Shared parenting – preparing for the road ahead

We are in changing times and this post is longer than most. This because the times that are changing are so important to generations of children to come that I cannot write everything I would like to in a shorter way (call it obsessive compulsive, but I cannot do short when such detail is required).

Regardless of whether we think shared parenting after family separation is the right way forward for this country or not, this is what the government has signalled will be the expected norm over the coming years. From the investment of 20 million pounds into family separation support services, to the introduction of a legislative statement within the Children Act 1989, the shared parenting agenda has been set. It is now incumbent upon us to deliver the kind of support that will enable parents to translate the government’s stated intention of children having meaningful relationships with both of their parents, into reality.

In order to write this piece I am ignoring the arguments against the shared care project. I am doing so because the shared parenting project is no longer uncertain. Having made its intentions very clear, the government expects that support will be available to enable parents to get to grips with what sharing care of children looks and feels like. This is the space beyond the arguments, the space that must be filled with the kinds of thinking, attitudes and practical services that enable parents to overcome the pain of the end of their adult relationship so that they can rebuild a shared parenting contract. This is the space in which the parental contract must be re-negotiated in order that children benefit from relationships with mum and dad and their wider family on both sides.

In summary then, the task ahead of us is to make the workforce ready to move from the promotion and support of the lone parent model of post separation support (all services framed around one parent to the exclusion of the other) to support of the collaborative parenting model, in which both parents are supported to care for their children.

This is not a project which can simply be rolled out overnight. Many service providers are, by their very constitution, set up to support one parent or the other. Many service providers have also spent a good deal of time using the dad as a danger to children model in their delivery of services to separated families. As someone from the family separation sector said recently, in relation to the prospect of shared parenting becoming the expected norm, ‘perhaps we should look at when it would be too dangerous to promote shared parenting first and then we could determine which kind of parents we would expect to be sharing care.’

My attitude is, let’s not. In fact let’s turn it the other way around. Lets look at the dad through the dad as an important person in children’s lives lens and examine what he can offer that has been missing for too long. This idea of dad as a dangerous being has driven our family policy for such a long time that unless we turn it around and look it the other way, we will forever be terrified into submission and non action. The DV lobby has, in my view, created a whole industry which is based upon the notion that men/dads are inherently dangerous (I’m with Erin Pizzey here) and has prospered from it. For this to continue, we must all submit to being stymied by the guilt provoking gaze that says if you take away the chains that keep dads in their emasculated place, you will have the blood of women and children on your hands.

But my favourite motto is, if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you have always got and so for me, at least, it is time to resist that gaze and take off those chains and make ready to bring fathers back into their children’s lives. And when I say fathers I mean real fathers, not fathers who do it like mothers or fathers who have removed all traces of testosterone in order to be acceptable to women.

The kind of masculinity I am talking about was seen in a Panorama documentary about childcare on 27 February 2012 entitled The cost of raising Britain.

This was a programme ostensibly about the high cost of child care and I wasn’t surprised therefore, that throughout the whole programme the issue of child care was only linked to mothers and their need to work. For a country stuffed full of feminist academics, many of whom have been the architects of our social policy around child care, it never ceases to amaze me that a woman’s place, in 21st century is still considered to be in sole charge of children.

What did surprise me about the programme however, was a snap shot of the child care provision in Norway, a country long noted for its commitment to equality. I was surprised at how I felt when the programme focused upon children in a nursery, because what jumped off the screen at me was that two of the nursery workers were men. More than that, the clip showed children playing out doors, learning how to strike matches and build fires, using knives to carve wood and, most startling of all, the voice over that talked about the children having a sleep over once a month cared for by those nursery workers, including the men.

The inclusion of men, not only in the care of their own children, but the care of other people’s children, was such a startling contrast to the feminized environment of the early years sector in our country that I couldn’t believe how shocked I felt at actually seeing this in practice, and I, a long time advocate of the men into childcare project.

`This programme showed men caring for children as well as taking them outside and letting them run loose and have fun. It also showed men taking responsibility for helping children to manage risky things, like striking matches and building bonfires all of those things long gone in too many of our children’s lives today.

This kind of risk taking is, for children, an important part of growing up and learning to be responsible and it seems to me, that in removing men from our children’s lives we have removed those opportunities too, for fun and adventure and learning how to be physical in the world. And before anyone accuses me of falling prey to the stereotyping I try to avoid in my work, yes, mothers can do that with children too and yes, fathers can provide care and nurture for children too. But it seems to me that what our children get these days, particularly after family separation, is an overkill in one area with children being smothered into almost a standstill in terms of their taking risks and an almost complete absence in the other. This cannot be a good balance for our children who according to Allan Schore, the co-developer of interpersonal neurobiology need both the input of mother and father and wider family members as well in order to kick off positive hard wiring on the left and right side of the brain.

We are therefore, when we look into that space which is opening up ahead of us, considering the needs of children to have relationships with parents who can give good care and who can also bring the reality of the outside world into their lives. Our principle attitude, in promoting this to parents must, it seems to me, be the notion that mothers and fathers are important in children’s lives because of the different things that they bring to their lives.

The workforce that touches the lives of separated families in this country has a part to play in this.  Too long steeped in the principle of sole care by mothers is good enough care, the workforce must be helped to understand the difference that dual care and responsibility brings to children. And granted, it must also, to my mind, be skilled enough to be able to ensure that children who live with solo mothers where there are issues preventing father input, are not stigmatised or prevented from having access to strong relationships with other men in the world. Men like those in the nursery in Norway.

Attachment theories tell us that mothers and fathers are both important in children’s lives and, most importantly, that when an intact family attachment hierarchy begins to break down, children will suffer. For too many years we have ignored the suffering of children affected by family separation, looking the other way when generation after generation have been shouting the impact from the rooftops. Now is the time however, to begin to look at our children, to understand their behaviours and the way in which these reflect their experience of broken and interrupted attachment. All services which aim to support collaborative parenting must, in my view, put the experiences of children at the heart of what they are doing. Education and information play a very big part in helping parents to understand what they must look out for as they move from an intact family to a parenting apart situation. A workforce of men and women who are also educated and trained to understand children’s behaviours and how to help parent to manage these together, is going to be a vital foundation for supporting the cultural change we are looking for.

It would seem therefore that we must, if we are to make a success out of the UK shared parenting project, keep in mind three important things.

  1. Divorce and separation harms children.
  2. Mothering and fathering and the difference between these activities are each important to children’s neurological, emotional and social development.
  3. If separated fathers are going to be more involved, separated mothers are going to have to stand aside in order for that to happen and we need to incentivise and support that to happen.

Paul Amato, a researcher from Pennsylvania with a background at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, has recently released a new piece of research concluding that there is no such thing as a ‘good divorce,’ when it comes to impact on children. Amato’s study of 944 parent-child pairs was divided into three categories; co-operative parents, parallel parents and single parents with children who have no contact with their other parent. A control group of children of married parents was used to compare outcomes across 12 areas. The outcome of the study showed that whilst co-operative parenting brought with it benefits, they were not as high as expected and it was no better than those children who did not see their other parent at all, whilst the worst off group was the one where parallel parenting was happening and where the relationship between the child and the other parent was intermittent with parental relationships being unco-operative. A further conclusion is drawn in commentary on this research by New Zealand researcher Jan Pryor, co-author of Children in Changing Families:Life after Parental Separation, who said that there is now evidence that the least beneficial pattern of parenting time is every other weekend.

In accepting that divorce and separation harm children, we are going to need more education and information around the impact on children and their different needs at different ages. This is,in my view, going to be critical to address the first issue. In providing this however, we must also avoid at all costs, the ‘let’s ask the children what they want‘ lobby, which is, to my mind, quite possibly the most dangerous development in separated family support services since the introduction of CAFCASS.  Asking children what they want to happen after divorce and separation is like breaking someone’s legs and then asking them what shoes they would like to wear.  Divorce and separation risks children being elevated to the top of the hierachical family tree and asking them to decide what should happen after separation only convinces them that they are ultimately responsible for the well being of their own parents.  Our task is NOT to listen to the ‘voice of the child’ it is to teach and support parents to keep on being mum and dad so that children can continue their childhood, uninterrupted by the adult eschewing of responsibility.

