Sorry to disappoint, but the family justice system is not run by feminist zealots

Family Law|August 15th 2016

Like, I suspect, many people of, shall we say, maturing years, I have long-since learned to take the utterances of politicians with a pinch of salt. However, there are times when one must respond to their more absurd pronouncements.

One such occasion arises when a member of Her Majesty’s governing party suggests that the family justice system is biased in favour of women. In a speech to the ‘International Conference on Men’s Issues’ Conservative MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire Philip Davies said that women were treated more favourably in the family courts and that:

“Many women use their children as a stick to beat the father with, either because they’re bitter about the failed relationship, for financial reasons, or because they’ve moved on and it’s easier for them if their new partner takes on the role of father to their children.”

Now, before I go any further I must admit that much of what I am about to say I have said here before. However, it seems that the message needs repeating.

I also have to confess that I have not watched Mr Davies’ entire speech (it is available on YouTube). I did start watching it, but I lost the will to live after the first couple of minutes. Still, I have read reliable reports of what he said in relation to his view that the family justice system is biased in favour of women.

Of course, he is entirely wrong. The law is perfectly even-handed. The Children Act, for example, says nothing whatsoever about favouring mothers over fathers.

Now I not saying that it is not the case that courts more often grant ‘custody’ (to use Mr Davies’ outdated term) of children to mothers than it does to fathers. However, this is merely reflecting the way our society is. In our society mothers are still more often child carers, they are more often in a better practical position to look after the children (with fathers still more often being the primary breadwinners) and, yes, society as a whole does favour the concept of mothers rather than fathers as child carers. If you were to ask a random sample of people in this country who they thought was better able to bring up children I’m sure substantially more would say mothers than fathers. Like it or not, that is how it is.

In short, the system reflects society. And this, surely, is just as it should be. It is not the job of the family justice system, or the courts, to change society. On the other hand, if society changes, then the justice system should change to reflect that. And this is just what we have seen over the years. Not so long ago the system very definitely favoured husbands, but thankfully we now live in more enlightened times. And the courts themselves respond to society’s changes – just look at some of the financial remedy cases from the last forty years and see how things have changed.

As for Mr Davies’ specific allegation that some mothers use their children as a ‘stick to beat the father with’, yes this does happen, but how is this the fault of the family justice system?

In any event, whilst it is quite common for a mother to try to ‘shut out’ a father in a contact dispute, in the majority of such cases that is not solely motivated by a desire to hurt the father – the mother genuinely, albeit usually mistakenly, believes that that is what is best for the child. The job of the court then is of course to get to the truth of the matter.

However, even if the court does get to the truth it can still have serious problems to deal with if the mother does not acknowledge her error. Forcing contact when the ‘custodial’ parent is vehemently against it is no easy matter. Of course, a change of residence from mother to father is an option, but very often this is either not a practical possibility, or it is clearly not the best thing to do for the child’s welfare. The outcome, therefore, can often give the false impression of bias.

There is, of course, nothing unusual about one of our representatives getting things so wrong. However, if one does not respond then bad ideas can gain traction, leading to bad reform of the law, for example putting rights of fathers ahead of welfare of children. In any event, if you think fathers are wronged, then you have the wrong target: you should be seeking to change society, not the law.

If you really are at a loss for something to do, you can watch Mr Davies’ speech here.

Author: John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

Comments(17)

  1. Please research says:

    What type of reply is this ? You are living in the past and as a man, your a totally embarrassment.

    Perhaps you are unable to cook, clean and love and cherish your children. Your main ability to ramble and place absolutely no fact into significance.

    I am, as a man, as loving and sincere as any woman.

    You are living in a different era.

    • Pete says:

      Femi-men are in every corridor of the establishment and profession. Mr Bolch is nothing more then an apologist for femist zeolites who do run the Family Court system and mothers are lorded over. Fathers and children are discriminated against on a massive scale, any person who denies this are not living in the real world. I have nothing but respect for MP Davies who speaks the truth.

