The secret family courts narrative has a lot to answer for

Family Law|May 25th 2016

Particularly in these post-legal aid days, the Internet should be a wonderful resource for those involved in family proceedings. Cheaply available to virtually everyone, it can provide basic information and advice, in a way that was impossible previously.

The problem, however, is that not all of that advice is good advice, and many are simply, and understandably, unable to differentiate between the good and the bad. The bad advice often emanates from those with an axe to grind against the family justice system, usually because of their own personal experience of the system not doing what they wanted it to do. Thus, for example, we have the narrative of the ‘secret family courts’, where we are told that justice is handed out behind closed doors, by people who have a specific agenda against YOU.

Now, such nonsense would be pretty harmless but for the way in which it can now be disseminated to the unwary, gaining traction as it goes. It is now all too easy for those in the vulnerable and traumatic situation of recent relationship breakdown to come across and fall for such a narrative, especially when things appear to be going against them.

The idea that the family justice system operates in a secret fashion obviously leads to the believers losing trust in all those involved within the system, including judges, lawyers, social workers and welfare officers. These people are all part of the great secret family courts conspiracy! So, along comes a bright idea to counter the falsehoods that are committed by these evil people: make recordings of everything! That way, they’ll never be able to deny what was said.

We’ve seen the idea of recordings previously, most particularly in the area of public law, where, for example, parents record meetings with social workers (there are now guidelines about this). Now this week we have seen an example in the private law field: M v F (Covert Recording of Children), a child residence dispute in which the father and his partner embarked upon a concerted programme of recordings, in particular covertly recording meetings between his daughter and her social worker, a family support worker and the guardian.

We are told by Mr Justice Peter Jackson in his judgment that the father’s motivation to make these recordings was initially  to find out about abuse and to hear his daughter saying things to social workers that she might not say to him. However, we are then told that as matters developed, he wanted to be able to show that his daughter was saying things to professionals that they were not reporting or acting on. In other words, the father no longer believed that the professionals were doing the job in the impartial way that they should.

I don’t know whether the father in this case, or his partner, had been influenced by the rantings of the secret family courts brigade. However, their message is now so widely available, including in the less responsible parts of our national media, that it must be very likely that they had come across it.

Whatever, the father’s actions did not turn out at all well for him. Not only were they a prominent factor in Mr Justice Jackson’s decision to move the child from the father to the mother, but the father was also penalised for the additional costs caused by the recording evidence. Far more important than that, though, the father’s actions could have a serious effect upon his relationship with his daughter, when she comes to understand what has happened.

Now, of course there are some ‘bad’ family law professionals, just as there are bad eggs in every walk of life. However, that does not of course mean that all should be tarred with the same brush. Only when there is definite evidence of wrongdoing or error should the impartiality of the professionals be questioned. This sort of ‘automatic’ lack of trust in family law professionals is doing no one any favours.

Those who peddle the secret family courts narrative have a lot to answer for. They are sending many vulnerable people in completely the wrong direction, causing misery and mayhem in the process. We must do all we can to counter this nonsense.

The full report of M v F can be read here.

Photo by Michelangelo Carrieri via Flickr

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Comments(36)

  1. Andy says:

    What was the Father trying to do..either record statements and recordings of a daughter she had been failed by the system OR. a father helping to find out the failings in the professionals who are supposed to act independently….

    Trouble with this situation and now exposed the legal system is corrupt, unreliable and decision making incorrect..So how on earth can you rely on the legal system to support you when it can’t give judgements correctly..
    How all to often do we hear how th legal system has gone against fathers and so on,who have been wrongly accused of actions with a closed shop legal team who want it closed..
    No wonder solicitors,as we all know, are one big jolly boys club and if too difficult a case just have a quiet chat to finalise such matters with increased costs….
    With this in mind it is one big JOKE.. Seems like that legal programs from America spill over into cases in this country.

  2. spinner says:

    If I hadn’t experienced the family court myself and the various “professions” that feed off of it I would think this was a reasonable blog post, unfortunately I have and I’m not going to list out my grievances as frankly there are too many but clearly this institutionally sexist system has to be root and branch rethought as it’s just damaging vulnerable people especially children.