When parents understand what is happening to their children and how they themselves can change that, it can, in itself, lead to greater co-operation. It is often only when professionals and others come hurtling into the crash scene with either a parental rights based attitude or a ‘don’t worry they will be fine’ approach that things can become really nasty.  Education, information and the right kind of delivery of both is going to be needed from day one of our new shared care project. If I had my way, every parent in the land would undergo a divorce proofing your kids for life course on the day that their first child was born.

The second of the three important things is that which has been disputed for the past four decades and it is this which could be the most difficult and intractable barrier to overcome. The importance of mothers and fathers in children’s lives. There are however, a number of studies which show how brain development in children is kicked off by relationships with mother and father and then wider family members. There are also those which show when relationships with mothers, fathers and wider family members become most important to children. Whilst not falling into the trap of seeing neuroscience as the catch all answer, I do consider it to play a hugely significant role in the lives of children affected by family separation. I also see how, in my own work over twenty years, with children from separated families, divorce and separation has different impacts at different times in children’s lives. An education programme, which contains clear information on how different care patterns and different transition patterns are suitable for children at different ages is another important addition to our tool box of family separation support.

Finally, to address point number three, we must urgently consider how we can incentivise mothers to combine care with provision for children, in short how we can help more mothers to work and make use of the time that the other parent is caring. For many years now we have had a lone parent model of support to separating families, placing the burden upon mothers to be full time carers and the onus on fathers to provide financially for children. Moving away from this is going to be difficult whilst we still have such deeply gendered ideas about what makes a good father and what makes a good mother. The Child Maintenance Commission, with its gender mainstreaming approach to its Options service, underpinned by training design by the Centre for Separated Families has already shown that it can be done. Gender proofing front line services in the same way as well as examining how separated mothers and fathers can be incentivised as well as supported to share care will be key to making point three happen.

And so there you have it, how to bring about the UK’s first shared parenting project in three easy steps. I hope that those of you who have made it to the end of this missive will find something in it to agree (or disagree) with. Whilst its not going to be immediately possible to fill this cavernous space beyond the parental rights fight with all the support that parents need, we are making a start at the Centre for Separated Families and moving beyond the old and into the new.

And in doing so we are finding unexpected treasures that I thought had been long rendered off limits in our dad averse society. The possibilities of men as early years workers for example bringing risk back into our children’s lives and the celebration of dad as the adventurer. The fascinating way in which the hard wiring of children’s brain development takes place in the relationship between their mother and their father and the balance that the difference between men and women can bring to the way in which our children grow into fully rounded human beings.

Shared parenting after separation is not always easy.  As I say often to the parents that I work with, if you are going to give your children the life that you hoped they would have on the day that they were born, each of you is going to have to compromise something of what you hoped for and of what you dreamed of giving (and receiving). Because when adults compromise, children don’t have to and that balance of strong relationships, born of everyday details and tiny little moments is protected.

Its a brave new world we are entering, and there is hard work ahead of us as well as a road that needs building for others to travel on.  I for one, have my toolbox, my compass and my map at the ready.

84 comments

  1. Johnnie · April 15, 2012

    Karen, thank you for yet another great post covering some very important issues. Can I ask – on the ground, how will this change be implemented? i.e. what will happen to the CSA as we know it? I read the story you linked to but didn’t completely understand.

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    • karenwoodall · April 15, 2012

      Hi Johnnie,

      The CSA as we know it will be put into retirement and replaced by the Statutory Maintenance Scheme. There is now no longer the compulsion to use the Statutory Maintenance Scheme as there was the CSA in the past for those on benefits and parents will be encouraged to make private agreements for child maintenance (and this does not just have to be about money) before they can go into the Statutory Maintenance Scheme and ask the state to pursue the other parent. Also, there will be charges for using the Statutory Maintenance Scheme and these will apply if, for example, a parent refuses to accept payment via Maintenance Direct, again, incentivising parents to keep their arrangements between themselves.

      Coming up, in the months ahead, will be a ‘gateway’ service, most likely to through the current Child Maintenance Options service, where parents will be taken through steps to determine whether they have made efforts to make private arrangements and, where possible, will be supported to do so.

      Those cases currently in the Child Support System will be gradually moved off and will go through the gateway (I think, I will need to check that) to attempt a private agreement before being able to go through the Statutory system again.

      The intention is to put the brakes on the use of the state to intervene and put the support of children back into their parents hands. By removing one of the biggest stumbling blocks to collaborative parenting, the government hope to enable more parents to work together. A lot of support around the sides of that will also be offered.

      Hope that makes it more clear.

      K

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      • Johnnie · April 15, 2012

        Thank you Karen. It does make it more clear. I see clearer now just how much of a move this is in the direction of encouraging Shared Parenting. Very exciting times indeed!

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      • simon digeorgio · April 20, 2012

        hi karren

        i like your reply to johnnies question. i think the csa has alot to answer for eg although i know i am not alone in my situation, they take payments direct from my earnings, i have had no choice but to stop paying the mortgage, because i simply do not have the funds to pay both therefore effectively making my two young children “homeless“. i did not want to go down this route but the csa refused to take into account the fact that i have been paying the mortgage to keep a roof over their heads for the last two years. Also, in my opinion, where there is mortgage to be paid , i find it totally un ethical as to why they can`t seam to ensure that the monies deducted go straight to the lender as apposed to in the full time parent`s pocket to spend how he or she wishes. i have been fortunate enough to have contact with my local FnF group hence i have been able to hear about you and your work, which i believe has helped me. I know its all about the children, to which i am happy to say after two and half years of legal fighting, they are now spending time with me. I would also like to say to anyone reading this, that although it feels sometimes that you cannot fight anymore or just want to guve up, just think of your children and that one day, they will know you have been there for them. Keep up the good work karren

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  2. akismet-adad1205f54a1a1d1cf286af981399e5 · April 15, 2012

    A large amount of very useful information, commentary and ideas showing how shared parenting should be advanced to ensure children are at last put first and foremost.

    The ‘Wishes&Feelings’ mantra that is now promoted in many quarters above ‘Needs’, is indeed a tremendously dangerous development for children’s welfare.

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    • karenwoodall · April 15, 2012

      I’ll say, I would personally like to see wishes and feelings abolished and CAFCASS officers trained in a standardised way, to understand the impact of divorce and separation on children. Not hopeful that is a scenario we will ever witness though!

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  3. dermot · April 15, 2012

    wishes and feelings!!! don’t start me!!! just been in court and CAFCASS officer proposing wishes and feelings with 12 year old (to be fair on the basis of telephone interviews) ex very enthusiastic about this according to report and showed son CAFCASS website! (quel suprise?) thankfully over ruled by judge.

    this news is so exciting! imagine the children who will benefit? changes to child maintenance and the childrens act? woopie!!!!progress!!!

    Karen would be interested in what level or model of contact jan pryor found better than every other weekend formula?

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    • karenwoodall · April 16, 2012

      I am just going to read the full report this morning Dermot and find out, will let you know. K

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  4. pauldmanning · April 15, 2012

    I didn’t find it hard at all to read through your “missive” Karen, because when you read something that makes obvious sense and logic then it becomes a pleasure to take in every nuance of it. Thing is, as I read the dream of your ideas the sheer wonder and bliss if it all with its high ideals and wisdom (and I so want all to come true) I wondered.. when?… when? Oh God, when will it all come to pass? With all my heart I wish it was very soon indeed!

    Great article Karen, why can’t most so called “professionals”, have a handle on it like you do?

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    • karenwoodall · April 16, 2012

      Its happening already Paul in policy terms. The translation of change into the workforce will take longer and, I am afraid, is likely to pass CAFCASS by completely given their utter refusal to engage in any kind of standardised, transparent training, but my hope is that with the rest of the workforce engaged, we might start to prevent cases ever getting near CAFCASS in the first place…. however, we are talking about making it culturally unacceptable to prevent parents from being involved in their childrens’ lives…so it will be the next ten years when we see the real changes. K

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  5. John Denbigh · April 16, 2012

    Good article as usual Karen but can’t work out how to sign up to your blog as would very much like to receive them regularly. John

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    • karenwoodall · April 16, 2012

      Hi John, have just been having a look to find out how to follow but I can’t work it out – can anyone else tell us how to sign up so that John can follow? There are about forty of you out there following so someone should be able to tell us!! Many thanks – hope we can work it out this way John! K

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    • Johnnie · April 16, 2012

      Hi John, to the bottom right of the page, you should see a plus sign with the word ‘Follow’ on a tab. If you click on that, you should be presented with a text box where you can enter and submit your email address.

