In the best interests of children: how Gingerbread get the rights argument wrong

These are exciting times for those of us working in the field of family separation. In two short weeks the government has announced initiatives which are designed to improve the relationship between children and both of their parents after separation. The first announcement, from the Minister in charge of Child Maintenance Reform is that investment is to be made in joining up services for separated and separating parents, the second, earlier this week, was the response to the Norgorve Review and the news that a Ministerial Group is to review the Children Act 1989. The Review will examine the arguments for the inclusion of a statement about the importance of mothers AND fathers in their children’s lives. This is welcome news indeed and for those of us seeking to unpick the legislation that has pushed fathers out of children’s lives for too long, this week brings hope that the intergenerational problem of family separation might finally be addressed in this country.

However, whilst the government has signalled a clear intention to begin the process of change, those concerned with parental rights are readying for battle. The past few days have seen Guardian commentator Julie Bindel in a debate with Matt O Connor from F4J on Sky news and Liz Trinder, one of the Matriarchs of Academia, writing for the Guardian’s Comment is Free column, argued (yet again) that the Children Act should not be changed. Elsewhere, Gingerbread, the single parent campaign group, went head to head with F4J on the radio, arguing passionately that the Family Courts serve the best interests of children. The CEO of Gingerbread, who recently asserted to me that Gingerbread is not a ‘parental rights’ organisation but one that promotes collaboration between parents, affirmed the argument that those cases in the Family Courts are only those most conflicted. Listening to this repetition of what sounds to me suspiciously like the line taken by the womens rights groups, left me wondering just what kind of collaboration Gingerbread actually do promote. In another interview, another of their spokeswomen stated fervently that Gingerbread is ‘pro contact’. Given that ‘contact’ is a label devised by the likes of Gingerbread to describe a relationship between dad and his kids after separation, it made me realise that the world in which these people inhabit is, for them, very real. In Gingerbread land, at the point of separation, mum turns into a single parent and dad becomes the non resident parent. Almost like magic, these labels appear and in Gingerbread land labels matter a great deal. Whilst the rest of us are getting on with working with mum and dad and how to support their relationships with their children, Gingerbread are busying themselves with concepts of ‘contact’ and how good or bad it is for children. For an organisation with a high profile campaign entitled ‘let’s lose the labels’, it seems to me that Gingerbread are overly concerned with making sure that post separation we all know which labels to stick on.

The recent encounter between the caped crusaders and Gingerbread has prompted Matt O Conner, to write to Gingerbread to demand the evidence that the Family Courts serve the best interests of children. Prompted by Gingerbread’s assertions that evidence exists to show this, F4J have homed in and are demanding that the evidence is produced. Love them or loathe them, F4J have a point here and Gingerbread spokeswomen should beware of the mistake that Julie Bindel made on Sky news when confronted by the same question. When asked for the evidence that the Family Courts serve the best interests of children Bindel clearly had no idea whether such evidence existed, (it doesn’t). Put on the spot, she hunted around desperately for a reply and having nothing concrete to say she fell back on that old tactic so beloved of passive aggressive people, she accused Matt O Connor of being aggressive towards her. This pointless posturing, seeking to assert something without evidence, serves absolutely no purpose at all. F4J might get up the noses of many, but on this subject at least, they are right. Gingerbread beware, you are entering territory about which you know little, before you even begin to respond, best get your facts right fast.

The fact is that we don’t know whether the Children Act or the Family Courts are acting in the child’s best interests because at present no statistical records are kept of the decisions that are made and the outcomes that they produce for children. CAFCASS, the people who interact daily with families in the Court process do not produce records and there are no studies to offer evidence that the decisions that are being made actually deliver in the best interests of the child. We may think we are making decisions about the best interests of the child in the family courts, but whether these decisions bring about positive outcomes for children is completely unknown.