      All Femi-men should hang their heads in shame and grow a pair – including you Mr Bolch…

  2. Andy says:

    Just take a look at statistics.
    And who gets the better deal..not fathers…
    And so here is another myth about favouritism in court…
    The myth is true..well how can the mother survive without the help of court and legal advice to win on the financial support…equality you cry just look at all the mother groups i.e. netmums..And read what the blogs are posted..
    God help us all..

  3. Vincent McGovern says:

    Someday Mr Bolch you will get an award from the Family Court system for your head in the sand repeat protection of the worst family court system in the developed world. I agree the wording of the law is broadly unbiased, however a major part of the problem is that the gateway services namely MARAC process restricts access on grounds of gender. So at a stroke children are denied the protection of half of their parents. Add to that the heavily feminised DV lobby, in your words feminist zealots, and social workers/Cafcass/DV/Solrs and Barristers harvesting legal aid and the father usually unrepresented this making a mockery of Articles 6 & 8 ECHR, plus Section 1 CA 1989 Welfare of Child Paramount. Too often the family court system has a policy of ‘profit before children’ as a female MEP said to me at Euro Parliament in 2014.

    I have listened to all of Mr Davies speech, George Galloway in oratory he is not. Someday the institutional child endangerment gender discrimination in UK family court and support services will be under the microscope just as Hillsborough police corruption was. I look forward to giving evidence. You can as well.

  4. Stitchedup says:

    Sorry to disappoint John, but your words count for nothing on this issue.

  5. Tangozebra says:

    John,

    I find your posts on this blog to be shocking. You said the law should only be changed only when society had changed, imagine if this faulty logic was applied to slavery, apartheid, right of women to vote, right of workers to organise, etc. I hope you get the point. You are essentially making the point of the MP for him, you want to have your cake, but you are busy eating it, on one hand you are the guardian of equality for women when it comes to division of assets , on the other hand you are against equality for dads regarding child arrangement.

    I have news for you, the world has changed and so has society, I am a divorced father of two with 50% equal shared care of my children, I have a fulltime job in the city, I bathe my children, cook for them, iron their clothes, take them to school, help with their homework and look after them when they are unwell, I do all the things any good parent would do and I am sure I am better at parenting than some mothers out there. As I am partly responsible for bringing my children into the world, i believe it is my job to ensure that they are well looked after. So, it is you sir that needs to change your views because the world has changed and you are being left behind.

    For society to change, there has to be leadership and direction, which can come in many forms, one is a change in the law recognising that the old fabric of society where father goes and works like a dog and mothers stay at home to look after children is no longer the norm. In this day and age, you need two solid income to survive, hence more often both parents are in fulltime employment in order to provide for their children.

  6. paul apreda says:

    Pointless

  7. Andy says:

    I’m sure John you post this type of blog just to wind people up…

  8. Peter says:

    John,

    Whilst your comments may be based on best intentions it is too easy to dismiss the rights of fathers as just a consequence. Your comments are the same as saying that business is traditionally is a man’s world and therefore women should just accept that boardroom equality is never going to happen. I suapect that a statement like this would attract major media scorn from women’s groups all over the world. Would you also suggest that single mothers who work full time in busy jobs should not have child custody but maybe social services should. All serious issues that would attract major scorn from women’s groups and the media. Does the same not apply to men’s groups? only that we are abismal at forming a collective voice and easy pickings for unfair statements. Also, the legal profession has too much too lose financially from altering the current status quo.

    My view is that you either deliberately set out to provoke a reaction from fathers/men.

  9. Dr Sue Whitcombe says:

    “As for Mr Davies’ specific allegation that some mothers use their children as a ‘stick to beat the father with’, yes this does happen, but how is this the fault of the family justice system?”

    This is child psychological abuse. It can and does cause significant emotional harm. Is this not the remit of the Family Justice System?