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      • karenwoodall · April 16, 2012

        Terrific, thanks Johnnie K

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  6. KD · April 16, 2012

    Great article Karen. You have captured the essence of the issue, as well as injected a good dose of excitement and optimism into the mix.

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    • karenwoodall · April 16, 2012

      Thanks KD, I am hopeful and excited and so very glad to be able to get on and do the work instead of constantly having to argue about it..times are very much changing. K

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  7. Michael · April 16, 2012

    Karen, As a father of 2 children i have joint custody of my children – as part of my order i was awarded the child benefit for 1 of my children. I have my children on a 2 week rolling pattern of 4days/3days. As i am in receipt of the benefit for 1 of my children this is the deciding factor for CSA payments therefore reducing the amount i pay. Is there any plans for shared benefits in any of this new legislation coming. Although i have my children equally i still have to pay child support for my other child even though i provide food clothing etc for both when they are with me.
    CSA payments are all based on who has receipt of the benefits –
    This also then knocks on for the other benefits people receive Housing/Tax credits etc so its difficult. I can never get an answer anywhere so hopefully you may shed so thoughts on this

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    • karenwoodall · April 16, 2012

      Hi MIchael,

      With Child Benefit for one of your children you are considered to be the primary carer for that child. It means that you should not be paying any child maintenance for the child that you hold the CB for and should instead be receiving it. For the child that you do not hold CB for you should be paying it. In my experience, in an arrangement like this, the parties usually void payments all together and just get on and do what is necessary to keep the household going and kids clothed etc. Unless there is a very big difference in income between the two primary carers it makes better sense to do it this way. If you are paying Maintenance for one child but not the other but are not receiving maintenance then this is clearly unfair if you are also providing everything for both children when they are with you.]

      You can contact Child Maintenance Options to discuss your situation at http://www.cmoptions.org/ where they have a calculator to help you to determine what should be paid and what should be received.

      Holding CB for one child makes you entitled to all of the benefits that a primary carer is entitled to, albeit for one child and not tow. So you should be claiming Housing Benefit if you need it, Tax Credits etc for yourself and that child.

      There are no plans to change the primary carer = parent entitled to benefits rules at present although I would favour a similar set up to Australia where both parents are assessed for their ability to pay maintenance and both parents are financially supported to care for their children.

      Hope this helps. K

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  8. Jane Jackson · April 16, 2012

    Hi Karen,
    Is there going to be legislation for shared parenting, have I missed something?
    Jane

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    • karenwoodall · April 16, 2012

      Hi Jane,

      there is, in process, a Ministerial group which is developing a statement about the importance of children’s relationships with both of their parents which will be included in the Children Act 1989. A consultation on their deliberations will be underway very soon.

      Within the DWP there has been a commitment to investing in services to promote and support collaborative parenting. This is part of the shift away from the old style Child Support Agency towards a modernised Child Maintenance System that seeks to promote and support private agreements for the payment of maintenance.

      Two very significant pieces of work being done by two major government departments to underpin the government’s commitment to supporting parents to establish shared care arrangements.

      K

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  9. Charlie Axon · April 16, 2012

    Hi Karen,just to say thank you for your brilliant article. For those of us who have been petitioning MP’s and campaigning for the rights of our children,I would like to say that your article sets a marker to the much needed changes to family law which are so long overdue. Your rationale is, in my opinion, almost impossible to dismiss. I would wish that you were at the helm of driving family social policy rather than the outdated and out
    of touch people that have been to date. I hope that controlling and manipulative resident parents will start to wake up/admit to the damage they are causing their children
    .

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  10. karenwoodall · April 16, 2012

    Hi Charlie, I have been working on the Steering Group with the DWP on the development of services to promote and support collaboration and have also been on the group advising on the inclusion of a statement within the Children Act 1989. Its a long haul and we need to see this as a generational change but the right things are being done despite the powerful opposition to change and so I am hopeful and getting myself and my team ready to do whatever is necessary to bring this country into line with other more enlightened places.

    When the message is made clear and the legislation and the support services are all aligned with that message, we will stand a much better chance of tackling the ways that relationships with children are vulnerable to control and manipulation. I am very certain that the pathways are being cleared and that what is going on in government is right this time.

    K

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    • Charlie Axon · April 16, 2012

      Hi Karen, Wow thank you for your superfast response! Today has been such a rollercoaster; reading your enlightened blog first, then talking to my little girl on the phone tonight where for the first time in 18 months, she made an excuse not to talk and we had a stilted two mins, fifty-three seconds conversation, and then to read your refreshingly optimistic reply to my post! I pray for the changes you highlight, it’s my only option at the moment. I will help to clear the pathways to progress in any way I can, for the sake of my child and every child.

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      • karenwoodall · April 17, 2012

        How old is your little girl Charlie? Its not unusual for children to go through phases of not wanting to talk on the phone. If there are no pressures on her she will come through it and there are things you can do to help her to do so…if there are pressures on her from the other parent then telephone contact is most often the first sign that something is being done at the other end that is affecting her. Let me know how old she is and I will tell you what you can to do work out what is happening at the other end and what you can do about it. K

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      • Charlie Axon · April 17, 2012

        She’s just six. We’ve always had a very close relationship. Phone calls were daily until ex made false allegations in court and managed to get it down to two per week at an agreed time. Ex has not stuck to this, records each call, and stands over little one(with phone loud speaker so she can hear) and then terminates the call when she feels like it. I know this beacause my daughter says “Mummy says I have to go now” last night’s was strange – got the feeling that my little girl had been told off. Also calls are always left very late rather than the agreed time so that ex can say “It’s time for bed”. I might sound peevish here, but I firmly believe that it is Parental Alienation in the truest sense. Any advice would be most welcome. Thank you.

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      • Johnnie · April 17, 2012

        Hi Charlie, For what it’s worth, I have a fantastic relationship with my 3 and a half year old but she rarely wants to speak to me on the phone these days. When she is with her mother, I call her daily, and when I can tell that I’m not going to get any sort of conversation from her, I simply tell her that I love her and that I’ll see her/speak to her soon and I hang up. I no longer get stressed about it. That said, as Karen stated, how you respond really depends on what you think is going on at the other end, if anything.

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      • Charlie Axon · April 17, 2012

        Hi Johnnie, thanks for the kind words. Guess I’m not used to this recent change in the nature of the phonecalls. I too had daily phone calls until vicious ex manipulated the situation and complained to the judge that I was coercing little one in to speaking on the phone and trying to manipulate the both of them !! Judge told me that she didn’t know of any child who got daily phone calls from their NRP – unbelievable.

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      • Johnnie · April 17, 2012

        Charlie, if you think that the reason your little girl is not speaking to you is because of your ex’s input, i.e. parental alienation, then there are things you can do. First of all, there is a fantastic book titled, “Divorce Poison” by Dr. Richard Warshak. In it there are many strategies for dealing with this subtle but very real form of child abuse. Also, I believe our very own Karen Woodall runs Parental Alienation workshops and I have a copy of the notes and Powerpoint slides if you want them. Very, very useful.

        Courts unfortunately usually regard daily telephone contact as obsessive on the NRP’s part. It’s the most ludicrious thing I’ve ever heard but it’s part of the mess we live in. I ask myself, do these Judges not have children of their own? Do they not understand the meaning of parental love? When I first entered the world of the separated family, I found these things so damn weird, so alien to what is natural and common sense. So I suppose I’ve answered my own question in a way – perhaps most of these Judges have not experienced what being an NRP is so they simply cannot imagine what it is like. For them it is mostly a job. Some do it well and some do it atrociously…

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  11. Yvie · April 17, 2012

    Hi Karen – my son’s Hearing is due next week (for 50/50 shared care). At mediation yesterday the mediator asked my son if he would be prepared to forgo any claim to child benefit and let his ex.wife claim for both children. My son told the mediator that he would as his application was never about money and that he would rather have his children and be ‘skint’. I am just a bit concerned that if he does agree to this, his ex. who has proved in the past many times that she cannot be trusted, will then continue her claim for child maintenance. I think my son is of the opinion that both parents would maintain and pay for their children during the time the children are with each of them. His ex. is very financially astute. She continually cries poverty but she has a profession and works full time earning quite a bit more than my son.

