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Fathers who feel family courts treat them badly should campaign for equality, not carp about violation of their rights


The introduction to the UK government’s Family Justice Review (looking at how best to serve the interests of children when a marriage breaks up) acknowledges that: “fathers and grandfathers regularly tell us that they do not feel well served by the current system”.

According to the Observer, which has produced a double-page spread on fathers’ rights, there is indeed a growing realisation that fathers get a raw deal when it comes to traditional custody arrangements because of the tendency of courts to award custody to the mother.

And as a former family lawyer, I can attest to the fact that some men desperately want to keep in contact with their children and some women make it very difficult for them. That, of course, is not right.

But my message to fathers’ rights campaigners would be this.

If you want to challenge the well-established role of the woman as the primary carer, you need to do more than just complain about it when you feel your individual rights as a father have been violated.

If you really want to challenge the traditional roles that men and women play in the family, then get involved in the campaign for true equality.

Were you now to throw your weight behind that campaign (it’s called feminism by the way) rather than standing on the sideline complaining about women manipulating the courts in their favour, that would certainly help.

And it would also help if you were to acknowledge that there are hundreds of thousands of women who would like their ex-partners to take their responsibilities seriously. This involves not just wanting to see their children, but also paying for them. Children are expensive items.

So, to summarise, if you want to challenge the system and specifically the way the family courts approach the issue of custody arrangements, then throw your net a bit wider and start to understand the context in which those arrangements have developed.

Women want to work with you on this, as on most other issues, not against you. This is not a battle. We all want the interests of our children to be paramount. After all, they’re the only innocent parties.

  1. You are SO WRONG about feminism! I defended feminism for the first three years that I was involved in fathers/family rights. Then I watched them lie under oath while they testified AGAINST California’s shared parenting bill several years ago. And I saw video of them doing the same across the country, whenever we put forth a similar bill. THEY ARE AGAINST EQUALITY. They only want supremacy.

    • Hi, Teri, I’m sorry you feel that feminism is about supremacy. I obviously don’t know what happened with the shared parenting bill but I can assure you that feminism as an ideology is about liberation and equality. I would ask you therefore to re-read what I said in my comments and consider whether there could be any truth to it. Perhaps that would be a better starting point than your anger, which may well be justified but which is never constructive and will not move anything forward. We have more to gain by working together than working against one another and although your experience says that can’t happen, I’m asking you to reconsider.

  2. bob dillman says:

    feminism isnt about supremacy however I personally know for a fact that in canada and nova scotia in particular feminzis mascarade as feminists.and men in canada have no rights in family court. and we have no recourse as the committee on the status of women make it that way. it ensures revenue from men and keepas them tightly under wraps . so we cant fight for our rights to equality, as women did.
    and Alison you should never tell someone under stress not to react in anger.
    I have had a judge say to me you cannot watch your kids because you work fulltime. and then give custody to my ex. that would be illegal in our country if i was a woman. but it is perfectly ok in canada to take a mans rights away with feeble excuses that dont hold water.

    i wonder how women felt by having to have to fight for the vote and when their husbands said there there dear.. I wonder how many husbands slept on the couch wondering .. what did i say?

    maybe he took it personally when his fathers rights were summarily dismissed. I know i did.

    • I think it’s very sad that you are stuck in the groove of believing that feminists are the devil incarnate and the men have no rights in family law. While that remains the case, we cannot move on.

      When relationships break up, people are angry. I know because I’ve been there but my ex and I came to an unusual arrangement of shared care whereby we live next door to one another to allow our son to easily spend time with both of us, without him ending up as a “plastic bag” kid, as I call them.

      Despite that arrangement, I was still very angry with my ex for all sorts of reasons as he was with me. So what really? I could tell you endless stories of men who did this and of men who failed to turn up for contact time after time, leaving both their children and their ex-partners confused and even more angry. And men who demanded contact but refused to pay maintenance to their exes.

      Again, so what? All that proves is that there is fault on both sides. The point that I’m trying to get across is that at some stage, we all have to stand back and understand what is happening to us. If we stop at the point where we say “she did this” or “he did that”, we get nowhere.

      That’s why I keep coming back to the point about understanding the context in which the courts make decisions and asking men to get involved in a campaign for equality within the home. If we had that, you wouldn’t face the issues you do in the family courts whereby the court does assume that the woman is the person best placed to look after their child. That is usually because she has been the person already doing that for years.