Liz Trinder and Gingerbread have this week sought to persuade us that the Children Act is fit for purpose because ‘each case is different’ and anyway, ‘only the most conflicted cases end up in the family courts’ (Trinder also intimated that those that do are those in which domestic violence is rife or children are in danger). I work in the Family Courts as a Parenting Co-ordinator and a Therapist, if my experience is anything to go by, those cases that end up in Court are not just those that at the sharp end, the problematic ones, the ones where dad is dangerous. Too many families end up in the families courts simply because of the discrimination, stereotyping and adversarial attitudes of parental rights organisations such as Gingerbread. When Gingerbread puts a warning on its advice sheets that reads, ‘Sharing the care of your child may affect your benefits and tax credits. It may also reduce the level of child support the non-resident parent is required to pay you.’ it is hard to see how this can be construed as promoting collaboration and easy to see why so many parents get into conflict.

In reviewing the Children Act 1989 it is essential that we look at the evidence of what works for children both in this country and others. The Norgrove Review of the Family Justice System identified that the changes to Family Law in Australia had lead to some problems and the report by Helen Rhoades was cited as the reason why the phrase ‘children should have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents’ was dropped. I wrote recently of this and my concern that the pressure to drop the phrase ‘meangingful relationship with both parents’ referred to this report as evidence.

On reading the full review of the reforms of the Family Justice System in Australia, it becomes very clear that the evidence that comes out of it is open to interpretation. Self reporting by parents on the changes gives two very different views, whilst reporting by agencies gives other views entirely. Agencies concerned with early years work, were more likely to report that the inclusion of shared parenting in law brought positive outcomes in the ways that children related to both of their parents. Agencies supporting mothers however and mothers themselves were more likely to report that shared parenting legislation created difficulties, whilst fathers reported greater confidence in their ability to remain connected to their children over time. The reforms in Australia it would seem, meant different things to different people and just like standpoint politics, one can use the same report to evidence claims from both sides of the argument.

In seeking to reform the Children Act therefore, Ministers will need to keep a clear head and be able to see and hear beyond the rhetoric and the campaign and lobbying. Doing so will enable decisions to be made that really are in the best interests of children. In gathering evidence, we do not need to look outside of the UK. Professor Judy Dunn’s study, Children of the Nineties, demonstrated in her words, ‘unequivocally’ that those children who did best across all of the performance indicators, were those with high quality relationships with their non resident (sic) parent. Whilst Gingerbread will try to challenge that with their own study into contact relationships (‘I am not saying it was easy’ by Joan Hunt from Oxford University,) we should be mindful that Hunt is, herself, a standpoint academic, with views about family separation that she upholds through her studies. As I have said elsewhere, Gingerbread have, for many years, perpetuated the myth that family separation only looks like one thing, a mother being abandoned by a father and left to care for children alone. In Gingerbread land, where their only contact is with those parents who have been left holding the baby, it is easy for researchers to perpetuate the stereotype that upholds their own belief.

The reality of family separation is that mothers and fathers leave relationships but is more likely that mothers will take up the label parent with care or single parent. This is because motherhood in the UK is synonymous with caring and to choose not to be the main carer as a woman is an incredibly difficult thing to do. It is also the result of the the use of Child Benefit to denote the status parent ‘with care’. This one parent carer, the other parent provider model, is divisive and pushes fathers out of children’s lives and ultimately, we may need to examine this if we are truly going to liberate children to have good quality relationships with both parents. Australia did just that, bringing in a model of support where both parents are supported to care for children and both parents are assessed for their ability to make child maintenance contributions…but I am getting ahead of myself in the excitment of the possibilities, for now, let’s stick to the Children Act and the task ahead.