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  12. karenwoodall · April 17, 2012

    Hi Yvie,

    I think the mediator is trying to clear the path to an agreement between your son and his ex and your ex is likely to be keen to claim CB as it will give her the primary parent status (even in our new landscape of support for shared parenting this will still hold sway) and she will then be in a stronger position to dictate the pace.

    If your son wants to stay right at the heart of his children’s lives then having CB for one of them will help him to do that. Its not easy to get though and he may well have to fight it out in court but I think others on here will attest to the fact that without it he will still be in a vulnerable position and not just financially but also in terms of his relationship with his children without it.

    There’s no easy way through this but if there are any concerns whatsoever about one parent being prepared to manipulate the children or try to control the relationship between children and a parent then having CB for at least of the children is the way to go.

    K

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    • Yvie · April 17, 2012

      Thank you so much for your helpful reply Karen. My son was uncomfortable with the suggestion that his application for 50% shared residency was money orientated. That is why he agreed in principle. I have passed on your comments to him and he will speak to his solicitor today. We can only await developments.

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  13. dermot allister · April 17, 2012

    very important point. i have just applied for social housing and have been offered one bedroomed properties. The rationale for offering these is that i do not claim child benefit for the children so i am excluded from the two bedroomed list. i will be writing to MP etc but as usual its a scenario that means that further obstacles are placed in the way of a parent who wants to maintain a relationship with his children. who said it would be easy!!!!

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    • karenwoodall · April 17, 2012

      Classic scenario Dermot, you are prevented from having the kind of housing that would enable you to offer your kids the home that they need with you. A double bind if ever there was one.

      However, you should be aware that if you have a shared residence order you can challenge their decision. Its perhaps best to go to FNF for advice on it as my knowledge on housing is a bit out of date. But there was a judgement made that set a precedent for NRP’s with shared residence to be able to access social housing. K

      Like

  14. karenwoodall · April 17, 2012

    Yvie, I think that it is one of the pressure points that are applied to dads in these circumstances, you only want shared care because of the financial benefits – if that is the case (to my mind) then women must also only want care of their children for the financial benefits.

    If this is about finance, then surely it is about maximising the financial and other benefits that the separated family can attract. It should not be the case that children are well off in one home and impoverished in the other and for many NRP’s, poverty or worse is what they find themselves in. In those situations, children who spend time with dad are suffering financially because all of the money is framed around mum. To my mind, both parents having CB for a child means that both parents can claim all of the financial support/housing entitlement etc etc that is available and can protect their children from being in poverty in the care of either.

    It seems to me that the mediator concerned is applying too much pressure on your son, it should not be the case that he is made to feel that he is wanting CB simply because he wants the money. As I said before, if a mediator makes you feel uncomfortable and under pressure, tell them thanks but no thanks – you should not feel pressured, judged or under scrutiny in mediation, you should feel accepted, heard and helped to get the best for your children.

    Like

    • Yvie · April 19, 2012

      Hi Karen – my son’s solicitor rang him and said that they would be going for 50/50 shared care plus 50/50 with the child benefits. I think my son was quite relieved about it. Whether he gets what he wants in Court next week is another matter.

      I take your point about the parent with care holding all the cards. The CSA has chosen not to accept my son’s documented contact list as his ex. disputes it. Therefore they have not taken the shared care element into account and have billed him for arrears he feels he does not owe. You are right about one parent facing poverty – now that the arrears plus maintenance have kicked in, my son is left with less than £200. per week to pay all his bills and feed his children. His ex. on the other hand, is working as a professional full time, has all the child benefits, tax credits etc. and now £500 extra per month from my son.

      Like

  15. avalon111 · April 17, 2012

    It’s great news that shared parenting will be the chosen platform.

    Re-education though to rid the likes of the courts, CAFCASS and social workers of their gendered view of the bringing-up of children – i.e. the one who cares gets the contact, the one who finances gets none or just some – will be the major hurdle.

    Opposing and fighting the gender agenda of individuals, particularly feminists, who push and encourage the policy of the gendering of childcare will take a generation. As it is the argument that gendering roles such as childcare isn’t necessarily hard-and-fast; professional women who divorce, who had a former husband looking after the children have become equally unstuck – suggesting that the gendering of the childcare role is based more on the finance and income division, rather than plain ‘ol sexism.

    If the concept of shared parenting in the UK is to be established back on-track, then those who want to encourage the traditional role of women-as-carer, man-as-money-provider have to be challenged. And not just in the Courts, but rather mostly in academia, where the gendering of childcare has been retained and encouraged by the modern feminist community, mostly in opposition to the work performed by previous generations of feminists.

    Although many work on the argument that all males are naturally prone to commit DV and/or are paedophiles, pursuing this agenda of gross gender slander has seen them fall into the maw of encouraging the gendering-of-roles.

    A discussion about how modern British feminism chose to promote gendering, seemingly in an effort to return society to the more ‘traditional’ model of family structure in place before the 1980s (and a direct mirror image of how we think feminisism should be working to promote societal change) will be found in a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the book ‘Child Sexual Assault: Feminist Perspectives’ (2001) to be published online in July.

    For the moment though the battle is, bizarrely, between the Traditionalists – comprising a collusion of feminists and right-wing advocates together with disparate groups like MumsNet, intent on the promoting the image of the woman-at-home, caring for the children man (divorced-or-not) busily generating the money, sans minimum contact – against the Modernists, advocating for the concept of shared parenting, both in an intact marriage or otherwise.

    With the Government tending towards the Modernists, the Traditionalists are probably doomed, but it should be remembered that a change of Government will probably see a change-of-policy; the Labour Party is distinctly biased towards the Traditionalist view on these subjects.

    Rachel Livermore
    Associate Editor
    Dramatis Personae – an indexed history of child protection & family justice
    http://www.dramatis.hostcell.net

    Like

    • karenwoodall · April 17, 2012

      I would be V interested to read the analysis that you mention when it is published.

      It is bizarre indeed that the modernists are in favour with what one would have thought would be a traditionalist government. I am under no illusion, the minute a Labour government gets back in we will find ourselves up against it again…I am making as much hay whilst this government’s sun shines on the shared parenting project as I possibly can in terms of pushing policy change, shifting service delivery perspectives and highlighting where possible what has been so wrong with the past four decades.

      I have been reading this week, a book about neuroscience in which the myth of the different male and female brains causing gendered behaviour is debunked. It fits with what we feminists back then believed, that the idea of gender is socially constructed and people can be primed to behave in different ways depending upon what they are told is right for them as a man or a woman. We are literally, what ‘they’ tell us we are and will adapt our behaviours to succeed or fail depending upon the circumstances we find ourselves in.

      Which makes sense of the madness of mothers doing everything they can to hang on to every single ounce of control over children right now, they are simply doing what ‘they’ tell them they should be doing.

      ‘They’ being everyone from the midwives that birth their babies (themselves gender primed) to the teachers that teach their kids (ditto) to the advertisers that tell them who they are and how to be who they are and onwards.

      We are manipulated like puppets from the cradle to the grave and gender is one of the ways in which our strings are pulled.

      We are not free.

      K

      Like

      • avalon111 · April 19, 2012

        ‘Child Sexual Assault: Feminist Perspectives’ (2001) might have been better, and more accurately, titled ‘British Feminisms Little Book of Misandry’.

        Being principally an academic book it slipped under the radar and didn’t attract reviews and comments. Our attention was drawn to it by a refugee from the feminist MumsNet forums – a feminist British scientist (she now accepts that being a ‘scientist’ and a ‘feminist’ is virtually impossible – not least because of the wholsesale acceptance of pseudoscience by modern feminists). It is she who is preparing the planned chapter-by-chapter analysis, though other individuals have been drafted-in for what will be (already is) a substantial work.