  3. Alison, these ‘hundreds of thousands of women who would like their ex-partners to take their responsibilities seriously’ surely exist, and they are the women that encourage and facilitate their exes involvement in their children’s lives. These are the couples that don’t end up in court, or if they do, it’s not because they are denying the fathers access to their children. These are not the fathers that feel they are getting ‘a raw deal when it comes to traditional custody arrangements because of the tendency of courts to award custody to the mother’.

    The fathers that this report refers to are the fathers that are unreasonably denied access to their children, first by the mothers, and then by the courts. And I would suggest to you that in the majority of cases, these fathers WANT to be fully involved in their children’s lives. Most of these men fully understand ‘the context in which those arrangements have developed’. The court system is biased, plain and simple. This has to be stated and restated until it sinks in to those who need to hear it.

    Your final statement ‘Women want to work with you on this, as on most other issues, not against you. This is not a battle. We all want the interests of our children to be paramount. After all, they’re the only innocent parties.’ I wish this were true, but from my observations and personal experience, this is not the case for many many women. There are, dare I say, hundreds of thousands of women that use their children as a tool to hurt their exes, without paying an ounce of thought to ‘what is best for the children’. This is very unfortunate, but true. If you want proof of this fact, go down to your local family court and talk to the men there, they will repeat the same story over and over.

    Does feminism teach women and men to place the needs of the children first?

    • I understand (and acknowledged in my blog post) that there are women who deny access to their ex-partners. Some of them have good reasons for doing so (for instance if the ex-partner has been abusive) but some do not. I agree. That is a fact and I also met some of them when I was a family lawyer.

      You say that the court system is biased, plain and simple but you don’t seem to want to ask why the courts make the decisions that they do. That “bias” does not come out of the blue. It is a reflection of the current reality that women remain the primary carers in the home. The courts, in their decisions, constantly reflect that.

      I understand that men want (and indeed should have contact with their children, post break-up), but my point is that our efforts in this regard have to be put into a wider context. In other words, an acknowledgement that the courts reflect what happens in wider society.

      I therefore want to see a campaign that does not just concentrate on fathers demanding to see their children (rightly so of course) but also a campaign of fathers who understand that, in the longer term, they also need to be engaged in a campaign which starts long before the relationship splits up. That campaign is about equality within the home and equal parenting within the home.

      Both women and men can behave badly, post-break up but while we continue to hurl insults at one another, saying that the other side is to blame, we will never get anywhere.

      Feminism does not teach anyone anything. It is an ideology that people either subscribe to or they don’t. Nor do I think that anyone should have to be taught to place the needs of children first. Unfortunately, people are usually very angry with their ex after a break-up and it is that anger that takes over. That applies to men as well as women. Just blaming the other “side” will not help.

      • Alison, maybe the ‘current reality that women remain the primary carers in the home’ is a reflection of the court system? Or better yet, an outdated mindset brought on by the industrial revolution, which is no longer applicable. Either way, there is a bias, and slowly but surely the mindset around this is changing.

        I don’t think we disagree. However, you seem to imply somehow that fathers don’t take equal responsibility for parenting, whether in a relationship or after. This is another fallacy that fuels the bias we are talking about. That may have been the case in your personal experience, or maybe you saw some cases of that in your career, but for the many men that took their parenting responsibilites seriously, it is very offensive to be painted with that brush.

        • I’m not implying that most men don’t take equal responsiblity for parenting. I’m stating it as a fact. That’s not to say that some men don’t play an equal part (you are obviously one) but the reality is that women have long been and remain the primary carers for children. I’m surprised you’re taking issue with that. It may be true that things are changing but, for a lot of women, not nearly fast enough.

          So that’s my starting point – inequality within the home. I’m not talking here from personal experience as I don’t think that’s helpful. I’m talking about the fact that all the statistics show that the vast majority of women take far more responsibility for the upbringing of their children than men do. Now there are lots of reasons for that (not least that once a couple has children, the father often works longer hours) but nevertheless that’s the reality we’re working with.

          My point, therefore, is that’s where we need to start. And that starting point begs all sorts of questions that we all need to ask ourselves. Do we want women to generally be the person who gives up her job (or goes part time) after a child? Do we want men to have greater paternity leave so that they bond with their children? Do we want men to seriously consider working part time when a child is born etc etc?

