Are the family courts biased against men?

Too long, didn’t read: No.

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore

But as ever, its more complicated that that. This is clearly an issue that generates strong feelings. If there is no bias in fact there is certainly a perception from many that bias exists. What is going on here? And what if anything can we do about it?

On Saturday March 18th, I spoke at the Families Need Fathers’ Annual conference in Bristol. The text of what I said is largely what is set out in this post so I refer you to that for more detailed consideration of the statute and case law that informs my views.

I have already commented on accusations that I am ‘sexist’ in this post, which may also be worth a read if this is something that concerns you. All I can say is that I was grateful for the opportunity to speak before an audience that was overwhelmingly male and I hope I engaged respectfully and listened carefully what these men wanted to say to me. I am not ‘sexist’. I speak the truth as I see it. If you disagree – tell me and tell me why. But don’t fall back on stale and tired insults.

The issue of real or perceived bias sparked some interesting debate at the conference and later, via Twitter. The issue of how family courts treat men is certainly one we need to address, given the strength of feeling it engenders.

I was very concerned for example, to hear at the conference on Saturday that Dr Sue Whitcombe was alarmed by the bias she perceived from such agencies as CAFCASS, against fathers. The President of the Family Division urged her to raise this with the ‘top brass’. I hope she does.

Justice must, after all, be seen to be done.

Why can’t a father just see his kids as and when he wants?

This superficially simple question encapsulates the difficulties in this area. Is the family court deliberately, systemically biased against men? Is it sanctioned by either law or culture that the mother holds a veto on the father’s contact?

No. I don’t believe that for a moment. I think the reasons why so many men seem to believe that it is, are explained by many complicated factors. I set out below the ones which weigh on my mind and then some possible solutions or directions of travel.

I don’t mind you disagreeing with me. There may be things I need on my list, or things you think shouldn’t be there. By all means raise this me, in constructive comment. But if you just want to insult me, I am unlikely to find that persuasive.

Contributing factors to the perception of bias

  • Most mothers, most of the time, are primary carers of young children.
  • Many men, quite a lot of the time, appear to see looking after young children as boring, unrewarding, low status and they don’t want to do it.
  • When parents split, the situation that existed before the split is likely to be maintained – i.e. mother as primary carer.
  • Children aren’t parcels to be passed back and forth or a cake to be divided up between hungry parents. They need a home. They need stability, security and routine.
  • Quite a lot of men seem to see their relationship with their children thorough the lens of ‘their rights’ and are unwilling or unable to focus on the child’s experience
  • Quite a lot of women seem to see their relationship with their children as essential to their own identity and become ‘over enmeshed’ with child; they over-react to imagined or perceived defects in the father’s parenting. For further comment on this, see this post about the Rebecca Minnock case. 
  • Quite a lot of people seem to enter into intimate relationships and share their genetic material with people they do not like, do not trust and cannot communicate with.
  • The family courts does not have the tools needed to tackle the psychological dysfunction of parents. There is no easy access to therapeutic help or even supervised contact.
  • court buildings are poorly designed and don’t help parents talk to one another at court or feel comfortable in the court room; tensions remain high
  • The government has removed legal aid from private law cases and created a situation where mothers are encouraged to make allegations of violence against fathers to secure funding
  • there is a lack of judicial continuity as court loads increase but numbers of judges stay the same, or fall.
  • There is a growing number of ‘professional McKenzie friends’ who have rushed to fill the post LAPSO gap and some of whom provide dangerous and unhelpful advice
  • The debate is often ceded to the extremes at either end; to the detriment of sensible and constructive discussion

What can we do about this?

Having a Twitter spat can be entertaining for a brief moment but its utterly futile if all it achieves is people shouting at one another across the electronic abyss.

Here are my suggestions for some solutions. This almost certainly isn’t exhaustive. Please give me some more ideas. The very first step is that we MUST be willing to TALK to each other – not shout over one another. See for example Lucy Reed’s plea on Pink Tape. 

  • early, compulsory education about relationships and what makes them healthy and good
  • early, compulsory education about the realities of parenting and the need for BOTH parents to be involved.
  • pre-martial couples counselling so people at least ask each other ‘do we want children together?’ ‘What would we do if we split up?
  • Better access to advice for litigants in person; recognition that mediation is not the cure all for situations where there is an imbalance of power.
  • More resources for the family courts so there are enough judges to hear cases quickly and maintain continuity.
  • Recognition that CAFCASS personnel, social workers and private law children lawyers are more likely to be women. What’s going on here? Why don’t men want to do these jobs? Is it because areas of work dealing with children are seen as low status?
  • better recognised and better funded pathways to assessment and help for those cases which are becoming intractable.

And perhaps most importantly, and touched on by many at the conference and afterwards. DATA. DATA. DATA. What are the actual facts? What’s happening? What’s working? how can we get this data, interpret it and apply it? This is a clear and keen concern for many; see for example the recent speech by McFarlane LJ.

The President hopes this situation will improve by growth of digital court and consequent ability to ‘mine’ digital systems for data. I hope he’s right.

Over to you Peter.

EDIT 20th March 2017 – ‘lawful’ versus ‘sensible’ actions

Sadly I have to edit this post following my Twitter conversation on 19/03/17 with Peter who appeared to be relying on what I published as ‘expert advice’ that men could simply attend a school and remove their children without consulting the child’s mother or asking her permission.

If that is how Peter is going to interpret what I said, this causes me significant unease on a number of levels:

  • I do not offer ‘advice’ over Twitter. It would be foolish and irresponsible in the extreme to do so. I don’t know your case, I haven’t read the papers, I can’t possibly understand what is going on.
  • What I do – I hope helpfully – is attempt to explain general principles of law that may or may  not apply to your situation. I also point out that you should ALWAYS take time to get particular advice tailored to your particular situation, before deciding to do or not to do something.
  • With that in mind, these are the general principles Peter needs to bear in mind and pass on to the men he ‘advises’
    • If a father has parental responsibility and there is no court order in place preventing him, then there is nothing inherently ‘unlawful’ in turning up at school and taking your child;
    • In my experience in the South West, the police are highly unlikely to act if a child is with a parent who has parental responsibility, provided no court order is breached and they are satisfied that the child is safe and well;
    • HOWEVER the police will act to prevent the commission of a crime and to maintain public order. It is therefore usually extremely foolish if you are already in a situation of conflict with your ex, to do something, such as remove a child from school without prior warning or consultation, which can only be seen as  hostile act by the other parent;
    • If you are in a high conflict situation then I am afraid the practical reality is that the parent with primary residence does have an effective ‘veto’ on your actions, unless and until this can be resolved by you a) both talking to one another and sorting it out b) going to mediation and sorting it out c) going to court and getting an order to sort it out.

PLEASE REMEMBER that just because something is technically ‘lawful’ that does not mean for one second that it is either advisable or sensible to do it. I know it is frustrating to feel that you have to dance to someone else’s tune, particularly when you know you have done nothing to merit being excluded from your child’s life. But if you go down the path, in high conflict situations, of insisting on YOUR rights being exercised in face of opposition from the other parent, I can predict with near absolute certainty that your future looks bleak, in terms of any hope for resolving your difficulties and co-parenting in harmony.

I hope this is helpful Peter.

Further reading

The Trouble With Fathers: The Impact of Time and Gendered-Thinking on Working Relationships Between Fathers and Social Workers in Child Protection Practice in England 

From the Journal of Family Issues, Abstract:

The lives of families entering the child protection arena may be shaped by a range of troubles, including material deprivation, physical and mental health problems, and substance misuse or domestic abuse. Despite the interest in whole family approaches, the issue of how professionals fail to work effectively with fathers is long-standing and resistant to change. This article illustrates challenges in building working relationships with men, including the challenge of avoiding binary thinking in the assessment of fathers as “risk” or “resource.” Drawing on our qualitative longitudinal study of men’s experiences of child protection in England, we highlight how both organizational (clashing time perspectives) and cultural (gendered-thinking) factors can trouble the potential relationship between social workers and fathers. We argue for a more gender sensitive approach to social work practice, which can respond more fully and effectively to the experiences of fathers and mothers.

 

 

 

 

138 thoughts on “Are the family courts biased against men?

  1. Weathagirl

    Hi there,
    Firstly I would like to say this presents some interesting questions and solutions to family court proceedings that many go through and I am pleased that you are open to debate on this. Discussion of idea’s is key to moving forward.
    I can not speak on the behalf of mothers because even though I am one, I have never been too family court in that capacity. My perceptions are drawn from my own experience as partner to an alienated father, my male friends and family members dealing with family court and also the conversations I have with the many fathers I talk to on a daily basis through my support page for them on FB and Twitter.
    The simple and short answer is yes, there is a perceived bias against fathers but i do not feel it is a bias held only by the courts, It extends far beyond that and I hope to be able to go someway to proving that to you albeit with anecdotal evidence.
    Fathers feel and this seems to be back up with the sheer amount of fathers reporting the same thing that they start in family court at a disadvantage. There seems to be a preconceived notion that mother is best, a father starts from the position of he has to prove he is good whereas a mother starts from the position of prove she is unfit. this is highlighted in cases where there are allegations of DV, child abuse etc..
    If a mother makes an allegation it is usual and just for a father to be granted supervised visits until such allegations are investigated. however if a father claims abuse against him or the children the same is not said in reverse. She will unless in extreme cases be allowed to keep the children with her whilst investigations are ongoing. This is not something that happens only in family court, let me insert anecdotal evidence here.
    In my partners case, The police were called after she had what could only be described as a tantrum over a miniscule issue, I won’t get into the details on a public forum for the sake of all involved but will be happy to discuss this in private with you. She was identified as the abusive one by the police and removed from the family home, however she was not arrested and there was no discussion about who the children would stay with in the interim. She said she was taking the children and that was that. The police officers allowed her to leave with them no questions asked. He didn’t get a say in the matter, was kept in a separate room until they were gone, treated like he was the aggressor.
    My point is a mothers allegations seem to be taken more seriously by police, family court etc.. than a fathers. This is not right or fair to not only the fathers but more importantly the children. All allegations should be treated with the same weight regardless of gender and all safeguarding techniques should be implemented equally.
    Would love to discuss this more with you, I’m aware it is only one side of the story but i hope it helps understand the preconceptions fathers have a little better.
    Lisa Chamberlain.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Dear Lisa – thank you for your thoughtful comment, which is much appreciated. This is an area that understandably provokes strong emotion and I know it is difficult for us to talk constructively about it as emotions often overwhelm.
      To that end, I confess I am a bit prickly about your last sentence; stating that I need help to ‘understand the preconceptions fathers have a little better’.

      After 46 years as a human being and 9 of those spent as a lone parent and nearly 20 as a family lawyer, I have a very clear understanding of the emotions and situations at play.

      the point I made at the conference I will repeat; for every father devastated by the denial of a relationship with his child, there is a mother who is lonely and afraid, desperate for the the father to step up and take responsibility but having no legal mechanism to ‘force him’.

      the issue of fathers who walk away is every bit as painful and difficult as the issue of the mothers who deliberately sabotage a loving father’s relationship with a child.

      But both share a common theme; the lack of emotional intelligence displayed by so many of us and the disastrous consequences that then ensue if we have children with people we can’t talk to.

      I have no doubt the situation you describe happens; I have been involved in many cases where similar situations arose. I understand. I understand how difficult this is and I fully understand just how inadequate the court system is to deal with it. that is why I will continue to urge people to consider that the real solution to this may lie elsewhere .

      Reply
      1. Craig

        Dear Sarah,
        I find this reply quite odd for a Barrister. Firstly you avoid answering any of Lisa’s points and instead direct your attention to deadbeat Dads. If course there are plenty out there but that is not what is being discussed. You state that you have managed for nine years as a lone parent and for that I commend you but your experience appears to have clouded your judgement.
        You state that ” the issue of fathers who walk away is every bit as painful and difficult as the issue of the mothers who deliberately sabotage a loving father’s relationship with a child”
        I disagree with your statement wholeheartedly. I understand the pain of abandonment however a hostile and toxic ex partner will frustrate all contact with the children and go the extreme of false allegations to destroy ones relationships or indeed their whole life. This clearly betrays the fact that you do not understand, possibly you may not wish to. Your final thought that the real solution may lie elsewhere, yet you offer some interesting suggestions for improving the situation we have at present. I’m glad you have managed to be a human being for 46 years, long may it continue.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          You are entitled to find my replies however you wish – just as I am entitled not to pay it much mind.

          The fact that you are so dismissive of the pain caused by fathers who create children then refuse to pay for them or refuse to care for them is odd. you disagree ‘wholeheartedly’. Really? Why? That shows a lack of even willingness to engage with the pain, fear and loneliness felt by many.

          I at least am prepared to recognise that both the alienated father and the abandoned mother (and child) can feel very serious emotional pain because of the selfish narcissism of another.

          Maybe you need to look deep into your own psyche and ask yourself why you cannot.

          Reply
      2. Ritt Dudley

        “the issue of fathers who walk away is every bit as painful and difficult as the issue of the mothers who deliberately sabotage a loving father’s relationship with a child.”

        I disagree. IMHO – Those injuries are very different only similar in that they are traumatic.

        I work with Non Custodial Parents with a focus on fathers and find that generalizations
        often leave someone without a voice in situations affecting them.

        I am also a survivor of parental child abduction and a long list of traumas that occurred while my parents and social system were busy with their own lives. I was missing and abused for 12years, after which I was found and abducted again before being put out on the streets at 16 for having behavioral issues by the parent who claims to have agonized over me missing for so many years gone.
        Both parents and the system failed miserably and have yet to be repentant enough to focus more on preventing hatred than on supporting dis-integrated worker drone laden military industrial complex type societies.

        To that end, I and some members of my Quaker community are in process of designing a widely useful visitation site business plan and safety plans to be able to provide safe and peaceful custodial visitation and exchange services to families experiencing dis-integration and diffusion.
        Absolutely free of charge to the family in need. Donations will be appreciated to augment the financial development aspect of the business plan.
        Even before beginning planning, I have more family value supporting volunteers than I can use.

        We welcome more minds and hearts!
        If you are or happen to know a Practicing Buddhist or a Quaker, please forward this to them so that their Meetinghouse or Sangha may consider cooperation on this good work.
        If you are a legal professional or judicial officer, I also welcome collaboration and constructive insight for this developing change.

        Peace be with us all. 😛

        Reply
  2. Jerry

    You say: “The government has …. created a situation where mothers are encouraged to make allegations of violence against fathers to secure funding” Therefore the system quite predictably and therefore arguably deliberately gives mothers an advantage.

    You say: “Quite a lot of men seem to see their relationship with their children through the lens of ‘their rights’ and are unwilling or unable to focus on the child’s experience” What happens to them? As a result of their attitude, the court is less likely to enable them to have and maintain contact (and rightly so).

    You say: “Quite a lot of women seem to see their relationship with their children as essential to their own identity and become ‘over enmeshed’ with child; they over-react to imagined or perceived defects in the father’s parenting.” What happens to them? As a result of their condition/attitude, they deny contact and get away with it. Although you give some reasons why this is hard for the court to prevent, this nevertheless amounts to bias.

