ME and Ophelia

Sunday, October 17, 2004

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Both working on justice for fathers

British blogger and Labour MP Clive Soley recently wrote about Fathers 4 Justice - a new civil rights movement in Britain that campaigs for a child's right to see both parents and grandparents. They have staged high profile stunts that generated great publicity and debate.

Several months ago, one of them entered the visitors gallery at the House of Commons and threw a bomb of purple powder that hit our Prime Minister Tony Blair while he was speaking. Obviously it caused an security alert and raised good questions about poor security. Another chap made a surprise appearance at Buckingham Palace, on the roof, dressed as Superman. Pretty creative and courageous. It goes to show what lengths they have to go to for their voices to be heard.

For years, fathers have argued their cases properly through the proper channels and legal system but nobody listened and so nothing changed. I wouldn't be surprised if it worsened as more people (especially solicitors) got hooked on the lucrative business of free Legal Aid.

Legal Aid allows anybody without enough income to hire a solicitor. Solicitors welcome Legal Aid clients. Law firms' final bill ends up the same whether it's paid privately or by the taxpayer.

As a private client, one thinks twice about every phone call to a solicitor. Every minute incurs a high fee. Minutes spent on phone calls, faxes, meetings, letters are carefully logged and charged, and swiftly run into thousands of pounds. Legal Aid clients can push their solicitors to do battle in a way they'd not do if they were private clients. Legal Aid clients can pursue action against the 'other side' at the drop of a hanky. Other side has to respond. Expense mounts for both sides.

All of those making a living from the legal system don't care to change much of the process that creates one or two year long acrimonious divorce battles (stretched out IMHO by solicitors for fees) that impacts on the children and relatives involved. If they really did care, they would have fixed it by now.

Many divorcing (or single) mothers use their children as pawns and bartering tools, and put them in the middle and through the mill while threatening the father that he can't see his child/ren if he doesn't do xyz or pay xyz. Some of the women behave like psychos and turn to drink. I know of three cases personally, and worked for family law solicitors were I've seen hundreds of case files.

Now men are using the media to get their voices heard. More power to their elbow and good luck to them is what I say. Fathers4Justice have my support 100%. Here is a copy of a comment I left at Clive's. I am printing it here for future reference:

Below is an excerpt from a BBC report Oct 15, 2004. What I find interesting (I can't find whether author is male or female) is of the six people quoted in the report, all are women - as if men and fathers don't have a say. It would have been better to read the same number of quotes from men.

Even when it comes to reporting on the subject of divorce and children, men's views don't seem to count and aren't even sought! Well done to Bob Geldof for saying laws assume that children are always better off with their mothers.

In the report, I'm not sure what he means by the evils of the 1960s but I see his point about "soap-opera" culture; just like any commercial advertising, viewing "customers" do get influenced. It'd be interesting to know if the separation/divorce rate in the UK, particularly England, increased around the time that both Diana, Princess of Wales and her sister-in-law Sarah, Duchess of York, were seen as having a good time in pastures anew. Their attitude, behaviour, decisions and actions may have influenced many married (and single) mothers who saw them as role models.

Question I'd like to raise is (not sure if I have correct terminology here) whether the introduction of "no fault divorces" - were a good thing. Even when the mothers are the guilty party, and the father the innocent party, the courts and officialdom treat the father like he is the villain whose only role is to be milked of 65% or more of everything he has worked for - including future pension (how can there ever be a clean break?) to the "victim". The mother is seen as the victim because of the children. The children need to be treated as victims NOT THE MOTHERS - the mothers get red carpet treatment by officialdom all the way to the bank, and they know it too.

In the 60s men were womens meal ticket - now women can get that meal ticket for life with just a few years investment of time in one or several men. I know of a women who never married but has four children by four different men. She treated it as a way of life and has ended up with her own mortgage and property and has never worked a day in her life. One of the daughters is now 20 unmarried and has three babies but by the same boyfriend. She was taught the system by her mother. The point I am making here, is not criticsing other people's lives, it's to say that it need not necessarily be a man's fault that a woman has four children by four different men. "Fair and equal human rights for all" is what I say - not for the law to favour females over males or vice versa, and for asset splitting to be no more than 50-50 and legally binding clean breaks to be the norm - all of the wrangling and bitter battling is horrendous for the children who are used as pawns, emotional blackmail and bargaining tools by mothers initiated and fuelled by greedy unethical solicitors who are on a gravy train with Legal Aid.

The government's Child Support Agency (CSA) has improved hugely and seems more sensitive towards what is really going and why most men can't handle dealing with the carpet being pulled from under them by someone they love. I've yet to hear a man saying he does not love, or would not try do right by his children. Seems to me the vast majority of those who "walk away" are those that simply cannot handle being beaten down by the system and vicious vindicative greedy (and violent) wives - the whole thing falls down on a man's head. It's mighty cruel, especially if he is the innocent party - he's just expected to keep a stiff upper lip, knuckle down and work hard to fund the solicitors and ex wives lifestyles for the sake of the children who he has no idea how or what they are being fed or how they are being treated by new strange men on the scene.

Matrimonial lawyers CSA and court welfare officers are on the front line - they know what is going on but are trained to take the mothers side in the best interest of the children - even if it means enforced sale of family home for the mother to get her so-called half (which turns out to be the lions share) while she is living with the children in private rented accommodation fully funded by the State, along with free legal aid (wonder how many of those bills get repaid) in receipt of all the family allowances (that get frittered on partying and clothes) while the father is stripped of everything including his own family, home, savings and pension - and becomes homeless without enough capital to become a homeowner or even afford to rent. Some end up in a bedsit feeling suicidal - and give up - and reject CSA demands because they don't trust the money will be spent on the children that it will be used for the wives drinking and partying habits.

Here is the report (sorry about my long comments Clive but you have a knack for raising emotive issues):

Bob Geldof has now turned his attention to the family and the father's place in it. In two television documentaries, Geldof launches a tirade against the evils of the 1960s and the country's high divorce rate.

He makes the case for why families should stay together, berates women for their attitude towards men, and believes fathers are getting little justice in divorce cases through laws that assume that children are always better off with their mothers.

Geldof has rounded on modern-day "soap-opera" culture. "If our expectation of married life were more realistic, then the everyday reality would not be thought of as difficult, limiting or mundane but rather as comforting and supportive."

He has seized on statistics that women initiate 70% of all divorces, suggesting they should lower their expectations of men. "Men have never felt the need to talk, so why is it now that 'he doesn't talk to me anymore' is enough to end a relationship?" he asks.

Predictably, Geldof's treatise has provoked bitter debate.

Maureen Freely, in the Guardian, accuses Bob Geldof of emphasising the trivial reasons behind divorce. "Poverty, heartbreak, exhaustion, public censure and long, lonely nights. That's what divorce brings to most people in the short term."

Cristina Odone, in the Times, points out that while divorce can affect children badly, so can quarrelling parents at home.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, of the Independent, suggests Geldof should focus not on fathers but "on the rights of children and the responsibilities of parenthood".

On the other hand, Conservative MP, Ann Widdecombe, applauds Geldof for having the courage to state the obvious. "We are not a happy society for being licentious," she says.

Journalist Amanda Platell, a former Tory spin doctor, believes Geldof is "fighting against a blatant and outdated system that fails to reflect how men have changed".

And Melanie Phillips, of the Daily Mail, in sympathy with Geldof, urges the Conservative Party to stamp out "this libertine free-for-all" from which "all our social ills" derive.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 10/17/2004
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