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Got any views on the family justice system?

(55 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 01-Jul-10 12:04:26


We've been asked by The Family Justice Review Panel to ask Mumsnetters for their views on the family justice sytem.

The Family Justice Review Panel has just launched a "Call for Evidence", so that anyone with an interest in the family justice system can contribute their views on how it can work better in the future.

This is part of a fundamental review of the system announced by the Government in the coalition agreement.

The Panel is particularly seeking views on:

* How the justice system can focus more on helping family members to reach agreement rather than pitting them against each other?

* How best the courts can work with other agencies to support children involved in the care system?

* How the system can provide greater contact rights to non-resident parents and grandparents?

All evidence submitted will be carefully considered and used to inform the Review's recommendations on how to improve the system.

You can submit your views by email or by post to: Family Justice Review, 4th floor,
Ministry of Justice, 102 Petty France, London

Gigantaur Tue 20-Jul-10 12:21:14

It would take me forever and a day to detail my thoughts on the family (in)justice system.

oiteach Tue 20-Jul-10 12:29:45

Done. smile

Well personally I think children should actually be thought of first and not the non resident parent or anybody else. Their safety should be paramount. I've read so many times about children being made to have contact with the non resident parent when it simply isn't appropriate. This is something that should be addressed imo. The children have a right to contact with both parents, not the other way around. Sensitive subject for me at the moment. This is especially relevant when there is abuse involved..... The way it all reads to me is "let's find a way to make it is easier for the father (man)" as 9 times out of 10 the father is the non resident parent.

Children should have the right to contact with both parents as long as they are safe, happy and properly taken care of.

I'll email more as well.

OnlyWantsOne Tue 20-Jul-10 15:56:36

I had the final hearing over contact between my 3 year old daughter and her non resident father yesterday. The first time they will have contact is this saturday... she has no idea who he is, and I am expected to leave her with him.

Gigantaur is right, the injustice is terrible.

When a section 7 CAFCASS report says at a childs pace what they actually mean, is when they have time... and it has nothing to do with what is suitable with the needs of individual children.

Cadiva Tue 20-Jul-10 16:54:35

Sorry but I disagree, when the none resident parent wants to have an active involvement in their child's life, the Family Justice System does not do anything to make it easier for them.
My brother's been going through hell over his ex-wife p*ssing him about with access left right and centre and she's already been warned about it once but still does it.

Jaquelinehyde Tue 20-Jul-10 18:26:53

I would like to know why it is possible for a female pwc to alter a childs name on a birth certificate etc if there is no contact at all from the other parent. Yet a male pwc has no right to do this and must apply to the courts leaving the decision in someone elses hands.

The explanation for this is that it is unusual for males to have sole care of children.

What bloody ridiculous double standards, that reek of sexism. If this was the other way round there would be an uproar.

OnlyWantsOne Tue 20-Jul-10 18:28:12

um... are you sure that is correct?

Gigantaur Tue 20-Jul-10 19:09:47

yes it is true. the mother can but father can't.

grannieonabike Tue 20-Jul-10 20:14:22

Is this for England and Wales alone or also for Scotland and N Ireland?

mrspickles Tue 20-Jul-10 20:36:25

Gigantaur that is only true if the father does not have parental responsibility. Mothers automatically have PR, fathers will have it if they are married to the mother, or, since the law changed in 2003, if they are named on the birth certificate. The consent of all persons with PR is required to change a child's name. Even a mother with a residence order in favour of a child must seek the consent of the father if he has PR. It is becoming more rare that fathers do not have PR since the 2003 law change.

Jaquelinehyde Tue 20-Jul-10 22:10:27

Yes but where the absent parent has no contact with the children and are uncontactable 9to as permission) the female parent would be able to alter the names, but if the pwc is male they still have to go through the courts and prove why they want the name changed.

