It’s no surprise to anyone that has been touched by the Family Law system to understand that Non Resident Parents have a bad deal in the UK. A very bad deal.
A Parent With Care (PwC) can, and many do, adversely interfere with the relationship between the Non Resident Parent (NRP) and their child by making contact difficult.
You may say “But parents with Parental Responsibility are “equal before the law” – it says so in the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property” “
Alas, this is not practised by many local government or judicial agencies.
As a NRP, if you have difficulty seeing your children, your first port of call may the Police or the local Family Information Service (for “Family”, read “PwC”) for advice. You will soon start hearing the excuse “if you don’t have a court order, we can’t help you” or similar. Strange? We already know that all people with Parental Responsibility (PR) are equal then surely these support agencies will help anyone of these people with PR to continue to exercise their rights and responsibilities and enjoy a Family Life.
Remember this is the same “Family Life” as described in The Human Rights Act 1998 where it cites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 8.1 “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence” and Article 14 “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground …” used by convicted criminals to be released from jail early or stopped from being deported !
It is such a shame the Government, local agencies and judicial system does not afford this protection to law-abiding, tax-paying voters – in truth their boss’s you may say.
So, you’ve asked around and you realise that the only way you can get to continue having a relationship with your child is to ask the Family Courts to enforce yours and your child’s rights for this.
Dear, dear, dear … this is where the “system” really does start to expose the underlying faults.
The act of attempting to see your child via the courts is automatically seen as “confrontational” and it is YOU that is making waves. Hang on a minute, you’re the one that has been wronged? You’ve lost contact with your child through no fault of your own and all the “support agencies” won’t help because you don’t have a court order in place (remembering that everyone with PR is equal before the law .. mind you some are more equal)?
Keep that thought …
Now as the Applicant (the one bringing the court action), you will be expected to prove that you are a fit and proper parent. You will more than likely have vicious and hurtful allegations made against you, which are always taken on face value as correct until proven otherwise (any concept of innocent until proven guilty is left at the door of the Family Court). These are generally made one after each other, causing delays and further distress.
If you the father, then the first will probably be that you are not the father. As a show-stopper, this is the first attempt by the Respondent to stop you. This by itself can be heart-breaking to the NRP, let alone now having to undertake DNA (or similar) tests. However, by this time the PWC has already clearly stated to CMEC/CSA that you are indeed the father and you’re on the birth certificate so there is no reason to doubt it. So, a few weeks go by and the test results come back positive and you continue to try and see your family.
Now I abhor violence in any form and do not condone it in any way, but the next allegation will normally be violence or the threat of violence either to them or others within your family. This too is show-stopper, and the respondent will even mention when you had (or maybe didn’t have) that argument with your brother/sister/mother/father. Any family member will do as this will now need to looked into, and therefore a few more weeks delay before actually getting to the reason you’re in court.
Remember when I mentioned about people being equal before the law? Yeah, about that. Domestic Violence appears in many forms, one of which is the threat or actual act of stopping you see your children. So, as a NRP, you suggest you are going to court and you’re going to “get the children” – then this is Domestic Violence .. look at the leaflets available in the waiting rooms. On the other side of the coin, when the PWC states “you’re not seeing little Jonny any more so take me to court if you think that will help you” is rarely seen as DV, and rarely mentioned by the agencies or courts. Surprising really, as it precisely because you’ve been denied contact with your children that your here!
Meanwhile, back to the story. We’re about 12 weeks into our journey through the Family Court system, and in reality probably close to a year since you’ve had quality time with your child. We’ve not even started asking for contact yet, and there are probably two more allegations to come.
You will be pleased to know the next two allegations are usually the final ones. Depending on what the PWC is like and their particular habits, you will be accused of excessive drinking (which is not against the law in any event) and of taking drugs. Obviously, if the PWC partakes of these activities then they will probably water the allegation down a little. I mean, they wouldn’t want the court to think THEY are a bad parent now would they?
Now we need drug & alcohol testing to see what you’ve been up to. If the court orders a hair strand test, then be prepared for a hefty report from the laboratory. Having only had experience of the alcohol test, the first 60 odd pages will be all reasons not to trust the report and how cold remedies will affect the results etc etc .. with a final analysis saying you drink between “0 and 28 units per week” …
A few more weeks, we’re 16 weeks into this process now.
Notice a pattern?
So we’re ready. The spurious allegations have all been dismissed by the judge and your ready to explain how you got here and how for a year now you’ve not been able to maintain contact with your child.
Doh! You’ve recently shot yourself in the foot and you didn’t even know it or were able to avoid it.
To get to this point you’ve proved you’re not a violent, drug taking, drunken thug and now, as a result of not being a threat or menace to society, you will not receive any systematic help or assistance from the relevant agencies. Social Services and Child Protection will not monitor you, CAFCASS will not assess you and so no Politically Correct Offender Support Officer will be able to recommend you need be in contact with your child so as to help them keep a family unit in place.
Keep in mind the judge is not interested why you’re here.
They’re not interested that you’ve had to fight major obstacles to get here.
They’re not even interested in how good a parent you were – I mean, you’ve missed over a year of your child’s life now.
Remember also you have no recourse to justice for all the allegations, multiple breaches of your human rights and your child’s human rights.
As an aside, if your sibling killed your parents to get at their inheritance the court will intercept and stop that happening. Laws are in place to stop people benefitting from their unlawful actions – apart from in the Family Courts that is.
Your starting point now is: You are obviously a “feckless NRP” as in the courts opinion no PwC would stop you seeing your child for no reason. By not seeing your child you are actively demonstrating you do not support your child emotionally and therefore your child should be protected from contact with you and any contact should be supervised, monitored and appraised by the very same person that stopped you seeing your child in the first place. Have faith though, after coming all this way, the courts think the PwC will now suddenly be fair, consistent and objective in their opinions.
If you speak to CAFCASS, they would usually say that if there are no unresolved issues (like the allegations above) then they would expect a child to stay with the NRP two nights per week from the age of 2.5 years. This is good and I’m sure you will agree appears fair.
Hold on there cowboy! “Fair” is not the issue here, get that right out of your mind now otherwise you are going to be sorely disappointed – and quickly too!
As an NRP applying for contact, all things being equal, you will usually get contact ordered. It may not be as much as you think it should be, or fair in the real sense of the word.
The bottom line is you are here because you were stopped from seeing you child and now you are effectively punished for asking for this contact.
As another blow to your “equal before the law” status, the contact order will probably assign residency with the PwC. This gives them even more “equality” than you when it comes to dealing with the relevant agencies (doctors, schools etc)
If you’ve read this far – well done!
We’ll continue this saga next week with responses to the three (relatively) recent Family Law reviews; the report from Work and Pensions Committee’s Fifth Report of Session 2010-12,The Government’s Proposed Child Maintenance Reforms (HC 1047-I) and suggested changes (including recent Private Members Bills) to the whole concept of Family Law within England and Wales.