  3. Vincent McGovern says:

    Secrecy in the family courts and myriad pseudo professionals exercising far too often personal prejudice backed up with caricature portrayal of spoof research and above all self protectionism is the biggest problem by far. That allied to the heightened trauma parents find themselves in is guaranteed to generate bad behaviour among so many litigants. I note the system is coming down heavily against secret recordings. The entire process should be recorded as police do with PACE, which in itself came about because of systemic professional malpractice.

  4. CG says:

    I agree with ‘Spinner’ above.
    This blog routinely pushed the ‘no conspiracy’ ‘the courts and their officers are doing a wonderful job’ abd’you should all just calm down’ line so frequently I wonder whether you are on a retainer to various PR offices. As ‘spinner’ I have experienced appalling bias, from the judge downwards, horrendous incompetence which has damaged everyone but especially the children, and a staggering level of ‘back covering’ but regulatory bodies when I’ve tried to complain. There is a conspiracy – it’s just one of covering up incompetence, poor training, lack of case management and institutional bias.

  5. John Bolch says:

    Thank you for your comments, which serve to confirm the work we have to do to counter this nonsense.

    • spinner says:

      John, effectively you are saying that you need to work harder to change peoples negative views of the system, what I would suggest is that if that is your aim then you may be more effective if you put that same effort into actually trying to change the system itself then naturally the consumers of that service would report better outcomes and would not have a negative views.

    • Stitchedup says:

      The fact that so many men feel disenfranchised from family justice system should be a concern for those legal professionals that work and manage the system. Dismissing as nonsense any criticism of the current system just confirms the views of many that the system has become too entrenched in its current way of thinking and operating. It is unable to view itself from the outside and thus lacks the ability or intent to recognise its failings and to genuinely seek ways to improve. John, I fear, is of a cohort that have brought the family justice system to the current sorry state it is in. It is resulting in gross injustice in both the civil and criminal courts and is in danger of alienating a large proportion of the male population as well as the females that love them. Worst of all, it fails to protect children from abusive alienating parents, positively encourages estrangement between fathers and their children. It often seeks to criminalise and jail men/fathers for simply daring to have a difference of opinion with a woman or falling foul of extremely dubious ex-parte non-mols secured in the civil courts with no burden proof of actual domestic abuse or violence…
      What’s happening in Spain is not too far removed from what’s happening in the UK, all as a result of lunatic feminist political correctness that seeks to abolish human rights for the male gender.

  6. CG says:

    And thank you for your comment, which served to confirm you have no interest in actual experiences, but simply serve to promote/preserve deeper biases and reinforce self protective practices.

  7. JamesB says:

    This is deja vue all over again. Still, I like to tell a story.

    Well, I went along to an emergency ex parte non molestation and occupancy hearing once in these closed door family courts England and Wales.

    It was all a pack of lies and everyone knew it. It was all last minute, I didn’t know what I was accused of. The Judge said to me, you are accused of being violent, to which I replied, I’m not.

    So, as there was no evidence, but an affidavit (not sure on the spelling) Judge said, please can your client swear the affivafit and come back and give Mr B a copy of the affidavit (her solicitor told me to go to court hoping I would lose temper or something). Was laughable, Judge looked at me like I he was expecting a lot more and aggressive etc rather than me. Anyway. So we all left the court and I was in the waiting area. This is where it gets interesting.

    Very busy, this ‘professional’ lawyer is persuading his client, who is sat next to me, that these courts are sensible places, where sensible processes take place and sensible decisions take place. She is looking sceptical, I keep out of it as per normal. Usually in these places it is women going for orders to take things from men, only time I got close was 1. nearly shouting at CSA man going for attachment of earnings order against 1000 men he had never met and 2. nearly saying to a man he was being ripped of as his solicitor was asking him to offer a bit more. I did neither. I did lose my temper with my own case and walk out but still I didn’t get involved in anyone elses.

    Anyway, the point. My ex and two court ushers and her barrister come into the room with her father and the King James bible and proceed to swear that the (pack of lies) affidavit is the truth on the bible. Whereupon I shout Blaspheme (however it is spelled) and everyone looks at me as if I am crazy.

    Anyway, they left out the page with the most lies in the copy I got and I said this when I went back in. They got a non mol for a few weeks on the back of it being sworn, which they have gone on about since and I got a contact order. Non mol was repealed at next hearing as no evidence.

