Best interest of the Child


Dear Judge Wall,I attended the FNF AGM last Sunday [7july02] and would like to make some comments on your talk. Firstly though I must make it clear that I am writing from as a purely private individual who happens to be a member of FNF. I neither hold an official post nor am I an official spokesman for FNF.I would like to thank you for giving up your Sunday afternoon and coming along to give us the talk on what is a very emotive and controversial subject. You made the point that we should be looking to Parliament to change the law, however, if we get a politician to speak at our next AGM, I can almost guarantee that (s)he will say that it is the fault of the courts and they cannot interfere with the courts. You both say "it's them not us", which smacks of irresponsibility. It does, however, at least imply that both of you know that there is a problem, which is good news as this is the first step to solving it.I have no wish to tell you the law, but surely the Children's Act was made purposely vague to enable judges enough leeway so that they could fit the law to each individual case. To demonstrate the range of options open to judges we just need to look at opposing extremes. At one extreme, judges are allowed to give sole custody to the father and to ban the mother from seeing her children. At the other extreme they can give sole custody to the mother and ban the father from seeing his children. Judges can give any combination in-between these two extremes, why do you say that the law needs changing if you can make any order you wish, and why do you operate at onlyone extreme of the spectrum? One thing that you repeatedly said is that it is the written into the Children's Act that judges should base their decisions, primarily, on "thebest interest of the children". Forgive me for saying that your repeating of this seems to imply that you do not believe that the fathers in the room ave the best interest of their children at heart. I find a particular arrogance of judges who think that they know better than parents do, what isbest for children. May I point out that it is normally the case that judges do not even know the names of the children involved, they do not have tolive for the rest of their lives with the consequences and they hold no responsibility for the outcome of their decisions. This is power without responsibility, which is absolute power. Despite this judges seem to have the arrogance to believe that that they know what is best for our children. Parents are almost the only people throughout your life that can be guaranteed to put you first above all other considerations. On this point Iwould like to make some other comments: Firstly, you emphasise Domestic Violence (DV), although you do not go as faras saying the fathers should be barred from their children because of it. Iwould like to point out that throughout well over 100 reputable surveys carried out throughout the English speaking countries runs the theme that women commit just as much DV as men. There are no reputable surveys that say anything different. It has also been shown by the NSPCC that mothers commit 60% of child abuse and real fathers 9% with 31% being carried out bystep-fathers live-in boyfriends and the like. Surely as far as DV is concerned it is "in the best interest of the children" to give full custody to the father and not put them with the mother where 91% of child abuse akes place. Why don't they? Secondly, by placing girls with their mothers you expose them to eight timethe risk of sexual abuse from step-fathers, live in boyfriends and the like.Why do judges do this if they are committed to "in the best interest of the children"?Thirdly, the main responsibilities a parent has for their children are to feed, clothe, and shelter them, for example it does not matter how much education they get if they starve and it does not matter how much "mothering" they get if they freeze to death. Throughout history, these main responsibilities have always been held by fathers, currently they are held by fathers (although the Government has made great effort to replace fathers with themselves paid for by fathers) and fathers will hold this responsibility for the foreseeable future, for mothers are very unlikely totake on this task. Why is it "in the best interest of the children" to give the children to someone, other than the father who holds these primary responsibilities? Further to this, is the question of who pays the mother's support. Despite the propaganda, almost no mother supports herself let alone her children. Mothers are, at least partially, supported by the money they receive for their children. Why is it "in the best interest of the children" for courts to order fathers to supply enough money to their children so that the children can support their mother? Surely, this is the reverse of what is supposed to happen: are not parents supposed to support their underage children? Fourthly, the Children's Act is gender free, why do judges almost exclusively give the children to the mother? Only 8% go to the father andthis includes cases where the mother has deserted the family and the millionaires, who can spend a million pounds on lawyers to get custody. When I said to my solicitor, who was a "trainee" judge, that I wantedcustody he said "you don't stand a chance unless you can prove beyond anydoubt that she is rolling around the floor drunk EVERY night or is on HARD drugs" (the EVERY and HARD were his emphasis). This implies that judges consider that any abuse less that this is an acceptable price for childrento pay to live with their mother. How is this "in the best interest of thechildren"? This was especially highlighted when, a couple of years later, Bob Geldorf got custody of his children with a reported cost of "almost a million", subsequently the children's mother died from a heroin overdose whilst she had care of the children. What my solicitor did not tell me was that even if she were a drunk or a hard drug addict, it would still cost mea million pounds before your courts would consider giving me custody. Do you consider this to be "in the best interest of the children"?I find it incredible that people talk of mediation, which is like mending an iron girder with sellotape. You quite rightly say that you cannot legislate "mediation", however, you can facilitate it by making it a viable option. Sitting two people down and saying now be reasonable and then saying to one"but if you're not we will give you whatever you demand" is hardly likely to achieve anything worthwhile. If however you start from the 50/50 point you may get some positive result. Quite simply why should mother bother with mediation when the anti-family courts give them everything anyway? How do you consider that this is "in the best interest of the children"?Fathers agree with Parliament that a principle of the Children's Act should be "in the best interest of the children" but Parliament never intended that this should be the only criterion and to be used to such an extent that thewhole of the Act could be erased and in its place could be this one phrase. Using this phrase judges commit any abuse of the law, children and fathersthat they feel like, including not doing what is "in the best interest of the children".

Ivor Catt  2002