    Considering the above, there seems to be a fundamental principle underpinning the actions of some of the family court that if a mother expresses an inappropriate belief, it is more likely to be treated as true, whereas if a man expresses an inappropriate belief, it is more likely to be treated as false. This must amount to bias.

    What I think you are saying is that the family court is pragmatic and that there is no intentional bias. However what you say must surely imply that even if in is unintentional, there is nonetheless an effective bias in favour of mothers. This must be corrected.

    Furthermore, campaigns on behalf of women and girls promote the view that when a woman makes an allegation, it should simply be believed without necessarily relying on evidence. No men would promote such views for believing men. Although I imagine that you would not support such campaigns, very surprisingly, the government appears increasingly to support them.

    Such trends can only serve to increase the bias and the perception of bias against men.

    My conclusion is that there is the implication here that women deserve certain advantages over men.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thank you also for your thoughtful comment.

      I will say at the outset that this campaign for ‘I believe’ is something I absolutely abhor and will continue to condemn in the strongest terms. It is disgraceful assault upon common sense and the rule of law. You do not ‘believe’ allegations if you are a lawyer or a police officer. What you say is ‘I am listening. I take you seriously. We will get to the bottom of this. We will investigate’.

      Any statement of ‘belief’ at the outset of an investigation, corrupts that investigation. It wastes time and money and it risks perpetrators getting away with it.

      ‘Belief’ and support can come from friends and counsellors. Never lawyers or police. Completely inappropriate on every level.

      With regard to your other point, you say
      Considering the above, there seems to be a fundamental principle underpinning the actions of some of the family court that if a mother expresses an inappropriate belief, it is more likely to be treated as true, whereas if a man expresses an inappropriate belief, it is more likely to be treated as false. This must amount to bias.

      What I think you are saying is that the family court is pragmatic and that there is no intentional bias. However what you say must surely imply that even if in is unintentional, there is nonetheless an effective bias in favour of mothers. This must be corrected.

      I agree with you. Where we may disagree is how this inherent bias ‘must’ be corrected. It is clear that mothers obtain certain advantages in battles over children because they are overwhelmingly likely to have been that child’s primary carer – in the case of very young children, that claim is magnified by the biological reality of breast feeding. Thus, when a battle comes to court one parent feels ‘established’ in a way the other parent may not. This reality has to be recognised in the orders a court makes; it would be wholly wrong for e.g. to expect a breast fed baby to spend one week with mother and one with father. the courts are also expressing reluctance to make or enforce orders for overnight stays for pre-school children who are less able to talk about what worries them or what they don’t like.

      We do need to recognise this as an inherent reality; I am not sure ‘bias’ is always the right word.

      How should it be corrected? I don’t think the courts could or should carry the sole weight of this task. It is my clear belief, after many years as a woman and parent, that our society does not value activities around child care. They are seen as low status and boring. Many men don’t want to get involved. If men wish to correct this ‘inherent bias’ around mothers as ‘gatekeepers’ of infants, then we need quite a significant cultural shift towards recognising men as parents and encouraging them to roll up their sleeves and get on with it.

      I am frequently told by men for e.g. that ‘I don’t do nappies’ – they express revulsion and horror at the idea of poo! for goodness sake. Hopefully these men are a dying breed but I think the very fact it is culturally acceptable for a child’s father to say he will not willingly meet one of the most basic needs of his child is a strong indicator that we have a problem here.

      Reply
      1. Jerry

        When you say:” ‘Belief’ and support can come from friends and counsellors. Never lawyers or police. Completely inappropriate on every level. ” Isn’t this what happens every time a judge believes allegations of violence from a mother and makes a non-mol order or fails to enforce a “contact” order without any investigation? This is especially important when contact is stopped while findings – often not even relevant to contact are initiated. Surely the default should be “normal” and ongoing contact, whatever that may be as determined by the court?

        You feel mothers obtain certain advantages in battles over children because they are overwhelmingly likely to have been that child’s primary carer. Is that not bias? If anything, the court should surely compensate for that? The breast-feeding discussion is valid of course, but what about for children beyond breast-feeding age?

        I’d agree when you say you’re “not sure that bias is always the right word”! 🙂

        Your remaining more general points about our culture and men’s general willingness to get stuck in and do nappies, etc rings true of course, although I am talking about those who want to – and I accept that separation can push people into wanting things they never used to want! There is research however, which shows that as the French say, “L’appétit vient en mangeant”, in other words that the desire to care for a small child depends on and grows out of the bonding process between each parent and the child. Nature’s way, unsurprisingly. So the court should promote instead of hinder the establishment of this bond for both, and maintain it when it is already there. It is such a valuable natural force and society in many ways deters family-friendly forces. As an illustration of the bond, my own now-ex-wife was not very baby-friendly before having children and neither was I. We both changed dramatically throughout the pregnancy, the NCTs, etc and of course after our first child was born. So yes, we are held back by cultural habits, but if the prevailing ideology is one of equality, then all we need is more early involvement for many of us to adapt. The law too should be seen to strive to implement what the man and woman on the Clapham omnibus believes – namely that a child should as much as possible have an engaged (and safe) relationship with both parents.

        You are right that it’s culturally acceptable for a dad to decline to “mess with nappies”, etc. That is something we want to move on from, but the fact that it is culturally acceptable for a judge to banish a parent (if it’s a dad) to indirect contact in order to try to assuage mum’s rage and/or thirst to punish, is probably worse when we consider the long term development of the children and their own future relationships. We must all evolve…

        So I feel that we are agreeing that outcomes are biased and that outcomes are determined by the family law system and of course by the parents’ behaviours. Whilst the blame cannot lie with any one part of the system, is it not true that the system has been given the responsibility for taking action which will improve those outcomes? In which case, what structural changes are needed so that outcomes in the difficult cases improve and improve fairly?

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          When you say:” ‘Belief’ and support can come from friends and counsellors. Never lawyers or police. Completely inappropriate on every level. ” Isn’t this what happens every time a judge believes allegations of violence from a mother and makes a non-mol order or fails to enforce a “contact” order without any investigation? This is especially important when contact is stopped while findings – often not even relevant to contact are initiated. Surely the default should be “normal” and ongoing contact, whatever that may be as determined by the court? I think this represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the court process. A judge does not ‘believe’ – a judge makes findings of fact on the balance of probabilities. To find FACTS the Judge must have evidence. Yes, that evidence could be just the words of the parties, but for serious allegations I would expect to see some supporting evidence. For e.g. if someone alleges they were punched in the face, corroborating evidence is photographs of injuries, trips to doctors. etc.

          I understand and share your frustration that certain allegations, such as sexual abuse, just stop contact stone dead while investigations are carried out. But what would you have the court do? They can’t possibly condone a situation where a child may be put in harms way. of course, being denied contact with a blameless parent is a moral and legal wrong; but so too is a child abused by an adult. The court has to err on the side of caution in many cases.

          I agree that our natural inclinations can differ and change over time and we should all be given help and support to develop. I was not a ‘natural’ mother and I didn’t find babies particularly engaging. But I hope I am a ‘good enough’ parent now.

          I disagree with this bit the system has been given the responsibility for taking action which will improve those outcomes? In which case, what structural changes are needed so that outcomes in the difficult cases improve and improve fairly? because that suggests a degree of deliberation and planning which I do not think ever existed. The court system has ended up, by default, because there is no other option, attempting to help warring parents ‘see sense’ and do right by their children. As I mentioned at the talk on Saturday, the court is simply not the arena to make upset, angry, unreasonable people be happy, calm and reasonable!

          Which is why I will continue to assert that the true ‘answer’ here is to empower our children to love and nurture themselves, maintain their self esteem and only enter into relationships for the right reasons; not out of fear, or loneliness or apathy. But because they make a choice and they find someone they can truly communicate with and therefore have the best chance of parenting well together.

          But alongside this must come cultural shifts about how men and women are viewed. And we all have some responsibility for that.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            QUOTE: I understand and share your frustration that certain allegations, such as sexual abuse, just stop contact stone dead while investigations are carried out. But what would you have the court do? They can’t possibly condone a situation where a child may be put in harms way. of course, being denied contact with a blameless parent is a moral and legal wrong; but so too is a child abused by an adult. The court has to err on the side of caution in many cases :UNQUOTE

            I think the Court should follow the law and due procedure meticulously. I may be wrong but I think the law is that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore contact should never be cut stone dead until he has been found culpable ( by whichever standard of proof we want).
            Social Services procedures that all allegations and concerns must be subjected to thorough, impartial enquiries to discover whether they have any credibility before a man’s freedoms are interfered with. So a court would be wrong, in my opinion to interfere at least until there has been a Police Investigation. If a man isn’t even charged.
            Whenever any lawyer has any doubt about what to do all citizens ask is that you follow simple principles like that. A family Court should not decisions on the basis of their concerns that a man might be a pervert ‘just in case’ a child might be at risk.
            Or the CS could pick on the children of any citizen they like including any of us. Or will someone tell me that isn’t the law?

            No matter how intelligent, happy and reasonable we may think we are when we go in to the Family Court setting , we may come out angry, upset and unreasonable .I agree with that completely. Sarah, Are you delaying everyone’s comments or just mine?

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Something very odd is now happening with the spam filter on this site, which I lack the expertise to fix. I note for example that while MY comments are blocked, comments by various witch doctors go straight through and I have to find them and manually delete!

            So, I am afraid, unless you are some kind of witch doctor attempting to scam credulous idiots out of money, you will find you have to wait for me to release your comment from the holding pen.

      2. Arthur Cox

        Asa single parent father where the mother of the child cleared off for 2 years came back , waited to have a 2nd child with a new partner, moved 200 miles away … then went for custody making up endless blatant and deluded lies managing to get 2nd CAFCASS reports done then dragging it out to the bitter end whilst cheered on by scum lawyers and barristers i have first witnessed first hand how biased the system is.

        If it was the other way round

        Reply
  3. Tracey

    Dear Sarah,

    I have been following this subject for many years and have experienced Family Court from 2003 to 2008.

    As a mother, I instructed a solicitor to apply for residency after being the primary carer (and I am keen to define primary carer) for my children for 9 and 12 years. These were the ages of my children when court hearing commenced.

    The father of my children had taken exception to me instructing solicitors and commencing proceedings. However for those years, he had no problems with me as mother to our children. What commenced was an attack on me aso their mother and the threat of *you will never see your children again*

    He persisted in attacking me in court and used with CAFCASS, my mother’s difficulties whom suffered with SZ and had lost custody of me as a child to my father and stepmother. This was in 1976.

    In 2008 I took a step back as I saw what the war was doing to my children. They were scared & had become so immersed in fear of what both their parents were doing to each other. I remembered how hurt I was when my own parents slung allegations at each other and I was 9. The last time I saw my children was in 2006 at CAFCASS where my ex husband tore into me in front of the children and scared me senseless that I broke down. He had left me with debts, and had moved in with his girlfriend. He worked away and his parents were involved with the care of our children and he refused to inform the court of where they were living and indirect contact was allowed via his parents.

    I have not seen my children since that meeting in 2006. This has been at a huge personal cost to me. However, I had to form a life for myself and after falling apart for many years, it took me seven years to begin to build myself up.

    That said, a decade down the line, I hear of bias against fathers. And what I see is Father’s rights groups attacking Mothers in a battle of wills. Courts are impartial environments and when I was submerged in them, I wanted the Judge and CAFCASS to feel my pain. But they can’t and it is my belief there is no reason to. I work with women in the CJS whom often have Local Authority involvement in the care of their children and that in itself is traumatic for Mothers.

    I have studied Parental Alienation for many years. It does exist and has done for decades. I was alienated from my mother as a child. And when I found my mother she was living on the streets, a broken and poorly woman. Together we rebuilt our life together. But she was my mother and I loved her as the grown woman I became just as I did when I was a child.

    But, I see today, a different arena with Family Law. I see allegations of abuse made by one parent against another. And I see mums and dads ‘fighting’ the system and each other to prove they are the better parent. Is that down to Family Law? I don’t think it is. I see more parents fighting for their rights as opposed to understanding a child has the right to healthy & balanced relationships with both their parents. My children were older and I was prepared my children were able to choose their own time to spend with me or Dad, unfortunately, I was not listened to. My ex husband told me he was going to destroy me and he did. I was weak, broken and became the unfit mother he made me out to be. He had family, to support him. I didn’t.

    I see a lot of bias against mothers in society in general. More out of court than in. I see it in poorly written SW reports, media representation and in the CJS. We are horrified as a society to hear a baby is born in prison. For some babies, this may well be a better environment than a life born into a damaged and broken home in the community. Do I feel Family Courts are biased against fathers? No. Do I feel biased against as a mother? Yes. But not by the courts, by a society that holds mothers to account in general.

    To touch back on the term *Primary Carer* Primary Carer to me means that parent is the one who arranges day-to-day arrangements of the child/children. It doesn’t mean it’s the stay at home parent. This is more apparent in a household where both parents work. For a lone parent, there can be no question in whom is the primary carer. They are. The father of my children worked away five days per week and I worked full-time. I arranged childcare, school runs, packed lunches, etc. Primary carer is not a designated role, it’s a natural role that emerges.

    Thank you, Sarah for a thoughtful and balanced blog.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      And thank you too, for a thoughtful comment. To be able to face, with clear eyes, the pain we have suffered in our lives, to recognise its place but not let it destroy us or overwhelm us, is a great gift.

      Reply
  4. Sam

    “What commenced was an attack on me also their mother and the threat of *you will never see your children again* ” This sadly is my experience as well, despite telling both a senior SW Manager and a police DI that this is what was always threatened. Thank you Tracey for a very thoughtful comment, yes wider society is at fault, and forcing children away from their primary carer is clearly wrong.
    From my experience, professionals really do not understand the manipulation and acting ability of the controlling partner whether male or female. The controller simply does not have the welfare of the children at heart but rather are very immature individuals who must win at all costs.

    Reply
  5. Angelo Granda

    I believe it should be laid down in law,( to save any arguments), that mothers always should have care of any children in preference to a father UNLESS some sort of malicious behaviour or criminal child neglect can be proven against mother.
    This would have two immediate consequences:
    a) the child stays with mother and ,in the case of younger children, especially, this is good because it is a fact of life because they have a much stronger emotional bond and ,of course, a natural physical attachment with Mum who has given birth to the child. If this was law, it would deter men from abandoning a mum and then thinking he can take the children too. I believe, that in most situations a baby or young child will naturally want to be next to Mum.
    b) This would cut down on argument and false allegations in court because it would not get anyone anywhere. In fact ,people would be wasting their time going to court. If disagreements continued then they can be addressed by a divorce court which should make its decisions on facts alone.

    My main concern about bias against men is that there is a lack of males employed by the system. Female SW’s and lawyers are often overawed by men and their attitudes leading to wrong impressions that they are controlling, aggressive etc. Yet were the same man dealt with by a male, he would not be thought so at all.
    There should be a recruitment drive aimed at attracting more males into the CP professions.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I agree that the family justice system is far too feminised – but while men continue to refuse to work in it, what can we do?

