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FNF 2018 Conference - A Delegate's Report

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It was my first time.  Although a current member of, and long-time supporter of the National UK Charity Families Need Fathers, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I rolled up to their 2018 Annual Conference.

My first relief was that I wasn’t the only woman there. Not by far.

I was fascinated.  Here I was first hand seeing clear evidence that what ‘should’ happen in court - often doesn’t happen in practice.  It was impossible to ignore the fact that much of what the law provides in legal orders and decisions - are ignored.  They have no teeth..  What came across loud and clear is that the current - and any potentially future - laws that protect the children's rights to see both parents, are just not properly enforced. 

Keynote speaker Lord Justice McFarlane was busy making notes as he came face to face with the massive gap between what should be happening and what actually happens in the family courts.  And he was listening and taking notes also about suggestions of what could be done.

This was not a conference full of angry parents denied access to their own children, sharing their woes. It was a conference of parents who didn’t want other parents to suffer like they have done. Parents who want change and are prepared to come up with good ideas based upon what works in other countries.

One of the best ideas came from a member of the audience, which was to use something similar to what they do in Monaco - which apparently is to have a lawyer who represents the child and has an inquisitorial role, rather than parents having two barristers bashing out their respective arguments. 

Within our current system, there seems to be little to stop one parent lying about the other with often no real consequences (and none for the legal firms supporting those lies it appears) - and yet countries like Sweden have very few couples using the courts and mostly they even sort things out without even needing mediation.  We are so behind in this country, and it seems to stem from a lack of action with regard to protecting the rights of the children.

A great deal of discussion was about parental alienation, and as I sat there I wished that the whole conference was being recorded as a podcast.  Many of the messages of today's speakers - founded on facts and quality data - need to become public knowledge if anything is to really change.

The Telegraph reported after the event that keynote speaker Lord Justice McFarlane, the next President of the Family Division and chief family judge for England and Wales, acknowledged the pain of the fathers - and mothers - who shared their stories of endless court battles, vast financial costs and a family law system that doesn’t work properly. The Rt Hon. Lord Justice McFarlane acknowledged that something had "gone wrong". He also said that claims of parental alienation should be tested in family courts in the same way as domestic abuse accusations.

“But when will these changes happen” urged one of the parents - a mother, who had spent over ten years with the family courts being used as a way to bully her over child contact issues.  Any changes will be too late for her as her children are now teenagers.  But for the sake of other parents in similar situations - and the room was full of them - she continued to relentlessly but politely demand a commitment from the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice McFarlane of when these changes will happen.  No date was given.

Suzy Miller

Divorce Strategist
Creator of the Best Way To Split Retreat

 

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  • People on Universal Credit and other benefits, who do not live with their children, don't just struggle with rent but also with making Child Maintenance (CM) payments. When that happens the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) puts them into their 'Collect and Pay' service for which they are then surcharged by 20% by the government. A kind of 'pay-day loan' surcharge that mostly affects the poorest parents. Not surprisingly they then find it even more difficult to pay their CM and develop arrears. CM payments are not even taken into account in calculations of UC, hence ensuring that many remain below the poverty line and that increased income does not increase their take-home pay - precisely what UC was supposed to put an end to. It also makes their ex-partners angry that they are not receiving the CM that they have been told by CMS is their entitlement adding to their already stressed lives. UC and the benefits system need to look at the specific issues of separated parents to help solve the problems of families on low incomes rathe than compound them. Do tell your MP about this and ask him/her to seek a government response. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/06/call-for-universal-credit-overhaul-amid-fears-of-looming-evictions-crisis Please support us by sharing this, liking it, following us on Facebook, registering with us for free on our website, making a donation or becoming a member.
  • The Guardian/Observer are seeking views on issues men face today, on masculinity, etc in the context of #MeToo. We thought you might wish to share your views with them and the stories you would like to see them cover. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/31/tell-us-about-the-issues-men-face-today To support FNF please like our posts, follow us, register on our website for free, make a donation or join and become a member.
  • Tracey Crouch MP for Chatham and Aylesford leads a Westminster debate today on supporting fathers in early years. We welcome this. Countries that support fathers, not least through much better paternity leave policies, also have greater involvement of dads with their children whether together or apart. Their society as a whole values them more. Fewer need to go to court. Children grow up healthier... and so do the adults. We will attend the debate this morning. https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/social-affairs/children-and-young-people/house/house-magazine/101416/tracey-crouch-we-need Please support FNF by liking this, sharing it, following us, registering for free, making a donation or becoming a member.
  • Good to see Esther Rantzen redressing the balance. We should not be tarring all men with the same brush or assuming that all or even most women are relative angels. Power can be abused. In family courts it often is. Stereotyping is unhelpful to finding solutions for separated parents - it creates the conditions of such abuse to the detriment of the children, their dads and, in the final analysis, mums too. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/esther-rantzen-hits-out-at-the-gillette-metoo-ad-saying-it-tars-all-men-with-same-brush-a4041186.html To support FNF please like this, share it, follow us, register for free, make a donation or become a member.
  • A leave to remove case that has gone terribly wrong and the child has been abducted. There is risk of harm if identified and almost certain harm from losing a father. Furthermore, it seems unlikely appeasement will work and doing nothing will certainly not deter others from such damaging action. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6593333/Ukrainian-wife-millionaire-Russian-flees-London-mansion-two-young-children.html Please support FNF by liking this post, sharing it, following us, registering for free on our website, making a donation or becoming a member.
  • A Whitehall source said that Rudd wanted “universal credit to receive a fresh parliamentary mandate and be personally sure the system is working in the interests of every claimant”. Let's hope that the "every claimant" bit means that they will ensure that Universal Credit takes into account Child Maintenance payments made by those in receipt of state benefits. Too many are now asked to make unaffordable payments and are driven to despair. If you are affected by this, ask your MP to raise with Amber Rudd and please let us know how you get on on admin@fnf.org.uk. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/05/amber-rudd-to-delay-universal-credit-roll-out-pilot-study Please support our work by sharing this post, liking our page, registering for free, becoming a member or making a donation online.

FNF HSSF Kite Mark Award

Families Need Fathers has been awarded the Help and Support for Separated Families Kite Mark which is a new UK government accreditation scheme for organisations offering help to separated families.

Families Need Fathers work with a range of family law professionals, including Family Law Panel

 

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