Petition Calls On Government To Intervene In Family Courts

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Researching Reform

A petition created by “I Want My Mummy” (IWMM),  a not for profit organisation providing support for vulnerable people and survivors of abuse is calling on the government to open up the Family Courts. 

Often accused of being shrouded in secrecy, the Family Courts have been heavily criticised over the last decade for its failure to strike the right balance between protecting families’ and children’s rights as they go through these courts, and the appropriate level of accountability for poor practice and wrongdoing inside the system.

IWMM’s Executive Director Zoe Dronfield set up the petition, which has garnered nearly 3,000 signatures. The petition sets out ten recommendations which it invites the government to take up:

Recommendation 1: Open the civil family court to scrutiny and allow an independent third party ombudsman to investigate claims of unjust rulings.

Recommendation 2: Family court to be evidential to include a domestic violence or…

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Letter To Lord Patel: Registration Of Social Workers Must Be A Legal Duty

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Researching Reform

As recently appointed Chair of the new social work regulation body Social Work England (SWE), Lord Patel outlines his vision for social work in England and Wales, Researching Reform invites him to push for mandatory registration of social workers.

Dear Lord Patel,

In the ten years that this project has been assisting families, we have grown increasingly concerned about the number of social workers practicing inside councils and private agencies, who either have no social work qualifications or who are so badly trained and behind in their CPD courses, that the advice they are giving is endangering lives. That advice is also leading to gross miscarriages of justice and the often unnecessary removal of children from their families.

Currently, there is no legal requirement on social workers to register with an independent body like Social Work England. Whilst no figures appear to be available on the number of social workers…

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McFarlane Confirmed As New Family Court President

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He looks an understanding sort??

Researching Reform

Andrew McFarlane has been approved by the Queen to take on the role of President of the Family Division. McFarlane will take up the position on 28th July, after the current President steps down on the 27th, July.

The decision was made with the support of a panel, which included Baroness Hale, Professor Lord Kakkar (Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission), Dame Valarie Strachan and Mr Andrew Kennon.

His appointment will come as no surprise to this site –  we tipped McFarlane for the Presidency in March of last year. McFarlane replaces Sir James Munby as President of the Family Division.

As a judge, McFarlane looks set to take up Munby’s mantle as a vocal figurehead wading into the politics of the family courts. Unlike Munby though, McFarlane appears reluctant to highlight controversies inside the system.

A member of the Norgrove Review, which was perceived by many to be too narrow in…

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False allegations in Family Court: Who is to blame? @MeetThePress

In family court a subset of parents has the reputation for crying wolf, indicating a cry of urgency. In Aesop’s fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” there were severe consequences for crying wolf. In Family Court, that is not the case.

In the fable, a shepherd boy repeatedly tricks the village people into believing a wolf is attacking his flock of sheep. Eventually, when a real wolf comes, the villagers do not believe him and fail to come to his aid. The boy suffers the ramifications of his actions and is eaten by the wolf.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, meme and text

The consequences for parents who ‘cry wolf’ in Family Court is less clear.

Do we blame the judge for believing a parent who misuses the tools of the justice system? Judges possess the power to make the ultimate call. A judge can sign off on a restraining order resulting in the physical dismissal of one parent, overlook signs of abuse or not believe a parent because of previous court interactions. Or the judge may reject information not presented accurately choosing to delay the matter until something else happens.

Rulings may be based on well-meaning intentions leading to responses that are based on a policy of ‘play it safe’ or ‘err on the side of caution’. Judges have the ability to ignore traditional due process all together and make rulings that are for or against a parent’s claim of abuse. Judges are in control of the process.

The reality is that sometimes the case presented to the judge is an untruth. Facts are confabulated for the sole intent of harming the co-parent. In essence, one parent presents a total lie in a court of law under the auspice of ‘a parent protecting their child’.

Often this becomes a ‘he said-she said’ argument and the judge’s ruling leads to the domino effect of utter annihilation for one parent (disproportionately males). With one fraudulent allegation a divorce partner can completely destroy their divorce opponent’s life. With a stroke of the pen, the accuser gains immediate advantages; full custody granted and a ‘no contact’ order to remove one parent from the child’s life.

Adding further to the problem are the ingrained institutional biases that seem to be systemic in family court judges. In a 1994 judicial conference which was published in the New England Journal of Law, a New Jersey municipal court judge; Richard Russell was recorded as actually urging his colleagues to violate basic constitutional protections and due process when he stated:Image may contain: one or more people

“Your job is not to become concerned about the constitutional rights of the man that you’re violating as you grant a restraining order, throw him out on the street, give him the clothes on his back and tell him, see ya around….. we don’t have to worry about the rights.”

