Group Litigation against the UK's Family Courts


Lobbying for shared-parenting has failed.

Father’s protesting against unjust treatment over child arrangements made in the UK Family Courts has been going on for 50-years. The main complaint is the unfair apportionment of time fathers are given to spend with their children after separation or divorce - something over which there are no laws. Despite the absence of any rules, the UK State systematically refuses shared-parenting requests if opposed by a resident-parent, (that is whoever children reside with at the start of a dispute, which is nearly always the mother). 

Shared-parenting means a child recognizing two homes, with a minimum of one-third of their non-educational time spent with either biological parent. This division of time is not arbitrary. Research by W. V. Fabricius et al, Arizona State University, 2011, [Parenting time, parent conflict, parent-child relationships, and children’s physical health], found that only ‘sufficient’ parenting-time with both biological parents, following divorce or separation, alleviates a 30% increased risk of harm. ‘Sufficient’ was measured as being between 35-65% of a child’s time, and the harm referred to was found to be such things as: 

· A higher risk of the child abusing drugs and/or alcohol.

· A greater chance of experimenting with risky-sex, and in girls a greater prevalence of extramarital teenage-pregnancy.

· Statistically lower than the norm grouping of educational performance.

· Once grown-up, an increased occurrence of physical illness, or a more severe occurrence of genetically predisposed conditions, associated with an overactive stress response system. 

· Greater than normal occurrence of mental disorders in later life.

· Higher risk of being alienated from their own children in later life as well as higher risk of having relationship breakdowns themselves, including divorce or separation. 

· Greater occurrence of unemployment than the norm, once adult.

Whether you buy the above Science or not, any parent who has been forcibly denied adequate contact with his or her own children will know the damage such separation does, both to the parent and children.

Lobbying for change in the Family Courts could have been a solution for this injustice. Lobbying does normally help change society. However, in this case lobbying (most notably by Justice4Fathers and FNF) has failed, despite it having worked elsewhere, most notably in Australia in 2006. In the UK, a 2006-2013 review of shared-parenting has been completed, one which involved: a Family Justice Review Committee, chaired by David Norgrove, a Ministerial Task Force on Childhood and the Family, chaired by Prime-Minister David Cameron, and a Bill Review Committee for the Children and Family Act 2014. All these institutions reconsidered the idea of shared-parenting being the default ruling in the Family Courts, and this motion was soundly defeated. 

Unfortunately for children in the UK, lobbyists for the opposing view to shared-parenting (that all a child needs is his or her mother) are approximately 100 times better funded (mostly by siphoning Local Government funds meant for women in distress) than Father’s Rights Organizations, and they have better connections in the UK media and the Civil Service. What is more, the cause, for justice for fathers and their children, has poor popular-appeal. Half the UK population is content with gender-bias in the Family Courts, and of the male gender, only a fifth have children at home, and of these, (like smokers and cancer), most believe tragedy will not happen to them (or it has happened, and they want to forget it).  

The role of the Family Courts.

Critics of the need for change in the laws, policies and practices of the Family Court’s Child Arrangement Program, have in the past claimed that only a small (10%) of child arrangements in the UK, following divorce or separation, are handled by the Family Courts. That cases ending-up in Court involve extreme, high-conflict families, often involving domestic abuse. As such, the Court is right, it is argued, to use rough-justice that favours mothers, not least of all because there is no compromise possible. 

While the Head of the Family Division has recently admitted this was a long held misconception it is possible to see that it was always an obvious lie. 

An ONS report, ‘Divorces in England and Wales: 2017’ [Nicola Haines, 26th September, 2018], shows that in 2017, there were 101,055 divorces, and that half of these occurred in the first 10-years of marriage. If we assume all that half-of-divorces-occurring-in-the-first-10-years-of-marriage also had dependent children, this gives us a figure of 50,527 cases of divorces-with-children. 

The above ONS report also states there were 12.5 Million married couples in the UK in 2017, of which 4.9 Million had dependent children, i.e. 39% of the total. If we assume that the remaining divorces in the UK for 2017, were split between married couples with dependent-children and those without-dependent-children in the same proportion to the installed-base of married-couple-types, then this gives a further 19,705 divorce cases with dependent children (i.e. 50,527 * 0.39) in, 2017. 