The reality is that if children are to be helped to maintain their relationships with both of their parents after separation, we are all going to have to accept that a) fathers make a difference in children’s lives and b) what we have been doing for the past forty years has failed our children miserably. From there, the changes that we make are relatively easy, because we will have defined what is actually ‘in the child’s best interests’ instead of leaving it to other people to interpret. In doing so, it then becomes a matter of setting out guidance and developing the kinds of services that help parents to sort it out for themselves. Parenting Co-ordination for example, Family Therapy and support to understand children’s adjustments and reactions to change. Our work at the Centre for Separated Families has taken us into this territory, a landscape that Gingerbread have thus far refused to countenance. In this territory, under current conditions, it becomes very clear, very quickly, that our family justice system is not balanced in the favour of children and their relationships with both parents, but is balanced in favour of mothers first and their children as an adjunct. Whilst the Children Act 1989 may have been designed to support the best interests of children, sadly, the way that it has been enacted has often fallen far short of that.

At the Centre for Separated Families we have been arguing for the past decade or more that family separation should be analysed through a gender lens. It sounds grand but it simply means that we should understand how legislation impacts upon men and women differently and how it affects their choices. In the field of family separation, a gender analysis would require us to keep records of the decisions made in the Family Courts about children’s relationships with their parents and how those decisions impact upon children’s lives. In short, a gender analysis (which would actually ensure that we conform to the Gender Equality duty 2007) would provide for us the missing evidence that F4J are asking Gingerbread to supply. And it would help Gingerbread to come into the real world instead of relying only upon one side of the story of separation in their campaign and lobby work. A gender analysis would have prevented the kind of stereotyping that GIngerbread swamped the House of Lords with during the debate on the Child Maintenance Reform and a gender analysis would ensure that new legislation impacts upon men and women in ways that require them to do the best by their children. Gender analysis is not a magic wand, but it can help us to get closer to the real lives of family separation instead of arguing disengenuously that myths and stereotypes are the whole story.

The days ahead are likely to see more of the battle between F4J and Gingerbread and the arguments will become more and more polarised. In the midst of this it is important to ensure that the core issues of this debate are not lost. This may be portrayed by the media as a fight between men and women and, in the case of Gingerbread at least, it may well be underpinned by a struggle to maintain control over a sector that they have dominated for four decades. But it is not a gender war and it is not about who is right and who is wrong. Separated mothers and separated fathers are not inherently good and bad respectively, they do not wake up on the morning of their separation wearing a t shirt saying ‘parent with care’ and ‘non resident’ parent. Separated mothers and fathers are each capable of working together in the best interests of their children and they are each capable of leaving, of wreaking havoc on each other and ruining their children’s lives. Family separation is an event that causes pain and suffering and lastly but definitely not least, family separation has a lasting impact on children and the Children Act does not make that go away. Only by putting in place the kind of legislation that gives clear messages about the importance of relationships with mothers and fathers and supporting that with services that parents need whilst delivering these in ways that are accessible to each, empowering and above all respectful, will we help mothers and fathers to make a difference for the next generation of children.

The government has signalled that a new way forward is here. Whilst Gingerbread battle to hang on to the old, the rest of us need to get on with making that new future happen, right here and now.

33 comments

  1. Chambers · February 8, 2012
  2. Peter Morris · February 8, 2012

    Good to see an organisation being put on the spot and asked to back up their assesrtions with the evidence. The Family Courts dont just deal with conflict cases, well, maybe they do. When we look at conflict being ” the mother using the chidren as a weapon and leaving the father with no other option other than go to court to gain 1) human right to family life article 8, and 2) article 7 of the UN convention of the rights of children in where a child should have the right to know and where possible have the care of both its parents.

    Maybe Gingerbread should open their eyes to what is actually going on and maybe then they will realise that the current system is “not in the best interests of the child”.

    Like

    • Bartholomew · February 9, 2012

      Their eyes are wide open Peter. This is a case of malice and knowing distortion of the truth. A political game is being played, and as usual such groups are showing that they care nothing about the best interests of the child.