      I also agree that women are more likely to perceive male energy as ‘aggression’ BUT equally a lot of men know this, and trade on it. They use the potential of their superior physical strength to intimdidate.
      But even more worrying are those men who are just not willing to accept that the way they behave makes a lot of women and children afraid of them.

      Reply
      1. Arthur Cox

        What about the deceitful manipulate women who intentionally push men to the edge .. i.e. pretty much all of them when thing don’t go their way.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I don’t agree with your characterisation of ‘pretty much all’ women as ‘deceitful and manipulative’
          That would be as stupid as me saying ‘pretty much all’ men are violent misogynists.

          Reply
        2. Rhubarb Review

          Thanks for being a prick and not helping fathers with problems by this sexist comment.

          Clearly you were hurting at the time, that is when NOT TO WRITE STUFF.

          Not all women are bad, not all men are bad. But there are unfortunatly some in both camps that are. If you want to help the children remove the comment or apologies for being hurt at the time and move in from the polar extreme. Leaving it on here like this is going to help continue to spread ill feelings.

          Reply
  6. Angelo Granda

    I absolutely agree with all three points you make ,Sarah. The men should reform their behaviour . They are human beings and once violence and verbal threat and coercion become habitual, the family is on the road to ruin.
    The answer is for the mum or (whoever is the victim) to report it to family elders at the very first sign of aggression and to the Police at the very first physical assault. ( I wonder if many women are prone to let it go at first in the false hope that he will change, perhaps Sam could comment).
    As I said the man is a human being and may get aggressive by human nature. It is only when it becomes habitual behaviour that it becomes serious criminal behaviour. He needs to be reformed .
    Just for the sake of discussion. Who do readers think does the most harm to a family? The Policeman who fails to do his job, charge the offender and bring him before a court which will reform him or the man himself?
    Human -beings do err and offend etc. but they are entitled to mercy and must be made to reform.
    In my opinion, more actual serious harm is done to mothers and children by the authorities ( including the CS).

    Reply
  7. Angelo Granda

    It is possible in the majority of cases if strong action is taken and effective strategies employed by the authorities. However, I must agree with Helen that with some individuals it is not possible. I suggest that the majority of men will fall into the former category especially after a couple of years in reform school, borstal or prison ( treatment to include a bit of hard work) . There may be statistics somewhere to prove I am wrong ; if so I apologise but I am not a professional reader of statistics. Those that offend again should be locked up for five years to contemplate matters further.

    Reply
  8. Paul Apreda

    Dear Sarah – you are a remarkable lady and I want to thank you for your contribution to the FNF conference. I hope you were pleased to see so many men who would ‘cut off their rights arms’ to be allowed to have a more active and involved role with their children – ‘poo’ and all!
    You make ood points about the lack of men in Family justice and related fields. Perhaps then you will support calls for a programme to recruit more men into those fields – similar to the excellent and well funded campaigns to recruit women into STEM subjects? We are drawing together a series of research threads that are seeking to test the proposition that the Family Justice system has a gender bias. I think its important that we look at a system wide analysis rather than focus on the idea of whether any individual element in isolation eg District Judges – exhibits bias. I think we should brng an outcome focus – rather like the excellent work that has been undertaken about gender issues where women are under-represented (as I’ve outlined above).
    I am interested in your experiences and assertions of the way in which men are dis-interested in hands on parenting effectively leaving the difficult jobs to women. That must contrast with your professional experience where you’ll see that men constitute the overwhelming majority of applicants for CAOs – particularly for some form of cntact rather than to be the ‘primary carer’. On that point I didnt see a response from you on Twitter to my comment that if children need a primary carer – why wouldnt having TWO of them be better at improving outcomes for those children.
    This is a very useful debate and I’m most grateful for your engagement with us in moving the issues forward. Inevitably there will be men who are angry and perhaps justifiably so in terms of their experience of the way they have been treated. Lets try to move beyond that rather than to focus on picking the most extreme or forceful comments to illustrate the poverty of the other side of the argument. I dont really see the merit for examle of responding to this comment posted earlier in the thread:

    ‘I believe it should be laid down in law,( to save any arguments), that mothers always should have care of any children in preference to a father UNLESS some sort of malicious behaviour or criminal child neglect can be proven against mother.’

    I’m sure that you would agree – children are not possessions and if we are simply seeking to repace the ‘natural guardianship’ of fathers that was removed in the 1989 Act with the ‘natural guardianship of mothers’ as I suspect is implicit in much of the thinking at present – that does rather miss the central importance of the ‘best interests of the child’.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      I didn’t see the merit of responding to this either.

      ‘I believe it should be laid down in law,( to save any arguments), that mothers always should have care of any children in preference to a father UNLESS some sort of malicious behaviour or criminal child neglect can be proven against mother.’

      Reply
    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      thanks Paul for your constructive and helpful comment. With regard to your Twitter comment that I didn’t answer – sorry I suspect it got lost in the deluge. I have certainly never before had anything like that level of response for any other issue I’ve engaged with on social media, proof that passions run very high indeed.

      With regard to children having two primary carers and that being ‘better’ – yes of course. How could it ever be detrimental for a child to have as many adults as possible around him or her, who love that child and want to promote his/her welfare?

      But when two parents separate, unless they are lucky enough (and rich) enough to both afford to live close to each other and the child’s school then I do think there are some very serious logistical difficulties that get in the way of ‘both’ parents playing the role of primary carer. I think there is a RISK (not an inevitability of course) that such children end up being shunted between two separate households and that is not generally to the benefit of the child.

      What is needed is considerably more emotional intelligence around separation than I think many can demonstrate and I would be interested to find out more about WHY this is so, and what we can do to help.

      I would be interested to assist in any way I can with furthering the debate that is so sorely needed. Thanks again for the opportunity. It is always heartening to see so many men so seriously committed to the welfare of their children, as I do have some heartbreaking examples of what happens when this isn’t so.

      Reply
      1. jai patch

        “But when two parents separate, unless they are lucky enough (and rich) enough to both afford to live close to each other and the child’s school then I do think there are some very serious logistical difficulties that get in the way of ‘both’ parents playing the role of primary carer. I think there is a RISK (not an inevitability of course) that such children end up being shunted between two separate households and that is not generally to the benefit of the child.

        What is needed is considerably more emotional intelligence around separation than I think many can demonstrate and I would be interested to find out more about WHY this is so, and what we can do to help.”

        This seems like a sensible comment, but it deflects from the true situation, which is that there is frequently a distinct bias against the father that has nothing to do with the inconvenience of geography. I have been assisting in a case where the father lived literally round the corner from the mother, her new partner and children – but was still not allowed unsupervised contact for over two years, due to an extremely dubious dv conviction. This alleged incident was presented to the criminal court as having been witnessed by the children, and when the children reported that they had seen and heard nothing, to a social worker compiling a section 7 report – that social worker chose to omit it entirely from their report, which supported the mother being resident parent and the father only having minimal supervised contact.. This has now finally been resolved, with the LA.allowed to save face with a new s/w telling the court that the father has undergone great changes, when in fact he has not changed at all. So to answer to your question,why this is so, I think it is vital to explore the gender bias, and the all-too-common agenda-driven perspectives of the social workers making recommendations to the court, that seem primarily designed to simplify their workloads.

        Reply
  9. Angelo Granda

    Dear Paul, Thanks for your comment. There is always merit in responding to comments on threads such as this when contributing to what some of us consider to be constructive discussion and your response is welcome. It is great to see your opinions. Your comments have just as much value here as anyone else’s whether you are professional or not. Especially interesting is discussion between folk with opposite opinions.
    I am not simply seeking to replace the natural guardianship of fathers with the natural guardianship of mothers. I am sorry but I hadn’t even heard of it. My suggestion was that pending a divorce court hearing which would be decided on facts , we should have a new law which means children should remain with mother unless it is known she is unfit. This would cut out a lot of family court squabbling. I have given reasons why and I suppose such a law might not be entirely fair in cases where Dad is a househusband. Please note, I am a layperson and I am putting forward suggestions. I always look forward to all disagreements. Not many men who are angry come on the CPR.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    I have witnessed a social worker lie about the prevalence of domestic violence in a relationship and try to encourage a perfectly happy to couple split up. She lied in her report saying that the man had been violent towards his wife and had a mental health problem when neither of these things were true. Social work in itself is a profession based on left wing ideology, and many left leaning people have a negative bias towards males.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The child protection system is too feminised, I agree with that. Most social workers and lawyers I meet are women. but there are very able and committed male practitioners.

      I don’t agree there is a ‘negative bias’ towards males but I do think the preponderance of female personnel in the system can put men at a disadvantage because women tend to react differently to what men may see as ‘just letting off steam’ for eg. That can be perceived by many women as aggressive and frightening.

      If a social worker tells a lie about a mental health problem, that is easily disproved by getting medical records to court. If it is alleged that a man is violent towards his wife but there are no police reports supporting that, or medical evidence, and the wife says it doesn’t happen – then challenge that account. Test the evidence.

      Reply
      1. Jerry

        Sorry but there you go again – making a case for the differences between men and women accounting for and requiring different behaviours and responses. There has to be a proper debate about what equal treatment of men/women really means. I do agree though, that there is this perception and belief amongst many that women are more vulnerable and should be treated with kid gloves and that men don’t need the same treatment. However this cuts across the whole principle of equality as it is usually presented. You say elsewhere in this blog that violence is always bad and that men should simply control themselves. I agree, but do you feel that this applies to women in the same way? So for the sake of the public, we must urgently get to the bottom of that debate – especially as regards equality legislation and its application. There is confusion about this very pivotal point and we all need to be clear what the legal position is – and indeed on what our society’s position is.

        As for claiming that evidence such as medical records can easily be used to disprove allegations, I’m afraid that in most of the cases I hear about, the evidence of lies is simply ignored as not material when either the SW or the judge have made up their mind about the outcome. This happens time and again. To me, that is bias – although not necesarily a gender bias.

        I recall a case when the dad was accused of not paying a maintenance payment which he had indeed paid into mum’s account. She said he hadn’t paid – and provided no evidence such as bank statements. He showed the judge the printouts of the transaction he had made and the judge said “you could have just typed that up yourself” and made him pay again. The judge was a rather senior old buffer in the wilds of Yorkshire, but he had clearly made up his mind about what he was going to do and was not interested in evidence. The dad ended up paying nearly £2000 twice.

        I should add that the dad in question was not represented and that if he had been it may be that counsel would have been able to intervene… But that’s another story.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          OF COURSE IT CUTS BOTH WAYS
          Violence is wrong. Abuse is wrong. Hurting other people is wrong. I don’t make a distinction because the alleged perpetrator has a penis.

          But I am replying explicitly to Angelo’s comment, which smacked to me of this very dangerous attitude that we should tip toe around violent men or try and anticipate their moods ‘because they’ve been out working hard all day’.

          Sod that. I’m out ‘working hard all day’. I don’t come home and shout at and belittle my family. And If I did, I would expect them to kick me out.

          Zero tolerance. If you are violent, abusive or belliting towards those you purport to love, be you male or female, it is YOUR responsibility to sort yourself out, not your partners.

          the more we dance around these kind of people to keep them sweet, the further and further away we go from any resolution to this problem. Don’t accept it, don’t enter into or stay in a relationship with anyone who isn’t kind to you. That really is the bottom line.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            I agree with Jerry that we need to be clear what the legal position is – and indeed on what our society’s position is. As always, I am willing to put forward an ordinary parent’s opinion. There is confusion amongst lawyers about the very pivotal point of bias. An example of confusion, in my view:-
            QUOTE: I don’t agree there is a ‘negative bias’ towards males but I do think the preponderance of female personnel in the system can put men at a disadvantage because women tend to react differently to what men may see as ‘just letting off steam’ for eg. That can be perceived by many women as aggressive and frightening: UNQUOTE

            On the subject of zero tolerance, lawyers should accept reality and recognise that it does not work in normal ( non-CP professional) human relationships. Indeed it is quite absurd to suggest it. In real families ,all members of a family have to show each other a substantial amount of tolerance . For example, a man will treat his wife with kid-gloves most of the time and even if she bashes him , he will recognise that his faults and actions may have contributed , set her off or ‘triggered ‘ her behaviour. If she hits him over the head with the rolling pin when he comes through the door , he does not retaliate but will retire to the dog-house and keep mum for a while. IN REALITY women also tolerate a lot of male misbehaviour too ,however, male violence to women is much less acceptable than vice-versa by any law . A bias exists when it comes to that and the fact that women predominate in the CP system and the fact that those men in the CP system are often namby-pamby, politically-correct nerds following the general departmental lead means that men are at a big disadvantage in the family court.
            It should be remembered that family courts must rely on facts. In Public Law cases especially. In private law cases , surely listening to the arguments and counter-arguments of a warring couple, tug-of-love couple is stupid. Just giving them the chance of bringing a case in the Family Court ( with the encouragement of well-paid lawyers) is bound to cause emotional harm to any child involved.
            If there is no definitive evidence ( such as a conviction) that dv and /or controlling has occurred between the couple ( whichever the perpetrator) then it is ridiculous to allow them both to stand there making allegations and counter-allegations. The Family Court is just not capable of doing the job on the ‘B of P’ especially because of the innate bias when a month later the losing party will just bring the case back to court.
            The couple should be forced to make a choice. Either come to a private arrangement out-of-court or get divorced and let the divorce Judge decide on facts. For example, if there is no conclusive evidence of dv, the judge will not award a divorce on that basis but can grant a divorce on a basis of irretrievable breakdown etc. The Judge can also make contact decisions proportionate to the facts not falsehoods. If a man is responsible for the break-up perhaps having been adulterous perhaps ,he will be treated accordingly and vice-versa the woman. If the woman has been the main carer ,likewise but if the woman goes out to work full time and the man has been the main carer then the Judge can make orders accordingly. On brief facts alone!
            Really, we cannot pretend that in a system dominated by females that there is not a bias against men. It is inevitable. I suppose Sarah clarifies it in the quote above. Therefore hearsay and allegations should not play any part in proceedings.

          2. Jerry

            Many thanks for your reply which makes me feel we very much agree in principle, but I know of so many people who have had applications for enforcement of an order for contact fail, or a significantly different credibility given by CAFCASS officers or judges to mothers’ statements than to dads’.
            This is usually summarised as “keeping mum happy”, or appeasing her, even when it is obvious to all that she is being (I’ll avoid the other h-word out of courtesy) hostile and even vindictive. That in my books and I suspect in yours, is abusive and can be violent too.

            Just to be clear, I don’t for a moment believe that you would differentiate on gender grounds. If I did, there would be little point in this discussion. But do you not agree that this kind of dancing around people exhibiting controlling and abusive behaviour to keep them sweet is exactly what people mean when they say judges too often try to keep mum happy – in intractable cases?

            I could not agree more too, that kindness and also forgiveness too are fundamental to the success of relationships – not something we generally see promoted enough in the media where designer clothes and other empty status symbols are held up as what we should all aspire to – but I digress! 🙂

            Thank you for your thoughts in this discussion.

