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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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  • Over 80 per cent of respondents in a YouGov survey said the law should be reformed so that judges have a presumption in favour roughly equal time with each parent after divorce or separation, excluding cases where children were deemed at risk. The survey was commissioned by Families Need Fathers BPM Cymru and reported by The Times (sorry that the full article is behind a paywall). Equal care may not be practical to best meet a child's best interests in every case, but where all else is equal, the presumption of joint care is a desirable starting point. The results support what we have been saying for years and clearly it is what most people want. There is a big gap between that and the reality of people's experience when they seek arrangements for their children through family courts. Several Scandinavian countries now enjoy equal care as the most common arrangement with joint care (at least 35% of time) representing the vast majority of separated families. Please support us by sharing and liking our posts, following us, registering for free, making a donation or becoming a member. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/fathers-call-for-equal-access-to-children-after-divorce-n5cp9xdxq
  • New Advertising Standards Authority regulations came into force yesterday that prohibit harmful gender stereotypes in advertising. An examples offered includes 'An ad that depicts a man or a woman failing to achieve a task specifically because of their gender e.g. a man’s inability to change nappies; a woman’s inability to park a car' Another example is 'An ad that seeks to emphasise the contrast between a boy’s stereotypical personality (e.g. daring) with a girl’s stereotypical personality (e.g. caring) needs to be handled with care.' It is important in furthering the cause of shared parenting that advertising does not cause harm by promoting such stereotypes which infect the culture, including professionals in the field. To support our work, please share and like our posts, follow us, become a member, register for free or make a donation. https://www.asa.org.uk/news/ban-on-harmful-gender-stereotypes-in-ads-comes-into-force.html
  • More flexibility for dads staying at home after the birth of children reduces maternal anti-anxiety medication by a quarter, reduces hospital visits by 14% and are 11% less likely to use antibiotics following childbirth. The research, by Stanford University, is just the latest evidence showing that Swedish policies in support of fatherhood benefit children, mothers and fathers. Last year, our Government rejected proposals by the Women and Equalities Select Committee for fathers to have a month of funded, non-transferable paternity leave. Please support our work by sharing and liking our posts, following us, registering for free, becoming a member or making a donation. https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2019/06/05/when-new-dads-can-stay-home-its-good-for-the-health-of-moms/
  • Some say Parental Alienation is a defence in court to cover-up domestic abuse. Others use domestic violence allegations to excuse their coercive and controlling behaviour or alienation. The facts must be investigated fast and firm action taken either way to discourage abuse of the system. In this case it was said that the mother exaggerated her husband's aggression to avoid responsibility for her actions. and, it appears that the jury agreed with that. It had also been reported that her husband had tried to limit his wife's drinking. Our thoughts are with the children. Please support FNF by sharing and liking our posts, following us, registering for free, making a donation or becoming a member. https://careappointments.com/care-news/england/127952/woman-dubbed-mother-of-the-year-jailed-for-killing-husband-with-kitchen-knife/
  • The film Rocketman portrays Elton John's dad as cold and unloving. That may indeed be the case, but then again it may not. In painful family separations different perspectives and versions of the truth are not uncommon. And so it seems is the case with Elton whose half-brother, Geoff Dwight, has a very different perspective of their dad as someone with a big heart. Whatever Geoff's motives, it seems that he believes that the idea that their dad abandoned Elton was fostered by Sheila, Elton's mother after she went with another man. Whatever the truth, by not working together the scars run deep. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7094579/Elton-Johns-father-proud-brother-reveals-accuses-singer-betrayal-new-film.html Please support us by sharing and liking our posts, following us, registering for free, becoming a member or making a donation.
  • Positive news - World Health Organisation (WHO) have accepted Parental Alienation within its classification of health conditions. It does not come into effect until 1st January 2022, presumably to give nation states and researchers time to catch-up. It is an important marker that the effect on children of alienating behaviours is a major health problem that needs to be more widely recognised and addressed. https://karenwoodall.blog/2019/05/27/world-health-organisation-recognises-parental-alienation/amp/ Please support our work by sharing and liking our posts, following us, registering for free, making a donation and/or becoming a member.

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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