        A early indication of the direction of the book can be found in the analysis of feminist responses to the famous book ‘Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse’ (1994) to be found at http://www.dramatis.hostcell.net/SRA/RAINS2/TREATING4/treating_4.html#feminist

        Four major themes have come to prominance in the analysis, which details the key core beliefs of British feminists at the turn-of-the-century;

        * A belief that a secret international and intergenerational organisation is engaged in the wholesale satanic abuse of children. The organisation has access to secret stealth and mind control technology.

        * The promotion of gendered roles in society; that is women should exclusively perform childcare and males, shouldn’t. Despite this marriage and living with a male partner should be discouraged and females caring for children should be encouraged/coerced into living alone.

        * That males are principally demonic psychopaths whose primary intent is the rape of women and children.

        * A reliance on ‘research’ from American extreme-right religious fundamentalists.

        ‘Child sexual assault: feminist perspectives’ is on the current reading list of a number of British social work university courses. It would be safe to assume that at least a small minority of CAFCASS officers and family court judiciary have read it or have a copy on a bookshelf.

        Domestic violence (DV) is often quoted as being a reason why the childcare role should be gendered, ensuring women are trapped in an eternal cycle of low or no pay allied to a restriction on their influence. Much of this is driven by a ‘modern’ expression of the idea that if women should decide to have children, then they should be penalised for it – a concept in direct contradiction to the hard work that past generations of feminists applied themselves to.

        An analysis of how feminist writers at the most extreme end view the subject of domestic violence can be found in the analysis of two sections of The Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence, (Routledge 2007) edited by Nicky Ali Jackson in the section ‘Continuing collusion – The Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence’ at http://www.dramatis.hostcell.net/SRA/RIDDELL/riddell.html#dv

        Be aware though that the two sections analysed were chock-full of ‘wacko’ conspiracy therories and represent the most extreme end of modern feminist paranoias, and isn’t a true reflection on more serious work and research performed by others.

        ‘Child sexual assault: feminist perspectives’ and ‘The Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence’ aren’t unfortunately the only examples of extremist feminist thought and theory that have had a direct impact on efforts to encourage shared parenting and even to challenge the ‘patriarchy’, even when defined in its mildest form.

        Recently the editors of Dramatis’ were granted Athens access to journals and academic papers online, and the quantity of misandrist academic material produced throughout the 1990s (notably) that appears to have had a direct influence on the British judiciary and government is enormous, and will take years to present in any reasonable form. Additionally we have been gifted numerous books, often from American and British feminists who are somewhat unhappy about the direction modern feminism is going and the pit it has been digging itself into for decades. The page that the entry for ‘The Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence’ appears on was originally contributed by a leading US feminist.

        For modern feminism both in the US and UK (‘European’ feminists are somewhat different to their English-speaking counterparts) the adoption of misandrist expressions and theories have led to a bizarre situation whereby they are invariably promoting a return to ‘traditional’ visions of gendered roles at the expense of women – particularly women intent on pursuing a serious career. Getting rid of this corrupted vision of feminism is going to be a hard task, stunted by the lack of any useful leadership and vision amongst modern feminists.

        Rachel Livermore
        Associate Editor
        Dramatis Personae – an indexed history of child protection & family justice
        http://www.dramatis.hostcell.net

        Like

  16. Bartholomew · April 17, 2012

    Karen, I would say that you are the single most important person advancing the cause 4 children in the UK, if not the world, at present. Child poverty, starvation, illiteracy, etc. – these are all equally heartbreaking crises, but in some sense they all seem to go hand in hand with the state-sponsored deprivation of relationships between children and their loving parents (mostly dads), which has been allowed to occur for far too long.

    You write so well, and so fearlessly.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · April 17, 2012

      Thank you for your kind words Bartholomew, but I am just doing what I can when I can and where I can. The time is ripe for real change and there is hope, we must push on together now and make it real. K

      Like

      • Charlie Axon · April 17, 2012

        Hi Karen, I wrote to Phillip Hammond MP a few months ago and her replied very swiftly, telling me that the Govt was not going to go with all of the Norgrove review and that his colleagues were working on the basis of significant relationship with both parents – this was the first time I heard the rumblings of a change. I would heartily recommend anyone to write to their MP and give them real examples of why family law is so woefully wrong, together with some positive suggestions for real change. Agreed we push on together and now.

        Like

  17. Charlie Axon · April 17, 2012

    Oh and contrary to the much feted Australian study, I firmly believe that shared parenting would result in less litigation, not more. I wish they would look at all the other studies like the Canadian one which emphatically proved that it IS the best for a child in almost all cases.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · April 17, 2012

      Hi Charlie,

      I will send you some details of what you can do if you can send me your email address – the email is clinic@separatedfamilies.org.uk (not for general use so if you could keep it to yourself I would be grateful).

      I work with alienated children and their families and I am delivering workshops for FNF on the issue in April and May – part two of the first course is at the end of April and then in May another two parter will be run.

      I am also discussing setting up a forum and therapeutic support group for rejected parents and those whose children are at risk of alienation, I will post more about that as it becomes clear.

      Finally, as it is International awareness day for Parental Alienation on the 25th April, I will be writing about my work and about how the current court system escalates the problem of alienation in our country.

      PS Whilst writing to your MP can feel futile at times, now is most definitely the time to add your support to what the government are doing, the more voices in support the more they will be able to resist the pressures against them.

      Best K

      Like

      • Charlie Axon · April 17, 2012

        Thank you Karen. I’ve never come across a multi-tasking multi-tasker like yourself before! It’s impressive. Seriously, it’s so heartening to see someone so committed and so passionate about these subjects and who is really trying to affect some positive change. I’ll shut up now and thanks again.

        Like

    • karenwoodall · April 17, 2012

      the thing about the Oz report on their reforms is that you can make it mean just about anything you want it to mean, different people say different things and people just pull out the strands that suit your argument. You are right, Canada is another good example, as is, I believe, Israel. I seem to be getting visits here from Israel at the moment so maybe someone from over there might give us an idea of how things go there, maybe if I can get a discussion board going we might get some input from all over the world, I seem to being read in about 38 countries at the moment, we have clearly caught a turning moment in time.

      Like

  18. Charlie Axon · April 17, 2012

    Johnnie you are gent, would love the PAS info – also came across the book you mention too. If you could let me know how we exchange stuff – don’t wand to cause a breach of blogging etiquette on Karen’s site!! Could do it via FNF on FB? Totally agree about your comments regarding Judge’s perceptions of parental love vs obsession – what a peversion of the human spirit; what parent (male or female) wouldn’t feel the need to be close to their separated children? Thanks Karen for allowing us the space.

    Like

    • Johnnie · April 17, 2012

      Charlie, it’s no problem at all. That’s what we’re all meant to be doing – pushing on together and supporting each other along the way. If you look on the FNF website, my email address and mobile are listed under the Barnstaple Branch details. Email me and I’ll email you back.

      Like

      • Charlie Axon · April 17, 2012

        Understood and many thanks.

        Like

  19. Johnnie · April 17, 2012

    Karen, this evening I wrote to my MP, Nick Harvey. I sent him an email and will put the same letter in the post tomorrow. No time like the present.
    I urge every single one of us to consider doing the same. As you said, now is the best time to do this.

    Like

    • Charlie Axon · April 19, 2012

      Nice one Johnnie – I am going to find some key MP’s and do the same.

      Like

      • Johnnie · April 19, 2012

        I copied in 3 of his key staff who are on his webpage but I haven’t heard a thing from any of them. I’m sure they’re very busy.
        I’m going to do the same as you – find other key MP’s and write to them too.

        Like

      • Charlie Axon · April 20, 2012

        Charlie Elphicke is a prime candidate as he tabled a private members bill for shared parenting. Brian Binley is another who has tried to raise awareness. Then there’s the cabinet and even sympathetic Labour MP’s. I saw somewhere that there was specific group of MP’s who were champions of the cause. I think a search under shared Parenting may find them. good luck everybody!

        Like

      • PapaMissingKids · April 20, 2012

        How about 2 lists?
        1 for those that completely support the positive changes and t’other for those that are on-the-fence, suspiciously quiet about the changes and/or against the changes.
        This way, the latter can also be targeted.
        I don’t mind writing to some – dunno what to do though.

