Tuesday, January 11, 2005

British fathers losing kids

The Christian Science Monitor reports:
LONDON - A British cabinet minister has an illicit love affair and fathers a child. When the news becomes public and it emerges that his private and public lives have become entwined, he resigns.

The recent woes that drove Home Secretary David Blunkett from office last week have a familiar ring. Yet instead of denying his indiscretion and clinging to office like previous errant ministers, Mr. Blunkett did the opposite, broadcasting his liaison and rejoicing in his child. Contact with his toddler, he said, was more important than political prestige.

Almost overnight, Blunkett has become a hero to a burgeoning movement that has dramatically raised its voice: noncustodial dads. ...

The group [Fathers 4 Justice] estimates that 100 British children lose partial or total contact with their fathers every day. About 2 million children , they say, now live separately from their fathers. When a relationship goes wrong, fathers charge, they almost never get custody and are frequently denied court-mandated access.

"There has been a strange alliance between feminists who feel women should have rights to their children, and ... judges who feel that children are women's work and can't see why men should want to get involved anyway," says Jim Parton, a former chairman of Families Need Fathers, a charity. ...

"Conservatives believe that there should be a strong legal presumption in favor of both parents having equal rights in the upbringing of their children," said leader Michael Howard recently.

The Labour government has responded that 50/50 rights rarely work in practice because of everyone's busy schedules ("children can't just be divvied up like furniture," says one official).

Ms. Cross of the Solicitors Family Law Association agrees, saying that, "50/50 is the wrong way around - it gives conceptual rights to the parent rather than thinking about the child."
When lawyers say "thinking about the child", they mean litigating the child. They like vague rules that screw the fathers, because it maximizes the legal fees.

No comments: