Watch with mother: gender and the prevention of the best interest of the child

A quick follow up on my last post now that mother and son in the transfer of residence case in the UK have been found (it seems mother gave herself up to the police). My major concern about this case is that it will now be affected by the gendered reactions in the media and society as a whole.  It seems that when fathers try to raise concerns about the family courts they are considered to be either bitter, revenge seeking or controlling but when mothers raise concerns, suddenly everyone is listening and feeling sorry for her. This is the gendered aspect of this case,  the gendered assumptions that society makes about men and women affect our responses to such situations.  Thus, if the mother has had her child removed from her for some it must be because she has done something really really bad (because mothers who lose their children by default must be worse than men because it is a mother’s role to care for her child) and for others if she has had her child removed it is because she is a victim of patriarchal control.

I am concerned that the gendered public reaction to this case will change the outcome of it. I am concerned because in my experience, if the mental health professional concerned – Mark Berelowitz – has recommended a change of residence then that child must be very much in danger from his mother’s behaviours.  Thus, if the public outcry succeeds in changing the outcome then a) that mental health professional’s judgement is simply pushed aside and b) what’s to stop any other mother who doesn’t agree with the outcome of a court case from picking up her kids and doing the same? This judgement needs to stick and the media and the public need to be educated to understand that this is about the wellbeing of the child, NOT the needs or beliefs of the mother.

The public also need to be educated to understand that a transfer of residence is not about complete removal of a child from the mother’s life but about giving power and control over outcomes to the healthy parent, the one who can promote a balanced life.  It is the public  and the media who are in need of education and information and it is the public and the media who need their gendered assumptions about what a good mother and a good father actually means.  If this becomes trial by mother’s sob story and mother’s needs, then the publication of the case is going to damage this child and others in future cases in similar situations. I sincerely hope that DJ Wildblood, Mark Berelowitz and the rest can ride out this storm and that the right decision which has already been made, is upheld and carried through. This is about healthy and unhealthy parenting, it is not about good mothers and bad fathers.

I fear it will not be long however, before the women’s rights groups begin to use this case in the media as ‘evidence’ of how fathers pursue mothers and the impact on mothers that this brings. They can do that because of the gendered assumptions inherent in our society which are played on by the media. This story is key because it is public, it is about enforcement, a key issue in the family courts and about the way in which the child’s wellbeing must be put at the heart of what we do in these cases. It is about healthy and unhealthy parents and how to give the child the best chance possible.  The gendered aspects of the case itself are not important but they will become important if those core issues are obfuscated via the media playing on gendered assumptions in society at large and particularly if that succeeds in changing the outcome. I am waiting for one of the women’s rights groups to step forward and champion this mother,  this could so easily be turned into a gender war which will affect the family courts, family services and decisions made by mental health professionals for many years to come.

But this is not a case about the mother’s needs, the mother’s wellbeing or the mother’s wishes and feelings, it is a case about the wellbeing of a child. A child who is at risk from his mother and who needs to be kept safe from the harm she has already caused to him.  Some mothers harm children physically, some harm them emotionally and psycholgically.  If she were breaking his arms and legs society would feel comfortable with what this Judge has done, because we cannot see the harm she is doing society appears less concerned about the child and the media definitely seems more interested in the mother than the wellbeing of the child. Watch with mother. This could be a critical point for family law in which we take a strong and powerful step forward for children.  Or not.

20 comments

  1. Vincent McGovern · June 13, 2015

    Personally I consider the ‘drama’ to be quite good for family courts and children overall, so far. Agree the Judge needs to remain firm and hoping he does this may send a strong signal to psuedo professionals and malevolent mums (and dads) in the UK that there are limits and court orders have relevance and a sting if breached.

    Unlikely I feel at the moment any of the myriad womens vigilante groups will make too much noise, as a rule of thumb I find where residence is transferred these groups refuse to become too involved if at all with the nuttier mums. Having the same one month sentence as her mum and former partner would send a good message. And visiting every week for the child under professional supervision including in prison with his mother. Rather like contact centres which is where so many dads are forced into usually by mothers making false allegations.

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    • dEXTER · June 15, 2015

      Spot on Vincent

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  2. padrestevie · June 13, 2015

    Hi Karen

    Here is a link to all four judgments made by Judge Stephen Wildblood in the last few days. His judgment of the 12th June is pertinent to this post.

    https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/roger-williams-v-rebecca-minnock-and-ethan-freeman-williams-2-judgments/

    He sets out an understanding, based upon a ling experience in family law, which is in very human terms:

    “Family life can be very demanding and parenthood poses lifelong responsibilities and demands. Family law proceedings are exceptionally stressful for all concerned. Under the stress that arises people may, wrongly, behave in ways that are impulsive and damaging to the welfare of children. Where a parent does behave in way that is wrong it is very important that matters are put right by that parent as soon as possible. The more time that goes by the more emotionally harmful it is for a child to be in the circumstances in which Ethan now finds himself. This mother must not see herself as being backed into a corner because there is a very simple solution for her – come forward with Ethan. The strain on this mother now must be immense and, from what I know at present, it appears that matters have simply snowballed from an impulsive decision made by her on 27th May 2015. That strain will only increase with the passage of time and, I know from what she has herself said, she understands that it is only a matter of time before she and Ethan will be found.”