          3. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Yes, I do agree and I have seen it. Women seem to often be granted more ‘licence’ to be ‘irrational’ The ‘primary carer’ trope is still strong for many.

            I don’t however agree that Judges often just ‘try to keep mum happy’. What I suspect they are doing is having to recognise that the emotional state of the main carer (who is often a woman) is very relevant for the child’s emotional well being. But I am sure to many fathers this simply looks like appeasement. I don’t think it is meant that way – but I accept the outcomes may be the same.

            It all goes back to my fundamental point – the courts can’t do much to help this situation. Prevention is better than cure. We need to access our emotional intelligence about relationships, before children enter the picture.

          4. Angelo Granda

            Well, I am certainly not biased against women. I may be a little biased against men who bash women because , as a man, I regard it as dishonourable and unacceptable .However, if I were a judge in a court which bases its findings on facts alone, my discretionary judgments would not be subject to bias, would they? I would not have to decide ,mainly on the hearsay evidence of largely female SW’s and the various opposing allegations and counter allegations from opposing parents.
            I would decide on facts as a divorce judge does. Clear facts like:-
            convictions if any
            reasons given for divorce
            what parties agree on
            who left who
            who is applying for the divorce
            age of children
            finances etc
            whether the family home is to be kept or sold and split the proceeds
            with older children who they want to live with

            As a man, again ,I would say that unless Mum goes out to work and I am at home as the main carer, I would expect the children to live with their mum and expect that I would have to pay maintenance until they start work. Quite honestly ,I would not expect regular contact unless by invite of Mum and I would leave it to my children to approach me if they needed to see me. Perhaps, I’m old fashioned but I certainly would not be forcing Mum to let me have regular contact by court -order but if a court ordered contact ,I would obey the order.
            As regards mums who flout private court orders as to contact with Dad, then there should be no room for judges to exercise discretion which may or may not be biased. If the fact is she has not allowed the contact then she should be fined a big sum to deter her from doing it again.

            As far as dv is concerned,though, I am worried about Sarah’s outlook of zero-tolerance because (as a parent and a human being) I think it a very dangerous one to be expressed by a family law barrister . That lawyers with such ideas about proportionality should be allowed to go into court with that attitude is genuinely dangerous. If supported by their legal team or indeed if they are acting under such strict directives from lawyers, some stupid ( and possibly gender-biased SW’s would regard it as their duty to permanently liquidate any family where a father has bashed his wife no matter what the circumstances. Of course this is what happens regularly and not only when he has bashed her but when their is a mere allegation that he has. Or sometimes when Dad has smacked a naughty child now and again and on one occasion caused a bruise. Even if he was cleared in court, the family court lawyers can operate their zero-tolerance protocol. I certainly would not want an erstwhile LA procurator of children to represent me against the LA because she would be highly likely to agree with my opponents in all the pre-proceedings advocates meetings and so on. I suppose this is why many folk go to MK friends and organisations like FASSITT or JFF. They lose trust with their lawyers particularly solicitors who look at a case and say to themselves. “Could I win the LA case for it?” If the answer is .”Yes” then they just advise their client to lie down and give up.
            So, I am of the view, until persuaded otherwise, that not only are CP professionals biased against men but , as Sam will attest, they can soon turn that into bias against a woman in certain circumstances but also that Family Court lawyers are biased against parents because of a ‘conflict of interests’ foisted upon them by the court protocol.
            Procedures must be enforced tightly to ensure decisions are proportionate and in order to correct ‘wrong’ ones, automatic permission to appeal serious cases should be mandatory. I am not sure if I regard private law cases as ‘serious’ because they don’t usually call for the liquidation of families.
            Jerry, I expect you to disagree with my ideas about a man having a right to regular contacts when the children live with Mum so can you persuade me different?

          5. Angelo Granda

            A Parent’s View
            From my reading of this discussion so far, some men appear to think there is an element of bias against them in the system owing to the high preponderance of females in it and also because of the court’s tendency to ‘pander’ to Mums who are usually the ‘main’ carers. Sarah seems undecided; she doesn’t think there is a ‘negative’ bias but recognises the possibility of bias existing due to the loading of female SW’s and lawyers. Me,personally— I am of the opinion that the system is inherently biased against all parents and children in favour of the professionals EMPLOYED BY THE LA’s and even the Judges show them and Guardian’s ‘positive’ bias because of the Court protocol.
            The important point is that whilst we don’t all agree 100%, we do all agree that the POSSIBILITY of bias exists. For that reason, the Family Court system is just not good enough! Children’s family and human rights must be decided after a fair ‘trial’ in the shape of a hearing which is scrupulously impartial.
            I repeat that the Family Court allows for the possibility of bias and also has low standards in respect procedural correctness. Why the former? Because it has only one judge, basically.
            That may suffice in a civil court which has a limit set on the seriousness of decisions it takes and which has limits put on the sanctions it is able to impose. However, it is totally unacceptable in serious cases such as the liquidation of families and taking children for adoption, transportation to Australia etc.etc.
            What are the possible solutions?
            a) all such draconian decisions to be subject to automatic, legally funded appeals to THREE judges in the High Court.
            b) there be three judges hearing each case .
            c) the Family Court be disallowed from hearing serious cases ( defined as cases where removal of children might be necessary).
            d) when removal is ordered ,the case to be transferred to a higher court for a decision by a jury ( not a professional panel)
            e) have juries in the family court.

            All constructive suggestions welcome.
            c)

          6. Angelo Granda

            So, apparently no-one else has any constructive suggestions as to how we can eliminate the ‘possibility of bias’.
            Or do we simply refuse to admit that such a possibility is a problem?

            I look forward in hopeful anticipation of reader’s constructive views.

            In the meantime, Jerry. QUOTE: Just to be clear, I don’t for a moment believe that you would differentiate on gender grounds. If I did, there would be little point in this discussion : UNQUOTE

            Please tell me more. Are you saying those who would differentiate on gender grounds are not fit to take part in discussions?Or are you merely saying that you don’t personally differentiate and see no point in discussing it with anyone who does?

            Sarah, bearing in mind your post on taking photographs of children, Is there a law against bias nowadays, perhaps?

          7. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            You can’t eliminate bias.
            All you can do is be aware and take steps to mitigate it.
            I don’t understand what my post about photographs has to do with bias, sorry.

          8. Angelo Granda

            Sorry,Sarah. It was just that some authorities try to stop people exercising their human right to take photographs and quote non-existent laws in their support saying it is forbidden because there is a risk the snaps might be spread on the internet and seen by perverts.
            I was just wondering if there is an unwritten convention that gender-bias is bad too.
            Authorities do tend to act lay down rules which have no legal foundation.For example,recently they tried to curtail a young autistic perso’s right to free speech about autism quoting the data protection act.
            I agree with you Sarah, we cannot rid gender bias and general bias towards LA’s by professionals and it is my view that it will affect justice in 9ivil family courts with only one Judge.
            What can be done about it? A limit on the Court’s powers,perhaps?

  11. Factsseeker

    As someone who has worked much of my time at the coalface in child protection over the past 30 years, I strongly challenge the core bias that a mother is the automatically better parent for children in most cases. This misguided and oversentimental idea is based on a stereotype. Just like sentimental lawyers and judges in many countries in the past have claimed the high ground in objectivity when they attributed superior intelligence to whites over blacks, superior tolerance to Christians over Muslims or the superior self-control of the English over Irish etc , Judges, prosecutors and politicians today continue to apply their biases and prejudices, albeit more subtly and cleverly, because society seems to need to stereotype people as this makes assigning blame easier in tight judgement cases. The gender stereotype might make it easier for a judge in deciding custody, but it comes at a price. Not only is there a growing men’s movement all around the world because of the treatment of fathers in family courts, but it is the children who suffer because the love, talents and parenting skills of millions of fathers is being denied to children because of the false belief that mothers make better parents. Instead, we have mothers putting their children in child care when children are less than a year old and then spending an average of only 2 hours per day with their children, much of that in front of the TV. Is this really enlightened behavior to the benefit of children ? Lastly, I am currently researching early child emotional abuse and neglect and the consequent damage to brain structure and development. This is very new area of study. It has only been made possible because we can now view brain functioning dynamically and correlate this wih behavior and development. I very much doubt you really know anything about it, because it is so new and also quite technical. I would suggest you read up as much as you can about this new area. I will just add that the research is demonstrating that adult violence and criminality is strongly linked to this brain damage and it comes ditectly from the quality of maternal care in the first two years of a child’s life. If you really have any conscience about protecting children, then put some effort into reading up about the true consequences of our modern society’s values especially the gender stereotyping.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      And if you want me to publish any more of your comments, you will row back pretty swiftly from condescension and rudeness.
      Don’t you dare lecture me on ‘effort’ and what I do or don’t do.
      And I put my child into nursery at 7 months old. Because I had to. To earn money.
      I don’t think mothers or fathers automatically are good, better, best.
      Good PARENTS are those who are not selfish. Who can put the child’s needs above their own adult desires.
      Sadly, selfishness and stupidity are common place to both men and women.

      Reply
  12. Angelo Granda

    Fact seeker, I find much of your comment very interesting and agree with much of what you say.
    I think children can come to harm by sending them to nursery too early in fact there is even a ‘theory’ that autism can be caused by it. The MMR vaccine does not cause autism, we know and accept that, but is it coincidence that an MMR JAB IS ADMINISTERED JUST BEFORE A CHILD STARTS NURSERY?
    A further comment, years ago not many children went to nursery in fact they were private ones patronised by the nobility and wealthy business people . Women weren’t forced to go out to work to earn money. Expectations were less and a family just had to manage on Dad’s pay packet ( and family allowance).

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      You are talking about a tiny slice of history Angelo. For the most part, women have HAD to work or their children starved. We have now come full circle when the only way to afford decent quality of housing is for both parents to work.

      If men are so anxious about the impact of mothers working on children, then they will agree to support mothers to be housewives and in the event of relationship breakdown, pay maintenance and pension contributions for these women who sacrificed their earning capacity to bring up children, without the degree of bitching and moaning about it I often see.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        I have never known any one bitch and moan about supporting mothers to be housewives or about pay pension contributions and maintenance. As far as I know, a man’s wife automatically gets a pension when she retires on the strength of her husband’s NHI contributions and a widow’s pension if he dies before pension age. I am not criticising women ,especially career women who want a career but in the slice of history I am talking about , it was considered best to allow the child’s brain to develop more and the experts advised the optimum age to start education was 5 years of age. Of course ,experts have a habit of altering their expert opinion to fit the political fashions of the day and I guess that is what happened. An unconnected example of changing opinion : Look at the drink-driving law. When it was first brought in ,lawyers and medical experts examined research etc. for a long time and decided in their professional wisdom that the limit should be set at 80. It was said that people were unaffected by alcohol and it was safe to drive up to that line. A few years later ,the same experts re-examined the exact same issue and changed the limit to 30. Less than half !
        Same with the educationalists and social workers, one minute they are castigating working mums for leaving children too early and the next for not sending them to nursery. It’s political correctness that calls the tune and that changes all the time. It could be in ten years time ,those who favour sending babes to nursery are stuck in the past.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Sadly I have. In many divorce cases the man would say to me – why should she get any money. It’s MY house.
          Therefore ignoring the many years his wife had spent, unpaid, as cook, cleaner and nanny.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            On this subject, I suggest that factseeker’s comments and those of any man should be valued by all readers especially mothers.
            In previous discussions we have wondered why it is that some men (a small majority) are over-controlling and sometimes even resort to violence when unhappy with their home life etc. Therefore we should listen carefully to what men have to say. Sam has told us that it is POSSIBLE her husband/partner is on the autistic spectrum and that certain apparently small events would set him off into a childish tantrum. Triggers are very important and thus it is important that we learn as much as we can about them. Evidently some men are unhappy at the way their partners are treating a child so we must consider it.
            I am supposing that some women will admit that not everything they do is 100% correct all the time so what is it they do which upsets some men?
            Don’t forget everyone is a human-being and every family is different.
            Just one example I can think of; when men return home from work , some of them are programmed to expect their dinner on the table and their slippers by the fire all ready and prepared for his comfort after a long, hard day.
            I am guessing women these days will expect him to make his own dinner! Plus they like to find their things, tools, books etc. where they left them.
            These things are petty but some not so minor and some will stress him out more. E.g. A man wants his partner to be happy and singing jollily and to have the knowledge that she is living a stress-free existence. He regards it as his duty to provide for her and the children and if he knows he is falling short of the mark he will be unhappy. If she is permanently worried and nagging him about money shortages and hardship, he will be even worse. I advise women to recognise his triggers and steer clear of them like one does with the autistic.
            Particularly, it will upset a man if he finds out she has been criticising him to her friends and will feel shame and humiliation on a grand scale if she does it in his presence. He takes it as an attack on his manhood, i guess. He expects loyalty from his family at least as he gets enough grief outside the home. A clever woman will recognise trigger situations and keep her mouth shut more for his sake as well as her own. Sometimes these men just cannot help themselves, they are human-beings.
            Another thing I can think of is that a man does not really like his wife/partner to be tired all the time from a full-time job and it can be irksome to him when a woman continually moans and groans about work. Does that trigger some of them off?
            Of course not all but a few men can be triggered off into shouting and violence but,once again, he is a human being. Then the biggest mistake a woman makes is to let it go; violence should be reported at least to the family elders and both sets of brothers and sisters if not the Police or there is a chance it will get worse. Families have to deal with problems together.
            I expect howls of derision from you ladies following this comment from me but
            I am trying to be constructive and put the opinions of men. Is there any woman out there who will own up that sometimes they are part of the problem if only in that they don’t report violence and allow matters to deteriorate, then follow up by escapism ( perhaps alcohol)?
            Most men respect their wives very much and will do their very best to support and protect them .Some men just cannot do it (perhaps they are on the dole) and then we have a powder keg because idle brains leads to escapism (perhaps drugs) on his part.
            If we can recognise what causes the misery ,can women help him deal with it?
            Hope this helps us understand male violence more. I should imagine controlling women have similar triggers. All comments welcome

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Angelo. You need to find a time machine and get back to 1955.

            I often work 12 hour days or even more.

            When I got home at 7pm or 8pm or 9pm did I have a hot meal waiting for me?

            no. I had a grumpy (now ex) partner who expected ME to take on 100% of running of household and work full time too.

            I am not particularly interested in what ‘triggers’ abusive men to be ‘unhappy’. Because I won’t have anything to do with them. And I will advise my daughter to avoid them too.

            None of us are here on this earth to massage another’s ego or attempt to forestall their angry outbursts. We are all responsible for ourselves and our behaviour. If some men cannot deal with disputes over child care or housework without becoming angry or abusive then they should either be locked up or single for the rest of their lives.

            These men are not my, nor any other woman’s, problem.

          3. looked_after_child

            Post below from Angelo ‘ All comments welcome’ – Sarah’s response cheered me up.
            Partnerships take couples working as partners. It is my experience that partnerships take honesty, humour and sometimes, hard and challenging work when people are not at their best. If someone need to find a scapegoat to blame for their own inadequacies, I’d like to think that is their problem not the rest of the worlds..

