to think family courts are a flaming joke!

(209 Posts)
tryingtobeabetterperson Mon 25-Mar-13 17:52:33

I have read so many posts on here, groups on FB and other forums of desperate women who have left abusive partners to protect their children just for the courts to award contact and the abuse continues because unless it becomes physical the courts seem loathe to make contact supervised.

I know all about children needing fathers but even abusive ones that will hurt them or screw them up emotionally??

/rant

SpringyReframed Mon 25-Mar-13 19:31:06

"It does harm a child to be refused any relationship with one half of his/her genetic makeup."

Is this the line the courts take, and if so who exactly decided that was correct?

My son, who was 15 at the time, decided he wanted no contact with his father when his father and I separated. His view would have been the same had he been much younger too. It does not bear thinking about to wonder the effect of forced contact, and the ensuing feeing of powerlessness that most children must feel.

Personally I have been to the family court twice, so far, luckily just for my divorce and it is clear that the judges are overworked and under prepared to make huge decisions on people's lives. They havent read the files and seem more interested in "breaking for lunch" than getting the job done, It is horrifying to know this is going on where children are involved. I have seen women sobbing their hearts out in the corridor of the courts just on my two visits. It is chilling to see and here. I believe the vast majority of mothers want the best for their children and understand what that is and should have more respect from the courts in this decision. How many women would make things up and lie just for spite about their ex's? Very few I would suspect.

Darnley Mon 25-Mar-13 19:31:50

As someone else who works in the Family Court system I have to say that almost As many women as men are guilty of causing their children serious emotional damage.

It's also a myth that mothers are always the better parent. Family Law is really complex and emotive and is set to get more complex with the withdrawal of legal aid funding.

Simple it ain't...

Spero Mon 25-Mar-13 19:37:51

We can't change what is considered to be good evidence, unless you are prepared to see people made subject to findings simply on other people's say so. While it is certainly possible for a judge to make a finding simply on someone's word, the more serious the allegation and the more serious the consequences of that allegation, the more likely it is that you will need corroboration of what you say.

That is why I say the focus needs to be on education - helping people understand from the earliest possible moment what makes a relationship abusive, helping people get out, raising their aspirations and their self esteem so they don't enter into and stay in abusive relationships.

Legal Aid is NOT being withdrawn from cases where violence is an issue. BUT you will need clear prior proof such as a criminal conviction, non molestationorder or referral to a refuge.

So I accept that emotional abuse is going to probably fall outside that.

But to blame the courts for being a 'joke' is kindof missing the point. Emotionally abusive relationships can often involve a very toxic dynamic stretching back for years. Asking the court to be able to unpick all of this ad find a way forward is unrealistic. These are essentially pyschological problems, not legal problems.

tryingtobeabetterperson Mon 25-Mar-13 19:39:27

^To Helen’s
astonishment, when she returned to court about the
non-molestation order she was faced with an
unexpected discussion of when and how often her
abusive ex-partner should see the children.^

^Responses from solicitors and barristers supported
women’s perceptions that proceedings were often
initiated by men as a means of sustaining, or regaining,
control (see also Radford et al, 1997; Harrison 2008;
Thiara, 2010).^

^This [seeking power and
control] happens in most of
my cases
(R69, solicitor)^

^In contrast, the majority of respondents21 reported that
women’s motivations, in the rare cases where they are
the applicants, centre around ensuring their children’s
safety (88%, n=60) and their own (60%, n=41). Over
two fifths (44%, n=30) of responses suggested that
ensuring children had contact with non-resident
parents was significant, with only a small minority
(12%, n=8) reporting that women seek revenge. Of
the two women here who initiated court
proceedings,22 both acted in response to the
abductions of their children and approached solicitors
who made emergency applications for contact and
residence^

^We conclude that ensuring
the safety of both children and adults
receives insufficient consideration –
this was a strong and consistent
message from the women survivors of
domestic violence who we consulted.
We consider that arrangements for
assessing the risks associated with
allegations of domestic violence need
markedly strengthening
(HMICA, 2005: iv)^

^The supply of properly
qualified family lawyers is vital
to the protection of children
(MoJ, DfE & WAG, 2011: 36)^ How is the withdrawal of legal aid going to help protect children?