As Judge Russell made it plainly clear, the ‘err on the side of caution’ has been replaced with ‘protecting one’s own career’.

Just like that!

Parent/child relationship? Negatively impacted and potentially ruined.

Reputation in the family? Destroyed.

Financial devastation? In process of destruction.

Employment? Possibly, disrupted or at the very least difficult given the legal issues.

Public humiliation? Done.

False allegations of sexual abuse in divorce have become prevalent to the point that a name has been assigned; Sexual Allegations in Divorce, the S.A.I.D. Syndrome.

In fact, with child custody disputes, some research indicates that up to 70% of the domestic violence allegations are considered false. The literature purports that the prevalence of false allegations is up to 84% and approximately 85% of those are issued against men. Even if we go with the lower figure of 70%, this means that over two-thirds of the accusations are fabricated. The travesty in this number is that this represents individual parents. This means that numerous parents are wrongly accused and erroneously experience unadulterated devastation and destruction due to a blatant misrepresentation of the facts by their (soon-to-be) ex .

The misuse of restraining orders is an unfortunate trend. The power of false allegations of abuse in Family Court is undeniable.

In a majority of cases the use of false allegations stems from the high conflict divorces and personality disorders of the accusing parent.

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Sadly, regardless of reconciling with family and re-establishing jobs and friendships, the damage becomes a part of their life. The targeted parent’s life is forever broken down into two time frames; before the wretched event and after the event.

Before answering the ‘blame question’, perhaps, we should ask, “How do court officials extrapolate the ‘true’ allegations of abuse from the numerous cases they see each week?” Every day, Family Court officials wrestle with the daunting task of reckoning with which parent is telling the truth. Efforts are made to ascertain the existence of a valid reason to issue a restraining order to curtail visitation.

The sad fact is that some men and a lot of women do in fact lie in family court, and lie a lot. The family court arena allows for those lies, even when proven false, to go unpunished. In one California case, however, sanctions were imposed in a civil suit for false allegations. Mr. Darryl Ginyard obtained an $852,000 judgment due to his ex-wife’s false allegations of sexual abuse to their daughters. The damage done to him personally, financially and emotionally with his daughters is immeasurable.

Family Court officials need to assess if the child is at risk and gauge the intent of the parent. Appraising accusations as legitimate or determining the request of a restraining order as unfounded can be a laborious process.

In some cases the truth is difficult to establish.

Do we blame the ‘system’ as an abstract construct that does not exist? The ‘system’ is actually a conglomerate of officials that are frequently intertwined in their efforts of professional involvement.

Do we blame a ‘system’ that is inherently predisposed to bias, based on years of misinformation, indoctrination and for lack of a better word, brainwashing?

Do we attempt to blame the individual family court officials? Family Court members that are assumed to be well-intentioned and unbiased in their efforts to wrestle with the daunting, if not impossible task of reckoning which parent is telling the truth and which has a valid reason to curtail visitation?

Are those Family Court members actually well-intentioned and unbiased?

Do we blame the immoral and unethical parent who has presented the co-parent as abusive, incompetent and unqualified to parent? Keep in mind that the accused parent was deemed competent before the filing of divorce. (A baffling concept at best.)

Who is to blame when Family Court is inundated with false allegations?

Parents in Family Court lie. They lie to hurt others. They lie to better their position while hurting the very people they claim to defend.

Perjury in Family Court, regardless of the reason, is dishonest, immoral and shameful. For most people, destroying another person for personal gain is disgusting. Using lies and playing games to complete the process is despicable. These lies are rarely, if ever, punished. Considering that the lies are told against the very person they took vows with and chose to create a child with, is disgraceful.

If the little boy who cried wolf knew of the consequences for his wrongful behavior, he may have focused on tending his sheep rather than playing games for attention. Similarly, ramifications for engaging in the egregious act of telling untruths in Family Court may curtail the behavior.

Undeniably, the Family Court system is flawed and biased. With that being said, unwarranted grievances and a co-parent’s inability to engage in Shared Parenting practices exacerbates the problem participating in the abominable and horrific acts that occur in Family Court.

Most likely, the villagers would not mind running to the aid of the boy for legitimate wolf attacks. Likewise, truthful testimony in Family Court is the issue. For the court’s credibility, any testimony or evidence must come with an air of validity, and realistic efforts.

Herein lies the dilemma.

Who is to blame?

The boy who cried wolf or the villagers who refused to come to his aid?