          4. Angelo Granda

            Sadly ,what I described is part of the psyche of some men which is universal. Not circa 1955 but throughout history. We should not centre our research solely upon the ‘slice of history’ of history through which you are passing ,Sarah .There are no time machines. Get real!i
            We should all examine universal facts. My comment is based upon the reading of essays and opinions written by philosophers who evaluated the problem of male violence against their wives/partners over 2000 years ago. Yes, some men bashed their wives then, some did in the middle ages and still some do it.
            In this day and age and historically , most men are able to control themselves.
            Yet some are not but they are human beings. My comment was intended to make readers think about their conduct and how we might study the triggers and put a stop to violence.
            Sarah, you should be interested in what triggers these men off particularly in this post which is entitled ‘Are the Family Courts Biased Against Men’ ,as a family court lawyer think about what you say in your comments, if I may say so.
            Is it any wonder that men complain about bias with lawyers like you?
            Don’t be stuck in the present .Think about reality, universal truths but most of all the Law and reality is not centred upon those who have separated or divorced and those who would advise it. It is about keeping ones family together. I have written before that present day cp professionals seem to have little understanding of humanity and again it is demonstrated.
            There is never any excuse for violence but there are sometimes extenuating circumstances.
            I am guessing that you, Sarah are one of those ladies ( or women if you prefer it) that got married after comparatively, recent alterations to marriage vows. Most of history women were pledged to honour and serve their husbands. This has now changed. Some men need more time to get used to it; they expect to be obeyed and more effort should be taken to educate young men that the women are in charge not they because some of them get violent.
            I hope no-one denies that women are more important to families in the grand scheme of things and should be respected.
            All comments welcome.

          5. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            No. Men who are violent need to control themselves. The excuses they offer, their ‘triggers’ are not my problem.
            They either grow up, get out of the relationship or they go to prison.

          6. Angelo Granda

            Which reinforces my belief that family courts and their lawyers are totally unsuited to judging sometimes serious cases where dv and other alleged criminal activities. They have such low standards and very little sense of proportionality.
            Humanity is the key.
            In cases of d.v. men should be tried by a PROPER court and if he is found guilty, he should be punished severely and possibly imprisoned if proportionate to circumstances. Of course the facts will be tested rigidly and correct procedure followed. If a person is given a really severe sentence e.g. life imprisonment or if the judge orders family liquidation and forced adoption for his children then there should be an automatic right to appeal.
            A man must be punished . The Police must prosecute .If they do not they do the child no service at all to refer to the Social Services. There is little they can do except put children into care. Well-meaning though they might be, they cannot physically restrain a man and reform him neither are they interested in doing so. It’s the job of a criminal court.

          7. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Unsurprisingly Angelo, I don’t consider condemning violent people as having ‘low standards’
            Your comments smack strongly of collusion with violent men.
            While we have this ridiculous attitude that violent men must be appeased and contained, we will continue to have problems.
            violent men must be held accountable for what they do.
            The family court is as good a place as any to recognise the harm they do.

          8. Angelo Granda

            Unsurprisingly Angelo, I don’t consider condemning violent people as having ‘low standards’
            Your comments smack strongly of collusion with violent men.
            While we have this ridiculous attitude that violent men must be appeased and contained, we will continue to have problems.
            violent men must be held accountable for what they do.
            The family court is as good a place as any to recognise the harm they do. With respect, Sarah, your comment that mine suggest collusion with violent men is just the sort of irrational one which parents who engage with cp professionals are so scornful of. I wrote quite clearly on this occasion and others that violent men should be brought to justice, punished if found guilty and when necessary imprisoned to protect his family and others. What next, I wonder? I suppose someone will be saying I am in collusion with John Hemming, Ian thingummyjig and their cronies.
            I have asked several times who harms a family more,a man who bashes his wife or a LA which liquidates a family without following all legal safeguards and guidelines? No-one has answered yet.
            I think anyone who suggests that a man should not be charged in open court with a criminal offence and brought to justice if guilty of violence is colluding with violent men and that includes any cp professional or Family Court.
            That is more logical.

  13. Pingback: Sarah Phillimore: are family courts biased?

  14. looked_after_child

    Dear Factsseeker

    I’m very interested in this :-

    ” This is very new area of study. It has only been made possible because we can now view brain functioning dynamically and correlate this wih behavior and development. I very much doubt you really know anything about it, because it is so new and also quite technical. I would suggest you read up as much as you can about this new area.”

    Please can you provide references to peer reviewed research or sim. in the new area of study referred to. It would be very helpful if the information provided differentiates between this new area of study and that of Attachment and neuro-developmental disorders such as Autism or FASD

    Many thanks

    Reply
    1. Factsseeker

      Dear looked _after_child

      Forgive the delay. Glad you are interested. It will take a few days for me to find the core research papers that I have been working on, which will serve as an index into the new brain research being done iro early childhood adversity and its impact on brain development. Recent pediatric brain research does support Bowby’s and subsequent researcher findings about the nature and consequences of insecure attachment. FASD, of course, has a different cause of child brain damage. FAS and especially FASD, are still very worrying because many pediatricians believe alcohol and pregnancy is more damaging to the fetal brain than is at presently admitted by CP authorities. My area of interest is Child emotional abuse and neglect which is most damaging during certain critical periods of infant development. It is now becoming apparent that child emotional abuse or neglect, is just as serious and perhaps even more serious than all the other types of abuse. Anyway, give me a few days and I’ll provide you with some references.

      Reply
  15. looked_after_child

    I look forward to receiving references to peer reviewed research or sim. in this ‘new area of study’ that you are involved with/have been working on. In what capacity?
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Factsseeker

      Hi looked after_child
      I am doing a research masters which is based on growing research that abuse and neglect of infants by primary caregivers (mostly mothers) contributes much of the dysfunction in society because of the negative brain developmental consequences of the neglect and abuse.

      There have been considerable advances in dynamic brain imaging over the past 20 years. This has resulted in improved understanding of the role that brain parts and their connections play in both normal and dysfunctional behavior. There is now plenty of evidence that negative early childhood experiences with their caregiver, can result in reduced brain volumes and connections in very important ways. For instance, it is now well known that neglected or abused children frequently have over- or under active stress response functioning. This makes these children vulnerable to a range of problems in life that contunues in adulthood. But this is only just one of many consequences of mistreatment. The lives of hundreds of thousands of children are being destroyed because of neglect/abuse. The work I have been doing collecting this data over the past 4 years has made me both very angry and sad that there is so much denial about the consequences of neglectful or emotionally abusive parenting. It appears that governments are politically uncomfortable about challenging parent’s rights. Anyway, that is my quest ie to bring this problem into the broader consciousness and to the attention of the legal authorities.

      I have over 400 research papers and this number is still growing. There are simply too many to detail here. I suggest you start by reading the 12 working papers published by one of the worlds leading institutions on child development. The National Council on the Developing Child. They are based at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. They have published 12 working papers that bring together all the latest research on child brain development and what actions promote and harm this development. The working papers are available on line for free. I have found working paper 3 (‘Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Brain’) working paper 5 (‘The Timing and Quality of Early Life Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture’) working paper 10 ( ‘Early Experiences Can Alter Gene Expression and Affect Long-term Development’) particularly helpful, but all 12 are useful for a deeper understanding of this area.

      I would also suggest you read ‘The Developmental Consequences of Child Emotional Abuse: A Neurodevelopmental Perspective’ by Tuppert Yates of the University of California. This paper was written in 2007, but it covers this field of early childhood abuse and neglect quite well, particularly the neurodevelopmental consequences of mistreatment.

      If you are interested to go even deeper into this area of study, you can go through the abstracts of two journals (i) “Child Abuse and Neglect” and (ii) “Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma”. Another world authority in this area is Bruce Duncan Perry. He does a lot of good work in educating teachers on the best ways of working with children who are victims of early caregiver abuse.

      These references should act as a spring board to further study in this area.

      Reply
  16. looked_after_child

    Many thanks Fact-Seeeker
    I shall read with interest

    I’m just imagining all those babies in test conditions getting ‘dosages’ of abuse and neglect under controlled conditions by people watching with clipboards who then can see cause and effect with regular scans to compare with a non-abused and non neglected control group….(Would’ent be Mums who are stay at home, with a partner who goes out to work to support the family in relative comfort would it?

    Sounds kinda totalitarian to me. .maybe info from Eastern block Orphanages in the 1980’s? I will look up these journals with interest..

    Reply
  17. looked_after_child

    Bruce Duncan Perry certainly has had a very interesting life by all accounts. ( Just saying…)

    Personal life[edit]

    Arlis Perry[edit]

    Dr. Perry’s first wife, Arlis Perry, was murdered in Stanford Memorial Church on the grounds of Stanford University in California on October 12, 1974. Dr. Perry was initially considered a suspect, but was released after he passed a lie-detector test. [7][8]

    Reply
  18. looked_after_child

    Here in the UK, we don’t have the opportunities to carry out research to prove these theories Fact-Seeker. Our children’s problems are more mundane sadly. See
    http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-and-blogs/press-releases/nine-homes-by-the-age-of-nine-%E2%80%93-housing-instability-marks-lives-of#163961_20170330102705
    I notice Bruce Duncan Perry has also found a cure for ADHD. I imagine he is really pleased about that No doubt he has mentioned it in his books – how to recover from being raised as a Wolf or something along those lines

    Reply
    1. looked_after_child

      I imagine Bruce Duncan Perry and the rest of ‘the scanners’ are doing very good pro-bono work at the moment helping refugees fleeing from war, in the States? The’ being raised as a wolf recovery’ research is probably more relevant to that group

      . I can imagine the discussions around the deficits of ‘primary care givers’ getting a good airing by the boys ( and girls ) at Harvard.

      Can I ask Fact-seeker what you propose to do with your Research Dissertation when you finish it?

      Reply
  19. looked_after_child

    Thanks so much for helping us here in the UK ‘” This is very new area of study. It has only been made possible because we can now view brain functioning dynamically and correlate this wih behavior and development. I very much doubt you really know anything about it, because it is so new and also quite technical. I would suggest you read up as much as you can about this new area.” – really strikes a chord…

    Reply
  20. Jamie

    HI Sarah,

    I don’t mind what is being said here but I think that there should be penelties for mothers who do make it difficult for fathers.

    I can’t talk for every case but most contact orders are made by fathers through no fault of their own, surely if the courts want to see parents sort out differences outside of court they should also make it financially disadvantageous for both parents. Not just the parent who has to go for contact.

    If a parent stops the other from seeing the child.. the other parent has to pay 40 pounds for mediation to contact the resident parent. The resident parent refuses, the other parent then has to pay 58 pounds for the form for court.

    Then this parent has to pay another 215 for the application to court. The resident parent turns up.. smiles and agrees to everything and walk’s out.
    Week later resident parent refuses for no reason, parent who wants contact has to pay another 215 for this privilege.

    This is bias to all non residentical parents from the outset and not just fathers, the residential parent then has the maitanence service who come collecting for payment, they won’t stop unless the resident parent decides to. Despite the fact that the other parent has been supporting children in items of clothING and haircuts.. they just won’t listen to you whatsoever and then start taking automatic payments out of your wages and destroying your way to live.

    Is the family courts bias? Yes defiantly to non resident parents.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It is a massive part of the problem that access to justice is becoming unaffordable for many, I agree.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Jamie, Perhaps you have hit the nail firmly on the head; the Courts are biased against non-resident parents. Because these are mostly the men ,it may just seem like there is much bias against husbands in Family Law cases. The Courts are not ‘pandering’ to Mum because of gender but because it has already been decided that she is to be the main -carer which translates into allowing her to call the tune and organise contacts as she wishes henceforth.
        The non-resident parents face a fait-accomplish which is bound to affect judgments. We know that in Public Law cases , Local Authorities will do anything to get children into care because of the advantage the fait-accomplish gains for them. They say possession is nine-tenths of the law.
        The LA’S apply for EPO’s unnecessarily by spreading it on thickly and practise all kinds of subterfuge.Once they have the order, courts are highly unlikely to send the children home or grant any contact application which isn’t supported by the carers.
        In Private cases like yours ,you face the same immovable force.
        Hope readers understand and that this helps the discussion along.

        Reply
        1. Matt

          It’s because dad brings home the bacon…
          More child support collected by the state more title 4d funding.

          Reply
  21. Reid Rochford

    I think in general terms you are correct but there IS blatant court bias in some instances and with certain judges because I have spent two years dealing with it.

    I would be more than happy to share my story and only include the fact’s because I guarantee that every single person here will be blown away and unable to comprehend what has gone on in my own life.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Dear Reid
      I am always happy to publish guest posts, as long as they don’t identify children.

      Reply
  22. Matt

    States receive funding from the federal title 4d funding. For every dollar they collect in child support they recieve 66 cents. Guess who gets paid first by the state….Judges…..So yes there is collusion, fraud, and bias because most of the time not always the father makes the most money. All of your constitutional rights are being violated in family court. Don’t even argue with me because I will school you.

    Reply
  23. Paul

    ‘Many men, quite a lot of the time, appear to see looking after young children as boring, unrewarding, low status and they don’t want to do it.’ – WTF ???
    After that statement I could not take anything else you posted as credible.
    Thats an utterly and blindingly sexist nieve and inaccurate thing to say. This does not in anyway represent ANY fathers I have ever met. None of them.

    Just like the roll of women has changed. Entering the work place more employment oppertunities ect. So too has a mans role. Men have taken the challenge to change and evolve and they are truely embracing it.
    We have men at the school gates. Men doing the night feeds and the nappies, men shopping and in the kitchen. We have a generation of men who are embracing parenting.
    Walk down any street in any town now and you will see men pushing a push chair or pram down the street.
    The change we have seen in men is nothing short of a phonomonon.

    Now if one of those same men go to a family court then they are automatically assumed to be a cave man. They are automatocally assumed to be an inferier parent. If the woman decideds to claim domesic violence then the man is automatically assumed to be guilty.
    I know. I have been through it. It is an utter disgrace from start to finish. It is a national disgrace. This is totally on par with medievil witch trials.
    No justice is been done in family courts. They are 100% actively discriminating against men.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Good for you Paul. glad you move in such exalted circles. My description however, sadly meets quite a lot of men I know.
      you don’t find anything I say credible, you are very free not to come back.

      Reply
    2. Sam

      Not 100%, in some cases they discriminate against women, who are domestic violence victims. Women who have been psychologically, financially, physically and sexually abused. In some cases , assaulted in front of the children, who the father now has residence of. Often the woman has been the main carer, a stay at home mum, cos that’s woman’s work innit. The perpetrators are the human equivalent of chameleons , many times putting on a convincing act of being the injured party, some even go as far as to physically injure themselves claiming self defence.
      There is of a lack of awareness of domestic abuse , both in the wider society and in state departments who supposedly protect children.
      Yes some woman will falsely claim being abused, but it is a minority and it is appalling. There also seems to be a significant minority of men, shouting it wasn’t me, when there is evidence to prove it was.