      Like

    • karenwoodall · February 18, 2012
  3. Louis · February 8, 2012

    I think one day we will get a chance to look at all the records in court and uncover what is sytematically happening in courts everyday all over the country and the total violation of what is best for children and how the system is proactively distroying families.
    I have a separated dads group and actively involved with fnf and only dads every day I am shocked by the stories.
    The papers reported the other day;
    Fathers win legal right to have relationship with thier children after divorce.
    how absurd why does this need to be won made legal it is a travisty and still is no where near how it should be, we are all suffering because of this if only people realised how many people and how it is affecting everyone.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 9, 2012

      louis, it sounds like you are only too aware of the reality, I too am shocked again and again by it, we must keep on working with parents directly though, there are too few people who really ‘get’ what is going on. best wishes K

      Like

  4. Alan · February 8, 2012

    This surely has to be the best article i have ever read. God how i wish you (Karen) had dealt with my case 4 years ago …. perhaps then, my 3 dear little children would have seen me (their father) for a little more than 24 days during all that time ! Shame on the Judges, Cafcass and all related (sic) family court professionals for getting it so wrong and harming so many children !

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 9, 2012

      Alan, if I have to work until I am 90, I will do so in order to prevent other dads and their kids going through such sadness. what has been done to you is wrong. I am deeply sorry for the loss you have suffered of your children’s childhood and their loss of your obvious love for them. it is the shame of my generation that such misery has been inflicted. Sending my support and understanding. K

      Like

  5. Bartholomew · February 9, 2012

    After my separation, someone recommended I call Gingerbread for support. The response I got was “we don’t help men,” and then click, the sound of the telephone being hung up.

    Not sure how they justify taking public money.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 9, 2012

      If I may, I will show this to the CEO of Gingerbread? I tackled her on just such an allegation recently and she denied that it could happen. K

      Like

  6. Rainbow Six · February 9, 2012

    Excellent article. A month after my enforced separation my ex’s barrister agreed, in a post hearing toing and froing in court, that I could see my daughter without court involvement. However the legal aid solicitors had other ideas and 6 months later forced me to apply for contact as they deliberately delayed in replying to and then completely ignored my letters. All of a sudden my daughter is afraid of me. Of course It had nothing to do with the £1,100 a month that “mom” gets in govt. handouts, which doubles her income, being in jeopardy. Cafcass get involved and 22 months later I’ve seen my daughter twice for less than 2 hours. Cafcass & the court’s default mode is that mother is always right.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 9, 2012

      your story is one I have heard too many times Rainbow Six and it troubles me greatly to hear that your precious relationship with your daughter has been so badly damaged. only by speaking up at this important time can we make change so that children do not lose out in this way. Sending my support, stay strong, your children need you and whatever blocks and barriers are put in the way they will find you. K

      Like

  7. Nick Langford · February 9, 2012

    Another fascinating and insightful article, Karen (though you always manage to spell Matt’s name wrong).

    I would have to take issue – slightly – on your view that the Children Act is gender neutral, the abolition of guardianship and its replacement by parental responsibility was an aggressively gendered act, and the rules on acquiring PR are different for men and women.

    The implication of your article – correct me if I’m wrong – is that where the impact of superficially gender neutral legislation is unequal it is right to replace it with carefully gendered legislation which restores the balance.

    This would be hugely controversial, so you can see why F4J have largely avoided the issue. Even suggesting equality provokes a violent response from the likes of Blindel and Trinder – to go further would risk losing our credibility.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 9, 2012

      Nick, the Children Act is written in such a way that it is supposed to be gender neutral but like all legislation that has not been analysed for its impact on gender, it ended up delivering gender biased outcomes in that it replicates the status quo. I agree however that the change to PR and e way in which that is conferred on mothers atutomatically but not fathers, is gendered and in my view it was clearly designed to deliver particular outcomes. Use of a gender nuetral piece of legislation in a deeply gendered society will always deliver gender baised outcomes. our argument at CSF is that all legislation, policy and practice around family separation should be gender analysed for its impact on mothers and fathers and the choices that they make about the relationships that they have with children. we would even argue that a gender impact assessment of legislation, accompanied by gender budgeting, would tell us where we need to invest in support services to enable greater engagement between mothers and fathers after separation ehich would lead to better outcomes for children over time, for example by improving the way in which mothers and fathers work together and share care and provision instead of interacting with the state through the benefits system or the Statutory Maintenance Scheme. The reason why Bindel and Trinder et al do not want this to happen is, I imagine, because it would uncouple the relationship between women and the state and return women to the need to cooperate with men. it is controversial but the government havestarted this process through the reform of the child Mantenance System, promoting and supportjng private agreements rather than the automatic pursuit of maintenance by the State. I really believe that they have got it right and that what will fall out of those changes will bring change. if this Ministerial Review can get it right too and we can drive through the kind of practical support that families need to make their own arrangements after separation, we stand a chance of real change and protecting families from the problems that are caused by the likes of Gingerbread. I have no problem with Gingerbread if they are supporting those parents who have been left to cope alone, I take issue with their continuous, deliberate portrayal of this as the reality for every separated family. Apologies for misspellings, will recitfy! K

