There is a perception that when parents are ending their relationship, an arbitrary process will begin to allow children to be held at the centre of the process and that it will enable them to be supported by both parents.
In this process the court is designed to assist decision-making through solicitors, Cafcass and other wrap-around services.
The reality is that the processes are predispositions to hold gender bias, this bias is clear throughout all the family court processes and within the narrative that manages these processes and they are in place when these systems are reviewed.
A systemic gender bias against men is clear in the objectives, consultation processes, formulation of legislation, guidance and policy and is clearly present within the profiles of the professionals who are placed within the structures that manage these processes.
While completing research into family court processes, Split the Difference reviewed over 15 acts of law and the guidance and policy that came out of this legislation. This was done because it was clear that decisions made within the family court were not governed by one piece of legislation they were governed by multiple, for example;
- Family Law Act
- Housing Act
- Children’s Act
- Well-being of Future Generations Act
- Education Act
- Social Services Act
- Contract Law
- Mental Health Act
- Contracts (applicable law)
- Domestic Abuse Bill
- Human Rights Act
- Equalities Act
- Offender Management Act
- UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
- European Convention of Human Rights
- Welfare Benefits Act
- National Health Service Act
- Fiscal Responsibility Act
The focus of this research was to evaluate whether all these processes held gender bias. What this research showed was the structures within all of these processes disabled fathers from access to the same choice, support and rights to parent their children. This of course went against what is ethically and legally required as a right of the child to be cared for and have a relationship with both their parents.
Some of examples of this can be seen in the recent formulation and evaluation of new or existing legal processes.
Examples in the monitoring processes
Most recently in a press release directed by the Ministry of Justice titled, ‘Major overhaul of family courts to protect domestic abuse victims’, the Domestic Abuse Bill played a major part in motivating the government to look at the family court system, (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-overhaul-of-family-courts-to-protect-domestic-abuse-victims Accessed on 18/02/21).
As a review process the government has a legal and ethical responsibility to consult and include all stakeholders. Within each consultation to review or change law or guidance, each committee will be formulated with an individual in place whose role it is to ensure stakeholder involvement has been advertised and incorporated into the process. This is done through formal advertisement/invite and is documented.
Once the committee has advertised for stakeholders to engage with the committee in the consultation process, those who apply or show interest are then filtered by the committee. What has become evident is that consultation excludes men from having an equal voice in how that legislation or policy needs to change.
The press release for this particular review of the court system, highlighted what were supposed to be independent professionals whose role it is to ensure that consultation and the appropriate processes are followed in line with the needs of the legislation and the people that it is meant to serve they will ask questions that start with, who, what, where, when, how and why.
This process is to enable the government to understand where its focus is meant to be, who are those who are in need and how can the legislation, guidance and fiscal spending best serve them.
Initially the press release had no gender biased narrative but it quickly went into referencing only the needs of women and girls, using expert statements that only support the female perspective.
- Nicki Norman, Acting CEO at Women’s Aid
- Sara Kirkpatrick, CEO Welsh Women’s Aid
- Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs
- Dame Vera Baird QC, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales
At no point during this press release were quotes ascertained from professionals who support men’s perspective within the review.
One of the major drivers pushing forward the review in the family court system has been identified in this press release as an assessment process that was carried out by an expert panel ‘assessing the risks of harm to children and parents in private law children’s cases’ published by the Ministry of Justice in June 2020 (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/895173/assessing-risk-harm-children-parents-pl-childrens-cases-report_.pdf Accessed 18/02/21).
The article lists the panel who carried out this assessment for the Ministry of Justice as independent experts;
- Melissa Case & Nicola Hewer, Joint Directors of Family and Criminal Justice Policy, MOJ (Chair)
- Professor Rosemary Hunter FAcSS, University of Kent
- Professor Mandy Burton, University of Leicester
- Professor Liz Trinder, University of Exeter
- Neil Blacklock, Development Director, Respect
- Eleri Butler, former Chief Executive at Welsh Women’s Aid
- Lorraine Cavanagh QC & Dierdre Fottrell QC (joint representatives), Association of Lawyers for Children
- Mr Justice Stephen Cobb, Judiciary
- Nicki Norman, Acting Co-Chief Executive, Women’s Aid
- District Judge Katherine Suh, Judiciary
- Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for England (Children & Families)
This is a strongly influencing process used to justify the review of the family court system. The committee members who carried out this review are known as notable professionals over 50% of them are known to advocate for female only domestic abuse victims or strongly support a biased female perspective, only one man was part of this group.
