Perhaps the most contentious matter relating to divorce and separation is children's issues. Since the enabling of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, problems have continued to increase year on year. The root of the problem stems from the residential situation of the child. There is a powerful default of residence to the mother at divorce or separation. This residential situation is frequently interpreted, by the mother, as the child/children now belonging SOLELY to her and NOT belonging to the father, who now finds himself subject to a form of legal exclusion from them.
The problem originates in the divorce system. The courts, having long ago abandoned Parliament's intentions, spend their time dividing assets instead of establishing significant facts about the divorce itself. The matter of a continuing life for the child with BOTH its parents is very low on their list of priorities. The best the father can expect is that contact MAY be permitted. We say this because there are many occasions when it MAY NOT. The matter of MAY NOT will be established by a combination of the mother, the court welfare officer, and the judge. The matter of MAY will rely on the same participants. All of this is rather incredulous when one considers that the father enjoyed unrestricted association with his children whilst he lived with them. A caring and TRULY CONCERNED system would ensure that UNRESTRICTED association would continue post divorce or after separation. This is stated when one notes that the courts are supposed to consider the interests of the child as PARAMOUNT. IT CANNOT BE IN THE INTERESTS OF THE CHILD TO BE PREVENTED FROM HAVING ASSOCIATION WITH THE PARENT THEY NO LONGER RESIDE WITH.
As a result of a combination of prejudice against the father and judicial reluctance to punish mothers who flout court orders, a situation has now developed where 50% of fathers lose all contact with their children within 2 years of divorce, this is equivalent to 80,000 fathers PER YEAR, YEAR ON YEAR. It is unacceptable to this movement, and we will continue our campaign to redress matters. This situation occurs by contact being interfered with in the first place. Any attempt by the father, to have orders complied with, will be met with obstruction. The mother, as time goes on, will maintain the contact interference. They know that it is highly unlikely they will be punished. By the time the father is able to get the matter to court a large amount of time will have passed. We call this the 4 and 4, 4 months will have passed and it will cost the father £400.00 to get the matter dealt with. The matter for the courts to consider is that flouting a court order is contempt of court and should be dealt with as a contempt issue. Since the judiciary are, in general, unwilling to punish the mother for contempt but seem very willing to punish a father, if he is in contempt, then one can only draw one conclusion, there must be one law for women and another for men. If the courts are to uphold a common sanction for contempt, then this must apply IRRESPECTIVE OF GENDER.
One sanction that is available and does not require imprisonment, the normal punishment for contempt, is the change of residence from the mother to the father. We would recommend that this sanction is applied in cases of prevention of contact. It could work very simply by a Judge reminding the residential parent of the responsibility that arises, at the time of separation or divorce, to ensure that contact between the child/children and their father should not be interfered with. It could be made clear that if a second occurrence of interference with contact arose then the residence of the child/children would be transferred to the father. We firmly believe, and have no doubt, that the supermarket checkout and school gate intelligence would spread knowledge of this sanction just as it has, over the last 25 years, that court orders can be flouted.
Present movements that exist or the breakaway elements that derive from them have achieved little in bringing an end to this problem. The main reason is they fail to understand the closed door court culture that supports the problem and the matter of judicial discretion that fails to apply sanction, and also that they promote their existence at an advisory level only. This tends to show a form of support for the system. The solution for fathers afflicted with contact problems is to join a movement which is DETERMINED to do something about changing the culture. That movement exists as the CG so if you have these problems and wish to do something about it, make your first move to contact the group.