    I DID listen to the whole of Mr Davies’ presentation. And whilst I found much of it difficult to listen to, there were some key points which point to the impact on the welfare of children. Children NEED their fathers just as much as they need their mothers. This is not about what society deems to be the appropriate roles of parents at any particular moment in time. This is about what a child needs to optimise their developmental potential, to give them the best start in life, to better enable them to regulate their emotions, to better enable them to develop effective cognitive functioning, to better enable them to parent their children in the future.

  10. Douglas Milnes says:

    My goodness, John Bolch if you can’t be bothered to at least study what someone says, the least you could do is have the decency to shut up and not gabble on about the lies your feminist friends have told you.

    Let me make it easy for you, if you can stomach some truth. Feminsts the country – actually around the world – are lambasting Philip Davies to dare to stand up for equality against them but I have seen few attempt to address the issues, and none do so honestly. Here are 20 main points he made in his speech:

    1. Men in prison on the basic regime have to wear a prison uniform. Women in prison do not.

    2. A higher proportion of men are given a sentence of custody than women, irrespective of age of offender (juveniles, young adults or adult) and type of court.

    3. For each offence group, and age category, a higher proportion of males are sentenced to custody than female.

    4. Examinations of the seriousness of crime showed that the seriousness did not affect the favourable bias towards women: female shoplifters were less likely than comparable males to receive a prison sentence.

    5. Women first offenders were significantly less likely than equivalent men to receive a prison sentence for a drug offence.

    6. Probation staff were more than twice as likely to recommend custody for male offenders due to be sentenced in crown court cases than for female offenders. (24% of males and just 11% of females).

    7. Repeat offenders are more likely to fare better if they are women. 39% of men compared to 29% of women are sent to prison for committing more than 15 offences.

    8. The average male prison sentence is over 50% more than the average female prison sentence.

    9. On average, males served a greater proportion of their sentence in custody: 53 per cent compared to 48 per cent for females .

    10. More women are punished for disciplinary offences whilst in prison per 100 of the prison population than men. Women had 50% more chance than men to be released from prison early on Home Detention Curfew.

    11. It is a myth that most women in prison have committed petty or nonviolent offences and serving short sentences – 78% of female prisoners were serving a sentence of 1 year or more.

    12. Women are more likely to get bail than men. Only 20% were remanded in custody compared with 38% of males and when remanded, men are more likely to be immediately remanded.

    13. Most mothers in prison are not unfairly separated from their children. Two thirds of the mothers sent to prison were not even looking after their children at the time.

    14. Women involved in offences involving cruelty to children or the neglect of them have at times been able to avoid prison using the fact that they have primary caring responsibilities of children.

    15. More women than men benefit from the “get out of jail free card” of having child caring responsibilities and yet more women are convicted of offences against children (40% more in the latest year).

    16. The custody rate for child cruelty or neglect is 33% for men and just 15% for women.

    17. An estimated 180,000 children are separated from their fathers because they are in prison.

    18. For non-custodial punishments, 10% of women sentenced are given a community order compared to 16% of men. Furthermore, The average length of all community sentences for men was longer than for women and typically had more components.

    19. Women are only more likely to receive court punishment at the lowest level. A higher proportion of female defendants receive fines than males.

    20. The community requirement that is imposed by courts on those who commit an offence in a domestic setting is only imposed on men and does not deal with female offenders.

    Now, if you want to waffle about what the legislation says, go ahead because for all the feminist claims, there is not a single law that discriminates against women or for men but there are several that discriminate against men or for women. Then I will start quoting sentencing guidelines, which soecifically say to go easy on women. And I’ll come back to the statistical evidence (note point 4, in case you want to use the ‘men commit worse crimes’ claim).