          So I’m saying we need to fundamentally question the assumed roles that we currently have. That requires not just women to ask the questions, but also men. Then we need to move to think about how men and women can play different roles (if that’s what we want and I think you and I probably do) and finally how we start to push for those changes so that they happen much more whole-heartedly. Sweden is a country that springs to mind here where about 85% to 90% of men take long paternity leave and take a much more active role within the home. As a result, Sweden is a much more equal society.

          • “all the statistics show that the vast majority of women take far more responsibility for the upbringing of their children than men do”?


            I don’t agree with this statement, and I think this inaccurate statement is the basis of the biases for which we have been arguing about.

            For arguments sake I will assume it is true. So you would concede that at least some men take their parenting resposibilities seriously. These men, however small the percentage, face biases from the onset. And somehow this translates into the assumption that women should by default be the primary caregivers on separation? Talk about a leap!

            Now assume your statement is not accurate, and that the majority of men take equal or more responsibility then women for parenting (note there are many aspects to parenting to account for here). In this case, your basic assumptions lead to a bias based on ignorance.

            Either way, men are benind the 8 ball right from the start.

            I find it telling that you don’t allow for the possibility that some men take on MORE than an equal share of the parenting duties, or in many cases, ALL of the parenting duties.

            You are obviously coming from a starting point of biased yourself. My advice to you is to put down your own biases before you attempt an objective argument.

          • Oh, dear, Dan. I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one as the issue we’ve now identified is fundamental to the debate. My starting point (or my “bias”) as you would see it is that, yes, women generally are the primary carers for children. Far more women stay at home to look after their children, far more women work part time after having children and far more women ask to work flexibly to fit in with childcare commitments. All the stats show this Even anecdotally, far more women wait at the school gate for their children (something some men complain about because they feel left out).

            That is not an accusation that men are bad people, simply a reflection of the society we live in. As I said in my earlier post, men often end up doing less parenting than they might want to because they have to work more hours after having kids. Nevertheless, that is generally what happens in our society. The woman either stops working or works part time to take on more parenting responsibilities than the man. As I say, it’s not an accusation, just a reflection of reality. And it all has to be challenged if we want things to change.

            So, yes, I’m afraid that is where I’m coming from. And it’s also where the courts are coming from. My point from the outset has been that it would take forward your campaign for men’s rights to reflect and consider that (even if you don’t agree with it). But as you clearly dispute that description of the world, it seems we’re living on different planets. Hence my feeling that we need to agree to disagree as I don’t think we can take this any further.

            By the way, we’re all biased. It’s not possible to be human and not be biased. And there is rarely such a thing as an objective argument although people often seem to think that’s what they’re engaged in. We get angry/upset/emotional/rude in arguments precisely because we have a viewpoint. That means, by definition, we’re not being objective. We all need to try that hat on, Dan.

  4. I say don’t look at the problem from the perspective of women’s rights or men’s rights. Start from a blank sheet and put everything in perspective. As long as we keep talking about feminism and feminine rights, outcomes will tend to skew to the advantage of the feminist and the disadvantage of the men, as the natural assumptions and mindset is that the women are weaker and are the disadvantaged lot compared to men.

    So forget about rights when dealing with the problem, for after all, rights can also be subjective depending on which angle you are looking at and what one considers his or her rights may not be viewed the same by another.

    • Interesting thought. The trouble is that the minute we start to analyse inequality we start to identify where that inequality lies – class, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation etc. Then we tend to drill down within each of those “strands” in order to analyse why that might be the case. I’m not sure, therefore, how we talk about or understand inequality without doing that.