This is correct and we are currently in the process of doing it. It really is a farce.

mrspickles Tue 20-Jul-10 22:25:25

Even if uncontactable, if the absent parent has PR then a mother with care does need a court order. Who told you that a female PWC could change a child's name even if the absent parent had PR? It may be more likely that the absent parent does not have PR in those circs e.g. if the father's identify was never known. However in the opposite circumstances a mother's identity is always going to be known which presumably why the mother automatically has PR.

mjinhiding Wed 21-Jul-10 01:11:22

my god i have loads about how shite, unfair and inequitable it is

after spending 2 years and 12k in family court DH has court orders which his ex totally ignores whenever she feels like it

the onus is on him to enforce them, while DSD BEGS him not to keep taking her mother to court because it upsets her, while texting him how she loves and misses him

and of course he gets to pay the £80 fee to try to enforce each breach, the fees put us in debt upto our eyeballs, which causes ALL the children to suffer, mine, DHs and ours, while his ex got legal aid, didnt have to pay a penny and played the system to the nth degree

we have had 5 years of hell, while his ex gets to deny contact by using passive aggressive behaviour to force a 14 year old girl (and also the same when DSD was only 9), to have to be the one to ask the mother she loves, who she knows HATES her dad, if she can see him at any specified time

CAFCASS have no responsibility to ensure court orders are adhered to and neither does anyone else

its digusting that as part of the CAFCASS procedure, DH had to be CRB checked, while his ex was shacked up with the kids and the local hardman, who of course didnt have to be CRB checked to live with DHs children

i could go on and on and on but at present we have an adversarial system that protects no-one and especially not the very chldren it aims to help

mjinhiding Wed 21-Jul-10 01:21:48

actually i have far too much to put into writing, what i would like is to sit down with our file, and the solicitors 2 huge ones, and also them to have exes solicitors files, and someone to see how much money, paperwork and court time, as well as legal aid money was spent, while DH fought to see DSD, (i think there were either 5 or 7 court hearings, some of which DH attended with a solicitor at £180 an hour at which ex simply didnt bother to show)

there were no abuse or violence allegations, simply ex said "he is horrible to me" - not even suggesting he was horrible to DSD

I would like to know how, when ex turned up with her solicitor and judge realised they hadnt actually spoken to each other, it was fair to us for judge to send them out of room to have a conference, while we sat there twiddling our thumbs with our solicitor at £3 a MINUTE, the judge didnt even slap anyones wrist, the cost of that one hearing to us - £830 for less than 20 minutes in actual court

i would also like to know how after 2 years in county court a judge could throw it down to magistrates court with the words "you 2 should be able to talk to each other, i am not wasting my time on this" when he had the clear evidence in front of him that DH has indeed been pleading with his ex to speak to him or go to mediation for over 3 years

freedom2010 Wed 21-Jul-10 09:44:33

I am with you on this mjinhiding we are in a similar position, its a very sexist system where the father has no rights and has to pay thousands of pounds to see their own children, when this is automatic for the woman to be the primary carer who decided this?

Fathers have the god given right to be able to see their children as much as the women do! It is a farce of a system and something that needs to change.

arfarfa Wed 21-Jul-10 21:33:48

The Family Justice System is an oxymoron as it does not seek to dispense justice.
It is utterly impossible to achieve justice when repeated breaches of an Order of a Court are not enforced; when a parent is schooled by third sector agencies on how to 'play' the system; when the obtaining of resident parent status is treated as being an end worth whatever means are necessary; when a child's needs and wishes are placed in a queue behind whatever whimsical fancies the resident parent is currently experiencing; when mediation and collaborative law is deliberately tactically avoided at great cost to the taxpayer; when grandparents are forcibly excluded from a child's life.
I could go on all night.

LittlePushka Thu 22-Jul-10 01:05:25

I have three points to make and I make tham as a professional working within the family law courts. I will keep it brief....

1. Any lawyer working in this field should be collaboratively trained as part of their continuous professional development. If collaborative seeions were compulsory prior to court appointments, much of court time, the parties time and legal time (and therefore often public money) and most importantly, the inherent adversarial nature deeply personal and traumatic experience could be reduced substantially.

2. CAFCASS reports have been spectacularly factually incorrect wrong in my experience to the extent that seriously damaging information has influenced the court to make decisions damaging to all parties concerned. Cafcass letters/reports to court should always be revealed to the parties.

3. The feelings and resource of the wider family, especially grandparents, should be more widely considered and utilised.

arfarfa Thu 22-Jul-10 10:15:54

LittlePushka-I couldn't agree more with what you say. The biggest single weakness in the current system relates to the attempted creation of a new 'status quo'. Too often one parent will deliberately avoid collaborative law and flout court orders, in the belief that by stringing everything out for as long as possible they are enhancing the chances of a personally successful outcome at the eventual hearing.
But where does the child's needs and wishes come into that reasoning?
Answer=they don't.