    His tone later is firm but fair.

    He refers to “people”. Because of the very public nature of this case it would be surprising if his judgment had not already received some input from more senior judiciary. Under the circumstances it is encouraging since anyone can now quote his words and ask for a similar degree of empathy if faced with similar circumstances. I think that the judgments show that this may yet turn out to be a tipping point.

    It would be nice if more people would stop supporting a press that has no interest in factual reporting and exists only to promote the bias of its owners. The most recent video clip speaks volumes about the dismal personal and professional standards employed by these papers. They showed absolutely no regard whatsoever for the well being of little Ethan when they conducted an interview with the mother at little more than an arms length away from the lad. The mother was a willing participant in what is now a well documented and freely available example of emotional abuse.

    The case shows how the existing law, when applied, can be fit for purpose. In this case the welfare principle has been applied rigorously. The welfare of the child has indeed been the paramount consideration of the court. The judgment and reports will bear far greater scrutiny than anything the press decide to concoct. Let’s hope that the contempt of the the court’s orders are also dealt with firmly, fairly and appropriately.

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  3. Jay · June 13, 2015

    Having just read the Orders published since the case came into the public domain, in terms of it being ‘a critical point for family law in which we take a strong and powerful step forward for children’ Wildblood certainly seems to have potentially opened the doors somewhat, not least with his reference to the ECHR saying ‘The right of a parent to spend time with his or her children is an essential element of family life.’

    However, I do feel he rather undermined his credibility by saying in the same Order on 12th June, ‘No one can simply ignore that orders have been made which the mother has disobeyed; if I said otherwise it would send out a signal that the court will ignore breaches of its own orders, a signal that would be absurd and utterly wrong’ . Does he not realise that this is what routinely happens in Family Courts throughout the land every day?

    Totally agree that this should not be made into a gender war, it is about healthy and unhealthy parent, and if the parenting style of one of the parents is likely to be harmful to the child, then it makes sense that the children are placed with the other healthy parent, something that sadly tends not to happen all too often despite the Family Court supposedly acting in the best interests of those children.

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  4. Anonymous · June 13, 2015

    I accept all that, but my fear is that all cases will become a decision about which parent the child will live with rather than how can we fix the family and get both parents to do their job, even if that means working independently of each other. I make the assumption here that the child will benefit most from maintaining relations with both parents.

    The courts are a powerful tool in deliberating and separating but they don’t provide what families need.

    We have the power to educate through parenting classes, citizenship, mediation, reconciliation..etc but all this seems to be by-passed in the interests of a “switch of parentship”.

    Is it really so drastic that nothing but an immediate switch to the parent who appears to be the most qualified is the only solution?

    Kind regards

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  5. John · June 13, 2015

    “Anonymous”, yes sometimes a transfer of residence from unhealthy to healthy parent is absolutely necessary. As Karen said, if this mother were breaking the boy’s limbs, society would make no argument – emotional abuse can be just as bad and quite pernicious.

    That said, I agree with, and support the type of holistic approach you mention. It sounds like the father is quite the person to facilitate and support this healing process, if mother is willing… If mother is willing.

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    • parent against injustice · June 15, 2015

      if the mother was breaking its limbs, he would have been left in her care. the thought of losing a child can drive a person to behave in ways we would never conceive oneself of doing. good luck to her i say, i hope the judge does the honorable thing and keeps his word. what i do know is they lie and make detrimental decisions baised on personal opionions. or paid for opionions.mothers and farthers should be treated the same unless there is significant reason not to but this is a backward destructive system. but hay why be objective when people like some of the above. this only affirms that sometimes just sometime, theses court decisions about stopping contact with a parent, can be the right idea thank god for those judges

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  6. russellatintegratedinteriors · June 13, 2015