If we assume the above report’s divorce rate, i.e. 0.8% per annum, also applies to relationship breakdowns in lone-parent and cohabiting-couples-with-dependent-children, (casting aside cultural nay-sayers who claim married families are more stable than any other type), and if we use the statistics presented in the ONS report, ‘Families and Households:2017’ [Emily Knipe, 8th November, 2017],that shows unmarried families represented 2/5th of all families-with-dependent-children in the UK, in 2017, (1/5th for each family type, lone or cohabiting), or 2.9 Million families, then we can add a further 24,360 more cases of separating-families-with-dependent -children per year to the total, bringing the estimate to 94,592 cases, for 2017.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) report: ‘Family Court Statistics Quarterly, England and Wales, Annual 2017 including October to December 2017,’ [29th March, 2018], gives the number of child-arrangement cases handled by the Family Courts of England and Wales at just under 51,000. Without even adding in the statistics from the Scottish Family Courts, we can see that more than half of all child arrangements following divorce or separation in the UK are nowadays handled by the Family Courts. What is more, it is intuitively obvious that Court Ordered Child Arrangements are proliferated by social networks, and influence the outcome of self-made child arrangements as well. We are therefore driven to admit that the Family Courts dominate the way child arrangements after divorce or separation are handled in the entire of the United Kingdom. 

A new approach is needed – Group Litigation in the European Court of Human Rights.

A successful claim for compensation, in the European Court of Human Rights, by parent-victims of the Family Courts would not rest on the opinion of the mob led by feminists, but on the rule of morality. Winning a claim for the harm done by inhumane and prejudicial Family Court Orders would not only recognize the wrong done, a claim for compensation would shame and burden the UK so as to make change inevitable – change in court practices, laws, court rules or something else. 

The scale of potential compensation is enormous. Given the number of children in the UK affected by divorce or separation is over 200,000 per year and as 50% of all child arrangements are formed in the Family Courts, and using the risk factor of harm from a lack of shared parenting, this means 1.5 million children in the UK could be eligible for compensation. Given that all Family Court Orders provide inadequate time for a non-resident parent, all these parents could also be claimants, which is a further 1.5 million people. 

However, within this vast population there is a special group, that is estimated to be about 220,000 strong: those that received ‘no/indirect contact orders’ from a Family Court, and who had no Criminal or Public Law case levied against them to support this order. These represent the best contenders for a claim of compensation. It is representative cases from this group the Doubtfire Fund wants to take to the European Court of Human Rights, outside of the UK.  

‘No/Indirect contact’ orders, (where there is no criminal conviction relating to abuse in a family, or public law order for child neglect), ­­­­mean that the resident parent (usually the mother) is given State endorsement for their desire to prevent all physical contact of their child with the other parent (usually the father), often with no good reason. This leads to the inevitable de-bonding of a child with the estranged parent – and for life – a punishment as severe, if not more so, than anything available from the criminal courts 

Shortly after the end of WWII, the UK bound itself to a European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Although this Convention is not part of UK law, this country has agreed, at the highest levels, to follow the rulings of courts that adjudicate this law. ‘No contact’ orders in principle breach this Convention, according to Articles 6-8: The Right to a Fair Trial, No Punishment without law, and the Right to respect for private and family life. Just dealing with Article 6, because ‘no contact’ is such a severe order, it is arguable that the UK has a duty of care to the recipient to ensure such orders are the product of a scrupulously fair trial process, similar to criminal convictions. Yet, in Family Courts, there is no use of juries, no requirement for both parties to be equally legally represented, no requirement to disclose or have any evidence, and there is no requirement for a Judge to ensure a contentions is proved beyond reasonable doubt. Further, fathers are denied access to public funds in private law Family Court cases, but mothers are not. 

The role of the Doubtfire Fund

This fund seeks to support legal action, as agreed by pre-appointed legal experts, that both compensates victims of the UK Family Courts, but also brings about much needed change, for the benefit of all, in a society that is turning away from outdated, models of a family. It is hoped the Mother Centric child arrangement policy of the UK Family Courts will eventually be consigned alongside other similar atrocities such as: racial segregation of Aboriginal children from their parents, which, like the present-day treatment of non-resident parents in Family Courts, were the result of judges adhering to a corrupted version of the Paramountcy Principle for the supposed “best interests of the child.” 

In the future, it is hoped all children will have a guarantee of shared-parenting in families that may contain separated biological parents, but are also families that are seen as life-style choices, rather than failures to be dealt with at court. 

The Doubtfire Fund intends to raise funds to further this endeavor by giving to a designated charity (s), yet to be appointed. A phased-approach is advocated, starting with a legal opinion on the feasibility of different types of class-action, followed by a case-collection phase, and finishing with court action that might in the end be self-financing via a commission-taking law firm. 

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