    As you have read from other commenters, the regime of oppression, censorship and lies is being noticed and is unwelcome. For all those who care to rebel against feminism and stand up for equality, I urge you to join the masses around you who feel the same and sign this petition of support for Philip Davies, under attack for not being politically correct.

    https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-approve-and-promote-philip-davies-mp

  11. Farida Ali says:

    THE ISLAMIC RULING ON DENYING A PARENT ACCESS TO CHILDREN FROM SCHOLARS IN UK

    After a marital breakdown, children are all too often used as pawns by feuding parents. In theory, both parents should put the interest of their children first, and although they have equal responsibility, it is wrong to assume that they have equal power, when it comes to access to and custody of the children. Under the current legal framework in the UK, the resident parent (the one with the custody of the children) has disproportionate powers regarding the children.

    In our society, it is almost always the mother who has custody and rights over the children, where as the father faces a potentially uphill struggle to realise his rights. This anomalous position has led to a lot of abuse, particularly because many mothers use it to instantly and absolutely deny the father access to the children. In a number of cases, all relations between him and the children are severed at the mother’s behest, and she will demand that he seeks contact with his children by obtaining a child arrangement order through the courts, if mediation fails, which can all take between three and four months or even longer, and by that time, the children have already been further traumatised due to the sudden absence of their father. Also this gives unfair advantage to the mother who can abuse her privilege of custody and unduly influence the children vis a vis their father. The children find themselves torn by their loyalty to both parents but tend to yield to the mother’s pressure not to see the father and to inform CAFCASS that they do not wish to see their father. Again this puts the father at a disadvantage and in the difficult situation of having to show that the children have not been negatively affected. This could be viewed as a form of child abuse, because the situation is imposed on the children (particularly very young children), who are powerless and have no opinion in the matter, their right to see the father is taken away from them.

    Often, some mothers will continue to obstruct contact, even after the courts have issued a contact order, which gives the father the legal right to regularly see the children at agreed times. This is simply another severing of the bond between the father and the children that must be endured until a further court hearing takes place which could be months later.

    The courts at times may be reluctant to enforce the contact order, because they may believe that labouring the mother is not in the best interests of the children. The question is, is it, then, in the best interests of the children for a situation to be created, which prolongs the absence of their father from their lives? It could be argued, the legal hurdles are creating a new generation of fatherless children, who know nothing of their own father, other than his name and the fact that he is biologically related to them. Similarly, there are also cases of fathers with custody engaged in the same process.

    This reluctance of the lawmakers to reprove mothers who breach a contact order could be seen as an implicit green light, at some instances, permitting these mothers to continue denying father access to the children. Of course, this separation damages the relationship between the children and the father and in some cases the frustrated father feels forced to give up, as he has to bear extremely high legal cost due to the many court hearings, caused by the mother’s non-compliance with the contact orders.

    This situation was publically echoed by a senior Judge, Mr Justice Coleridge, in 2010 by making a statement, outlined below:

    ‘Family courts are losing their authority because so many people take no notice of their judgments. Around 5,000 new cases a year come before the family courts in which parents – almost always mothers – defy orders to let the other parent have contact. Judges are extremely reluctant to jail such mothers because of the damaging effects on the children, so many continue to get away with it.’

    This abuse is rife among all communities in Britain and the unfortunate consequences of a fatherless society are undeniably visible. As a result, we see the proliferation of groups like Fathers for Justice and Families need Fathers, advocating the rights of fathers who no longer reside with their children. A recent report appeared in the Sunday Express [1], where it had been found that since June 2003, 8,515 non-resident parents have committed suicide due to the distress of not seeing their children. The study found that 94.8 per cent of the deaths involved a male non-resident parent.

    It is a fundamental right of the child to have access to both parents, and likewise both parents have a natural right over the child that they have given birth to. Thus, rationally speaking, by default there are no grounds to exclude either parent from having access to their children. This separation is justified under some exceptional circumstances, for example, if one of the parents poses a genuine threat to the children and displays violent and harmful conduct at home (domestic abuse and violence). If such cases are backed with evidence and a court order, then temporary separation of that parent from the children has merit whilst a permanent solution is being sought.