    Point is, that woman, sat next to me, similar debate as this. Was it me that was mad for shouting out? Or the court for rewarding people for lying? I think the court for rewarding people for lying.

    Divorce petitions are sworn lies also as are most financial disclosures. These places are closed as they can’t stand to scrutiny.

    The lawyer to the woman looked at me in the eye and I looked at him and he realised I wasn’t crazy or wrong. He then said to his client quietly, “we should have got a private room away from this room”.

    Moral of the story, these places are closed because if you open them people will see how often this kind of nonsense goes on. So many attachment of earnings orders, so many fed up people.

    There are better alternatives. John’s point? I don’t know, I think he is being provocative and trying to get more people to spend money on lawyers. Best advice I got was to reduce spending money on lawyers. They wind things up and keep them heated for the money.

    Re his They are sending many vulnerable people in completely the wrong direction, causing misery and mayhem in the process
    It is giving false hope to suggest fairness in these place. His supposed belief that the law is fair and due process is fine with re to contact and divorce is wrong, he is living on another planet, one which most lawyers I have met and I have met a lot think in most cases is wrong and that the law needs to change, please. Preferably to be like the Scottish law, with pre nups, assumed starting point of 50/50 shared residence, and enforceable contact orders (currently they are less than worthless).

    • Stitchedup says:

      Appears your experience was better than my experience James. My ex-parte non mol was served 8:30pm Thursday night, hearing 10 am Monday morning… No time to prepare my case i.e. Police reports etc and no time to get legal representation. No evidence of violence but because I’d had enough of all the shit i agreed the ex could occupy the house. It seems the judge kept the non-mol in place not because there was any evidence of violence but to simply stop me from entering the house while she had occupancy. He did say i could apply to have it extinguished but i would need to get any police reports. This is what amazed me..
      Surely it should be for the applicant to get the police reports to secure the non-mol!!!???!!! If the applicant can’t even produce the police reports on the follow-up hearing there’s no evidence and the non-mol should never be in place. It’s not for me to prove my innocence it’s for the applicant to prove my guilt… Isn’t it???

  8. James Whitehead says:

    I find through personal experience that some professionals lack integrity and honesty. In our case the social worker lied, and it was proven without doubt through the freedom of information material we received. We await the outlook of the independent investigation but we are not holding our breath, as complaints are processed through the LA that the social worker is working for, and we now have to await their decision.
    As for people recording material, this will not be stopped, as it’s a simple thing to do, openly or covertly.
    Sometimes it is needed as some professionals will put misleading questions to children in an effort to get the information they require for a result. As the result and not the child is so important to them.

    • spinner says:

      I think lying and outright dishonesty is one of the biggest problems these professions have, in my case the judge lied about what I had said during the hearing in his summing up but I was able to get the transcript and prove that the judge was lying. Recording of everything should be the default in every situation as it’s very easy and cheap to do and these people lack the integrity to be relied upon to tell the truth.

  9. JamesB says:

    Ok, my experience of Cafcass and Judges, I wouldn’t p^&s on them if they were on fire.

    I requested a Cafcass report after about 3 years of consent contact order and trying to get it enforced, she got a final hearing for variation without applying for one (another bias in the law).

    I was up against a QC, so though may do to get Cafcass report saying I was good for the children and reliable etc.

    Gee, was I wrong, they were complete shit.

    I turned up. Waited, waited some more. One hour late this African lady invited me in and asked me what my problem was, where upon she started reading file, which was full of ex’s solicitors stuff. Started huffing and puffing and then she asked me again what my problem was, then I asked her what she meant, then she phoned up ex’s solicitor to ask what the issue was, then couldn’t get through, then asked me if she could see me with my children to which I said no and walked out.

    It then went to the manager, who I went and saw, who I again said no, I wouldn’t let them come to my house, they aren’t welcome. I remember his trousers, and general appearance well dodgy and scruffy and unkept hippy. His trousers were cut with scissors at the bottom and half way up his leg and woollen wastecoat. Strange people these.

    Section 8 report (I think that’s what it was) said every other weekend and half of holidays (which she doesn’t stick to and is unenforceable anyway). Which it always says if parents cant agree and any animosity, even if is just the Mum assaulting the Dad. Which is shit.