  5. The assumption made by the family courts, the govt and the feminists is that society needs to help women. You will notice in the US that very few, if any govt, tax payer supported entities help men, yet how many are there for women? (unless you consider prisons as taxpayer organizations for men”. Could this be why so many men are in prison? Could so many men in prison mean that women have their basic needs for survival provided for yet men are forced to fend for themselves. It is a proven fact that women are treated more leniently by the court systems. All this points to a gross double standard and these generalizations too often promoted by feminist seem to always vilify men and sanctify women, not to mention remove fathers from their children and then say that the fathers are “not responsible”…….thus, with this mindset we get laws like the VAWA, which in effect paints all men with the broad brush of abusers only and women as only capable of being victims. Thus, these govt organizations are unable to deal with the situation that men can be victims and women can be abusive and sociopaths….This leads to unscrupulous mothers and an average unethical lawyer dishonestly using the court system, too often the mother seeking divorce and to “win”, will follow the lawyers dishonest advice by claiming herself a saint and the father as the worst person in the world, denying him access or demanding limited access to his child and purposely creating conflict so she can claim the conflict is not good for the child and then request the court limit even more time between the father and child. The good father like any good mother with fight this with all they have, but it is of no use, the courts are fixed for the most part, they are ruled by the double standard and they deceive fathers into thinking they have rights when they don’t. By the time the average father finds this out, usually years later he has the average 4 days per month with HIS child (how would you like that?), he is left with no money, his career will have suffered and he may well be living in near poverty as he sees his tax money go for the above giveaways to help more women take the children money and be able to “win”. this is what feminism has become, a way for women to steal, kidnap children from and rape good fathers and deprive children of a decent relationship with a loving parent so the mother can get what she wants, no matter how greedy or abusive she is. Without a balance and support of fathers as parents from feminists, feminisim just looks like a situation where there is free money at the trough to claim all women as victims and all men as abusive. Conclusion, feminist want equality and they want women to be treated special and better than men. Feminism is now women helping women only (isn’t that narcissim?) and this includes abusive women and sociopathic women. this victimizes men and children. Have you noticed that ever since feminist have gained so much ground with the govt, that women are no longer capable of child abuse or abuse or crimes, it is never their fault it is “has to be due to a mental problem, or past abuse….(never said about troubled men)…….All this is a double standard created by zealot feminist who are there to help women and themselves by vilifying men and claiming women to be incapable of doing wrong. How much more ridiculous does it get?

    • Steve – go and see someone about your bitterness before it eats you alive mate.

      • Thanks, Matari. I hadn’t replied because I really didn’t know where to start. Sadly, there’s an awful lot of men out there who think like Steve and who are, like him, eaten up with bitterness.

        • Isn’t it easy to write off his arguments with a personal attack.

          So….. Steve’s arguments are invalid because Steve is a bitter person.

          Come on Alison, your law background should tell you that you can’t use personal attacks to negate an argument, and in this case, some very valid ones?

          Does that make me a bitter person too?

  6. Thank you Dan for pointing out the flaws in Allison’s logic. It points to the common ploy used by people who have been defeated with reality and facts and their only recourse is to change the subject, blame the messenger or use some other method other than addressing the issues. They will do anything but address the issues brought up about the absolute injustice of any parent (in this case a father) and a child being used by a mother who is either a sociopath, mentally ill or so greedy that she would slit her own mother’s throat to get what she wants.

    What I speak to in my “rant” is my history and experience inside the “family” court. I rode that wave from beginning to end, because I could see the way the work things is to make excuses or blame the dad or play ignorant…by dealing with them for 10 years I gave them no more excuses. I denied the “family” court their last excuse which would be, “eventually we would get things right and see that you were a good parent and your ex were a pathologic liar and manipulator, but you gave up and went away, you never came back”. But I did come back, the “family” courts ran out of excuses. You know this is true when they get angry, when you are doing nothing wrong to them. You know this is true when the excuses they are left with are so lame as to be laughable, completely unprofessional and scraping the bottom of the barrel to defend their previous (wrong) decisions.

    For instance, a judge that I would label by her history and actions, in and out of court, a radical feminist judge, let my manipulative ex (who I supported and helped become a professional move out of state). For 10 years this has placed an incredible burden on me to keep in touch with my dtr and to drive to bring her home… This meant I had to sacrifice my professional career, as I had to take work where I was not able to complete my license as I afforded my ex to do, and she was to recipricate once I helped her establish herself professionally.

    This same radical feminist judge treated me like a criminal and my ex like some kind special friend in court. Recall this radical feminist judge allowed my ex to move out of state and this same radical feminist judge insisted the jurisdiction for the case would remain in the original state, where I live. 31 violations by my ex, were carefully documented and brought forth to a feminist judge (a different judge, both female by the way)…This judge ignored all the violations, ignored that my ex was shown to be malicious and as an aside was shown to be driving without a license and was denying me access to my dtr and violating the court order. All this judge had to say was “why are these people still coming to my court, the mother is in another state, shouldn’t that be where the jurisdiction is?”.
    And left everything as that.