    The Muslim community of Britain has not been immune to this situation, where some mothers and fathers sever all ties between the children and either of the former parent. This runs contrary to basic Islamic values, teachings and culture. All Muslim societies have evolved through family units, and where there is a breakdown, the practice of imposing any sort of separation between children and parents or any other family members has traditionally been unknown. It should be self-evident that imposing separation between a child and any relative is an unnatural and unkind act, as ugly as the pre-Islamic custom of burying female children alive (imposing a permanent separation), which was carried out in Pagan Arab society, and was swiftly abolished by Islam.

    Despite this, the problem is rife within some Muslim communities, and is frequently carried out even by those professing to be practising Muslim parents. This is partly because this issue has not been explicitly pronounced as unlawful under Islamic law, unlike, for instance, the consumption of alcohol and pork.

    Even before we seek textual evidence, its prohibited status under Islamic law is obvious, because it runs to contrary to human nature. The most basic human social structure is the family unit, and the father-child and mother-child relationships are a fundamental part of this. To destroy that is like waging war on society, and those who attempt to destroy society by violent acts are given the severest punishment under the law.

    All Islamic scholars agree that this severing of the bond, regardless of whether it is done voluntarily by an irresponsible parent, imposed by the mother or the father, is a cardinal sin. The prohibition of, and warnings against taking such action are very emphatic and Islamic teaching clearly states that the consequence is prevention from entering Paradise on the Day of Judgment. The first evidence from the primary source of Quran clearly states this.

    “Would you then, if you were given the authority, do mischief in the land, and cut off your ties of kinship?” (Quran 41:21)

    The above is corroborated by many Hadiths. For example, Imams Bukhari and Muslim have collected the following saying of the Prophet (PBUH):

    “One will not enter paradise if he/she cuts off relations with relatives.”

    Another Hadith also collected by Bukhari & Muslim and narrated by Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) states:

    The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Do not turn away from your fathers, for he who turns away from his father, will be guilty of committing an act of disbelief.”

    This prohibits severing of the bond with members of immediate family, and most specifically one’s father. Scholars are in agreement that this is the case whether one turns away from one’s own father or forces others to be separated from their fathers.

    Also, the Islamic obligation on both the father and the mother to raise the children is well established; hence, the imposed separation of children from either the father or mother is clearly prohibited. If children willingly cut themselves off from their parents then they are committing a grave sin. Likewise, if someone else is preventing children from forming a close relationship with their parents, that person is also considered blameworthy.

    Parents should be aware of the religious, moral and spiritual consequence of severing family ties in the sight of God. Unfortunately, it is all too common for either parent to deny the right of access to their children solely because of their personal feud. Perhaps they gain some temporary emotional satisfaction from doing this at the expense of their own children, but the long term consequences are detrimental to their worldly life and after-life, and any Muslim who is engaged in such actions should think very carefully before continuing on such a path of emotional abuse and harm.

    Signed:

    Sheikh Abdul Qayyum, East London Mosque

    Dr Sh Suhaib Hasan, Islamic Shari’ah Council, Leyton

    Sheikh Mawlana Mohammad Shahid Raza (Leicester Central Mosque)

    Mufti Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf, http://www.zamzamacademy.com

    Imam Qari Asim Muhammad, Makkah Masjid, Leeds

    Sheikh Khalifa Ezzat, London Central Mosque

    Shaykh Dr Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri, Al Mustafa Islamic Centre, Ireland

    Dr Abdul Kalam Azad, Adam Academy, London

    Sheikh Fahimul Anam, Beacon Institute

    Imam Abdullah Hasan, Imams Against Domestic Abuse (IADA)

    Imam Abdul Wahhab, Plashet Grove Masjid, London

    Dr Kamal Abu Zahra, Ad-Duha Institute

    Imam Irfan Chishti – Rochdale Council of Mosques

    Imam Ghulam Moyhuddin, Ashton Central Mosque

    Imam Yusuf Rios, Shaukani Institute, USA

    Sheikh Muhammad Sa’di, European College of Islamic Studies, Birmingham

    Sheikha Selina Begum Ali – Oak Education for Children

  12. Farida Ali says:

    The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has launched a new pilot programme to provide support to those who are victims of “parental alienation.” Cafcass views “parental alienation” as the process of one parent exerting influence over a child in order to turn that child against the other parent.

