The combination of feminism and the welfare state will reduce the status of fathers to that of household pets – a prediction attributed to Bertrand Russell in the 1930s.
For so many fathers in our society, who have experienced parental breakdown and separation, this is a prediction that has become all too true.
About half of all children now born in the UK are to unmarried mothers. A report published in 2013 by the Centre for Social Justice < >said that lone parent families are increasing by about twenty thousand a year, and will top two million in about two years time. At least one million children are growing up without a father and some of the poorest parts of the country have become “men deserts”. The report accused the Government of turning a blind eye to its commitment to promote family stability, and warned that father absence is linked to higher rates of teenage crime, pregnancy and disadvantage.
The Children Act 1989, and subsequent rules, regulations and case law, underpins the application of family law relating to children in England and Wales. However, the more recent Children and Families Act 2014 which came into effect on the 22 April 2014, changed procedures and terminology across a wide range of areas including family law, children in care, and education. Since November 2013, all cases of child maintenance have been administered by the Child Maintenance Service CMS).
Single Family Court:
Child Arrangement Orders:
This provided for a single network of application points for parents who need to go to court, the intention being to make it easier for parents to navigate the court system and to reduce delays created by the court system rather than the parties applying.
The Act replaced the former ‘contact’ and ‘residence’ orders by a Child Arrangement Order (CAO) covering such issues as who any children will live with, and how their time will be split between the parents.
The problems for many fathers who accept being a non-resident parent come later, when agreed contact with their children becomes increasingly obstructed by the mother or even terminated for no good reason other than that she knows she ‘can get away with it’. Court orders in most cases do nothing to rectify this deliberate obstruction by the mother, family courts being reluctant to enforce them. Some fathers are known to have made literally dozens of applications for court ordered contact, at huge expense, but still without success. It appears that many mothers are allowed to be above the law.
In contrast to the lenient treatment of mothers who disobey court contact orders, there appears to be no hesitation by courts to punish fathers who breach other types of court orders affecting their family. An order prescribing shared residence has had fluctuating port from the judiciary since 1989, and it is still difficult for a father to obtain, especially when children are very young.
The beneficial effect of this would be twofold. First, fewer cases would be contested and reach the family courts, since there would be a disincentive to many parents, especially mothers, to resort to family courts for trivial or specious reasons. Second, in those contested cases still reaching the courts, the courts would by law have to reconcile the best interests of the child with equal (or shared) parenting ‘as the norm’. Both these effects must be of benefit to children, and both would reduce the huge existing cost of family breakdown to society.
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