Promised Legal Child Sharing – What about the Kids?
A cautionary tale, as we hear news that divorced parents may well be given a legal right to access to their children, with those who won’t accept this liable to contempt of court or even jail.
This announcement from the coalition government comes despite a major family justice review, led by David Norgrove, dropping plans to enshrine equal access rights back in November, given that a similar system instituted in Australia had actually caused damage to children there.
Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton talks of a “vision” of “shared parenting” and no doubt his experience is largely centred on ideal parenting and, also doubtless, he has been persuaded by lobbying groups that the world is a wonderful place, where lovely daddies and mummies walk in sun-filled parks bestowing love and blessings on their kids once they have fallen out of love and into hate.
We are treated to statistics, which show one in three children live without their father. Oh could someone bring out of the closet statistics which show how many live unhappily with the bitterness, blame and abuse, how many are dragged away from home and friends to ensure each parent gets their fair share.
And my cautionary tale? Years ago now I was locked in a contested divorce in an effort to escape a man who beat me and my children, promised to kill me and to see me childless and in the gutter.
I had legal aid. I had a good lawyer. I also had a social worker’s report for the judge, which deemed us “two loving parents who cared deeply about their children.” It failed to mention that one of us was still bashing the kids – and that one certainly wasn’t me. It also ignored the huge courage of one of the children who told the court social worker exactly what was going on at access visits to a stick-wielding father.
This “loving” father had refused to see the children unless given “equal access”. Reasonable was not reasonable enough. He would have been delighted to see the law changed to enshrine his right to destroy his children’s happiness because that was the only hold he still had over me. That was the only punishment he could still hand out to me.
I was warned not to argue with the social worker’s report – she was clearly on the side of absent fathers, poor chap, subject of an ouster order, depriving him of family, hearth and home.
The children’s school informed me that they were very disturbed after “access weekends” that they would be better not being forced to go. And they were forced to go – by the system, by guilt and pity and, ultimately, by me.
The result? Even now as grownups they are afflicted by their experience. They each fell out with their father at different times and with each other completely, thanks to trying to cope with conflicting emotions, conflicting demands.
There are many sticks that bad and brutal parents can wield – demanding equal access to their children can be one of them.
So forgive me if I am unconvinced by those who dress as Batman and blame everyone but themselves for their situation. In my case it was the children who suffered.
Contempt of court? Contempt for the rose coloured spectacles that fail to see that it should – indeed must – be the children whose interests are paramount.