    Parents naturally have a strong influence over their children, and parental alienation hinges on the misuse of this influence.

    It occurs when one parent influences their child’s or children’s view of the other parent. Children are encouraged to view the other parent more negatively, and perhaps even led to believe that the parent in question no longer loves them or that the breakup represents the other parent abandoning them. Parental alienation may be accomplished by saying negative things about the other parent to the child, or by limiting the amount of communication between the other parent and the child. It is therefore often easier for the parent with whom the child normally resides to alienate the other parent, though the process can happen the opposite way around.

    This practice is becoming more and more common among families going through separation and divorce. As such, Cafcass has launched the new “Parents in Dispute” pilot scheme, a government-funded programme which aims to encourage parents to better handle family breakdowns. It is designed to educate parents about the ways in which their behaviour can affect their children and make what is already a difficult time harder for them, and in how they can promote and maintain a more positive environment during and after parental separation.

    It is believed that parental alienation occurs in somewhere between 11%-15% of all cases of divorce that involve children.

    It is becoming more common, and is increasingly being seen and recognised by the UK’s judiciary. One judge said, in her summary of such a case, “I regard parental manipulation of children, of which I distressingly see an enormous amount, as exceptionally harmful.

    While the practice of parental alienation is becoming more and more widespread, there are still relatively few legal professionals who specifically deal with this issue. This has led to concerns that cases of parental alienation and manipulation could be going unrecognised, with judges and social workers lacking the required training to consistently pick up on or deal with these kinds of situations. Even where legal professionals do have the proper training to tackle the issue, their services can be costly on account of the level of action that needs to be taken in order to confidently conclude that parental alienation is taking place. For example, rigorous psychological assessments may be required. With the costs reaching as much as £50,000, and legal aid having suffered a series of cuts, many parents may simply be unable to afford the costs.

    Specialist opinions do offer one brighter note. They widely agree that children are able to pick up and recover relationships with formerly alienated parents both quickly and powerfully once they have been reunited.

  13. Peter Glynne says:

    A brilliantly objective and balanced summary of the current status quo with regard to the rights of fathers and access to their children. Great to see well balanced arguments being presented and evidence that the tide is turning from what has been and is a national scandal. We will look back in years to come and wonder how was the current situation ever tolerated. Those directly involved in family law who sit on the sidelines, procrastinate and blame other factors should hang their heads in shame. We all have a responsibility to address this blight on society.

  14. JamesB says:

    I did read all of John Bolch’s post.

    I was disappointed that John was not able to actually listen to the speech before writing on it as an expert, apparently having lost the will to live, perhaps English and Welch family law can have that effect.

    The bit he misses is that the issue seems to be one about money and how the side with the children unfairly get all the money on divorce, the objective way of resolving this should be for residence to be split 50:50 and a formula based approach, or a socialist way of poor houses or orphanages or laissez faire. Perhaps it is better for the court not to get involved at all.

    As other posters have correctly said here, because something is, does not mean it is how it should be, to argue that as John does is a weak argument perhaps to provoke response which I have.

  15. JamesB says:

    Sorry, the sniper got me, I should finish the last sentence above.

    As other posters have correctly said here, because something is, does not mean it is how it should be, to argue that as John does is a weak argument perhaps to provoke response which I have fallen for again by posting in response to again.

  16. JamesB says:

    Wasn’t a sniper, was my phone earlier that meant I put a full stop rather than finishing the sentence and didn’t get back to before now. I thought it better then not to post it then the comment half finished.

Leave a Reply

Close

Newsletter Sign Up

For all the latest news from Stowe Family law
please sign up for instant access today.

Privacy Policy