In the past, public sympathy may well have rested with the court, assuming it was doing its best for the children. But now there is growing evidence that family law has spectacularly failed to keep up with the changing role of men within the home and that children are suffering as a result. Judges are accused of stereotyping, making a legal presumption in favour of the mother and awarding meagre access rights to dads.
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.
[...]The government estimates that one in four children has separated or divorced parents. Despite all the evidence that children thrive best when they enjoy the support and love of two parents, only about 11% of children from broken homes will go on to spend equal amounts of time with each parent.
A significant number of fathers, some estimate as many as 40%, will within two years of the split lose all contact with their children. Previously this had been seen as a sign of male fecklessness, but now it is also being recognised that dads are being pushed away, not only by the residual conflict with ex-partners, but also by a legal system that works against them maintaining relationships with their children.
[...]Ian Julian, 49, is one of the tiny percentage of fathers in the UK to have won a shared residency court order for his son, now aged 16. But that was pared away into alternate weekends when his ex-wife sent their son to boarding school against Julian’s wishes. He has had to move four times to follow the house moves of his former wife.
“When I first went to a lawyer, she told me I had no chance of anything, but I was prepared to go to 100 lawyers to find one who would take my case,” he said.
[...]“I’ve heard a judge call a man ‘possessive’ for wanting more than two hours a week, and others make ‘no contact’ orders on hearsay evidence,” he said. “I’ve known mothers taken back to court for ignoring contact orders, but nothing is done. Bad behaviour isn’t just tolerated, it’s encouraged. Some of the judges I have sat in front of have traditional values along the lines of a woman’s place being in the home. But it’s not the experience of the average British family and a father seeing a child once every two weeks isn’t a meaningful relationship.”
This is actually pretty standard in Western nations, and it’s one of the reasons why there is an epidemic of suicide among middle-aged men.