      Like

  8. Garry · February 9, 2012

    Perfect article Karen. I was THE first member of F4J. Why? I was a victim of domestic violence and still the de facto residence applied. Mum had automatic residence by virtue of gender. I had to go to court at a cost of thousands of pounds (only mum gets legal aid) to secure what already had existed. Bindell’s DV argument is fatuous, if it wasn’t then I, as the victim of DV, would have had no need to go to court. I had to ‘prove’ I was a fit parent even though I was the victim. This made me so angry that I joined a fathers group. And here we are 10 years alter and nothing has changed. Gingerbread is one parent family but that one parent isn’t the dad. I now ‘envoy’ full residency of my child with child benefits etc. This took 10 years.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 9, 2012

      Its is wrong wrong wrong that you had to go through that, it is inhuman and it is discriminatory and plain wrong. we are increasingly interested in some of the new thinking that is being developed in other countries around the issue of family violence, I will write about it soon. i am glad in the meantime to hear that you have, after such a long time, got to a place where you can care for your children and protect them from the impact of a mother who was/is violent. there is no excuse for violence in the family, you have suffered twice, a violent partner and a violent state intervention. you survived, I wonder how many others will not. Sending my support K

      Like

  9. Dadzarmy · February 9, 2012

    Julie Bindel, Liz Trinder, Ginger Bread et aliae (“they”) have been the leading proponents in manintaining the widely criticised Children’s Act and Family Procedure Rules (“FPR”) in their current form. They are unable to build a intellectual argument outside their misandry views and policies supported by data because the data does not exist. They know this, but are still working on the misapprehension they can get away with hearsay and pseudo science in setting the Family Court system agenda in this country.The new proposals of the FJR, could threaten (funding,reputation) them by providing data that would demonstrate just how wrong they have been, this is clearly the subtext to their recent statements in the media. So keen are people in certain parts of the state sector to stop information from getting into the public consciousness, that F4J’s Facebook page was closed down without warning, explanation or response, timed perfectly with the latest release of the FJR by the Government. Bashar Assad, I hope you are taking notes from the UK Government in soclai engineering and attacks on Freedom of expression, their better at it than you are.

    Like

  10. Dadzarmy · February 9, 2012

    Karen, I forgot to mention you represent one of the clearest minds in Family Social policy in this country providing much needed balanced critique in a very agenda weighted area of public policy. I continue to read with respect and admiration your excellent blog and I hope that you carry on holding the many voices of influence to account on the merits of what they say.

    Best,

    DA

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 9, 2012

      Thank you for your kind words, we continue at the Centre for Separated Families to speak up and speak out on this because we know from personal as well as professional experience that what we have been doing in the UK is simply wrong. Our aim is to push through the kind of gender aware services in this country that can bring about significant change for children. We are a tiny organsiation compared to Gingerbread but we will keep on doing what we are doing until the day that families get the support that they need to work together after separation and the divisive legislation is a thing of the past. Very best. K

      Like

  11. Yvie · February 9, 2012

    Julie Bindel is an extreme feminist who cannot or wont accept that society is changing and that many fathers are now involved in the day to day care of their children while mothers are pursuing a career of their own or having to take on full time employment out of neccessity. Rather than accept this they prefer to peddle the myth that if dads are being denied contact with their children, they must be child abusers or wife beaters.