    Needless to say, this is only the tip of the iceberg. I had two lawyers give up “family” law since they saw to their disbelief how I was treated and how the judges did not follow the law. My ex continues to be abusive, making sure that any experience I have with my dtr costs me time and money in a situation where I have long ago been so overburdened that I could understand how so many fathers give up. To date I have lost my career because of this and have refused to allow my dtr to even think that daddy doesn’t love her or has not tried to be with her as much as I could (like I was during the intact marriage, while my ex, as now, devoted almost no quality time with our dtr as she was too busy fulfilling her own needs and leaving our dtr with others as she does to this day). My ex is an abusive person who takes and takes and takes and once she does that she makes you believe she wants peace and will lie and decieve and make false promises of peace and getting along and sharing our dtr, but then will turn around and make you feel foolish for ever believing her in the first place because her actions were purely manipulative and cruel only to get you to comply or do something she wants or something that is convenient for her. She stole money from me, my parents and my dtr. She always has excuses and lies and if those don’t work then she gets angry and abusive. She puts our dtr in the middle all the time, again to manipulate things her way. Our dtr is used for her convenience.

    Getting back to the “family” courts, overall, in my personal experience they have nothing but contempt for fathers because vilifying fathers and conflict and propagating conflict is the money maker in the divorce industry (courts, govt, lobby groups…).

    Allison, what you interpret as “ranting” or bitterness is the attempt to protest injustice that denies parent a child a relationship if the malicious parent is manipulative or lies enough. On the other hand, if you have a child (it doesn’t seem you do), then answer this, how would you act if you were denied access to that child by manipulation and lack of due process? How would you act if you that 3 year old child told you her mother was hitting her because the child said she wanted to be with daddy. How would you act if you helped that person all you could and they stole from you and then used the system to vilify you so they could take everything else and now they continue to manpiulate to get what they want, while you are overwhelmed with burdens as you sacrificed all you had to try to remedy the injustice in the courts only to find the courts corrupt? How would you act if you could only see your child once a week? How would you act if you could only see your child 4 days a month? Once a year? The problem is Allison there is too much opportunity for the dishonest, or malicious mother to come in and manipulte the system and then use the child as a tool thereafter to make the father’s life as miserable as possible and to make the experince of being with the child as burdensome as possible.

    You yourself concede that there are mothers that do this. So what is the solution, to work with these mothers? You can’t becasue they will sabotage the coparenting relationship to KEEP the upper hand. So should the father walk away? Then, the child (and father lose and suffer). The solution is things need to lean toward fairness and justice and that is the “best interest of the child”. What I have experienced is that the reluctance of the “family” courts to punish the malicious mothers for any reason, is equal to rewarding and encouraging these mothers to continue to do more of the same and like anything else they will only get better at it with practice. Yet I see fathers (personal experience) treated like “you don’t matter as a parent”, (ask my 3 year old dtr if daddy matters? kids long and need both parents) or victimized by abusive ex who play the victim in court and then sabotages the coparenting relationship outside the court walls to create conflict and misery.

    From another source:
    If you are not able to see the very real problems or extract even one injustice out of my “rant” (my first comment), then you are so blind by your need to sanctify women and invalidate the need of men as parents and humans and the “traditional” need (better yet biological or genetic or innate or proverbial need) of the child to have a mother and father. Surely, you could see the pleas of fathers, who somehow are deamed unworthy to be parents by some machine called the “family” court, but how easy is it for that machile to be used and manipulated? Then what does that mean to the mothers, fathers and children who are victimzed by that very flawed, inaccurate system and manipulative parents? In the case of feminism, you seem to see no problem in this manipulation (that you conceed exists, by your comment that there are women who abuse the system, yet you don’t go beyond that. Why?

    My time is limited but I hate no one, I only spew forth the facts as follows:
    1. 43% of US children live without their fathers (Dept of Census)
    2. 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father (Dept of health and human services)
    3. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Dept of Census)
    4. 90% of homeless and runaways are from fatherless homes (Dept of Census)
    5. 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Nat. Principles Association)
    6. 84.4% of all NON-CUSTODIAL PARENTS ARE FATHERS (Dept of Census)
    7. 85% of youths in prison grew up in fatherless homes (Texas dept of corrections)
    8. 61% OF CHILD ABUSE IS COMMITTED BY THE BIOLOGICAL MOTHER (Dept of Health and Human Services report on CHILD ABUSE)

    Fatherless boys and girls are: TWICE as likely to drop out of high school; TWICE as likely to end up in jail and FOUR TIMES more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems (Dept of Health Human

    • Steve, I’m sorry you feel as you do. I think that writing reams about the evils of the family courts is not going to get you anywhere. If you want to change things you need to find solutions. Btw, I do have a child and an ex partner with whom I have a very amicable arrangement.