Through research that Sarah Phillimore did and reflected on in a publication on (https://childprotectionresource.online/the-woeful-state-of-our-debate-when-facts-just-dont-matter-anymore/ Accessed 10/02/21) as in the Domestic Abuse Bill even though a number of men’s groups and individual professional men applied to become part of the consultation process this committee denied them access.
In the Equality act 2010: public sector equality duty what do i need to know? A quick start guide for public sector organisations it states there is a requirement that within:
“Review – public bodies must have regard to the aims of the Equality Duty not only when a policy is developed and decided upon, but also when it is implemented and reviewed. The Equality Duty is a continuing duty.”
It also gives guidance that it has a requirement to be responsible in gaining:
“Sufficient information – the decision maker must consider what information he or she has and what further information may be needed in order to give proper consideration to the Equality Duty.”
Further in this guidance there is also a requirement that:
“Policy makers – in how they build equality considerations in all stages of the policy making process including review and evaluation.”
The family court system is influenced by many acts of law all of which are supposed to support children, mothers and fathers while they are going through the court process, for example, the housing act, the children’s act, even contract law when it governs how the money is spent with supportive agencies that is supposed to be in place while families are going through difficult times.
Currently consultation processes exclude men, this is a fact and can be evidenced very easily. The professionals that are called upon who are termed as experts are clearly showing a gender biased, these professionals do not include equal representation in services for the male gender, a clearly stated protective character.
In all cases women’s services are provided with an open door, female leaders, influencers, are often the drivers for review and formulation of these processes right from the start and deem it ‘OK’ to forget that as politicians, academics, specialists in the service industry that they are ‘required’ to serve all the community including men.
What is seriously concerning is that a large proportion of the professionals who are governing these processes are wrapped up within women’s aid services, either ex-employees, consultants that have worked with them in the near passed or current or they are positioned through secondment.
It is clearly apparent that the systemic exclusion of men from public processes is also providing them with clear direct evidence that supports judicial reviews across all of the 18 Acts mentioned in this document, all of which surround family court.
Advice and guidance on Judicial review state:
A public authority may be acting unlawfully if it has made a decision or done something:
- Without the legal power to do so (unlawful on the grounds of illegality)
- So unreasonable that no reasonable decision-maker could have come to the same decision or done the same thing (unlawful on the grounds of reasonableness)
- Without observing the rules of natural justice (unlawful on the grounds of procedural impropriety or fairness)
- in breach of European Community Law or the Human Rights Act
The research and evidence that is used within the decision-making process shows gender bias excluding men.
The statistical evidence shows that men are victims of domestic abuse, false allegations, and many other factors that say we need to ensure that what we put in place for women should also be in place for men and yet all of the systems will only use terms of reference based on the female perspective.
In the equality act 2010 section 149 Public sector equality duty – In subsection 1 it states:
A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to—
(a) eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act;
(b) advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
(c) foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
In a House of Commons report – Enforcing the Equality Act: the law and the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Tenth Report of Session 2017–19
The summary boldly states the commission– “must act on its own obligations to embed compliance and enforcement of the Equality Act into its most significant strategies and action plans. That it has not yet done so in its recent efforts to improve the quality of work, an area where stopping discrimination is so clearly an essential precondition to any improvements beggars belief. This must change, and the recommendations of this report provide clear instructions on how to do so.”
A minister for men will create pathways in governance that will ensure their voices at the very least will gain a position in consultation, review and the creation of services they have a right to be able to access equally to women.