    I was very disappointed with her views during the interview, but not really surprised by them.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 9, 2012

      yvie, I wasnt surprised by Bindel’s attitude but I was astonished that she was comfortable with perpetuating what are clearly lies and untruths. But the fact is that neither Bindel nor gingerbread nor Liz Trinder for that matter have had any real dealings with the family courts, they dont have to, they were part of the the set up the system that ensured that mothers gain and maintain the role of parent with care which confers all control over children after separation, leaving fathers in the position of having to apply for external adjudication if they feel unfairly treated. this level of control over family life has a direct connection to the liberal feminist movement in which men are seen as inherently dangerous and in need of controlling. In Gingerbreads case, their agenda appears in my view, to link back to their roots as the National Council for the Unmarried Mother, set up a hundred years or so ago to support what would have then been called fallen women who would have been at risk from the poor house or having their child taken from them. whichever way you cut it, these agendas have everything to do with womens rights and nothing to do with fatherhood and these are the people who have made and shaped legislation for four decades. i have no problem with anyone standing up for the women and mothers who are oppressed or in violent relationships or who have been abandoned to cope alone, I would be the first to stand up and fight for that cause, I do so in my work with families. My objection is their determination to keep the status quo by trying to paint every family separation in the same way. The courts are clogged up with families that do not belong there, propelled into conflict by the rights based arguments that suggest that all mothers have the right to be in charge and all ‘fathers are a secondary resource best deployed where necessary’, I kid you not, this is a direct quote from a Gngerbread newsletter when they were called One Parent Families.

      We could help many families ot make their own arrangements if we did not have to deal with this kind of advice giving.

      Very best K

      Like

      • David · February 13, 2012

        I can not agree with you more. Excellent article, and your responses here are fantastic in their clarity and truth. Keep up the great work.

        Like

  12. jeromeoconnell_2000@yahoo.co.uk · February 9, 2012

    Great Article ..

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 18, 2012

      Thank you for reading. K

      Like

  13. Yvie · February 10, 2012

    My surprise during the interview was that Julie Bindel seemed to be presenting herself as someone with extensive knowledge and experise of the family courts and their jurisdiction. It took me a minute or two into the interview before I realised that I had seen her several times before reviewing newspapers on Sky News and that she was in fact a journalist.

    I would have had more respect for her if she had announced that she had very little knowledge of the family courts, that she was a journalist and that she was expressing her own strongly felt personal opinion
    .

    Like

  14. William Hammond · February 10, 2012

    “The fact is that we don’t know whether the Children Act or the Family Courts are acting in the child’s best interests because at present no statistical records are kept of the decisions that are made and the outcomes that they produce for children.”

    There can never, ever, be available evidence showing the outcomes for children who’s parents have been involved in family court proceedings, or even a straightforward divorce for that matter. Emotional damage is virtually impossible to quantify or measure in any meaningful way. It is largely hidden below the superficial persona we present to the world and only surfaces when triggered by certain incidents or events. After 7 years I now have contact with both of my children. They are 15 and 16. They are not the same children I was parted from. Of course they are more mature and have put away many of their childlike behaviours. They have also contructed a personal armour to defend themselves against any further emotional abuse, something that may prove to be a hinderance in their adult relationships. Of course you cannot measure it, and I don’t need a psychologist to tell me what I already know: that the family court system and its operatives are abusing the nations children every single day, in this country and many others. As we go into the next generation, the number of children devoid of conscience, empathy and warmth is likely to increase and the so called intellectuals will still be asking , “Where’s the proof?” Bloody idiots the lot of them.

    Like

  15. Anthony Esler · February 10, 2012

    Brilliant Karen…You go right to the heart of the matter…wish I could write like that! Have always admired your views but have only just discovered your blog..I shall follow!