    Biggest issue I had with Cafcass. Being yes men and expressing no opinion at all. At final hearing, was said that I didn’t turn up for contact which was why they didn’t take place. They saw me spend a year having good contact (while they were involved) was the best contact I had, yet they didn’t say that. I never missed contact, yet because she said I did they cut it by half, complete bullshit, they just wouldn’t stand up to her.

    The issue I have with these places is they find things that are not true true and stitch you up.

    Judges, play fast and loose with the law, disregarding difficult approaches and issues in preference for lunch, such as the fathers.

    So, having a QC against me and a maintenance pending suit and orders for capital and no money for a year and all this shit about being violent child abusing monster and costs and non mols and for what? Feminism. Well, I have had it up to here with feminism and these women’s courts, they are well dodgy.

    They shovel shit, that’s all they do. Biggest 2 things they did me for 1. Not putting sun cream on number 1 son once. 2. Asking children what they said to the cafcass officer.

    Tens of thousands of pounds shovelling shit, avoid these places like the plague and if you can get a pre nup or decent law. Decent law should not feel the need to question you on whether you drink vitamin C around the children or whether you or your ex are lying when she says I cancelled contact and I said she did.

  10. JamesB says:

    I could go on, but the biggest point remains, if these places are fair, then they should have nothing to hide and open them up.

    Last two specific points, I could go on but need to do other things. I am not violent as stitchedup but Judge found in a non mol with no evidence that I was. No finding of fact or anything after that as expired and never requested again, just used to gain occupancy dodgy.

    Other last point, process. Respondent is thrown into first hearing non mols occupancy orders maintenance pending suit full disclosure and assault and contact issues day 1 before he has had much time to come to understand his marriage is over. That they usually do this is very commendable to them, that they should have to is a bad reflection on the court as are the lopsided financial and contact outcomes in favour of the women who snatch the children and pulls up the drawbridge.

    If so many experience bad things and dodgy behaviour by lawyers then something needs to be done.

    I think Fathers and children matter too. Taking their opinions during and following court and how they feel things could be done better, not just the mothers, should be done. Pandering to the women as they do makes them very wonky and smelly.

  11. JamesB says:

    Last specific point on another thing these places call just.

    Father gets smaller percentage of assets as mother needs the majority to bring up children. Then father tries to get to see children more and more even go for shared residence 50:50, ecept he cant even get overnights as now he can’t afford to house kids well. Sort of thing that passes for justice day in day out in family courts eng and wal.

    Why? Well, based on status quo (nonsense). So, if one is at home or part time to help bring up children, instead of being grateful they hormone high new mums gather and slag off men and divorce them and take them to the cleaners supported by dodgy law.

    Be very selective or get pre nup or have good law better than this please. Alternatively, both go full time, however wouldn’t recommend that, struggling with that big time currently. Alternatively be rich. Alternatively don’t divorce. Alternatively don’t get married. Sadly I think the law has ruined marriage and made it less likely for young people.

    With re John’s point on dodgy narrative. Well, the dodgy narrative is giving false expectations to people expecting a fair outcome. What you get is dodgy law instead. These places are best avoided until they change which is long overdue. As the other chap said, the ‘accidental’ missing pages and dodgy lying submissions and exaggerations and forgetting to give docs to both sides and game playing do not help but the main problem is dodgy smelly law written by old people trying to appease crazy feminists in the last 40 years and needs re-writing please before we end up with Sharia law or Deth Bin or something which is worse as I would prefer decent secular law to dodgy religious law. Instead we have well dodgy and smelly secular law which only people with a vested interest try (poorly) to defend, and only remains in place because people are badly represented and able to avoid by not marrying.

  12. JamesB says:

    I could list on and on and detail so many points where this dodgy law and these dodgy places are wrong and go on suggesting how they should be improved. I have done and so has Gary Lineker (I agree with his formula point). We could talk about outcomes and nrp fathers dying early (anecdotally I believe that to be true, but there are no figures I have seen as the establishment don’t care about that) John saying no it isn’t, isn’t much of a counter argument and proves they don’t care.