^Solicitors and barristers shared women’s concerns
about self-representation, with most identifying two
dimensions of potential abuse and intimidation. Firstly,
perpetrators representing themselves used crossexamination as another route to harass and undermine
their ex-partners. ^

^[It is] difficult to have the
confidence to express
allegations of violence, let alone crossexamine a perpetrator. Also schedules
of allegations are – if they are good –
carefully drafted legal documents.
[This] cannot be done properly by
litigants in persons
(R63, barrister)^ Things are going to get even worse for RPs and children when the changes come in, if the system isn't failing now, it almost certainly will be in a few weeks time IMHO

I am not going to C&P anymore the full report is here www.rightsofwomen.org.uk/pdfs/Policy/Picking_Up_the_Pieces_Report_final.pdf

It's full of worrying things that will effect RPs when the changes come in

such as

*As well as the obvious risks to women’s welfare, there
are multiple ways in which outcomes of cases can thus
be influenced where they and/or their abusive expartners represent themselves.
• Victim-survivors are not enabled to give their best
evidence about histories of abuse, which may be
crucial to determining whether contact, and in what
form, is deemed appropriate.
• The difficulties of cross-examining their perpetrators
may mean they do not ask sufficiently probing
questions or challenge responses, which again
informs what evidence is available to the court.
• They are rarely equipped with the legal knowledge
and experience to prepare documentation and
negotiate family law processes e.g. requesting
finding of fact hearings.
• Pressure to reach speedy resolution may mean that
women accede to arrangements which are not
necessarily in their own or their children’s best
interests.
Unsurprisingly, and echoing recent research (Rights of
Women, 2010, 2011; NFWI, 2011), women described
the ability to access free or low-cost legal advice and
representation through the legal aid scheme as
‘a lifeline’. *

If women were listened to, if it was worth standing up and saying anything this report and the effects of emotional abuse would have been taken seriously and the legal aid changes would not be as strict

Spero Mon 25-Mar-13 19:42:38

The courts rely upon the evidence of very many psychologists and psychiatrists who point to their research findings about the importance of identity and the child's need to understand his/her heritage.

This research has then been given legal force both domestically and internationally by the European Convention of Human Rights. Judges are not just operating on a whim.

I am sorry if some people find judges more interested in their lunch. I don't think this is universal. Last week I was before a district judge who had five cases in her list at 10am, three at 11am and agreed to hear us at 1.30, having worked solidly from about 8am.

So maybe more judges might help. I will bet she wasn't in a great mood for her 2pm list.

Spero Mon 25-Mar-13 19:44:58

I have no doubt that the changes to legal aid funding are going to cause utter chaos and misery and in the end cost more money as cases will go on for days and days.

So why do I never see a single thread horrified about this, but hundreds simply slagging off the family courts??

Domjolly Mon 25-Mar-13 19:45:55

Op yanbu

The courts and sw postion is to allow contact and it your joh to prove it shouldnt happen to they go in with the mind set contact will happen

This happens with children in care also i worked with children who have been sexually abused removed because of this but bevause its not yet been proved in a court of law contact must contiune

Also adoptive parents are pressured into keeping contact with birth parents whom in many cases have neglected there birth chikdren so badly the descision has been made to place the children for adoption in fact they wont let you even apply to becaome an adoptive parent unless you agree to contact


They system is very bias i myself will be attending mediation next week the first thing the medatior said was he was nutral but at the same time making it clear the end result would be some type of contact hmm netural my arse

Ipthe whole thing is a fucking farse

tryingtobeabetterperson Mon 25-Mar-13 19:46:17

So forcing a child to have contact with a parent with psychological issues is in their best interest?

Women can be just as damaging as men, and they are not always the better parent. My issue is with courts listening and taking claims and evidence seriously. Of course two involved parents are what's best for a child but not at all costs and it's a sign of how emotional abuse isn't taken seriously enough by the fact that it won't be covered for legal aid under the new reforms and children are going to be put at risk and people are going to be forced to self represent making it even easier for abusers to use the court system to further their abuse of the victim, and children are going to be failed because they will not be adequately protected without their RP having legal representation

Fleecyslippers Mon 25-Mar-13 19:46:21

I actually now qualify for legal aid with regards child contact whereas I didn't before the new rules.

My solicitor, and the judge who has presided over the large majority of my hearings, have been MY voice and that of my children.