      Reply
  24. Angelo Granda

    Paul, I agree with you that men face discrimination in Family Courts especially when the judge, lawyers and other professionals are all women which is commonplace. The standards displayed by Family Courts including the inherent bias and discrimination contrive to make hearings unfair which ,of course, is in contravention of Art.6 (ECHR) . It would be the same were positions reversed! One wonders how a woman rape victim or dv victim would feel if the panel of jurors in a criminal court consisted entirely of men also the Judge was male. That just would not be allowed! The victim’s barrister would speak out and protest.
    In the Family Court, the barristers have other duties than making protests on the behalf of clients and compromise on fairness . They come to agreements with your opponents before hearings as regards the relevance of evidence and as to precedent. They also have a duty to the Court and its schedules and will not court controversy and protest . They can simply decide for themselves it is more in a child’s best interests to proceed without any delay. Whether this is conspiracy to pervert justice or not is difficult to say but I can understand why some victims might suggest it because it would also be the duty of the Guardian to protest; in fact maybe all three sets of lawyers should if they all want a fair hearing.

    As I keep emphasising ,whilst such a protocol may be okay in civil courts which make less serious decisions with limits on sanctions it can endorse, it is absolutely unjust when decisions interfering with fundamental freedoms are made particularly in Public Law cases. Lawyers, please clean up your act and regain Public trust.

    Reply
  25. Angelo Granda

    Sam, I suggest that positive bias towards the evidence of SW’s and Guardians overrides EVEN any innate discrimination against men because professionals at all times appear to have an over-arching leaning towards the LA’s. Litigation aims.
    Of course, most though not all Guardians are biased towards SW’s being ex-SW’s and LA employees themselves in many cases.Also , the Family Courts generally have to accept the PROFESSIONAL assessments as directed by the Court protocol unless there are exceptional reasons not to.That is where lawyers should come in to their own and argue strongly taking great exception when those two parties haven’t conducted cases correctly and arrived at wrong appraisals.
    Unfortunately, the lawyers rarely do so.They have a confab together and all three sets CONTRIVE not to inform the Judge ( even though all have a duty to do it.
    Problem is that no lawyer will open up and admit it (despite my repeated comments about it).
    I wouldn’t even mind that if they would step forward and DENY it. What annoys me is that I make a point of inserting maeutic questions into my comments but most are ignored.
    Thus our attempts to be constructive go nowhere.
    Thanks,Paul for your comment.Even Sarah recognises the potential for discrimation exists because of the female/male imbalance amongst professionals in the system.I am afraid you just have to be stoical and accept it.
    Thank your lucky stars your case is merely a private dispute.In Public Law cases, innocent children ( including helpless new-born babes) are taken into care in their thousands unfairly!

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      Your questions are ignored sometimes because they do repeat questions that have been answered before. You persist in a world view, which is yours to take, but fail to take into account that those who you view as acting in consort are those who also priorities the needs/safety of children without viewing them as mere chattels of their parents. I’m afraid that questions oft repeated become rhetorical by default.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        QUOTE : Your questions are ignored sometimes because they do repeat questions that have been answered before : UNQUOTE

        Helen, I am afraid I must disagree with you on this occasion. I only repeat questions which have not been answered . Very few direct questions are answered . I would say professionals ignore them by choice because they don’t like to admit unpleasant truths or because they just don’t know the answer. Quite what you mean when you say I persist in a world view, I just cannot fathom. I persist in pointing out constructive points to readers as and when they arise on threads and very common points persistently do arise. They have been coming up for years and professionals continually turn a blind eye to systemic flaws.
        It is always happening especially in face- to -face meetings between victims and the CS and Police . Children report abuse and so do parents but are ignored. They report false evidence and other unlawfulness but are ignored. They produce research which proves that LA’s neglect autistic children in their care but even when an official complaint is made , procedures are not followed and errors are not corrected. World view, my eye! The truth will be irksome to professionals, I do understand that. Yet SW’s should forget their conviction that they are always right even when wrong and act more constructively in the paramount interests of children.
        I am not criticising anyone personally but you are deluded if you still think that LA’S prioritise the needs /safety of children. As we have seen on various links, many, many children are treated inhumanely and degraded in care.
        You consistently insult parents when you suggest some parents treat them as mere chattels. They put the interests of their children paramount . La’s don’t ; they treat them as numbers on a balance sheet, in my view and you really should join with Maggy Melons and call them to account more.

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          You are right that errors are made and you are right that there are systemic issues. You are not right in suggesting that this is the only experience for families have of CS. There actually are cases where children’s needs are assessed, met and they are ok either at home or in care, most children in care would tell you that they are very happy to be able to have a normal family life. You just don’t hear those voices as loudly.

          Reply
          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            I agree with Helen. Those who have had good experiences don’t tend to take to social media and campaign and sign petitions etc. You get a skewed picture if you only look at part of it.

  26. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, I do agree with you that many men are not up to child-care which is why I suggested the law which should automatically give preference to the woman pending a divorce hearing. Of course, there will be exceptions when men are actually house-husbands but that could be set out at a divorce hearing ( or facts-only divorce-type hearing) .I received no answer from Jerry about gender-equality . However ,my opinion is that there will never be gender-equality. A woman can never be equal to a man and never, ever will a man be able to equal a woman’s touch in child-care particularly with HER OWN BABY. No-one ,surely, will argue with that. Quite what the position will be when a child is her husbands from a previous relationship and she is just step-parent may be another exception.
    Maybe ,if a woman divorces and she has children , she should wait until they are sixteen before re-marrying or co-habiting with a new partner for their sake. Likewise a man. Step-children relationships are often problematic.
    Of course, I still agree with women should have full equal rights with men and vice-versa. The possibility of discrimination against men in Family Courts has to be dealt with. Any ideas how standards can be improved ?

    Reply
  27. Angelo Granda

    Sarah and Helen, Thanks as always for your replies. The position with me is slightly different ; I have seen both sides of the system and I have seen the best and the worse of SW’s. I also agree with Helen, indeed It is patently obvious that those who have good experiences don’t campaign and sign petitions against child-protection professionals who have genuinely helped and supported them acting with common humanity and honesty whilst doing so. One does try to be impartial and most parents I have read on this resource have genuine empathy with SW’s. They have a very difficult job! One always admire those which act correctly. This is why I don’t let my views be skewed and I always put a good word in for the CS when I can.Those which do always check their facts forgetting about vague theories and false antecedents will always win praise from parents. They follow good practice and procedures scrupulously!
    I think we should endeavour to be as kind to SW’s as we can and that may encourage more of them to read the resource. Then we can draw attention to common malpractices and persuade them to pay more attention to procedures. Who knows, they may even realise how much discretion they have granted to them by the law and act a little more humanely. Children should never be removed from natural family except in the most dire situations. Help families, don’t ruin them.
    Sarah, regarding the law, did you read about Lord Mumby’s warning about the neglect of a child, ‘blood on our hands’ etc. That sort of thing is common-place and it is the job of you lawyers to put an end to it. You have the gift to do so. As you know, if a decision supposedly in the best children of a child is taken wrongly- e.g. a child is removed unnecessarily just because the LA will not finance a less-invasive alternative, the decision will be instantly appealable. Why not try appealing one such wrong decision and rescuing the child from an inhumane fate? Treatments ,if available, must be paid for. If the LA says it can’t finance it, force it to do so or discharge the care -order.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The comment about ‘blood on our hands’ relates to the lack of proper support for a mentally ill teenager. If she doesn’t have a supportive residential placement to go to – she will kill herself.

      How ON EARTH is that the ‘job’ of the lawyers to put right? lawyers don’t determine where public money is spent. That is the job of politicians who make the budgets and decide the policies. Politicians have decided that the mental health of children is worth nothing and they spend according. As Munby points out, these dangerous and damaged children are our future. There is NOTHING LAWYERS CAN DO to force politicians to spend money. They are entitled to make these decisions because PEOPLE VOTE FOR THEM.

      This is after all ‘democracy’. It is presumably the ‘will of the people’ that children like this are left to kill themselves – because when the ‘people’ are given the choice, they always vote for the party that promises small taxes and less public spending.

      Dont YOU DARE make this about ‘lawyers’. This is about the choices people make and the values they have. Children clearly count for very little in our current world .

      Reply
    2. HelenSparkles

      & don’t bother trying to make it the fault of the LA or any of the professionals involved, likely to be NHS as it happens; CAMHS etc. If you vote for a party which promise taxes will be lowered you can’t complain if services are cut. They have been cut to shreds and that affects the most vulnerable in our society, other people might be able to pay for expensive therapy for example (all therapy is expensive even if some of it is very worth it). You can’t force someone to pay for anything with money they don’t have. The lack of a bed is a damning inditement of what our society will tolerate. Nobody should every be able to get to the point where they are as ill as that teenager, the help should have gone in long ago, but waiting lists are extensive until you are in crisis. It is a shame and we should all be ashamed, particularly those who have consistently voted for a cruel government. Social workers are busy treating (so to speak) the symptoms of poverty and austerity with a lack of resources. It isn’t rocket science, early intervention needs investment (from our taxes) but it saves money in the long term as well as the human cost. Rant over … maybe. Oh & I don’t need anyone to be kind to me because I’m a social worker Angelo. I could always do something else if I wanted to.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Personally ,i would never blame the SW’s because they are not exactly independent professionals,are they? They have to respect the strict directives laid down to them which include budgetary decisions made for them. Lord Mumby never said the SW’s will have ‘ blood on their hands’ and neither do I.

        As far as the LA ‘s are concerned , if they hold parental responsibility for a child ,then i think it is not unreasonable to put some of the fault at its door. Most natural parents would put their child first in such circumstances and would even go for private treatment if they possibly could. Not the LA,s because the children don’t come first, their finances do! Had the SW professionals had sufficient resources and staff, received better training etc., i am certain they would have accessed a more suitable placement long ago.

        What happens to ordinary parents who fail children in respect of medical treatment?

        Reply
  28. Angelo Granda

    Lord Mumby said, WE ( and I presume he means himself and other lawyers) will have blood on our hands. It is my interpretation of the news broadcast I heard so I ‘m sorry if you have taken it as somehow my personal judgment of your profession, daring to make it about lawyers. I apologise if I misinterpreted the President’s meaning.
    My view, as an ordinary parent bearing in mind the separation of powers and other principles , is that should the young girl in question and other damaged children need money spending on their care especially medical care then it is the duty of the authorities to supply it . If they don’t do so ,it is a clear contravention of Article 3 rights because their humanity is being degraded and they are being made to suffer mental torture so much so that ( in her case) she wishes to end it all. The ECHR is clear that these human rights cannot be contravened unless their is a pressing social need . ( As previously discussed on this resource) I do not regard a governmental policy of enforced austerity or enforced lack of resources as a pressing social need which justifies ignoring the convention.
    As far as I am aware, the Justices exist to enforce the LAW including the European Convention; they stand between us and inhumanity as a backdrop to such Government policies. Therefore on this EARTH it is the job of lawyers to put it right ! It is certainly not the will of the people that children are left to kill themselves, certainly not, and the Public authorities should be forced by the Judicial authorities to abide by the convention. The interests of children are paramount to their parents and natural families but neither they nor their families count much to the Child-Protection Authorities where money is concerned.
    To me, this is about the choices the lawyers make in the final analysis; the SW’s cannot go against the strict directives of the LA’s even when they want to because they don’t have the power to. The Court has!

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Angelo, please don’t be disingenuous. You said
      That sort of thing is common-place and it is the job of you lawyers to put an end to it.
      referring to the ‘blood on their hands’ comment.
      you repeat again
      Therefore on this EARTH it is the job of lawyers to put it right ! It is certainly not the will of the people that children are left to kill themselves

      Sorry but wake up. It is obviously the ‘will of the people’ that children are left to kill themselves because TIME AND TIME AGAIN they VOTE FOR THE POLITICIANS WHO CUT SERVICES

      this is nothing to do with lawyers. We can’t ‘enforce’ Article 3 or Article 8 rights out of thin air. they require a functioning State that provides services to the most vulnerable. Ours doesn’t, and hasn’t for a long time. Thus we see the ‘will of the people’.

      Reply
  29. Angelo Granda

    Well, I disagree unfortunately. The Judicial system exists as an entity entirely separate from Government policy and is supposed to protect the Public from inhumanity,degradation,exploitation and so forth .Otherwise why bother going to court at all.We might just aswell accept all the cp professionalt edicts and bow down.
    It is the task of the Judiciary to lay down their interpretation of the Law including human rights law and ORDER the authorities to comply regardless of cost.
    Thank God the President understands that and as a result the youngster at issue has now been placed in accordance with her paramount interests (always my mantra) rather than what the professionals regard as her kbest interests. Of course,really it was only in the best interests of the Local Authority.
    Psychatric places were available all the time.

    Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Quote:It is the task of the Judiciary to lay down their interpretation of the Law including human rights law and ORDER the authorities to comply regardless of cost: UNQUOTE

        QUOTE:Lawyers
        can only enforce the laws that exist.:UNQUOTE

        We appear to agree,let’s build on that.
        The law says the interests of our children are paramount not those of HM Government or LA’s. We all know the Judiciary cannot DEMAND money and I haven’t suggested it can.However,as the President demonstrated, it can compel the authorities to accept it’s interpretation of the law rather than lay down their own.He did well by refusing to ‘wash his hands’ of this particular youngster in other words by reminding them of their true priorities.
        One assumes that funding has now been switched from the La owned or privately owned placement to a real therapeutic placement in her real interests.
        The suggestion I made was that lawyers follow the example and use the judicial power to force LA’s (in the same manner) to finance home support services to families with difficulties rather than allowing them to get away with removing children on the false pretence that such home support and monitoring will not suffice or that it is unavailable. It is their task to make it available .
        That is the main purpose of the Children Act. It has to be enforced.Thus if the LA’ flout procedures and make no real effort to discuss support or offer it perhaps not even talking tp parents the lawyers should protest.
        Sarah,in many cases the respondent’s barrister DOES protest . Yet the Judge takes no notice as you very well know. He or she will exercise their discretion and ordain that it would have made little differece to the outcome anyway. Surely,then an appeal is the only remedy.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          There are hundreds of children in dire situations. The President will not be giving judgment in all their cases. What is needed is MONEY. From government policies that directs taxation into support services. This will never happen because it is manifestly NOT the will of the people to see taxation increased. And that is what needs to happen to improve support services.

          Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      Psychiatric Placements were no available all along Angelo, some other young person lost their bed so she could have one and Munby is quite clear I think about what he thinks about that .

      “I do not regard a governmental policy of enforced austerity or enforced lack of resources as a pressing social need which justifies ignoring the convention.”

      Of course it is and if we live in a society that can be so flippant about it’s responsibly to the most vulnerable, I don’t want to inhabit it.

      Social workers spend a lot of time treating the symptoms of government policies and that is very sad. One of the issues I have is the lack of early intervention which would be ‘invest to save’ as they say. Intervene early, save all that money alter on YOS, CJS, CAMHS etc≥

      Reply
    2. HelenSparkles

      Psychiatric Placements were no available all along Angelo, some other young person lost their bed so she could have one and Munby is quite clear I think about what he thinks about that .

