Fathers Rights Movement In The Uk

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    ... is an organisation that started in the UK, and its focus is reforming the legal system ... Fathers 4 Justice (F4J) is a new civil rights movement campaigning for ...
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The fathers' rights movement in the UK comprises a wide diversity of pressure groups, charities, self-help groups and equality activists. Its origin may be dated back to 1974 when Families Need Fathers (FNF) was founded. At the local level, many father's rights groups spend a high proportion of their time providing support for newly separated fathers, most of whom are highly distraught. Although accused of being sexist by some uninformed and ostensibly politically correct commentators, these groups also campaign for better treatment for excluded mothers, women in second marriages and grandparents - all of whom suffer discrimination in respect of contact with their (grand)child(ren).

1 Leading groups

2 Fathers rights issues

3 Political lobbying

4 See also

5 External links

Table of contents

Leading groups

  • Families Need Fathers is a registered charity well known for its self-help work. It is regarded by senior family court judges as taking a commonsense approach to bringing about change in the family law system and participates in government consultations and working groups. It has about 3000 members and over 10,000 former members.
  • Fathers 4 Justice (F4J) takes a proactive approach to generating awareness of fathers' issues. Its generates considerable publicity through carefully planned actions e.g. throwing purple (its campaign colour) flour at the Prime Minister. It organises stylish and colourful demonstrations as part of its campaign of civil disobedience.

Fathers rights issues

There are a number of issues which drive the participants in the father's rights' movement:

  • When contact is denied, the courts do not enforce their own orders
  • Whereas mothers get parental responsibility automatically, fathers only do so if they were married to the mother or signed the birth certificate
  • Fathers are obliged to pay means tested child support irrespective of whether they are allowed to see their children, and with no account taken of the mother's household's income.
  • Paternity leave is inadequate compared to maternity leave
  • Contact centre places are hard to obtain because of inadequately funding and at the same time their use is frequently demanded unreasonably - resulting in children being unnecessarily deprived of the love and care of their non-resident parent.

Political lobbying

The pace of reform in the UK

Whilst the line of government ministers has for a long time been one of denial that there is a problem, with no plans for new legislation, Lord Filkin[1], the family justice minister announced at the beginning of April 2004 that there will be a green paper outlining proposals intended to improve the methods used to settle child custody disputes[1]. There continue to be articles in The Guardian and elsewhere on reform of family law in the UK as it affects children involved in family disputes.

The UK government is felt to be conducting a "kite-flying" exercise to test reaction. Hitherto, it has been observed that reform was being steered down a side-line, with ministers such as Rosie Winterton arguing that the law was flexible enough to allow decisions to be left to the judiciary, and the judges such as Judge Wall arguing that if change is required it is up to the legislators. This may be the case now too, and fathers' rights groups argue that pressure from every angle should be increased and that in spite of some early wins, there should be absolutely no celebrations yet.

Legal issues

The new system in the UK whereby the amount of child support that, in the vast majority of cases, the father pays, is acknowledged to be less fair than the old because it has ceased to take into account the other household's income. This is justified on the grounds that it saves administrative cost for the government agency concerned.

A brief history of recent reform

Case 1

Three years ago Mr Justice Wall (now Lord Justice) chaired a Children Act Sub-Committee (known as CASC). They reported in March 2002 in a document called "Making Contact Work". It called for "urgent reform". It was a sort of Hutton Inquiry of family law reform. It is well known that Wall LJ is very vexed that nothing at all has happened since.

In fact a "Stakeholder Group" was created to discuss the CASC report, the "Facilitation and Enforcement Group". Stakeholders included a couple of district judges, a solicitor, a barrister, CAFCASS, Women's Aid, various academics, mediators... The report went to Minister Margaret Hodge in June 2003 and there has been no response since then. CASC, and the stakeholder Group could be called Prong No. 1 of reform, which was started off by the politicians, after pressure from several directions, including from the campaigning charity FNF. The impression formed by many involved in Prong No. 1, is that, all along, the government had no true appetite for reform, and hopes the problem will just go away.

Case 2

Fathers 4 Justice have had remarkable success in bringing the whole subject to the nation's attention at a bottom-up grass-roots level, (rather than at the top-down political level of the CASC group, and the stakeholder group).

Case 3

This is the work of Oliver Cyriax. He has run two conferences about early interventions in 2001 and 2002. These were attended by high ranking members of the judiciary, including from overseas, where schemes that promote retaining both parents' involvement in childcare, but leave the courts as last resort, have been very successful. Notably in Florida and California. He has a strong alliance, made up of senior members of the Solicitors Family Law Association (SFLA), Family Law Bar Association (FLBA), Hamish Cameron (the child psychiatrist with the President's ear), Fathers Direct and the campaigning charity Families Need Fathers. President of the UK Family Division of the courts Dame Butler Sloss has said she supports this plan.

Observers indicate that there is currently a tug-of-war between Oliver Cyriax's early interventions pilot project which would be run by PESF (Parenting and Education Support Forum) in a low key way, probably at Wells Street (the family court in central London) and another plan, created by the civil servants.

The worry about the civil servants is that they are not expert in family matters at all, and their pilot plan might fail. The civil servant behind it, Bruce Clark, comes from a child protection background. He is said to be the man who drew up the discredited Munchausen's guidelines, and not a natural champion of fathers rights' campaigners demands, in particular to ensure that children will have adequate parenting time time with their fathers.

Fathers' Rights campaigners urgently want an "Early Interventions Pilot Plan" to test and develop compulsory mediation and parenting plans, etc. backed up by a strict enforcement regime, "Facilitation and Enforcement" as the stakeholder group was called.

It is not clear who will win the tug-of-war[1], and campaigners argue that both initiatives are worthwhile. Duncan Fisher of Fathers Direct says Oliver Cyriax's PESF scheme could start immediately, although it is known that that civil servants and politicians are prone to call for numbers of rounds of committee meetings and consultations, sometimes indefinitely.

Updates

  • Events:

See also

External links