Outrage despair and double standards

The story of the mum on the run with her son this week has brought all sorts of commentary, outrage, handwringing and despair out into the open. From the family members who are suspected of knowing where she is, to the words of the mum herself, ‘I am putting my child first,’ to the tub thumping of the parental rights groups, this case has hit the headlines. But for me, the most interesting things about it are not the mother on the run or even the fact that if this were a dad the words used would be kidnap, but the double standards of those for whom the family courts are the embodiment of evil.  In some quarters there has been a miraculous turn around and those same family courts are now not evil but are dispensing justice which should be obeyed. Some are even trotting out the old chestnut that if a mother has lost a residence order she must have ‘done something very seriously wrong.’  It seems there is no justice until it is justice one agrees with.  This double standard helps no-one, least of all children and it simply furthers the men versus women war upon which so much of the women’s rights lobby depends upon.  It is not savvy and it is not sophisticated and we should stop and think before we launch ourselves headlong into this gendered battle.

The publication of this case has given us the opportunity to discuss in public for once, the kind of things that happen when cases like this approach the residence transfer point. It is a place I am used to because it is where I work with families.  The Guardian gives us some more flesh on the bones in its reporting of the matter and, whilst I have been cautioned by readers in recent days for relying upon the media for reporting of family court issues, the Guardian paints for me, a familiar picture.

In January 2014, Minnock made allegations against Williams. These were all rejected by a district judge in April 2014. A hearing next took place in February 2015, after Minnock made further allegations. A district judge found these had been “fabricated” by Minnock to “frustrate contact”.

Ethan began to spend four nights a week with his father and three nights a week with his mother. A child psychiatrist, Dr Mark Berelowitz, carried out a report on Ethan and found the boy had a “warm relationship” with both parents. However, Berelowitz said Minnock did not accept that Williams was innocent of her allegations and had questioned Ethan “extensively”. He recommended that Ethan should live with his father and have supervised contact with Minnock, a view shared by a social worker.

Another court hearing was listed before a district judge on 27 May. Prior to the hearing, Minnock was advised that Ethan would be taken to live with his father and fled before the case could be heard.

This is the kind of case I work with regularly, a case where a child is subjected to the pressures placed upon him by a parent who believes that the other parent has done something dreadful to the child in order to prevent the child from spending time with that parent. When this reaches a point where the parent who is fabricating the allegations cannot or will not stop what they are doing and when the child’s mind is being damaged by the efforts to inculcate false beliefs about what has happened, transfer of residence is to my mind the quickest, safest and healthiest approach to resolving the issue. If only these cases could be dealt with quickly. The sad thing about them is that the child is often so badly damaged by the time the court acts that it is impossible to resolve them.  I hope Wildblood does the right thing when this mother returns and an immediate transfer is made for the boy to live with dad.  From there the biggest task is rehabilitation into the relationship with his mother, a process which is important but often fraught with concern and danger, particularly when a parent refuses to undertake psychological testing.  Let’s be clear. These cases are not straightforward residence and contact battles, they are child protection issues which have to be dealt with robustly and in a particular way to safeguard the child. In many cases the alienating parent does not understand what they have done or is incapable of changing. Skilled help in those circumstances is essential to protect the child and restore a balanced relationship.  This is about therapy not court processes and assistance to give the child the best chance going forward.

The core issue however is that outside of the gendered outrage that if this were a man there would be a hunt going on and this woman must have done something seriously bad to warrant the loss of her child in this way, there is a narrative that this is somehow ‘proper justice’ and that this transfer of residence from mother to father is a step in the right direction and a move towards the right kind of justice.  It strikes me that all this is just hot air and as I said in my last post, wind baggery.  This transfer of residence, whilst it suits the fathers rights groups because it is about the child going to live with his father and outrages the women’s rights groups because it exemplifies male control over women, is what it should be – the movement of a child from the unhealthy parent to the healthy one.  In this respect it is based upon the rights of the child to live free from harm and it is truly acting on the child’s best interests because children who are subjected to false allegations and whose parent cannot or will not stop that, are in danger of all sorts of problems as they grow older, not least the delusion that they have been harmed by a parent who loves them and thereby robbed of that parent’s love.  This is not a gender issue for me, it is a mental health issue and the court is acting upon the advice of a mental health consultant who has the courage to say it how it is and advise a transfer.  If only there were more, the children I see suffering would not be left so long before they obtained the freedome they deserve.

Double standards in commentary and narrative about the family court system helps no-one. The core of this issue is not that this is the right kind of justice because we agree with it because it is a Judge acting against a mother.  It is not that all mothers without their children ‘must have done something seriously wrong to deserve losing them,’ it is not that all dads are wonderful but prevented from being so by an evil court system which is biased against them, it is that a child is in danger and a Judge has had the guts to do the thing which will make him safe again. There is a lot wrong with the family justice system and there is a whole lot more wrong with the family services that sit around it but dads do this to kids as well as mums.  There are good mums and bad dads and bad mums and good dads and in between there are children who need the people who can help to do so quickly and with their best interests in focus.  This is a case where what is needed is being done. That’s where our focus should be, not on the gender war and double standards that fog reality and simply attempt to swing the pendulum back in the other direction.