      “I do not regard a governmental policy of enforced austerity or enforced lack of resources as a pressing social need which justifies ignoring the convention.”

      Of course it is and if we live in a society that can be so flippant about it’s responsibly to the most vulnerable, I don’t want to inhabit it.

      Social workers spend a lot of time treating the symptoms of government policies and that is very sad. One of the issues I have is the lack of early intervention which would be ‘invest to save’ as they say. Intervene early, save all that money alter on YOS, CJS, CAMHS etc≥

      Reply
  30. Angelo Granda

    With respect,Sarah, my opinion is that you appear not to ‘see ‘one of the main points I am trying to make. How many times have I, as an ordinary parent, claimed on this resource that LA appraisals are ofte n cloud cuckoo land ones and that they take other professionals to that place too. Their assessments are made in their own interests NOT those of the unfortunate children.
    Readers with there eyes wide open will now see that I am right. The placement and the money was there all the time, it is a fallacy engendered by those with ulterior motives that it isn’t,LA’s prefer to place children in care homes ignoring their medical needs thus all assessments are tailored in that direction.
    If the lawyers were to carry out a Forensic Appraisal Review (FAR) before reading fallacious assessments we would be in a better place.
    Procedures and guidelines pertaining to Cp investigations and proceedings have to be adhered to for us to achieve forensic certainty as per the law.

    Reply
  31. Grayham

    Hi,
    I’ve just found your article which I found interesting. Do I think the courts are biased? To a certain degree yes. I think the media has to take responsibility in how it reports domestic violence also.

    Society in general perceives that men are the perpetrators and women & children are victims in ALL cases. As several studies and publications have reported, females victims approx 57%, males victims 43%
    More recent reports have indicated a steep rise in domestic abuse perpetrated by women & maybe this is evidence that men are starting to come forward more.
    I have been subjected to domestic abuse(verbal, emotional & financial). It took me a long time to actually realise what was happening as I was so enmeshed in the relationship.
    Once my abuser realised I was aware & disengaging they upped the anti. I was served a court order based on false allegations which were immediately believed by the justice system, I was forced from my home & children for 3 months. 3 hearings in all the last 2 of which my spouse did not attend.
    The orders were dismissed, but a couple of days before the last hearing, my spouse had requested the occupancy order was removed.
    Like a fool I returned to the home with a view to reconcile. The atmosphere was tense but civil for approx 6 weeks. Then the abuse began creeping in again. A short while ago, I found a credit card had been taken & used to spend online.
    I called police as an argument had occurred.
    Police gave the option that one of us had to leave that evening or be taken into custody. I eventually volunteered.
    When I went to return the next day, the police eventually informed me that I could not go back to stay.
    Recently the police have said that I can return, but even though I dont have the necessary key, they have said if I have to break the door In. If denied access that they will probably take me into custody
    I am concerned for my children as parental alienation is evident, but my enquiries and requests have been dismissed and ignored to date. So its not only the justice system that requires review, but the LA actions that require the same.
    As an example of this, when I contacted the LA earlier in the year advising I was concerned for my children and potential abuse the response was & I quote ‘well you’re not in the house so there won’t be any abuse’
    The police referred the incident to LA services
    I am concerned as to the impact of these experiences will have especially on the youngest. To date though I have not had a response to any of my requests for information & at this time have no safe way to return to the home.
    I think the perception that men don’t care as much is partly driven by the difficulties men face when approaching all agencies which certainly in my own experience are very biased against men

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Dear Grayham – I am sorry to hear this. But I think your reply exemplifies the difficulty at the heart of all this – ‘Like a fool I returned to the home with a view to reconcile’
      these issues get so muddied by the passage of time, the length of time people remain in relationships or leave and go back and the fact that usually the only people who really know what is going on are the two people in the relationship itself.
      But I hope you can find some resolution. If you are having no response to your requests to information, is it time to consider a court order regarding contact with the children? I don’t know how old they are; if teenagers then there is probably little point in going to court I am afraid.

      Reply
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  33. charl

    To long to read: Short answer yes?
    Is a man listed on a birth certificate who is not a father, help responsible for child support even if he was false claimed to be the father by the mother? Yes.
    Then there we go.
    Family court will stop being bias against men when they have the same legal right to terminate legal obligations that women have towards unborn children and children that aren’t theirs.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      If he is on the birth certificate you can’t blame the State for taking that as proof of paternity. Why is he on the birth certificate otherwise? Because he was tricked? What on earth was he doing have unprotected sex with such a nasty specimen of humanity then? Didn’t he notice or care that his sexual partner lacked particular moral fibre or any scruples?

      I am not trying to be glib or flippant but I suspect it seems that way. But the point I am trying to make is that when two adults get together to make a baby this is a really serious thing. It is the creation of a human life. Once born, that child is entitled to support from the adults who made him/her and the court will enforce that. The State has to assume that men on the birth certificate are the fathers otherwise anarchy ensues. This isn’t an example of bias but expediency.

      Reply
      1. Mud

        Hi Sarah,

        Charl made a very prominent point about specific genders being made to, or not made to take responsibility for creating a child.

        I have read the thread with interest due to being in the same boat as many non resident parents with certain allegations in the air. During my reading I have looked for any slips or trips that someone might be displaying gender bias. To reply to Charl’s comment by ‘blaming’ one gender for the creation of a child is exactly where our gender bias lies.

        All of us.

        Charl tried to make a point that one gender is excused from having to take responsibility. In reply you excused the other gender from taking that responsibility by blaming that gender for their acts of irresponsibility. I am sure you are well aware that both genders are susceptible to manipulation and neither should be excused from taking responsibility. Especially for loving someone.

        I was tricked by a lifelong friend into having a child. I take full responsibility for my irresponsible behaviour but for some reason there seems to be no pressure, professionally or socially for her to take any responsibility at all.

        Another good example of engrained gender bias comes from my beloved mother. I mentioned that if *** or her mother ever lay a finger on my son (due to knowing a history of neglect and abuse within the family) I’d be furious (abusive….???? lol). To which my mother replied “No mother would……..blah blah” Once I pointed out the societal impunity offered to mothers that she had just admitted to, her eyes were opened and she realised what she had just said and done.

        That engrained bias is what us estranged fathers are sadly up against. Its a societal problem that is not going away any time soon. Thankfully though, through the courage of persons like yourself and this particular thread, prepared to take the sometimes heated opinions of us angry men to broach a very sensitive topic head on, we might actually get there some day.

        Whilst I am on the topic of taking responsibility for our (both genders) actions. I jokingly commented that by being furious with someone and I rarely see rage and fury expressed with flowers. It is a clear form of abuse. Aggression and intimidation is abusive, whether covert or not. I personally lost my temper with my ex twice, which I can only admit to it being a form of abuse. I take full responsibility for losing my cool and am hugely remorseful for doing so.

        I have been reminded of my actions socially and professionally and repeatedly made to take responsibility for my behaviour. But once again for some reason the female in this particular instance is being excused of having to take any responsibility at all for her behaviour. Also lost her temper on a few occasions but doesn’t have the ability to look or be as aggressive as me, or any man for that matter. We are both guilty of exactly the same behaviour but because one gender (in this particular instance) is perceived as sweet and lovely and the other as “probably capable” one gender is up against the bias already.

        Now I’m going to broach another taboo.
        Men have been perceived (biased) as being the protector, bread winner, man of the house (I can feel the formed opinions/biases already). He would possibly be commended for protecting his loved ones with aggression and/or even violence, with his life. As I’m sure any woman would also. However when that aggression is due to threatening behaviour from his spouse, he is villified as an abuser. True or not? Has masculinity become a dirty word? Should we feel ashamed about it?

        Thanks for your time and thanks for this thread. I commend you.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I hope I have made it abundantly clear here and in other places that I do not think stupidity, violence, manipulation or any other kind of bad behaviour is more a problem for men as opposed for women. These poor qualities are sex and gender neutral; they are sadly what appears to be part of what makes us human. Equally men, women, transsexuals, asexuals, homosexuals or polymorous people are capable of love, kindness and compassion.

          What aggravates me and exasperates me about the whole debate is that many on both sides seem to wish to attribute one kind of characteristic exclusively the the group that shares or does not share their genitals.

          i think it is abundantly clear that the majority of primary carers of young children are women. There are many reasons for this, notably that it is the woman who gives birth, it is the woman who is likely to earn less than the man who impregnated her.

          But that clearly does not mean that men are incapable of being primary carers. Just to moan about the family courts more often making orders to secure women as primary carers is odd as all the court is doing in the majority of cases is preserving the status quo that existed prior to the end of the relationships.

          So I don’t accept that I am consciously or unconsciously biased. I am always very clear to check my views – what is the factual basis for my view? How do others challenge it?

          I am ALWAYS ready to listen to and engage with challenge that is politely expressed. There is a very interesting correlation between how right I think I am on a ‘controversial’ topic and the degree of really abusive, rude and illogical challenge those views get. Both men and women have been foul, rude and abusive in their replies to me on this topic and I thus am contemptuous of them all.

          Thanks therefore for engaging politely and I am glad you have found the thread interesting. I do indeed agree that there is a lot of hypocrisy in the debate, from many sides. I agree it is hard for men when their qualities of strength are simultaneously praised and feared. I don’t think ‘masculinity’ is or should be a dirty word but I think elements of ‘masculinity’ which are now praised run a risk of being seriously harmful for the individual men and for society at large. I think in particular this idea that ‘real men’ don’t cry or talk about their feelings.

          Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I don’t deny gender bias is real. What I do deny is that it operates to any systemic or fundamental respect in the family court system – my evidence for this is that men AND women complain equally bitterly about their treatment in the family courts, so the seem to be letting everyone down.

      I don’t need to take a ‘couple of minutes’ to see – i have spent the last 20 years looking.

      Reply
  34. Angelo Granda

    To me , you are both right. None of us deny , however, that at least an element of bias must exist in the Family Court especially against the male gender when most of the professionals involved including the Judge perhaps are female.
    In my view , this element should be eradicated in serious Public Law cases and I would welcome any suggestions. Standards of Justice at Family Courts have to be raised. I know Sarah has suggested in the past a two-tier system where serious cases are dealt with in a quasi-criminal court and , to get rid of the possibility of bias, surely their should be juries. Reid Rochford, do you have any ideas?

    Reply
  35. Angelo Granda

    Do you agree it is a general complaint that there is bias shown towards professionals in that their evidence (even when flawed) is preferred to that of parents ?
    Do you agree that in a family court that on the b of p it is more likely the professionals are right?

    Reply
  36. Angelo Granda

    Do you agree it is a general complaint that there is bias shown towards professionals in that their evidence (even when flawed) is preferred to that of parents ?
    Do you agree that in a family court that on the b of p it is more likely the professionals are right?

    Reply
  37. Derek

    I am not a professional, I am someone who has been interested in the views and comments on this original article and have taken a while to actually post.

    I have made this gender neutral so This does not sway anyone’s thought process in any responses that may follow:

    This is an actual case:

    A and B have been in a relationship for one year and the relationship breaks down. There are no children.

    (A has called police several times in the last 12 months alleging DV and assault. No arrests or charges.)

    (It must be noted that A has had three previous relationships that have broken down acrimoniously)

    B seeks help as being the subject of sustained DV , B Is referred through the proper channels to the Police. THE Police ‘listen’ and take a statement from B and state to B that they will people have a ‘word or two’ with A.

    A moves out of the jointly owned home. B then moves out of the home as A wants to be back. B also wants to return home. B advises A by letter that B will be moving back in.
    A was hardly at the home, popped in now and again. B didn’t know where A was living.
    A then decides that B should buy A’s share of the property
    B agrees to this

    Roll forward two weeks……..

    All correspondence is requested from B to A to go to B’s solicitor –
    Relationship has broken down because A is sending threatening messages and making calls to B’s workplace. A decides no legal advice is needed on A’s part.
    A demands outrageous financial settlement., 20% in excess of the market valuation plus other monetary demands. B declines the offer but offers fair and generous settlement.

    A reports DV from B to police. Police arrest B.
    B again is released without charge after 12 hours.
    B returns home to discover Personal belongings have disappeared. B asks A, A denies knowing anything,
    B reports to police as theft. GIven a crime number.
    24 hours later B removes remaining possessions from property. A arrives at the property and calls the police.
    B is arrested again, and released after two hours no charges.
    Two days later – a Friday afternoon, late on, B receives an ex parte Non Molestation order and an Application for occupation order in favour of A together with a statement of lies and untruths, deceit and outrageous claims of DV by B on A. (no evidence to support)
    “FUll” Hearing scheduled for the Monday morning.
    B arrives at hearing with solicitor, and does not recognise A who was in the courtroom with a DV Counsellor. A was in fact, the ex partner.
    B and solicitor are expecting an adjournment to be able to refute the allegations within fourteen days.
    B given no opportunity to speak or present any evidence to the District judge
    Hearing lasts thirteen minutes.
    NMO and occupation Order are granted immediately to A with powers of arrest attached to B If there is any allegation of a breach.
    B is barred and excluded from the home for a six month period because itmis deemed that the need of A’s of immediate housing is greater than his.
    B is made homeless!

    How is this not biased, in favour of A, both police and Family Court?
    How is it just and fair that B is not afforded the right of reply or defend?
    How is it that the family court has not conducted a fact finding exercise?
    Why has a District Judge made such an order on a one sided ‘story’?
    Have the prescribed ‘balance of probabilities’ been clearly demonstrated?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Nothing I say in reply is meant to diminish the seriousness of your points or to disagree with what you say about the often unsatisfactory response from State Agencies when violence is alleged in intimate relationships.

      BUT

      This sentence jumped out at me “It must be noted that A has had three previous relationships that have broken down acrimoniously)”

      WHEN did B know this? WHY did B think it a good idea to embark upon a relationship with A given such a red flag in previous relationship history?

      As you know, my point is that these are never legal problems and the police and criminal sanctions are often of limited help. This is about people acting as rational agents in their own lives and taking responsibility for their own choices. B needed to have some long frank conversations with A and ask A if he/she had sought therapy/counselling and if not – why not?

      Reply
  38. Derek

    Hello, yes I did wonder myself ., however, it was stated by A to B whilst already in a relationship. Wether this is truthful or not, we do not know,due to the history of lies.
    I am sure the alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clearly, however, in this instance they weren’t listened to!

    B sought help for A on many occasions, but A refused to acknowledge any issues.

    B had apparently had more fair share of abuse and decided to walk away seemingly acknowledged as the best thing for both parties.

    My main point is that revenge is being used here as a stick to beat someone with, and seemingly the authorities, powers that be etc., are only prepared to listen to one side of an issue.

    The key point seems to be that as soon as a person states, quotes, uses DV , (statistics do state that since the change of law regarding legal Aid, there has been an unprecedented spike in applications. ). It could be argued that more people feel they have the support nowadays to do this,but when it is used in family cases as a stick to beat someone with for furtherance of their objective, then the respondent doesn’t stand a chance in any defence, or rebuttal to allegations made against them.