        Like

      • Charlie Axon · April 21, 2012

        I think that’s a great idea in essence. Writing to the MP’s who are already trying to change legislation for the better and also writing to the one’s who are not known for their stance on the subject. I guess politics being politics, it means that most opposition MP’s would vote against – also as Karen says, historically, Labour have been on the side of traditionalist (I hate to say feminist orientated viewpoint) lobby. Still worth writing to all though – suggest starting with local MP and pointing out to them that your vote for them might hinge on their supoort of this. Do I not remember Labour a few years ago trying to change the children act or have I got a skewed memory?

        Like

    • Charlie Axon · April 20, 2012

      Tim Loughton, Sarah Teather and justice minister Jonathan Djanogly are the ones who are responsible for drafting the amendments to the Children Act.

      Like

      • Charlie Axon · April 20, 2012

        Dr Therese Coffey, Douglas Carswell, Phillip Hollobone, Christopher Chope, Peter Bone, Mark Reckless, Caroline Dineage, Mark Pritchard, Harriett Baldwin and David Nuttall.
        These MP’s support changes to the Children Act. There must be others.

        Like

      • karenwoodall · April 21, 2012

        Plus Maria Miller who is the Minister with responsibility for reforming child maintenance, she is, the single most focused politician on getting collaborative parenting supported (apart from Iain Duncan Smith) to my mind. She could do with support, all of the reforms to child maintenance are met with a barrage of opposition from Gingerbread et al, most recently when the Lords opposed the proposals to charge single parents for using the statutory maintenance scheme (what used to be the CSA). Fortunately the government just went ahead and implemented it anyway but it takes real vision and focus to keep on facing what has hitherto been an impenetrable wall of opposition and she has kept on going. I actually think that not many people realise the significance of the reforms that have been to child maintenance, they are to my mind, the biggest signal of all that there has been a shift, the repeal of Section 6 in 2008, which meant that there was not an automatic use of the CSA for people on benefits and the move towards supporting private agreements, changed the landscape completely. The most recent changes have been swift, big and brave and the future for making child maintenance agreements looks different with the big stick having been put away (taken out of the hands of Gingerbread et al) and a much more realistic and family based approach being taken which is respectful of fathers rather than treating them like walking wallets.

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  20. Anthony Esler · April 18, 2012

    Johnnie,
    I want to join Karen’s blog..but cant find any ‘Follow’..facebook..twitter..all the other rubbish!!..but cant find how to join..can u help again please?
    Many thanks
    Anthony

    Like

  21. Johnnie · April 18, 2012

    Hi Anthony, in the bottom right of the screen there should be a ‘Follow’ button. If you can see it, click on it and take it from there.

    Like

  22. dermot · April 18, 2012

    Karen wow! a forum for alienated parent would be great. there are small things that can become big things in the process eg phone calls, handovers and i know that many will struggle including myself at times.I’ve often thought a buddy system would help because people can learn from each other too and in many ways when your facing PA you need a strategy or a plan? I currently have contact with a dad who is facing the same and we support each other through this. Its important because few people know or understand it my own family included.

    Like

  23. Anthony Esler · April 18, 2012

    Many thanks Johnnie..got it!

    Like

  24. Bartholomew · April 18, 2012

    Like so many others, I too agree that parental alienation is in need of urgent redress. I know this from first-hand experience, but also from having spoken to dads in the same boat, and children who have grown up with mothers who, failing to get their way in court, and failing with the usual domestic violence allegations, have then resorted to the more subtler means, i.e., mind poison. After false accusations, it would not be surprising if parental alienation (if you want to call it that) became the single biggest problem facing us – that is to say, if shared parenting is really going to happen in this country. I suspect that some of those more well-meaning folks (if they exist at all in this industry) who oppose shared parenting suspect this already. Therefore, if shared parenting is to be anything more than the usual empty rhetoric , those two things – that is, false accusations and parental alienation – need to be recast as serious criminal offenses, and treated accordingly, i.e., as emotional abuse. At present, courts merely turn a blind eye to these, excusing this behavior as par for the course, or they frown upon dad for even suggesting that this is what is happening, and use this as an excuse to label him vindictive and cut him down to size (rather than having any empathy with his frustration). Either way, the courts are guilty here of the patriarchal mindset that sees women as victims and men as perpetrators. Incidentally, I cannot help but notice how the backlash against shared parenting already seems to be well under way; it is always intriguing to find that the media coverage of something called domestic violence (which of course is only ever committed by fathers) exists in direct proportion to any move in the direction of greater recognition of fathers and children’s rights.

    Like

  25. PapaMissingKids · April 20, 2012

    Hi Karen,
    Always appreciate the insight you provide for people on this side of the fence.

    Something I wanted to point out – for people who want to get you involved in their case we would do research and your views could be researched. The only thing is – the other side would as well, and alienating Mums (and some dads) being what they are, they may be able to tell that you have the capability to see through them, and therefore they would reject you.

    I don’t know, and can only imagine, that perhaps many mothers that do this (alienating) do it out of a considerable amount of personal emotional turmoil. The expert pointed out that in my case the children are in an impossible situation. I can now also appreciate that, to a certain extent, the mother was in an impossible situation as well. And perhaps, in my case, her family were too. Nobody knows or appreciates, but I was as well.

    Just as a (humble) suggestion, do you think you could write something from the mother’s perspective so that those that do do such research might be tempted to approach you for your input. Perhaps as part of your therapeutic approach, you take the stance of being very sympathetic to the mother. In my case, I allege that she is narcissistic. However, perhaps sympathy is one way to deal with it.

    This is just an impromptu suggestion from me – it may not even be relevant. I’m not sure the above even makes any sense.

    Anyway, many many thanks for your ever so informative blog.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · April 20, 2012

      hi,

      A critical point that you make here is that there is a danger that I may be seen as an expert with an axe to grind, thereby putting off the mothers that might work with me…

      i am about to write a piece on parental alienation, in which I will describe the background to how children become alienated and how this can be an unconscious process on the part of mothers as a desire to help their children cope with change.

      i think that anyone who knows my work with alienated children, knows that I work with both parents and that often I see mothers who are in dreadful anguish because of their own psychology and background which is projected onto their children.

      my article will, I hope, show how I work holistically, undersanding each parent’s background and how the ending of their relationship creates a particulay dynamic that grasps children in loyalty conflicts..and how to avoid it, reverse it and repair it.

      this blog is largely the place where I write about inequality and the need for balance to bring masculinity into childrens lives again… But on 25th April, I will write about my therapeutic work from a holistic perspective.

      Hope that answers your points, which I think are critical and important to think about.

      K

      Like

      • PapaMissingKids · April 20, 2012

        Excellent Karen!

        As usual!

        The only thing now is this – any chance u can edit my above posting and remove references to details of how much I’ve seen my children as well as the point of “impossible situation”. It was very careless of me to have gone into that much detail as I don’t want toe other side to come across it just in case.

        Another point – courts tend to not want words like pa or alienation or pas to be used in court. So how should we put it? My expert hasn’t used it but it can be alluded to. Is there a court-preferred-term u could recommend?

        Many thanks. I’ll look forward to that and other articles from you

        PapaMissingKids

        Like

      • karenwoodall · April 21, 2012

        Hi Edit complete.

        The term that is most often used in court is implacable hostility, or you can talk about the alienated child or children.

        Some courts will accept Parental Alienation now however, particularly in London and around. I am working directly with cases at the moment where PA is the diagnosis and I am brought in the do the work of reuniting the children and parent.

        HHJ Bellamy said in 2010, on the Re S case, that I worked on, that Parental Alienation could now be considered part of maintream thinking… some Judges won’t agree and use of implacable hostility is the safe option, but some will and even CAFCASS will accept it sometimes.

        The thing about PA is that it takes different forms and arises for different reasons. I prefer to use the term psychological splitting which is the condition that underlies PA when children can no longer cope with loyalty conflicts and divide their parents into two distinct parts – good and bad.