Healthy and unhealthy parent, not mother versus father and justice which supports the child’s needs instead of seeing the child as an extension of the mother. That’s what is important about this judgement, the rest is not.

15 comments

  1. Anonymous · June 12, 2015

    Double standards is exactly what it is. Men that have lost everything to false allegations and sexism go through living bereavement of parental alienation. Yet some women on the aptly named loose women effectively support a now public alienation case!

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  2. rawbradford · June 12, 2015

    A salutary reminder of the proper perspective on these matters, as usual.

    Like

  3. daveyone1 · June 12, 2015

    Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

    Like

  4. Anonymous · June 12, 2015

    There are not good and bad Mums and Dads, just different ones.

    There are Mums and Dads who behave badly, which can drive the family to ruin if therapy counselling and good will are in short supply.

    Or put another way, there are Mums and Dads who don’t appear to know what a child needs but nevertheless their presence and comfort remains essential to the child’s well being.

    Bad behaviour from parents is fairly commonplace when parents split. This is understandable and can be forgiven. In the right setting amends can be made.

    It is not about picking sides. The woman who takes a child from a situation where she feels she has to invent bad stories about her former partner in order to maintain influence over her child is in need of help.

    She is not a condemned person; she is someone traumatised, afraid, angry perhaps embittered, self-righteous, has perhaps loss and trust issues

    In this case I can not help feeling mother and father need to thrash out an agreement and reach an understanding.

    If Mum has fears about her child’s safety she has to talk about this, not withstanding the child would benefit from temporary restpite from her.

    Kind regards.

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  5. Dad · June 12, 2015

    Sadly, many of those commenting in support of the mother do so on the basis that there is no love like a mother’s love and she is acting to protect her child from a harmful father. That in itself should be considered as the prejudice and sense of self importance is glaringly obvious. I had seen plenty who have given a sigh of relief at reading the various articles but it is nothing compared to the mass support she receives from other mothers who have not read the judgment and seemingly miss the fact that this mother has validated the court’s concern by taking the action she has. Even if we found that her concerns were valid, even if we found that the court and it’s experts had failed the child by acting with prejudice, in negligence, etc, even then it would not justify her action. The story is typical of the experience of so many separated father’s but with one key difference – the court dismissed the allegations. Fathers are right to celebrate the decision of the court. They are right to celebrate a very public judgment that acknowledges the steps some mothers will take to deny the father reasonable contact. I have been busy in the gender war and I think it is important to RESPOND to those so ignorantly offering the mother support. If they want to stand on the pedestal, discriminate against the father, put their own self importance over the best interest of the child – at least let’s make sure they know what they are doing. And who knows, some people might actually think about the support they are offering and might even realise that they have missed the most important thing – the best interest of the kids. Staying on the overwhelming support from other mother’s it is something that needs to be considered. WHY do mothers feel they are like gods in their child’s life and why do they consider the father disposable?

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  6. padrestevie · June 12, 2015

    Hi Karen

    The press have done yet another superb job in misrepresenting this case to orchestrate outrage.

    Here’s the most recent judgment.

    https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/judgment_of_8th_June_2015.pdf

    I wish the press had simply reported it. I also wish that more people would read it before commenting and stop accepting news reports at face value.

    As you say Karen, the judge has made the right decision based upon his own reading and the unanimous advice of the professionals involved.

    The enthusiasm for the masses to unquestioningly support the emotional abuse of a highly vulnerable little boy is worrying.

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  7. Dave Darby · June 12, 2015

    Good article Karen.
    As you rightly said, if the dad had run off with the child, then the word kidnap or abduction would be used.
    I feel in this case, mum has no regard for the court order and should expect reprisals from the court, such as community service or imprisonment, same punishment a father would get for kidnap or abduction.
    I am of the opinion that she is scared of losing the financial benefits that she is reaping from dad and the Government and is scared of facing the real world and having to go back to work, rather than having the lady of leisure life.

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    • Jay · June 13, 2015

      In response to your last paragraph Dave, I recently did an exercise to compare the differences between me and my ex if I was working the same hours for the same money as her.

      I think she does about 16 hours for a gross wage of £130. With tax credits, housing benefit, council tax benefits, child benefit and child maintenance (based on if I earned £130 per week same as her), her net income would effectively increase to £491.

      Conversely, on that wage I would get a small amount of council tax benefit, but have to pay her child maintenance, giving me a net income of £131 from the same start point.