    If one thing, one thing only, needs to happen, then is is presumed 50:50 shared residency each and every time upon split if there is a dispute in law. To say anything else as these places try to is well dodgy. John won’t respond to that or say why not, he will just say children shouldn’t be used as pawns and then continue to condone the use of children as pawns. Avoid these places like the plague.

  13. JamesB says:

    So, basically I agree with Yvie.

  14. JamesB says:

    Make it (the 50 50 contact) enforceable the rest would fall into place easy and would be no more arguing.

  15. JamesB says:

    Objective Fact, the only UK political party (in England and Wales) with any policy on the family, are The UK Independence Party, UKIP. Who have in their manifesto and as there policy that upon separation the mother and father should have equal time with their children.

    I agree with them with that. It would be reasonable and a lot better to take that approach. The only unreasonable behaviour here is that made by the bad law.

    John giving people hope that the law will help them and their families as it stands and be anything other than a hindrance to moving on in a good way for the best of all concerned, especially the children (without prenups) is a load of malicious nonsense which may hurt vulnerable people. That the courts and lawyers harm and rip off the vulnerable is my biggest issue with them. Avoid these places like the plague as much as you can.

  16. JamesB says:

    Clarification, by I’m not violent like Stitched up, I meant, like Stitched up I am not violent either. That these dodgy courts call people violent who otherwise would never be makes them bad on top of all the other bad stuff about them some of which I have mentioned above which also makes them very bad.

  17. JamesB says:

    Last point, if you go there often enough, (I was there over 50 times on dodgy hearings, plus more as friend to others) you will be sat in the waiting room and will hear the following, or similar, “The Judge is about to pronounce a decree nisi on cases 18439 through to 19001 (or similar), if anybody here now has any objection to that please will they say so now…..” silence …. disappears …. approx. 3 mins later. “The Judge has now pronounced decree nisi on cases 18439 through to 19001 (or similar)”.

    I felt like saying “Well, there isn’t any real evidence of unreasonable behaviour in most of those cases” but I didn’t I felt dirty being party to that process and not saying something and wish they didn’t do it like that as I didn’t want to hear it or need to really and was another bad process.

    These (E and W family law courts) places can go to hell, they belong there. I’m actually a nice person.

  18. JamesB says:

    These places do a difficult job very badly. The job doesn’t belong in hell, just the way they do it, its a job that needs doing but should be done better according to better laws and that isn’t just complaining I have suggested specific improvements as something needs to be done to shut down their dodgy practices in the meantime I advise avoid like the plague.

  19. JamesB says:

    They (E and W family law courts and there lawyers) cost a fortune also, money better spent elsewhere.

  20. JamesB says:

    Me, bitter, no, I just want to stop these places doing to others what me and my ex and our children had to go through, they can have the child maintenance responsibility back just stop all this dodgy law on contact and ancillary relief (financials) upon separations please.

  21. JamesB says:

    I just remembered something.

    Unlike John what I write on here is based on fact and actual happenings and law and objective rather than vested interest of wanting lawyers to get paid more.

    To The something I remembered.

    A story.

    Recently, a few weeks ago, I was walking nearby my local family law court in England (could have been Wales), and I noticed it, as I hated going past it and then walked on a few paces, there was a homeless man with his small dog and few things (this is a town centre and there are many these days caused by many factors, including bad family law and CSA/CMS/CMEC/Cmoptions), and I thought, as I normally think, there but for the grace of God go I, or perhaps I may in future I hope not and other such thoughts, then I thought, … “I wonder if anything will happen when he passes the (dodgy) family law court (E and W)” … so, I passed him and walked on a bit and turned and watched, and this is what happened…

    He got adjacent to the open door, looked up, turned towards it and said “Dog (can’t remember the Dog’s name) you should have a go at them and that place, now they deserve you having a go at them”, at which point, the big black female security guard came to the door and asked stood there blocking it staring at them. guard said nothing. I will for some reason always remember the look on the dogs face, was like, sad and sad for his owner, they then shuffled on and that is why I write what I have written above, the laws of the land disenfranchising men, and that disgusts me and in need of change for the better, like I say above, as they are very bad. Scotland is better for family law.

  22. JamesB says:

    I don’t know if it’s much of a story, him and the dog looked so pathetic and I felt and feel sorry for them, it just sticks in my mind as I perhaps fill in the gaps that they were at least partially, probably a large amount, like John, complicit in him and others like him struggling.

