they can’t afford to keep going. And on occasion it’s because what they seek is unrealistic and they are given that advice and walk away. Some non-resident parents won’t compromise, so they see settlement and anything less than what they want as failure. So rather than accept whatever is proposed, including by the Cafcass officer, they simply won’t pursue it.
My question to the dads that have emailed me—why is there a resistance to contact? What is the root of the problem? Co-operation between parents is essential and court is no substitute for communication— find a way to talk. Though this site is for mothers, there’s no reason why the articles couldn’t apply to the real, desperate dads. Representing yourself at family court is hard, but not impossible – whether your a mother or a father. I know from experience that family court does everything it can to support contact. A useful article for fathers is Contact—Whose right is it anyway?
The full version of the Ministry of Justice report used for this article is available to view at:http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/9145/1/outcomes-applications-contact-orders.pdf
What do you think of Mr Rowlinson’s letter?