    Hi Karen
    Your using the PC argument and its high time we brought it to the fore – POWER & CONTROL
    The state has for some many years given tacit P&C to the parent with care (usually the mother). For most separating couple this is not in issue as they will parent more or less effectively so that the children have as good a life with each parent as can be created. However for the parent with P&C who would and DO manipulate that system it has become a graveyard for loving and good parents who fall at the doors of the court. For even when they get the “system” to grant some form of contact the parent who has P&C wilfully disregards the order as if it has no consequences.
    This is a very interesting development given the timing of it all. I am convinced that some judges now “get it” that they have a duty of care to make a judicious decision and then back it up with necessary consequences should the party in breach persist with their actions.
    It is only in this way will we stop flagrant and wilful disobedience to court orders.
    My take on matters accords with yours but in a different way. There are parents out there that believe (genuinely) that they are the best parent and the child would be best served with them having the majority of time. However it has been my belief that the reason we have the abuses of the system we do is because of the courts persistent belief that it would have an adverse impact on the child if the parent with P&C is somehow upset with their decision and especially if that same parent then faces the consequences of their actions.
    It goes (parent with P&C) ” oh it would upset me if I were to get less time with little Johnny and I may not be able to split my upsettedness from becoming know to him. So the judges go with the person with P&C.
    Now I think that that’s a crock, I think that if a parent has that inability to keep from the child their strong emotion then that is a good reason to hand P&C over to the other parent. Can you imagine the situation as soon as the argument is trotted out residence goes over….lol that would make them change their habit.
    Of course the system doesn’t work like that, but in this instance the court being seen to take action and follow through on an order sends a good message
    Lets hope more judges use this tactic to improve the situation of many children’s lives.
    Just to have the threat of consequence’s being followed through on lessens the excess of range that many P&C parents currently have

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  7. Jay · June 13, 2015

    I think if the ‘healthy’ parent is genuinely ‘healthy’ then it would be inherent in their nature to want to promote the relationship their children have with the other parent, and thus to adopt a holistic approach to facilitate that if it consider the best way to do it, but as John has pointed out, that approach will still only succeed if both parents are willing.

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  8. Linda Turner · June 13, 2015
  9. Brian · June 13, 2015

    Undoubtedly what this mother did was wrong and her claim that she was putting her son first was just deluded selfishness. I suspect that the court did what they usually and shut her contact down to nothing, with the vague possibility of supervised contact followed by a “we’ll see”.

    This attitude has got to change. The courts, Cafcass, social services and others involved in Family Law need to change their mindset from blaming to helping the parents. If a parent has problems, then fix the parent. Tell that parent your aim is to get them re-integrated in their child’s life and actively manage the parent’s re-habilitation. Keep the case open, get the support and fix the problem.

    Too often the courts wait for you to trip up, infact many solicitors will invite you to raise the temperature with allegations and counter claims, then they simply say “you’re wrong”, punish the errant parent and “dispose” of the case. Is that the best the courts have to offer?

    Every child deserves two parents and that should be the focus.

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  10. Anonymous · June 14, 2015

    I am a huge believer in equal rights for both men and women. That being said, the courts need to also believe in that. The quick to rush to belief that mothers are the best caregivers, and that domestic violence accusation, ( the crutch of most mothers in custody battles ) are pertinent, is something that women’s rights groups should realize are harmful to children. I am a very liberal person, however i am disgusted by the reaction of liberal women’s rights groups in situations such as these. They want equal rights on pay and things such as that, however they advocate for women having custody so that they can get child support. As i stated before it is BS and i find this behavior by these groups disgusting. You can’t have your cake, and eat it to. There are plenty of fathers out there that are better parents than their former spouses. I know that stings for certain groups, however anatomy has nothing to do with being a good parent. Women are not always good parents. Hate to have to say that, however i have a degree in Child Development, with a minor in psychology, and i haven’t seen my daughter in six months. her mother has been found guilty of contempt on five charges, and yet it seems as though, female family court judges can’t do anything to another woman.

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  11. Paul Midgley · June 14, 2015

    I agree with all of the above comments on promoting an holistic, child centred equal parenting framework but that can only come from a presumption of 50/50 parenting post separation. Any other normal/common/regular outcome will feed the hope in spiteful mothers (and solicitors) of becoming the dominant parent (winning client) using false allegations or simply a refusal to engage or be content with a less dominant status.

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  13. Kat · June 16, 2015

    And it has begone: http://www.maypole.org.uk/rebecca-minnock-on-the-run/ This article is a chilling read, essentially everything a mother does can be excused as a result of her motherinstinct and fathers should only see their children if mother gives permission. The belief in the sanctity of motherhood is alive and kicking.

    Here is another gem: http://www.nfm.org.uk/index.php/about-nfm/news/552-minnock-courts-should-halt-future-legal-process-for-mediation Let’s halt proceedings and go to mediation. This only makes any sense at all if you think the abuse the child has suffered is a result of proceedings or did not happen at all. I have not seen anywhere in the media an article talking about the devastating effects on children when one of their parents involve them in making false allegations against the other parent.

    The best hope for this boy is that his mum will engage with therapy and come to some kind of realisation that what she has done is not in the best interest of his son. I hope the current media coverage will not be a factor that will galvanise her to keep up her current stance.

