It’s not often the leader of one political party has anything good to say about the leader of another, but I’d like to make an exception. Ray Barry is the leader of the Equal Parenting Alliance http://equalparentingalliance.com and he wrote the section of our public consultation document concerned with parental access to children following relationship breakdowns (link below, pp 10.11).
In response to a supporter’s query about contact orders – issued by courts to ensure reasonable access to children by absent parents (usually fathers) following relationship breakdowns – I contacted Ray for some information on the matter. He responded with the following, for which I thank him. It’s reproduced here with his kind permission:
The ways that mothers can thwart contact orders, if they are so minded, are:
1) Delaying, e.g. making allegations of the child or the mother being at risk from the father. It can then take six months or more to investigate, by which time the father’s bonds with the child can be broken, and that then becomes the reason for the court to order no contact. In short, the status quo has changed over time – the child no longer wants to see his/her father, and the court considers it wouldn’t be in the child’s best interests to force him/her to do so. The fact the original allegations weren’t substantiated becomes irrelevant.
2) Mothers simply refusing to comply with orders. Specific enforcement measures were introduced about four years ago, which allow for unpaid work or financial compensation to be ordered against a mother who breaches a contact order. However, courts are reluctant to use these powers. They reason that the mother is the primary carer, so if she becomes upset, that will impact adversely on the child; a happy mother makes for a happy child. On this reasoning, a court is likely to change the order to what the mother wants, rather than enforce the original order.
3) Parental alienation: subtly poisoning a child’s mind against his/her father. If a child says he/she doesn’t want to see his/her father, even if the child gives no particular reason for that wish, a court will invariably accept this at face value, and not order contact.
A new bill covering this is going through parliament at the moment. The present law is neutral on the question of whether a child benefits from contact with a father. The key change in this new bill is to introduce a presumption in law that unless there is evidence to the contrary in the facts of the case, the court must hold that contact with father will further the child’s welfare. It’s called the ‘presumption of contact’ and is vehemently opposed by the feminist lobby which reasons that it places the rights of fathers above the welfare of children.