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 15, 2012

      thank you for your kind words, I write because I have to, because I work directly with families and because speaking up and speaking out is a way of dealing with the dreadful sense of injustice that comes from seeing how our systems fail our children on a daily basis. The task ahead of us now is to begin to build a new way forward, after pushing for over a decade for change, we have to get it right for children from now on. The Centre for Separated Families will continue to contribute to this wherever and whenever possible and I intend to write more shortly about how we need to reform support services to drive through change as quickly as possible. Best wishes K

      Like

  16. dermot · February 14, 2012

    As Malcolmx said “the chickens are coming home to roost”

    I hope so and even if its too late for me and my kids i hope that the future changes to something that allows children to love and be loved by a parent beyond separation.

    I have jumped through hoops for the last fifteen months and and now about to enter the court system. Its a strange and in many ways untold story in that until you experience it yourself you could not imagine how a less child centred system could operate for so long with such little regard for childrens welfare in a so called civilised society.

    mediation is a farce and the altenative is of course the legal route with all its pitfalls and pressures on parents and children.

    Gingerbread? Have a look at their forum.

    Well aside from the odd glimmer of hope from a decent parent who has insight into their kids needs there is a prevailing ethos and culture of hostility to children having a relationship with both parents. Would’nt you try and reduce contact if dad kept feeding your child fish fingers? much of it borders on emotional abuse.

    My parents separated for a year when i was a young teenager and my mother who i loved dearly spent many years attempting to alienate me from my father. Two things came of that. Firstly the dynamics of my parents relationship contributed to the breakdown of my own marriage.and the pain that that caused to all concerned.
    secondly i loved my mother but i loved my father so much because he did not play the game. His love was unconditional. He was the finest man ever to wear shoe leather and his example guides me with my children still.

    Thank you for this article Karen. Their are many who need hope and who want nothing other than to love their children and their children to be loved by them post separation. This should not be a big ask but it is of comfort to know that there are voices that will speak out on their behalf.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 18, 2012

      Dermot, I send you my support, you are guided by the example your father set for you and this will take you through on the journey that too many people are forced to endure and too many children are made to experience. Your words say it all, ‘nothing more that to love their children and their children to be loved by them post separation’ nothing more, nothing less will do and we will keep on with this until the day that this simple thing is available to all. K

      Like

  17. darryl wetsell · February 17, 2012

    As a father of two boys, one whose relationship with his father was devastated by FamilyLaw uk PLC, and one who hopefully has been born into a world where the disgrace of injustice in family law is coming to an end, I summon mighty thanks to the wonderful Karen Woodall. I am a fathers4justice activist. Always have been. That people with such wisdom, such pure moral fibre and erudition are on the side of right brings me to tears. For every filthy, cretinous bigot I encountered in the family courts, there is F4J and the mighty Ms Woodall. CAFCASS, I reserve a special hatred for. Difficult to forget, as a 20 year old father trying to see his new born baby, and being asked by some ghastly creature masquerading as a professional- “why are you seeking contact”? She was the encapsualtion of drivel, of Gingerbread inspired sexism. For shame.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · February 18, 2012

      Darryl, thank you for your kind words, I hope that more women and men will, as the days ahead unfold, be brave enough to say ‘the emperor has no clothes’…unpicking this nasty, discriminatory system is not easy, its taken the Centre for Separated Families almost 12 years to get to the place where it is possible to write the truth and be heard. We will keep on, it continues to be uphill struggle, but for all the boys (and girls) who come after, the freedom to love their children and be loved in return will be worth it.

      Like

  18. Yvie · March 4, 2012

    Following on from Gingerbread’s view that ‘only the most conflicted cases end up in Court’, have any statistics been compiled on cases of vexatious litigation which, when challenged in the Family Court, usually fall apart and are deemed spurious?

    Curiously no obvious action seems to be taken when the Court’s time is wasted in this way, to say nothing of the costs to the defendant.

    I apologise if I am wrong about this, as I can only speak regarding the two cases I have knowledge of.

    Like

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