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    • karenwoodall · June 16, 2015

      Jeepers Jane Robey of NFM could not be further from the mark in this. Does she not know that if a psychiatrist has been involved then the door to mediation was shut a very long time ago? As for Maypole Women, well I despair, but if I told you that Mavis Mclean was involved would it explain it to you? K

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    • Jay · June 16, 2015

      I’d also noticed earlier that the Minnock case seems to be being discussed and promoted by a variety of dubious websites along with Maypole including this one http://www.safekidsinternational.org/ and I’m suprised their defamatory Facebook post depicting Judge Wildblood as a ‘child molester enabler’ is apparently still up.

      Further, the case seems to have attracted the attention of a British child psychologist now based in Australia who expressed some pretty outrageous views about the high profile case out there between an Australian mother and Italian father that spawned a Facebook group called Kids Without Voices some years ago.

      Indeed, there seem to be worrying parallels between the situation here now and there then where it appeared the mother was pushed, perhaps even bullied, into behaving in a manner that exacerbated the situation by an abusive extended family and a baying mob on their Facebook page which included said child psychologist.

      Likewise Kat, I do hope for the sake of this little lad here that his Mum will not allow the furore going on around her on various websites, Facebook, in the press, and amongst her immediate family and friends to galvanise her into her current position but will instead engage with those better placed to help her resume a healthy and loving relationship with her son.

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  14. dEXTER · June 16, 2015

    Another excellent article Karen, I guess Miss Minnock has kept your keyboard busy! I cannot add anything to the above comments as between you all you have hit every nail on the head, again it just amazes me how the common sense attitude in the article and comments above is not transferred so easily to the Family Court arena???

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  15. 999flynn999@godot.com · June 18, 2015

    Dear Karen,

    This Dad has the rare opportunity to have the upper hand. Should he find it in himself to put aside his pain and do the right thing it may help mitigate the suffering of those who follow. She is likely in an extremely desperate situation and may be increasingly likely to become a parent and not just a mother. Should he do the uncommon and prove he is acting in the best interest of their child this could be a major turning point. If he acts out of pain this golden opportunity will certainly be tarnished.

    The other obstacle will be the “feminist” court system as it is known in the U.S. The judge and the others will be tested by the powerful feminist lobby. This includes the psychological multi disciplinary treatment team who take over the role of the judge.

    I must admit to a bit of schadenfreude when it comes to the mother yet can’t say enough how I hope this doesn’t interfere with him doing the best he can for his child. If men desire the rights of both parents we have to rise above the others.

    The psychologist in OZ is likely jockeying for a good position to keep his ties with the “feminist court system. This type of servitude I strongly feel is part of the problem.

    Hopefully sometime in the future the courts will be forced to rebuild the family. They must be held accountable for ensuring the divorcing parties actively engage as parents. In the U.S. at least we are far from seeing such a change. Much of it has to do with the money and it will be hard to get them to forgo billions of dollars.

    Laws like Title IV-d aka the deadbeat act provides much of the funding for the financially strapped court system. The states receive federal funding “kickback” for collecting child support awards when they follow this federal guideline amount. The prison system is now mostly privatized so they also get funding from locking up Dads. The child support collection services are also run by private institutions and act in a very punitive manner. Drivers licenses, professional licenses are often revoked when Dad slips up. They need clients to ensure they receive the funding.

    I am a father but have been manipulated out of my children’s lives and this in conjunction with the tremendous abuse of the process makes it hard to cooperate. Dads made a tremendous change in the late 90s to become working stay at home dads. Those were the most precious years of my life with my little punkins.

    My life’s hard work has been rapped from me and I am not alone one this. I can only hope that I’m not fully beat down by the system and locked up with hardened criminals.

    “Stand for something or fall for anything” Malcolm X

    Tom Balls anniversary is approaching and he set himself on fire in front of the family court. He made some mistakes as a father yet is an interesting read if you google him. I don’t agree with the violent action he called for in his very long manifesto yet I do understand how he feels. These fathers who kill themselves are labeled as mentally ill yet his thought process seemed quite linear and clear to me. It is crazy to imagine the pain of lighting setting yourself on fire like he did and I don’t imagine any amounts of SSRIs could of helped him.

    The drastic spike in suicides for. Men aged 40-50 is a new spike. The media isn’t asking what pressures these men face.

    If they were to reverse the laws and subject Moms to the same abuse I’m quite certain the CDC would be give this some honest research. Again, I am not interested in watching anyone suffer like this and hang on with the hope that others will be saved.

    Karen I am always pleased to read your writing and sorry for my unedited ramblings. If I go back and try to edit this I will not get it out.

    Thank you for listening and to those who have made it this far.

    Best to you all,

    Flynn

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