Fathers’ rights on the agenda for upcoming family justice reform
26 September 2010
Last week I posted on a speech given by Sir Nicholas Wall on family justice reform. The speech has been widely reported: see the BBC, Zoe Williams’ challenge to Sir Nicholas’ point that intelligent parents made worse litigants, and this thorough analysis from Marylin Stowe.
There are two interesting articles on fathers’ rights in this morning’s Observer, the second of which comments on the speech. FNF is, according to the Observer, “at the forefront of a shift in tone in fathers’ rights – away from the notorious stunts of Fathers 4 Justice, which involved grown men dressed as superheroes unfurling banners on public monuments, towards a professional lobbying approach, deploying reasoned argument and concern for the child.”
For his part, Sir Nicholas said that fathers are not disadvantaged by the current court system, arguing that “courts are not anti-father and pro mother. The courts recognise the important role which any non-resident should play in the lives of his children.”
In Children and divorce: the father’s case, a father with experience of the family courts argues that there is still much to be done in order to ensure equal rights for fathers in the family justice system, but things may now be changing: “Lawyers are now more optimistic about your chances as a father. The work of Families Need Fathers, the intervention of [author] Louis de Bernières, the early word from the family justice review, all are changing the mood music, I’m told by lawyers“.
The newspaper also provides a more general overview of the fathers’ rights movement, in Childhood casualties of the family courts: “With the maturing of the “men’s movement” into more child-centred lobbying and support groups, and with rising numbers of divorce lawyers moving into mediation work and away from adversarial courtrooms, there is a growing understanding of the raw deal many fathers – and children – have been getting from the secretive British family court system.”
One controversial area which Sir Nicholas covered in his speech was child relocation. The current position adopted by the courts is that the child’s rights are paramount over those of the parents. A father’s account on Sir Nicholas’ views on Payne v Payne (the leading case on child relocation) can be found in the comments section of our previous post.
The family courts are currently being reviewed (see our post), and perhaps Professor Munro, the professor who is leading the review, will see this as an opportunity to recalibrate it in light of the rights of fathers. In its Families and Relationships Green Paper, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (under the last government) said that “the greater roles many fathers and other family members, including grandparents, play in caring for children must be recognised”. The Ministry of Justice have set up an online survey (closing date: 30 Sep) for those who wish to comment on the review. We would welcome the views of others affected by family justice in the comments section of this post.
- Previous posts on family law
- Sir Nicholas’ speech in full, our summary here: Top judge says legal aid in family cases may disappear
- Child protection review ordered by Government in light of crumbling system
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