FNF 2018 Conference - A Delegate's Report

FNF Conference Virgin

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