Breaking out of the bubble

Family Law|January 16th 2017

In his last speech President Obama spoke of the “bubble” in which people like to cocoon themselves these days, particularly on social media. They follow people with views that are similar to their own, and block, unfollow or mute people who disagree with those views. In this way they ensure that they live in a friendly bubble, where they only hear what they want to hear. The problem, as Obama pointed out, is that they become so secure in their bubbles that they accept only information, whether true or not, that fits their opinions, instead of basing their opinions on the evidence that’s out there.

And so it is with so many of those who find fault with our family justice system, and complain about how the system is unfair or biased. I’ve followed this fixed-mind-set phenomenon for almost as long as the internet has been around. These people go on forums where they only find like-minded people, they find discussion groups where no contrary views are heard, and they tailor their social media feeds to make sure no one with a contrary view is heard. They then find themselves in a place in which their world-view is constantly being confirmed, leaving them ever surer of the righteousness of their cause.

And when they do venture out and confront anyone with the temerity to put forward a different view, they bombard them with their righteous indignity, and more often than not call upon their like-minded friends to do the same. In this way they ensure that the contrary view is shouted down.

This, of course, is, no way in which to form a reasonable opinion, and no way to conduct a reasonable debate. The family justice system is far from perfect, a point that I have made here on many occasions, but to find out what is wrong with it we must look at it from all sides, and listen to the views of all, not just those with a fixed view, usually based upon the limited experiences of themselves and those they choose to follow.

Perhaps the two most vociferous group of bubble-dwellers are the parents, usually fathers, who are aggrieved because they feel that they are not having the amount of contact with their children to which they believe they are entitled, and the spouses, usually husbands, who feel that the divorce courts have not awarded them a fair share of the matrimonial assets. The members of these groups spend enormous amounts of their time online, sharing their grievances with others who feel the same way. They share stories of apparent unfairness or bias in the system and before long they become convinced that this is how the entire system is.

Well, of course the system may fail some who go to it seeking justice. In my twenty-five-odd years practising I saw this happen, and I’m sure it still happens to this day. But to suggest that the entire system is unfair or biased is completely absurd.

If the naysayers could just break out of their bubbles, they would see that for a huge number of its users the system does work reasonably well. Courts do make reasonable arrangements for children that ensure that their welfare is properly met. Courts do order financial settlements on divorce that are fair towards both of the parties. And if something does go wrong, then more often than not it is corrected on appeal.

Now, none of this is of course to say that anyone, including inveterate bubble-dwellers, should be denied a say when it comes to possible reform of the family justice system. However, if someone who wishes to have a say has clearly seen and listened to a broad spectrum of views then surely their own opinion is likely to a more useful opinion, which carries greater weight? And maybe, just maybe, if the odd bubble could be pricked, then its occupant may find greater enlightenment and therefore a have a view that we should all listen to.

Photo by Dykam via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

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  1. Paul Apreda says:

    Beautifully written as ever John – but have you not perhaps reflected that YOU are in your own little ‘bubble’ on this one? I speak to dads, and mums, and grandparents all the time. I also speak with family lawyers – and MoJ – and HMCTS and some other people who are very very high on the pecking order in terms of Family justice. Honestly I think YOU are the one in the minority on this. Unlike some critics I dont believe that Judges and family lawyers are corrupt and prejudced.
    Look at the evidence produced by Cafcass from a survey of 143 parents surveyed 6 to 9 months after the conclusion of proceedings. This showed that In almost half of cases Court ordered arrangements had changed. In 61% of cases this was NOT agreed by the parties. It is little wonder that so few people have any confidence in the ability of the Court to achieve lasting outcomes when its Orders are ignored.
    It is charming and engaging that you have so much confidence in the Family Justice system John. Whether it has any grounding in reality is rather more problematic.
    We need a new vision for parenting post separation. I honestly believe that the Family Justice system does NOT lie at the heart of that vision – AND – I rather suspect that very few people within it – and perhaps more importantly within the MoJ believe that either. Hopefully we will be putting forward some ideas around this very subject in the next few days.
    Best wishes, Paul

  2. John Bolch says:

    “Beautifully written as ever John”. – Thank you!

  3. Reddit, Seenit, Dunnit says:

    Some interesting points, John…. And you made me realise one possible reason for the BUBBLES.

    Because nowadays we have that horrible phenomenon called “trolls” — those people who seem to get a kick out of kicking others hard — and down. Get too much of that in open forums, and no wonder some people retreat to their “bubbles” — because unless you are a masochist, it isn’t exactly pleasant.

    Meanwhile, it is clear that a lot of people DO have legitimate gripes about the justice system. It is pure naivety to believe that the justice system always gets it right — at least by the appeal stage. Personally, I doubt it. You might just as well claim that no innocent person was sent to prison, or was hanged (as in the States). It most certainly DOES happen, and those who naively believe that the justice system not only “works”, but works well, are clearly living in cloud cuckoo land.

    But it is not surprising that solicitors believe and support the system — they are part of it, and make their living from it. I am not saying they are “corrupt” — just that, if you really had major doubts, as many do who are NOT part of it (except as “victims”) — you would feel honor bound to leave the profession.

    But you don’t. You just continue in the same old bubble.

    Still, at least this blog does expose one to other views — and I am sure they are not all “irrationally embittered”. Far from it.

  4. John Bolch says:

    “It is pure naivety to believe that the justice system always gets it right ” – Who believes that?

  5. keith says:

    Unfortunately the bubble of old wives tales exists all around us and the general public are the biggest victims of it.
    one thing that cant be denied is that the family justice system is deeply flawed and corruption has been exposed by educated people within it.
    with industries such as fostering and Adoption making millions of pounds from the removal of children the govt will have to face the fact that corruption is a big problem.
    its nothing to do with bubble mentality.

  6. spinner says:

    To me the mere possibility that a man and yes it is generally men could be forced to support an ex-wife for decades after the end of their marriage is unfair and in fact the majority of people in the world would seem to agree as most countries do not have this as a possibility in their system.

    So to suggest that people who believe the current system to be dysfunctional are living in a bubble of their own bad experiences is very naive as clearly there are structural problems with the system that must be addressed before it could be considered “fair”.

  7. Reddit, Seenit, Dunnit says:

    ‘ “It is pure naivety to believe that the justice system always gets it right ” – Who believes that?’

    — You would be amazed at the incredible naivety out there, John! One respondent on another forum, recently advising another poor sod stuck in the system, actually stated, “You can trust that justice will be done.”

    Utter nonsense! Sometimes, yes. But to “trust” your life (or your assets) to the vagaries of the “justice system”, and to EXPECT a good outcome — well that really is living in cloud cuckoo land.

  8. A says:

    John, your report report is almost as biased as the court system! I assure you it is utterly biased & favours the Mother. I speak not from other peoples tongues but from my own. Having been to court 4 times now & still not been granted the right to put my Son to bed & see the court being slow as a Tortoise to push progress I fathom to get your explanation? Why should my ex be allowed to strip our family home of almost everything she could, washing machine, bed, sofa, sideboard, blinds from above windows, every single knife fork bowl & spoon long with kidnapping my Son & taking him into hiding for 3 weeks. Then grant me 90 minutes access per week & deny me the right to have PR & my name on the birth certificate. I have clean hands & yet am going to court to seek overnight access to my Son. Why should I have to do this, this is bias, straight away, to then have to be in court for a year with no overnight access & no reason given just proves how out of touch you are! Perhaps you should come to court more often & get a reality check. However the corrupt system won’t allow you to do that, will it?

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