The difficulties I have experienced have lain with social services. They have made recommendations after being hoodwinked by an extremely manipulative and abusive man. The judge has gone against these recommendations. 2 years after abusing my child, my Ex is relentless in his campaign to paint me as a vindictive woman who is stopping him from seeing his children on a whim.

My solicitor and the judge are the only people who face him and tell him (again and again) that his abuse is the reason why he has limited contact. And I will be eternally grateful to them both for that.

tryingtobeabetterperson Mon 25-Mar-13 19:48:36

Spero, I have read about the research you talk about and one of the first things it says is contact is vital for a child to understand their identity and heritage, if abuse is not taking place

Wishiwasanheiress Mon 25-Mar-13 19:49:24

Surely if it goes in ur favour they are great? Just sayin'....

Secondly some sort of evidence is very much required otherwise its just one persons word and why should anyone lose access due to that?

tryingtobeabetterperson Mon 25-Mar-13 19:49:51

It's fantastic to hear such a strong success story as yours fleecy it really is

tryingtobeabetterperson Mon 25-Mar-13 19:50:35

they should lose access if they are emotionally abusing their child Wish, but it's so hard to get evidence of that

Domjolly Mon 25-Mar-13 19:50:38

Spero. i dont mean to sound smug bit for me these legal aid changes will save our family form going bankrupt me and my oh work my ex has crawled out of the wood work after 10 years demanding contact with my ds now(13) of course ex dosent work and would get full funding while we would have to find 5-10k so for us the fact he wont be able to take this Any futher than the medation which we had to agree as to stall him to april the 1st has been a god send

Spero Mon 25-Mar-13 19:51:04

Op, you are just not listening.

It is not about 'forcing' it is about 'balancing harm'. A parent could be so abusive that he or she should never be allowed even indirect contact. Or a parent could be abusive but loved by a child and the consequences of no contact could be harmful.

It's not as black and white as you want to believe.

What would really help is many many more decent contact centres where contact could be supervised without putting parents on the front line.

Spero Mon 25-Mar-13 19:52:51

Define 'abuse'.

Should a father who belittles a mother never be allowed to see his children? Under any circumstances? In any environment?

Spero Mon 25-Mar-13 19:54:10

Domjolly - good point.it will put a brake on the frivolous and malicious applications - butit is going to hurt a lot of people who simply can't prepare a trial bundle or cross examine their ex.

tryingtobeabetterperson Mon 25-Mar-13 19:54:45

no but if a father risks screwing his child's head up by continually belittling the mother then contact should be supervised until he stops being a risk

It's not black and white, there's not contact and no contact, there's areas in the middle

Jux Mon 25-Mar-13 19:57:04

I don't think ex-partners cross examining is a good idea under any circumstances.

There should be specialist lawyers to do it, oh wait .....

tryingtobeabetterperson Mon 25-Mar-13 19:57:14

ad the changes will force more women to stay in non-violent abusive relationships. I would think twice before leaving if I knew I had to self represent against my abuser in court

MrsBW Mon 25-Mar-13 19:59:31

"It does harm a child to be refused any relationship with one half of his/her genetic makeup."

If they are abusing them - bollocks.

MrsBW Mon 25-Mar-13 20:01:05

Or, in the case of my Dad who couldn't be arsed to see me despite my Mother offering joint custody.

He's a total tit and my life is all the better because he isn't in it.

Domjolly Mon 25-Mar-13 20:01:10

Spero my sister had her eyey socket damaged by her ex he is also currently living with his parents and his brother(whom was convicted in 2009 of haveing sex with a 14 year old girl)

In addition to almost blinding my sister he picked up her son from school with out her permission(not his son) when challanged by after school staff he spat in the managers face called her a monkey (she is black) and the police was called he was caught 3 miles down the road with her son drinking a super T

He spent a year in jail for this it was uncloverd during the. Trial he had already been in jail for kicked his ex gf in the tummy whilest pregant

He was awared 2 day of unsupervised contact a fortnight sorry but balancing harm my butt

Spero Mon 25-Mar-13 20:02:02

Sigh. That is the point I keep repeating.

You balance the harms.

The harm caused by the abuse may be much much greater than the harm caused by the loss of the relationship.

But it might not. I don't understand why this point is so hard to grasp.

Spero Mon 25-Mar-13 20:03:35

Domjolly - if he hadn't attended any perpetrator programmes in prison, had made no efforts to address his violent behaviour, then that sounds like a decision that should be appealed.

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