    So yes, I do believe there is a bias, maybe I would go so far as to say that there maybe a point for gender bias in the family court system, however, that is purely based on my own experiences thus far.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      All I can offer is that in my own experiences I have seen people make bogus claims of violence and they were found out. However, it is very difficult to know what went on in a relationship when there may be no evidence other than the assertions of the two people in it and the courts often have to err on the side of caution, particularly when children are involved.

      as I keep repeating – I hear men often saying that the courts are biased against men and hate them. I hear exactly the same from women. You both can’t be right

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Each case is different ,so I suppose in a family court where cases can be decided at the discretion of one judge,they can both be right.Bias can be in either direction.
        I am an ordinary parent not a lawyer but I would say to fathers don’t waste your time and money taking any disputes to the Family Court.Even the president admits it is unable to unravel the web of lies,truths,half truths allegations and falsehoods ( B.S.).
        I suggest you seek and accept the decision of a court which makes judgments on facts alone,e.g.the divorce court.
        If you aren’t married to Mum,for heavens sake,leave children with her and trust her until they themselves seek you out.
        If you fear for their safety with Mum,concentrate on obtaining factual evidence of harm (maybe spending your money on a private eye) .If you get any,take it to the Police.Leave Social Services and the allegedly biased and toothless Family Courts out of it! Use your heads.

        Reply
  39. Rhubarb Review

    Hi
    I think a big problem is that there is infact an instatutionalised discrimination within the system that breaches the Equality Act 2010.
    This I think is shown in a review of the publicly available resources the courts and Cafcass themselves put online
    I have done such a review and posted all the links and copies of supporting documents here.

    https://youtu.be/BVX-k8ydQuU

    You are right in that the polar views (extremes) of many are not helping and this is PUTTING THE CHILDREN at risk.

    I hope this is helpful to why their might be this “mindest” as the President of the Family Courts put it in a judgement.

    Reply
  40. leigh bell

    No wonder there are so many Father suicides, authorities, systems and politics are all biased towards women. Nothing worse than a pure evil and vengeful mother getting all control on a plate through false allegations. Evil mothers are rewarded for purgery.

    Reply
  41. Sky Leach

    Honestly, this was a waste of our time Sarah. I think you are meaning well, but it’s all useless personal opinion.

    If you use linked-in to scrape the family court justices (you will need a paid account to get the data) and then use the Twitter, Facebook and other (reddit, offtopic, etc…) social media to cross-link the justices against their social opinions, judicial ruling (state-by-state public rulings are available from each state’s public information sources) the bias trends are overwhelmingly against your personal opinion. (86% of justices are biased against men).

    Speculatively this is caused by them seeing some of the worst examples of neglect and violence (they are hearing cases after all) which tends to make them ‘naturalistic social sexists’. Unfortunately I just do data science, I’m not a psychologist, so I have to call my views on the *why* part speculation.

    Please, more science and less personal feelings next time.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      20 years experience of many hundreds of cases cannot be dismissed so simply I am afraid as my ‘personal feelings’.
      Nor I am able to understand why you appear to advocate using people’s posts on social media as ‘data’ to inform anything much other than their perceptions. Which may have no or little factual foundation. Surely that is simply elevating their ‘personal feelings’ above mine?

      If its all a waste of time, please feel free to spend your time more productively elsewhere.

      Reply
  42. Obviously

    Hello Sarah,
    The issue of parental access for fathers is just one example of bias.
    You also need to remember the generous divorce settlement packages that women almost always seem to get. A lot of women who were stay at home moms refuse to seek employment all the while expecting the ex husband to fund her ‘accustomed lifestyle’. The double standard comes if a stay at home dad tried to pull the same nonsense he would rightly be lambasted and rebuked. My friend lives in his car, she lives in the house he paid for (which one can argue makes sense because she has sole custody). He can not see his children and at the same time he is expected to pay generous sums of child support. So generous in fact that I believe 2 children do not require that much money to comfortably bring up. He claims she is misappropriating the money but has no way of proving it. He lost his job and was threatened with jail time for being in contempt of a court order by not paying child support. Shortly after he was able to sort out his employment situation and even got promoted. His ex wife got wind of this and the court ordered an audit the result of which was his child support payments got increased. Did the children’s up keep cost all of a sudden see a 20% increase? Because of this, he had to move out of a studio apartment he just got back to his car. I have seen a lot of similar situations, all that differs among them is the details. Empathy for such men is lacking in society in general. A lot of men are indifferent because they don’t see themselves ever being in this situation until they are. Women don’t care because such things are never done to them. After all why would anyone care about a problem that doens’t affect them. All I can hope is that anyone reading this acknowledges that this is unjust and that based on this case and many similar ones (though its all anecdotal) the family courts are biased at best and have a nefarious agenda at worst.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am very sorry to hear about your friend. That is a sad situation. However, it is clear that the trend in recent cases is very much away from the ‘meal ticket’ for life situation after divorce for wives.
      I can also tell you of many women left in poverty after men impregnated them and then disappeared.
      Men and women can behave with staggering cruelty and indifference towards one another and the lives they are both responsible for creating. The family court sees them all and deals with them all.
      If it were truly biased against one sex as opposed to the other, then I would not expect to hear both men and women complain with equal bitterness about just how unfair the whole system is.
      The problem is – as I keep saying – is that these are not legal problems but problems of the pain and suffering caused by the breakdown of intimate relationships which so often plunge both or one half of that relationship into financial hardship.

      Reply
  43. David Broadley

    After a 4.5 year legal case with no contact with my (now) 10 year old daughter for nearly 18 months towards the end of the case, the judge at the final hearing last march transferred my daughters residence so she now lives with me.
    She sees her mum every other weekend, extended periods over holidays and occasionally during the week.
    My daughter is happy and cheerful ( her teachers comments) and loves both parents.

    An unusual judgement – so unusual its used as a case reference and has been cited by many legal websites, lawyers and advocates since.

    Even after this result which has seen my daughters long term psychological health and happiness put ahead of her mothers claims, I genuinely believe the family courts are biased against men. I had to prove I was a good father, capable of meeting her needs whereas my allegations of parental alienation and psychosocial abuse of a child were ignored by the lay magistrates and the first judge ( who luckily was too busy to hear the case and without even reading the bundle looked as us gathered in court and said contact once a month at the most) Cafcass were useless – I had to do a freedom of information request (SAR) in order to get the information I needed to present to the Judge. The judge was quite scathing of cafcass during the case. ( really unusual) Cafcass ( who appointed themselves as guardian) ignored the psychologist they employed and also ignored the reports from the contact centre which expressed concern about things my daughter said.

    Cafcass are biased – but I think this is down to a lack of training ( they dont know what parental alienation is) , over excessive case load and a severe gender imbalance. That and many of them are approaching retirement ( or in my case, brought back from retirement) so their “mother knows best” approach is probably from 1975.

    Oh yes – corrupt family lawyers. Encouraging women ( can’t find many examples of men being told to do this) to claim violence or abuse so they can milk the legal aid and prolong cases for months or years. Dont get me wrong – there are many cases of abuse against women and children and the perpetrators of this needs to be punished but false claims cause misery for children and the absent parent.

    I gave up on family lawyers for my case ( they all knew each other and seemed to be running some sort of cartel ) and employed a lay advocate for a while ( he was very good) but towards to the end of the case I employed a solicitor advocate who usually specialises in industrial whistleblowing and human rights cases. He didn’t mess about and helped change the course of my daughters life.

    Deadbeat dads – evil layabouts ! Giving the rest of us a bad name.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Yes, an unusual outcome – but becoming less so.
      False claims are abhorrent and should be criminal – but when I represent men I recognise them and fight them and I certainly have never encouraged a client to make up or exaggerate claims. I have experience of cases where this has happened but I have not seen a lawyer facilitating this; however they have to take their client’s instructions and do the best job they can for them.
      I am surprised that Cafcass ignored the comments from contact centre and psychologist – they should certainly defer to the expertise of the latter.
      So I suppose what I am saying is that you and I have had very different experiences. This doesn’t mean that your experience is invalid or that the system is perfect. Neither is true. But it does suggest to me that ‘corruption’ is not widespread or I also would have seen it over 20 years. I think the real issue is – as you recognise – not malicious bias but a system set up to fail by overloading practitioners so they have no time or space to think about and identify the real issues in a case.

      Reply
      1. David Broadley

        My wife used to be the legal secretary for the legal executive who represented her in court. They used to work in the family department of a large regional law firm so they knew which tricks to play in order to get legal aid. ( my bill – just under £30K)
        As I said, ny daughter is lucky as she now sees both parents.
        Thousands of children each year are still being denied time with both parents due to failings in the system
        typo in my original note: psychosocial – should read psychological ( auto correct fail)

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I accept there are failings in the system but ‘the system’ does not cause adult relationships to break down and ‘the system’ cannot be the glue that mends those relationships. The system cannot bear all the weight of this. But I appreciate it doesn’t help them – but it was never designed to do so and it certainly doesn’t have the resources to make a proper impact.

          What would help for e.g. is more access to effective counselling/therapy and contact centres for facilitated/supervised contact or help with handovers.

          Reply
  44. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, I do appreciate your comment, but you cannot really deny the corruption now out in the open as a result of the on going public enquiry nor the corruption widely reported in many parts of the country which has been described as ‘cultural’ within social services departments over at least the last sixty years. You have not seen it mainly because you don’t get to see and hear the poor ,wretched child victims who aren’t called to give evidence and you don’t go to see them yourself. You must accept the facts and realise that the corruption is ‘covered -up’.
    As I have written before, most of the front-line SW’s don’t know what they are doing wrong either. They merely follow orders and succumb to Spanish practices, false ideology and illegitimate aims foisted upon them by their superiors. When inhumanity occurs ,it is due to false ideology, arrogance and dogma on the part of the perpetrators and that includes Guardians.
    Let me explain again; the professionals have different brain-sets than normal people, for example many of them are totally but wrongly convinced it is their duty to remove children from parents if they think there is an element of risk of significant harm in the future. They seem to think it is their duty to ‘protect’ children when, in actual fact ,it is the duty of those with parental responsibility to ‘protect’ them and theirs to provide support to children and families not to destroy them. Read the Children Act. It is impossible to keep anyone 100% safe and there will always be risk involved. Try telling them that and they just ignore one., show them advocacy from the FRG to the same effect and they will get really angry and forbid one to go on the internet; they hate it when parents ( rich or poor) know their rights and pull them up on it. In real life, they target the poor and vulnerable because the rich and educated not only know their rights but have the wherewithal financially to defend themselves. To us, the targeting of poor families ( predicating and using computer data ) and averting their eyes from problems with the wealthy who can afford to pay for a defence is indicative of corruption in itself.
    Regarding bias in family courts ,probably the bias is not malicious ,I hope not, but it matters not one iota to the poor children whether it is or not. The bias exists within the system and it means inevitably that many hearings are not fair ones. I agree with you the system is set up to fail and for political reasons.

    I understand the lack of transparency etc. When matters are of political significance ,it is very awkward for professionals to be upfront and they are often scared to say anything which may be considered not to be p.c. Yet the cycle must be broken sometime by someone. The parents who write posts or comment on this resource and others don’t have to be afraid and can speak out. They don’t have to make up pleasing stories but the authorities do have to.
    I think the system is deadbeat not fathers or mothers. They are just human beings. It is sad that men ( particularly the working-class) seem to have lost the basic training to act as ‘gentlemen’ which used to be passed down from father to son. Morals have lapsed both with men and women which is ,of course, the reason for a lot of problems which lead to break-up and divorce. I seem to remember most couples would have quite a long engagement and not jump into having children before they were even married and knew more about each other’s faults and weaknesses. They would bide their time also until they could afford children and the husband went on full adult pay at twenty-one. They would then save for a mortgage etc. Now they often have children before they are even married. Surely, many children are born out of lust rather than love, which may be politically incorrect for me to say but I can say what I want. Girls should be much more careful about going out with men alone and men should be taught moral, gentlemanly values including not to sow their wild oats with abandon as currently seems to be encouraged .Wait until the wedding before having children.
    Sarah, for at least four years now you have been writing that couples should be more careful when choosing partners but I think I am the first one to continue the discussion. The conventions and moral imperatives which folk used to follow have gone by the board due to the lack of morals and respect for others taught in school, in my opinion. Nothing to do with cycles of deprivation or anything else.

    Reply
  45. Angelo Granda

    David, Thank you for your comment which will ring bells for other parents
    Regarding the lawyers; as Sarah says they have to carry out the instructions of their clients.Of course,in practice the instructions arrive to them from the LA legal team ,solicitors themselves who are led by a borough or city solicitor that signs under oath all applications etc. Those documents and others are naturally granted respect and credit by the court,guardian and all the children’s legal panel.Certainly,should the response argue as to their truth,he or she will be denigrated and discriminated against by the court.It will be claimed that removal is the only option for the parent won’t acknowledge concerns and cooperate (even before the judgment as to their truth and validity is taken).
    As regards the Guardian ; from my experience it is by no means unusual for guardians and LA’s to take their own slant on all expert reports including psychological ones.Unfortunately, I have discovered from discussions on this resource that the judges and lawyers, being non- medics, will usually rely entirely on the guardian’s assessment to the extent that they don’t even read medical information themselves.
    In practice those other professionals usually ignore all opinion , medical or educational,which is hostile to the LA litigation aims REGARDLESS of children’s interests.

    Reply
  46. Angelo Granda

    David, I understand your case was a private law one and my observations may seem irrelevant ; apart from contact reports the LA probably took no part at all.
    However, the court protocol, legal panel and guardians are the same.I am just giving you my experiences and I agree with you.

    Reply
  47. John

    The answer is undoubtedly yes the system is biased against men, especially when it comes to finances. My ex abandoned our 7 week old in the hall way of my house 6 hours before I was off work. No charges against her because she claimed PPD whoch was a lie. About 8 months down the road I decided to pursue child support and well that was the biggest mistake of my life. I was awarded 300 a month in child support and she was awarded 659 dollars a month in alimony, needless to say I never got a dime of the child support so I decided to withhold it from the allimony and then take her back to court to have the alimony adjusted to reflect the deduction. That ended in ke getting my wages garnished to ensure successful payments of the spousal support. I took her to court 2 additional times just for the female judge to tell her she is required to pay the support, I now get the payment from the state but the state still hasn’t gone after her, she has been engaged to another man that she lives with for 4 years now and yet still lives off of me while I struggle to raise our daughter. My daughter asks me all the time where her mommy went and i tell her that she loves her very much and would do anything for her but she had to leave to do some very important things. It’s all a lie, her mom doesnt even send a birthday card but instantly calls it has her fiance call it the allimony check that is garnished out of my check doesnt arrive on time. The courts are extreme sexist towards men in very damaging and dangerous ways. Men dont win, I wasnt able to get wic because that’s for women only, I dont qualify for foodstamps because the alimony is still counted as part of my income and not my ex’s, the most affordable health care I can find for my daughter and I is just under 500 dollars a month and the state wont adjust my child support payments because my ex still doesnt have a job and again the allimony is counted as my spendavle income and not hers.

    Reply
  48. Pingback: Address by McFarlane LJ to Families Need Fathers | Child Protection Resource

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