        Anyway I will be writing about it on PA awareness day so you can read more then! Hope the above helps. K

        Like

  26. dermo · April 20, 2012

    its an interesting point. i have tried to understand my ex as hard as it is when you see the children being hurt too. equally is it possible at some point to reach a stage of forgiveness? It cannot be healthy to carry anger forever.

    I think the difficulty is that for many alienating parents they come from a cycle of generational behaviour and have often been exposed to childhood trauma themselves.

    In my case my ex was exposed to parenting which made her fear loss and attachment. when she and her siblings were naughty as children her mother would put her coat on and take a suitcase and leave returning hours later. Her mothers father was an alcoholic and her mother was brought up in a care system which at that time meant that the odds were highly in favour of being exposed to abuse. I for my part could identify dynamics in my parenting as a child which led to behaviour that fractured our marriage.

    my ex loves the children as they love her and in many ways is a wonderful mother.

    the problem is that if an alienating parent is unable to face these things (which may be painful and in itself is not an easy task) or chooses not to then nothing will change.

    i have a female relative who alienated her child from the father. recently she found a letter under his pillow saying dad hates me. they are now being reunited. unless you get a catalyst like this or some semblance of the world being less black and white and more shades of grey then a process of change is unlikely to happen. i had hoped the loss of my exs father would change things but in many ways it made things worse.

    alienating parents are not happy people. they are angry and broken and i believe that much of that is deflected onto the target parent as a means of avoiding personal reflection and growth.

    to understand however is not to condone.

    Like

  27. Steven Creevy · April 21, 2012

    What a good need article for future generations. Hopefully my son will be spared from what I have had to go through if he is unfortunate enough to have to get divorced. Its a shame that its a little too late for the lost three years I have had with my now 11 year old daughter and who knows how many more years. Still it will have been worth the barrage of letters to my own and other MPs as well as the PM. I’m also glad to have played a small part with F4J, and the march outside the PM’s home during hunger for justice week. I’m sure it spelled out how much good Dads wanted to share the parenting rule post divorce. The tragedy is that my son, whom, I have reasonably good access too gets all the benefits of playing footie, horse riding, karting, robot building/ programming, tennis coaching a ND so on

    Like

  28. Steven Creevy · April 21, 2012

    Continued from unfinished last post. So my son gets all these positive aspects of contact but my daughter gets nothing based on a CAFCASS wishes and feelings report and a daughter poisoned by Parental Alienation Syndrome.
    Keep up the good work Karen.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · April 26, 2012

      and, the worrying thing is that based on that one interview, her whole relationship with you is defined and then not given any opportunity to be redefined. As a child psychiatrist I work with said to me this week, they make decisions based on Wishes and Feelings when anyone with any psychological know how knows that children’s wishes and feelings change hour by hour, minute by minute, depending on who they are with, what the weather is like and whether they have had a good day at school or not. Utter utter madness. Sending my support to you, K

      Like

  29. Steven Creevy · April 21, 2012

    PS I’m a science teacher and Head of Department at an OFSTED outstanding school. How useful would this be to my daughter as she enters the Secondary School Phase.

    Like

  30. Charlie Axon · April 21, 2012

    Hey Karen, just a question really. Do courts refer families to you or do families/individuals commission you independently?

    Like

    • karenwoodall · April 26, 2012

      HI charlie, both can happen, I work inside and outside the court process as therapeutic conciliator, parenting co-ordinator and also as facilitator in restarting relationships where alienation has been diagnosed. Referral comes through Centre for Separated Families or the Family Separation Clinic, I work for both. K

      Like

      • Charlie Axon · April 26, 2012

        Thanks for the info Karen. Much appreciated.

        Like

  31. dermo · April 21, 2012

    maybe not the right place to post but somehow it seems so relevant to the personal stories on this forum.

    a magical tale of love loss and reunion. a little girl looks for her dad.

    It was inspired by a letter from a little girl to her dad-a steward on the titanic.

    I’m taking my boys tomorrow. I’m lucky i know although i face the same as others.

    dedicated to all the parents and children who have faced and are facing PA and to those who help and understand. that magical tales can become a reality for all.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · April 26, 2012

      I totally LOVED this, what a spectacle, wish I had been there. K

      Like

  32. mark dewison · April 24, 2012

    Karen, I agree wholeheartedy with all the efforts to assist parents to make their own maintenance arrangements. However, the PWC still holds all the cards: if they want the statutary scheme, that is what will happen.
    I’ve outlined my case before – my ex is on £90k – and the kller punch is that the new scheme will calculate Maintenance on the NRP’s gross earnings. Notwithstanding the fact that the percentages will be reduced, this is an increase by stealth. In my own case, I calculate that I shall be £60 per month worse off. This obviously impacts on how much I can spend on my children directly.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · April 26, 2012

      Hi Mark, it is true that your kids other parent can use the Stat Scheme but only if she goes through the gateway and if she refuses to accept maintenance direct she will have to pay to use the Stat System – though of course so will you.

      The process will be very different though and she won’t find it so easy to simply pick up the stick to beat you with.

      I will try to find out more about what it will actually look like, its in process at the moment so I will try to get a better picture.

      K

      Like

  33. Bruno D'Itri · April 28, 2012

    Hello Karen

    Thank you for yet another very well-considered and child-centric analysis of the Shared Parenting debate. Your arguments concerning the ‘divorce industry’, the vested interests and/or the out-of-date ideology of certain legal and welfare practitioners, and the need to re-calibrate Britain’s approach to post-divorce parenting are extremely insightful and persuasive. You ought to have a direct ‘hot-line’ to the Ministry of Justice and to the office of the President of the Family Division!

    Perhaps the most severe harm done to the children of divorced/separated parents arises in overseas Relocation cases, sitting, as they plainly do, at the extreme end of the spectrum of parent/child separation.

    It is widely accepted in many legal quarters (e.g. Mostyn in Re AR) that current Relocation law (Payne v Payne) gives paramountcy to the ‘primary’ parent wishing to relocate overseas. In the majority of cases, children are removed from their ‘secondary’ parent (usually, of course, their father), their extended family, their friends and from the familiarity and stability of their cultural and educational environments. The legal argument being that to disappoint the ‘primary’ parent – by refusing their application – would have detrimental long-term consequences for the children, and, furthermore, that such harm would not be mitigated by the advantages of Shared Parenting.

    Significant progress came in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, in which the President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, acknowledged and wrote about the harm done to children resulting from the permanent breach of their meaningful relationship with their ‘secondary’ parent, as a consequence of the overseas relocation. However, rather oddly, he later resiled from his own written criticism of Relocation law, and held that Payne v Payne must remain in force.

    If, as is expected, the Government introduces Shared Parenting legislation, it will be interesting to see whether the judiciary reappraises Relocation law in its wake. It certainly should!

    It is plain to any adult who has attempted to nurture a long-distance romantic relationship that the obstacle of thousands of miles of distance acts as a significant impediment! It is, of course, the same with attempting to maintain a meaningful relationship with one’s children. I speak from bitter personal experience. The relationship with my own children has seriously deteriorated following their overseas removal, a year and a half ago, despite my earnest efforts.

    My hope is that Relocation law will finally be overhauled to protect the children’s need to maintain meaningful relationships with BOTH their parents, and to uphold the children’s Right to Family Life (‘family’ equating to ‘both parents’).

    This would, of course, limit the Right to Free Movement of the ‘primary’ parent. However, of course, being a parent is not simply about parental Rights. It is also about parental Responsibilities to the children’s well-being.

    Bruno D’Itri

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  34. Alastair Patterson · May 3, 2012

    Karen,

    If you contact me, I will send you my amendments to Working Together to Safeguard Children. You will find what are suggesting was exactly the intention of the Children Act 1989 20 years ago. It was intended to come into effect with enactment of the Family Law Act 1996 and the introduction of marriage services. Statutory regulations should have been made under section 7(2) describing four sorts of local authority social care plans for the family that supported shared care.

    A parenting plan for relationship breakdown.

    A child in need plan as the early intervention stage in social problems.

    A child protection plan for voluntary intervention when the public law thresholds were conceded and

    A care plan when the public law thresholds were disputed and lost.

    Bruce Clarke at CAFCASS deliberately doctored Working Together to Safeguard Children and made the corresponding falsifications in section B3.3 and section E of the CAFCASS Safeguarding Framework.