      So basically, in this case, two kids are worth £360 per week….I’ll say that again £360 per week, £1550 per month, or over £18,500 per annum …. now surely that would not be a motivating factor for parents such as my ex to want ‘possession’ of the children?

      It has previously been discussed that without there also being a major overhaul of the way benefits are divided between parents, with it pretty much currently being a case of winner takes all for whichever parent receives the child benefit, attempts to change the Family Court system in isolation will always be doomed to fail.

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  8. dEXTER · June 12, 2015

    I hope that this Mother is imprisoned for the longest period available to the Judge, I say this not because it is what should happen but because it is a case that, due to her actions, has been allowed out of the secrecy of the Family Courts and ensured three straight days of top of the news headlines, hopefully this will discourage other parents from acting with such rash behaviour, both past and present, that is damaging a young child.
    As every man I talk to about it says “this would be called kidnap if it was a bloke” , and I can speak from experience because I am currently in receipt of a letter accusing me of taking my child abroad without the Mothers consent and obtaining a passport without her knowledge, both facts are laughably untrue and I am looking forward to presenting a Judge with black and white proof that she has yet again fabricated.
    Reality should be exactly what the Courts have decided, child lives with Father and then hopefully Mother is fully integrated back into her sons life and both parents get to enjoy their child growing up without the poor behaviour that has so far been displayed. Hoping that it all ends well …… maybe, just maybe this might be the start of recognition of Parental Alienation and hopefully make the Family Court system more transparent and respected.

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  9. John Mousicos · June 12, 2015

    “This transfer of residence… is what it should be – the movement of a child from the unhealthy parent to the healthy one.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Gender-based discussion is simply a waste of breath and feeds into an ongoing and destructive narrative.

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    • dEXTER · June 12, 2015

      Well said that man! Few words that cut straight to it.

      Like

  10. Concernedparent · June 13, 2015

    Very valid points! I work in a place that has really big issues with diversity and inclusion and the response has been to make it a gender issue. This has of course backfired as it is really about changing the culture. With families it is not about gender but about children and good parenting.

    What I still do not understand however is why this order, including remedies for lying in court, is being implemented so strongly. Many of us have years of experience of false allegations, lying and broken orders with absolutely no consequences or help to implement.

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  11. Anonymous · June 13, 2015

    It is interesting that my analogy that the woman in this case is in need of some kind of help has been interpreted by others here as;
    My support for feminist tendencies, as if I were suffering some kind of disease
    In another comment someone wants to throw the woman in jail having her experience the same kind of punishment a man might receive. This desire for revenge is understandable especially when we have experienced similar kinds of unfairness ourselves.
    ………………………………….
    Perhaps to add to this furore I feel any interventions that involve therapeutic considerations for the mother must also include the father. A couple of blogs back Karen spoke about family dynamics and how important it was to arrive at some kind of understanding between all parties albeit a different dynamic from the one previously enjoyed when they were all living together.
    …………………………………….
    “WHY do mothers feel they are like gods in their child’s life and why do they consider the father disposable?”

    The answer to this comes from the fact that the child comes from the mother’s womb. Throughout the animal Kingdom the relationship between mother and child is demonstrated to be a physically and emotionally very close one. Such is the strength of this bond that she is prepared on occasion to sacrifice all else for what she perceives is the defence and protection of her child. You may have seen her on the Jeremy Kyle show trying to conceal the identity of the real father (I am amazed that in our society we still don’t insist on knowing the father of every child that is born). These impulsive or automatic reactions to obstructing the father from doing his job I believe are the natural responses of a mother who is feeling insecure, perhaps lacking in self-confidence, traumatised by the huge responsibility not only of having a child but having to work out the role of the father. Under stress (like most of us), instead of opening up to her partner or others who can potentially re-assure her she will start to look for fault elsewhere. Of course there are probably many other reasons, but as a society we tend accept that “mother knows best”. This is representative of her dominance in child care issues.
    …………………………………………
    Just imagine the scenario if this woman does end up in jail without her child to care for. Adjustments and reconciliations are made with father; all good for father and son. How are you going to help the mother/son relationship once she is out of jail?

    More often than not the mother will be forgotten about or diagnosed with a failing recently created by psychiatrists from their latest edition of the little red book; DSM5.

    Whilst all this is going on the son is bonding with a new maternal figure who is performing most of the tasks that used to be carried out by Mum. Does he miss his Mum? Of course he does.

    Kind regards

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  12. ash · June 14, 2015

    Best interests of the kid is nonsense because a) kids in intact families are not judged by best interest of the kid, and b) it’s impossible to judge best interest of the kid and so the judges get these competing stories of horrors.

    Best interest of the kid allows the judge to project the judge’s agenda and the psychologist’s agendas on the families.

    Any family judged by best interest of the child could easily have that child taken by CPS.

    Like

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