  23. JamesB says:

    That’s 1 from 1, if I were to wait outside that door and see what happens when homeless people with dogs walk past, I expect the majority of them would do similar to this chap did.

  24. JamesB says:

    That survey would be worth a lot more than John’s dodgy (non existent) defence of these places.

  25. Stitchedup says:

    liberty-human-rights.org.uk/sites/default/files/dec-03-domestic-violence-2nd-reading.pdf

    Whilst John might like to portray all those that criticise as disaffected whingers it appears that that others that have no personal axe to grind see problems with the current system. See the link above … A response from liberty on the use of non mols.

  26. Stitchedup says:

    The link wad active when I submitted the post.. Not sure what’s happened.

  27. Andy says:

    I read with great interest how all experiences of the family courts are so geared up to support the female and don trodden men…

    We all have experiences and this is where the courts of today are so out dated and as now exposed use very loose law to fit what they want think is right…

    In my case I was married for 14years built up a environment inc house with paying off mortgage as fast as possible and all the rest of 2.4 life style bla bla bla…

    What hit me when starting divorce was how much of my hard work to gain all the normal things would be shattered. Now this is currently on going two years with one bad solicitor who cost me £10.000 and still got no conclusion.. Ex father sent letters to my mother for money and ex as well to feed ,cloth,children then instigated the CMS for which is a joke itself.
    Meanwhile all this going on I got to the stage where my solicitor as above just kept sending letters and in this instance ex farther in law sent letters to my solicitor just to bump up costs very clever..
    Again and again I told my solicitor to stop this but this fell on deaf ears.
    In the end I told the solicitor how crap he was and for £250.00 an hour…thus £10.000..
    In the meantime ex father started to remove items of mine out of the marital house and put out for the scrap man what could I do,nothing no one is interested ,then the marital car was sold by ex ,what could I do ,nothing,,,she then as you would guess treat herself to a new car and revamp the house…
    Now any male you would think that the law would of supported something to argue about,,yes you guessed it nothing.
    I then obtained bank statements from joint account, whilst obtaining these,letters arrived to accuse me of not paying child maintenance,not paying mortgage or which I pay half currently so do not black list myself or default as and if I ever get a mortgage haha,I laugh at that one!.
    Looking at the bank statements obtained I was most shocked to find out that little miss ex lied and had as we all find out syphoned money away into her own account on a monthly basis with additional money in bits and pieces luckily for me I only put in a set amount each month never whole salary..phew but again it just showers how and what you would think is to be argued about is thrown out..so forget that.

    Both children had CASH ISA what she had done was to close them and move money over to her fathers account and these were large sums for future..the she moved large sums into her fathers account again and then sends letters to CMS that she is broke and needs the money for her living standards etc..then now claime £333.00 extra a month in benefits on top of my contribution (lied on the claim form) usual story..then gave a statement of account to CMS of my non payments and this was made up because her application date was after the statements were written so a little misleading.

    Submitted E forms and you would expect this to be a demand led full disclosure of finances,,yes you guessed it full of crap…you don’t even need to compete one,just put your name on it and that’s it also it’s an opportunity to lie as well…how broke she was…

    Oh and I damaged her fathers car apparently,pictures to prove this…you now see the tac tic’s that goes on…as for me and the law is just a game and a costly one at that.
    And you know what the goldigger ex does for a living. Nursery Teacher..who is in charge..hope the finances for that environment are correct..never know has the hands in the till as well…

  28. Andy says:

    The law is totally on the side of the goldigger ex.what ever she had done is accepted and even supported in lies and finances..now in the case of the down trodden father the law is geared up to look at two weeks two things.1. The father is violent and 2. It’s always the father full stop..

    My previous post stated the lengths that ex go to to paint a picture of what now seem to be reality and if your good enough to lie the court will believe this,as for the father,he is told to shut up and take the sentence given in financial loss,property loss and maintenance payments for life…easy for the courts to do that because it’s easy…
    Now you would think that me bleeding about my situation is boring but like all fathers on here or aggrieved fathers they want justice not life sentence dissed out..no wonder fathers are aggrieved due to the current law and demands from sponging ex lead to varying mental issues and contemplated suicides etc…now a mothers point of view is..open argument!!!..

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