mjinhiding Thu 22-Jul-10 13:26:49

arfarfa - you are right

DHs ex refused mediation for over a year (how she got legal aid on that basis I dont know), then got to court, asked for mediation, refused mediation for over 6 weeks, then got to mediation and refused to discuss anything related to DSD

so DH then had to apply for another court hearing, it was just a v costly to us and also to the govt as more hearing and legal aid were spent, delaying tactic

I sat there sobbing when DH told me he had to go to mediation we already knew his ex didnt really want, at the thought of yet another few hundred pound down the drain, everyone knew ex didnt want it, but she just used it as another way to drag things out and force us into more debt

DHs court case to see DSD cost 12k in one year, he self represnted in the second, to obtain unenforceable court orders, that is money that we should have to spend on all the children, instead we are struggling to clear the debt spending so much on solicitors has left us in (a lot more than 12k), it wouldnt be so bad if the court orders were worth having, but ex simply flouts them whenever she feels like it

Clearly it was money DH had to spend, as whatever the outcome he wanted DSD to know he had done everything in his power to be with her, but why the hell should he have had to spend that sort of money, and go those those hoops to spend time with his own child

at the moment, the family law and legal aid system is nothing more than a mechanism supporting legalised kidnapping of individuals children

what other area of law means you can regularily break court orders without fear of redress, people are sent to prison for stealing, beating people up, benefit fraud, yet the harm done to children by the ability of a resident parent to deny access to their non resident parents is totally disregarded

I know there are some people who stop contact for good reason, but the law is at the moment powerless, when there is no reason other than pure and simple spite, as in our case, DSD was not allowed to come to her own fathers birthday party, this would be the dad she sees every other weekend, once a week, the party was in a house where her full brother lives, 2 half siblings and her step brother

what good reason was there to stop her coming, none, her mother did it just because she could, never mind that DSD wanted to come or it was embaressing for her not to

the law is an arse that doesnt protect children in these situations, but allows the rp to emotionally abuse them, with the full support of the courts and the legal aid system

i bet not many rp's who arent on legal aid take this stance

arfarfa Thu 22-Jul-10 17:26:31

mjinhiding-So sorry to hear of the problems which you are having to cope with.
The part of all this which makes me somewhat ashamed, is that certain womens 'charities' have played a leading role in creating the shambolic system which exists today. You cannot right a wrong by creating a new wrong.
Children first, parents second, gender issues last.

Well, I don't see it as all roses on the other side of the fence either. I shouldn't have to be taken to court because I was advised to stop contact by ss, gps, the police etc as ex was abusing the children. I have to go through untold stresses (whilst currently pregnant), my 8 year old dd self harming and saying she wants to kill herself as if she's dead she doesn't have to see him, and spending hours on the phone to agencies and professionals trying to get paperwork sorted out.

I haven't had an initial hearing yet but from everything I've read, it's unusual for a "father" to have no contact at all. Also, the father doesn't have a right to see a child, the child has a right to see the father. A child should NOT be forced into contact when there is abuse involved and they are bloody terrified to see him. I await my hearing in August, but I don't know what I'll do if he is granted contact as I'm terrified of what my poor dd will do and her brothers are similarly scared

Children should definitely be put first and from what I can see, they aren't, the non resident parent (usually the father) is the one that is put first regardless of what they've done to a child.

arfarfa Thu 22-Jul-10 19:27:22

CheeseandGherkins-Your situation sounds horrendous, I can't even begin to imagine the hell that you are going through. The critical issue is that all incidents of abuse MUST be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted. It's completely unacceptable for a physically or sexually abusive parent to be allowed anywhere near to any children. By the same token, it's also completely unacceptable for a parent to be prevented from being with their child purely as a result of unsubstantiated and/or malicious 'tactical' allegations.

If you want to read a longer account of it I've got a thread running on legal, I've even name changed recently because of it all so I felt safer posting.

I can assure you though that there is nothing tactical in the slightest with me, all I can do is act on what my children have told me and it does ring true as ex was abusive (physically and emotionally) to me and has recently been given a harassment warning because of causing trouble at the door (with the kids in the house which terrified them even more )

mjinhiding Thu 22-Jul-10 19:48:20

cheese as social services are involved, are they not investigating him themselves, no-one is suggesting children who are the victims of abuse should be forced to have contact with their abusers, but equally everyone should be protected from false allegations (im not saying yours are)

in dhs case, there were no allegations of abuse, contact was just stopped

also cheese, tbh, you could just ignore any order that is granted - its what DHs ex does, pretty much without fear of reprisal

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