    Regards,

    Alastair

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  35. Bruno D'Itri · June 24, 2012

    An open letter to Tim Loughton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, 24 June 2012:

    The Government now recognises that the paramount interests of a child are served by facilitating and safeguarding its close and meaningful relationship with both its parents, post separation/divorce. In reaching this conclusion, the Government has taken into full and careful account the wishes of its electorate, the realities of 21st century family life, and a plethora of irrefragable psychological and sociological evidence and research, collated over the last decade or so, which plainly demonstrates the emotional, developmental and educational benefits for those children who are permitted to enjoy a shared parenting regime. In short, ‘paramount interests’ equates to ‘shared parenting’ (except, of course, in cases where there is a proven risk of harm).

    The will of our elected Government is clear. It considers that the Children Act (1989) – as well, perhaps, as some judge-made laws which followed in its wake – does not serve the paramount interests of the child in its current form and therefore requires modification and improvement.

    However, regardless of whatever modification the Government makes to the CA, it will be the eventual application of the law by the judiciary which will determine whether or not the will of the Government is enacted in practice.

    What, then, is the best way to ensure that the will of the Government is enacted in practice by the judiciary? In my view, the Government should tap unashamedly into the vast legal knowledge and experience of Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division, and of his colleagues in the Family Division of the High Court. The Government should, I would suggest, posit the following very specific question to Sir Nicholas: “In order for the will of the Government to be enacted in practice, what modification to the CA can you suggest?”

    Of course, it may well be the case that the judiciary actually opposes the proposed change! Sir Nicholas has, in the past, voiced his personal objections to a number of Government proposals. Nevertheless, it is imperative that Sir Nicholas provides a comprehensive and constructive reply to the specific question above, rather than simply expressing his personal opinion as to whether or not the CA should be modified in order to promote Shared Parenting. Plainly, it is not for the judiciary to make that decision. That legislative power is for our democratically-elected Government. The duty of the judiciary, I would venture to suggest, is to apply the will of our elected Government – to obey Government – to the best of its ability. For it to do otherwise, either proactively or by omission, would be very wrong.

    Sir Nicholas is fully aware of the scientific evidence in favour of shared parenting. He is fully aware of the benefits to a child of maintaining a close and meaningful relationship with both its parents. We know this because, in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, Sir Nicholas was presented with a plethora of contemporary scientific evidence and research, which demonstrated, beyond all reasonable doubt, the veritable benefits for children of maintaining a close and meaningful relationship with both their parents.

    To his credit, Sir Nicholas reserved judgment in Re D and gave himself three weeks in which to carefully read and digest this very extensive scientific evidence, running to several hundred pages.

    To his further credit, in his eventual written judgement Sir Nicholas accepted the argument put forward by the litigant-in-person that current family law potentially relegates the harm done to children by giving insufficient weight to the importance of maintaining a close and meaningful relationship between children and both their parents.

    In summary, the judiciary is very aware of the serious harm which can be inflicted upon children when they are denied the right to maintain an on-going, close and meaningful relationship with both their parents.

    However, as was shown in Re D, the judiciary was hand-tied and constrained to apply current law. It could not, itself, introduce the new legal principle of Shared Parenting into the CA. Sir Nicholas has made it very clear that only Parliament has the power to do so.

    Those of us who have lost meaningful contact with our children due to current family law – and who live, day by day, in the soul-destroying knowledge that, according to the science, our children’s futures will be significantly blighted as a direct consequence – very much welcome our Government’s initiative on Shared Parenting.

    However, crucially, the Government should do all that it can to ensure that any modification to the CA will be robust enough to be effective in practice. The best person who can advise the Government on this specific point is Sir Nicholas Wall.

    I respectfully request that you advise me whether or not the Government will be seeking the input of Sir Nicholas on this very specific point.

    Yours Sincerely
    Bruno D’Itri

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    • Charlie · June 24, 2012

      Very well put Bruno, I suggest that each of us also write to our MP’s/ministers, even if we can’t put the case for equality and our children’s rights as eloquently or well argued as the post above, it will have a direct effect.

      Like

      • Another Dad · June 24, 2012

        Charlie, I agree that every single one of us should be knocking on the doors of our MPs and democratically making a nuisance of ourselves. I, for one, wrote to my MP until he agreed to meet me. I took to him the following 6 points below. They might be useful to others but I would also be interested to hear what Karen might add to them or improve them in some way.

        1. The principle of a “meaningful relationship with both parents” is going to need some definition and accompanying guidance for the judiciary. Without that it may be near meaningless. There has always been a presumption that a child should have a relationship with both parents – if not enshrined in legislation – but there has been no consistency across family courts as to how that presumption is implemented when it is. The norm all too often has been alternate weekends, 2 days in 14, no basis on which a child can benefit from a Father’s parental input.

        2. There needs to be an urgent review of leave to remove and internal relocation given current precedents fail to support the shared parenting principle. Current case law allows one parent to remove a child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales and there is nothing the other parent can do about it. Internal relocation can cause many of the same problems and needs to be similarly reviewed.

        3. Improved enforcement mechanisms are needed to combat the current unacceptable level of non-compliance with court orders, including move away from frequently expressed judicial view that it cannot be in a child’s best interests for his mother to be ‘punished’, a view which disregards the long term interests of the child in being allowed to benefit from a relationship with both parents.

        4. There needs to be a move away from the damaging ‘wishes and feelings’ approach, an approach developed purely to address Cafacss resource pressures and one that disregards wider welfare interests, burdens a child with taking decisions that they are too young to take and understand the long term implications of, empowers the mother to alienate and harmfully divides a child’s loyalties.

        5. There needs to be greater recognition of research and authoritive studies into Parental Alienation and it needs to be taken into account by Cafcass, particularly when producing reports applying the Welfare Checklist given the emotional harm it can inflict and way it influences children’s wishes and feelings. Judicial decisions also need to reflect a better understanding of this, including more consistent application of case law around the subject.

        6. There needs to be imposition of sanctions to deal with false allegations, particularly given new incentive to make them created by confining qualification for legal aid to cases where there is domestic violence.

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  36. Bruno D'Itri · January 8, 2013

    When parents separate or divorce, the court automatically seeks to anoint one parent (usually the mother) with the legal status of ‘primary carer/resident parent’. It then bestows upon that parent a grossly disproportionate degree of power and control over the children vis-à-vis the ‘secondary carer/non-resident parent’ (dad).

    In many acrimonious cases an embittered resident parent uses this power to exclude the second parent from the lives of the children. The courts are reluctant to punish this abhorrent behaviour, their rationale being that to punish the primary carer is tantamount to punishing the children. With no deterrence, this behaviour is set to continue.

    Quite naturally, an unjustly excluded parent will employ the very costly (£200 plus per hour) services of solicitors and barristers in a desperate effort to regain contact with his children. Truly obscene sums of money begin to flow from broken families into the coffers of the law firms. The Family Justice Industry feeds upon the love an excluded parent has for his children.

    A presumption of Shared Parenting would permit a loving parent to be fully involved in the parenting of his children, post separation or divorce, without the need for costly and lengthy litigation. In Australia, for example, litigation reduced by circa 30% following the introduction of Shared Parenting legislation. Of course, in those relatively few cases where there is a serious and proven risk of harm, contact can and should be restricted.

    Plainly, a similar reduction of circa 30% in British family court litigation would prove extremely damaging to the Family Justice Industry. It is little wonder, then, that the Law Society is vehemently against a presumption of Shared Parenting. Family lawyers are not saints; we should not naively assume that their leaders would place genuine justice for parents and children ahead of their desire to maintain their income stream.

    The judiciary is no better. Sir Nicholas Wall – the former President of the Family Division – sought to blame parents for “using their children as weapons”, without accepting in the least that it is the System itself which facilitates, encourages and fails to deter such abhorrent behaviour.

    The real scandal is that the Law Society and the judiciary appear to have succeeded in persuading our Government to significantly dilute its original Shared Parenting proposals. There is now a very serious risk that the unsatisfactory status quo is set to continue.

    Shame on the Law Society.
    Shame on the judiciary.
    Shame on the Government.

    Bruno D’Itri

    Like

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