It is time for those who have the power to influence equality for men utilise professional courage, understand that they are there to serve all society and adopt a no-nonsense approach in ensuring children and fathers have the same opportunities available to them as it does mothers.
MWWT fully concurs with the above submission by Sally Burris & in addition adds.
Our Family Reform Policy is child centred. No child should be separated from his or her fit parents due to the intransigence of one parent. All issues arising must be dealt with robustly in the earliest possible stage. Unless there are cogent reasons for obstructing the contact of the child from either parent, a Legal Presumption of contact with both parents should be the order of the day.
Family Law Proposal
We are calling for wholesale Family Law Reform. The recent Norgrove “reform” is a sham and fails to deal with the underlying problems in the Family Courts.
We are calling for:
- The introduction of a Bill of Rights for Children, the Responsibilities for Parents and the launch of a Public Enquiry into the Family Justice System.
- All Family Court Officials to receive gender neutral training to ensure that there was no bias in proceedings. It is vital that the child’s interest is at the heart of all proceedings. Mothers having the sole legal right to child residence is undemocratic and undermines the human right of the child’s access to both parents. For decades the Family Courts have been operating a policy of Gender Apartheid against men which has allowed mothers to ignore court orders with impunity. Children have suffered through all this and have been denied their Human Right of contact with both parents.
- A policy of open, transparent and accountable courts is essential to ensure a fair case review which is free from biased CAFCASS reports and the withholding of children’s statements from the court.
- Mandatory mediation and education courses about the effects of family breakdown prior to the engagement of legal representatives and court action.
- A right in law for children to have a meaningful parenting relationship with both parents that reflects the status quo before separation.
- A right in law for grandchildren to have a meaningful relationship with their grandparents that reflects the status quo before separation.
- A legal presumption of ‘shared’ or ‘equal’ parenting based upon the status quo before separation with a default 50/50 starting point. This does not imply that there should not be a variation of time to suit all involved.
- The effective enforcement of court orders, including the transfer of residence via a suspended residence order. They do work.
- Children must be robustly protected against a violent parent whether it be a mother or father. This should include physical/mental abuse, parental alienation, and false allegations. When making allegations in court the person concerned must be made to swear under oath that they are telling the truth. If found to be lying they should face immediate prosecution and have to apply for contact if it is safe for the child. (see Family Courts – written question 105283 from Andrew Bridgen MP to Dominic Raab MP)
- The removal of an unelected, unaccountable and unsackable judiciary who operate in complete secrecy. Such a system is an affront to a progressive, modern democracy.
- The ending of the misleading statement that the courts act in ‘the child’s best interests’. They do not and cannot unless the child has equal access to both parents.
Family Courts: Perjury: Written question – 105283
Q Asked by Andrew Bridgen, North West Leicestershire on 14th September 2017
Ministry of Justice – Family Courts: Perjury 105283
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many (a) men and (b) women were prosecuted for perjury in the family court in 2016.
A Answered by: Dominic Raab on 9th October 2017
10 men and 6 women were prosecuted for perjury in the family court in England and Wales in 2016.This information was obtained from a manual review of court case files that centrally held data indicated may be relevant, and as such has not been through the same quality assurance processes as for routinely published data.
|The scandal of the Family Courts – exposure of malpractice – filmed by Stephen Fitzgerald on behalf of the Equal Parenting Coalition in 29.5.2001 Film 1 https://youtu.be/pLVuRa67jh8 Young woman aged 35 on the day she was re-united with her father after 32 years of forced separation. This was undertaken via a Fathersearch operation. Film 2 https://youtu.be/YMWg1YIbR90 young father with son and daughter interview after they had voted with their feet and ignored court orders. Film 3 https://youtu.be/SbayVku4PuI Young father unable to access help for his boys in the Family Court despite witness statements from neighbours verifying physical and mental abuse from their mother. All names, places etc have been altered to provide anonymity for the survivors.|
These figures relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe. In short, it is not impossible to prosecute people for perjury in the Family Courts. This is vital to discourage people from making false allegations re domestic abuse, abuse of children, Parental Alienation etc