Monday, June 16, 2008

Another needless tragedy

There hardly seems to be a week go by at the moment without the awful news that children have been killed in some horrific way at the hands of a parent, usually their father, on a contact visit.

I know that what I'm going to say will be controversial, but I am concerned that perhaps the courts are too keen to make contact orders in favour of people who simply are not stable enough to be trusted with the care of their own children.

I'm not quite sure what to do about this - perhaps some sort of psychiatric evaluation should be part of the investigation process to identify whether the father could be a potential danger to his children.

There is no justification for what these men do, but perhaps the whole process of family law needs to be based on counselling and mediation rather than an adversarial courtroom process which just invites divisive mud slinging. Both parents need to be aware first and foremost of the needs of their children.

I am in no doubt that there are some circumstances in which the children would benefit from having no contact with the absent parent. There are other situations where they would suffer without that parent in their lives. The courts have been following a slavish adherence to the theory that it is in the best interests of the children to retain contact with their absent parent. In some cases that is extremely undesirable for all sorts of reasons. If there is any doubt at all about a child's safety in the hands of a parent then they should not be allowed to be alone with that parent. End of story. Often the best judge of that is the parent the child lives with, whose views are not always taken into account.

My daughter could not do without her Daddy - they have a lovely relationship, and he would always, unquestioningly, put her needs ahead of his own. I am lucky enough to have complete trust in him as a father. Similarly, many of my friends are terrific fathers, even though they do not live with their children's mothers. They've had to work hard to maintain that relationship, and they are all sane, reasonable individuals whose rights the family law system should protect.

It must be horrible, though, for a mother to be forced to hand over her children to someone she fears would harm them. The system has to be better at identifying the people who would harm their children. Too many are dying at the moment and something has to be done about it.

1 comment:

Douglas said...

Caron, one of the problems is that mental screening is only really viable for the day that it happens on. Occansional visits (combined with fatastically unfair financial settlements) means that mental stability can be very quickly lost resulting in these tragic events.

From the experience of a few friends, the english family courts are fantastically against fathers. I dont agree with groups like F4J but their message is often correct. The baisc premise is that even when the mother cheats on the the loving, kind husband and demands a divorce, the courts make sure they get the kids, house etc.

A man I know is now an alcoholic following his experience of the court system that stripped him of his life. Before he was tetotal and would have passed all mental tests. Now he is not fit to look after a pet, never mind his two girls. The shame is that they were too young to know how much they were the centre of his university before the actions of their mother resulted in him becoming the person that they are now too scared to meet.

I hope the new Equality Act that Harriet Harmen talked about this week redresses the balance in the family courts.


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