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References

No Restraint on Restraining Orders by Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D. http://www.ejfi.org/DV/dv-23.htm

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, False Accusations of Domestic Violence, by the Numbers

Men’s Rights: Are There Laws to Protect A Man From An Ex-Wife’s False Report?

What Should British Dads Do To Keep Contact With Their Kids? President Of Family Division Has No Answer

NPO

 

our-blog-icon-topApril 23, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Apparently uncomfortable with his absurd take on the case of C vs. P & Others in the previous week’s blog, John Bolch revisits the matter here (Marilyn Stowe Blog, 4/19/18). As I said yesterday, Bolch managed to find that a family court judge was acting in the best interests of two children when she left them in the care of their mother who had denied all contact with the father and behaved abusively toward them. He did so because, in the nine Image may contain: outdoormonths following those findings, Mom had improved her behavior. What didn’t occur to either the judge or Bolch was that the judge had no reason to believe the mother would change her ways, so, at the time, the judge was leaving the kids in the care of an abuser. That’s hardly acting in their best interests.

Now Bolch has been moved to address the comment to his previous post by Paul Apreda who’s a trustee of the organization Families Need Fathers (FNF). Much as I did, Apreda pointed out that Justice Russell not only allowed parental alienation to begin, she allowed it to continue.

An all too familiar story of the failure of the Family Justice system to act swiftly enough or with sufficient determination to resolve intractable contact disputes.

He went on to reveal a question by a father who’d just entered the family court fray in a child custody case and had sought the advice of FNF.

This man was in the process of splitting up from the mother of his children and had come along at the earliest stage to learn more about what might happen and how best to manage the process. He listened to the others at the meeting recount their experiences and progress of their disputes over child contact. When it came time for him to speak he said ‘So from what I’ve heard the only way for me to ensure that I remain in the lives of my children is to grab the kids, make allegations against my ex and refuse to negotiate.

Image result for Family Division, Sir James Munby.Apreda later related that event to the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby.

I shared with Sir James that I had struggled to come up with a convincing argument against that approach as we all knew how effective it was. I asked the President what advice he would give me so that I could use that on the next occassion. Sir James said that he hoped that I would NOT encourage that sort of behaviour. Naturally I gave him that assurance BUT I couldnt help feeling that we all knew that such behaviour was the most effective for men to ensure they are not excluded from the lives of their children. It seems this case may re-inforce that view.

No automatic alt text available.Apreda and several other commenters noted that mothers often use that tactic in custody disputes without undue pushback from judges or anyone else. They’re not supposed to, but they do. They do because there are seldom any adverse consequences for taking that tack.

So how should a father act? That’s what Apreda asked Munby, but interestingly received no answer. Munby told him what the father in question shouldn’t do, but not what he should do to avoid losing contact with his children. Apreda was asking for advice from the most important jurist in Great Britain’s family law system and got nothing. That invites the conclusion that there is in fact nothing fathers can do to achieve that humblest of goals.

Bolch? He’s hand-in-hand with Sir James.

Well, I can understand why some fathers feel that such behaviour may be their best approach, but I am fully with Sir James on this one, as I’m sure are all family lawyers, and indeed every professional involved in the family justice system.

There are many reasons why such an approach is wrong, not least because it is likely to backfire, as the court is likely to see through it and then take an extremely dim view of the father’s actions.

Nowhere does either Munby or Bolch respond to the question. Neither says some version of “As long as you’re a good, loving father who’s not a drunk or a drug addict, who doesn’t abuse the children or your wife, you’ll be OK if you do such-and-such in court.” You’d think it would be simple, but of course it’s not. The silence of the two is deafening. It fairly shouts “Dads, there is nothing you can do to ensure continuing contact with your children. Nothing!”

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Having nothing to say on the topic raised by the father Apreda quoted, Bolch of course falls back on his usual boilerplate.

It is absolutely fundamental, and there is no excuse for not knowing it: in a dispute about children, the single most important issue is their welfare. Everything revolves around what is best for the child’s welfare.

That is arrant nonsense as countless cases demonstrate. It is not “best for the child’s Image may contain: sky and outdoorwelfare” to lose its relationship with one of its parents, absent unfitness or abuse. And yet British courts march resolutely forward tossing fathers aside like yesterday’s trash while crowing to the heavens that it’s all for the good of the kids.

As a growing mountain of science demonstrates, that is simply false. Children need both parents and it’s long past time that family courts got the message and acted on it. There is no excuse for not doing so.

Bolch of course is another matter. The man hasn’t a clue and I see no prospect of his finding one.

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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