NEW PEF MEMBER ORGANISATION :: LITHUANIAN ASSOCIATION AGAINST PARENTAL ALIENATION (APTA)

The Platform for European Fathers PEF welcomes the Lithuanian Association Against Parental Alienation (APTA) as its new member organisation from Lithuania.

Peter Tromp
Secretary general PEF

LITHUANIAN ASSOCIATION AGAINST PARENTAL ALIENATION (APTA)

LITHUANIAN ASSOCIATION AGAINST PARENTAL ALIENATION (APTA)

Asociacijos Prieš Tėvų Atstūmimą (APTA):
http://www.pries-tevu-atstumima.lt

Posted in Lithuanian, LITHUANIAN ASSOCIATION AGAINST PARENTAL ALIENATION (APTA) | 1 Comment

Custody in Britain (Robert Whiston, Strasbourg Conference, Oct. 23, 2013)

The Family and Custody in Crisis

(an international conference at European Parliament)

“CUSTODY in the UK”

Presentation by Robert Whiston FRSA

‘Orphaned by the state’

Oct 23rd 2013

How lovely it is to see so many men and women attending this ‘Custody in Crisis’ conference. We have been delayed a little this afternoon and so I have used the time to make myself known to you.

My name is Robert Whiston and I am the chairman of the UK-based “Men’s Aid” organisation – but today I am here as President of the European wide “Platform for European Fathers” (PEF).

As we have heard from previous speakers the difficulties we face are the same – regardless of the language we speak, country we come from, or legal system. We are here, yes, to discuss child-father relationships, but as is evident from the speakers, and the delegates I’ve met before the meeting started, that under the present regime custody adversely affects not just fathers but grandparents and second wives.

Previous speakers have touched upon and covered many of the topics I had planned to discuss. This is something of an advantage for me as it reinforces my analysis and it allows me to echo their findings. It should galvanise the convictions we all hold – from Belgian to Portugal and from Germany to Switzerland – that things need to change.

It is clear from listening today to the Vice President (Roberta Angelilli), and the former President that the EU is aware of the issues at the highest levels.

Snr. Carlo Cassini, President of Constitutional Affairs Commission, has today made it clear that the EU – and he as a former judge – recognises the very many things have to be altered in the our legal systems to achieve an equitable situation for fathers. We now have to translate that recognition into action.

PEF was recently actively engaged in organising a public opinion poll in both Belgium and Holland. The results showed that of those asked, the overwhelming majority supported more father involvement with child care and 67% of women were in favour of ‘shared parenting.’ [1] (See Appendix A below).

What previous speakers have allowed me to do, therefore, is “ad lib” and focus on aspects not yet covered and to give them more prominence than would otherwise have been possible. Time constraints mean I will have to be brief only touching on a few aspects but I will provide a fuller picture by way of Appendices on the Internet (see below).

Dr Jan Piet de Man spoke of “parenting plans” and joint physical custody in Belgium. Dr. Martin Widrig outlined the issues how custody worked in Switzerland, and family court judge, Antonio Jose Fialho, explored some of the problems and lack of compatible terminology when trying to compare Portuguese law.

I was particularly fascinated by the reference made earlier to the early Mongolian system of separation which put me in mind of the 16th and 17th century regime in England called, “Separation from bed and board”, which was used extensively by the majority of the population – only the wealthy being able to afford or procure permission to divorce from the state. [2]

Just by way of background – by 1912 the system of divorce and separation was not working well in Britain and prompted a Royal Commission to look into the ‘collapse of morals’ – working class women left destitute, and in part, the side-effects of fatherless children. However, the First World War intervened and nothing happened. Historically, the next big change came in 1956 with the Morton Report (see also ‘Putting Asunder’), and the Law Commission’s report, ‘The Field of Choice’ in 1966 which set the parameter for divorce reform and thus custody matters.

Several of today’s speakers used citations based on research from Anglo-Saxon countries – so as the only Anglo-Saxon here, I think I ought to reply. We have to acknowledge this lack of research outside Anglo-Saxon countries may be a problem but to those critics who say the research is too biased because of its Anglo-Saxon roots, I would reply that what is being measured is the “human condition” and that does not change from one side of the border to another or because the local language changes.

North America has been a source of much of the research and we have to accept that their budgets have for a long time been bigger than those in Europe – and I include Britain in that assessment. In my own country, and this is possible true in your countries, it has been ‘fashionable’ to focus repeatedly on lone mothers and never to examine lone fathers and fathers looking after children.

If a change is to be made, then it is in funding at a European level to research child-fathers issues and not simply keep looking at child-mother issues. The impression I get from academics and others researchers is that money is always difficult to find to finance such father-focused enterprises. If Europe is the beacon for ‘equality’ we must all visit our MEPs and ask ‘Why is there no funding ?

Terminology

It was clear from what the previous speakers said that the definition of ‘shared parenting’ varies greatly. This is exploited by those opposed to more fatherly involvement which shared parenting allows. Some countries use the term ‘joint custody’ some ‘co-parenting’ etc. Within the present British debate Prof. Parkinson, who helped shape Australian shared parenting legislation, said in evidence to the House of Commons that: [3]

  • “ . . . the term “shared parenting” is used merely to describe the continuing involvement of both parents in children’s lives after separation.”

Clearly, this is not what we are here to discuss. We do not just want minimal “continuing involvement”, which has no real definition – we want something more tangible. Indeed, in the UK legislation – as the Norgrove interim report conceded – already accepts shared parenting as the de facto regime: [4]

  • “Our starting point is that shared parenting is already the aim of current legislation and case-law, with established law and practice.” – page 158, Para 5.70

But the problem – as I shall refer to later – is that the judiciary chooses not to enforce it. Prof. Parkinson states that a minimum definition of ‘shared care’ in international literature is 30% of nights with each parent. That is also the view of all British father and family rights groups. In his view the term “shared care” rather than shared parenting, is accepted around the world to generally mean that children spend an equal time or ‘near’ equal time with each parent. What we, in England, would call shared parenting and those in France might term co-parenting.

Whilst professing ‘great sympathy for these parents’, i.e. fathers, denied reasonable time with their child, the Norgrove committee could not bring itself to accept that “a presumption of shared parenting time would bring about the improvements . . . . parents seek”, or indeed, would improve “outcomes” (for which, as we have heard today, there is overwhelming evidence that it would improve outcomes).

There are good grounds in Anglo-Saxon countries to reset the definition of ‘continuing involvement’ mentioned by Prof. Parkinson because legally and technically speaking – as the law now stands, and without added shared parenting (or care) legislation – fathers already have “continuing involvement” just by spending a few hours a week with their child.

‘Sole mother custody’, permitting as it does, a few hours of visiting time to fathers constitutes ‘continuing involvement’ in English common law. This is not good enough. What is needed is more hours and days, i.e. a greater quantum of time.

Standardisation

Realising this discrepancy (from country to country) in hours and days allotted and the terms used PEF has adopted a ‘simple-to-understand’ measure for ‘shared parenting.’ It seeks to eliminate and overcome the present inherent confusion, exploited by opponents by basing shared parenting on the number of “sleepovers” or overnight stays granted by the courts to both parents.

Only days that involve ‘overnight’ stays count towards shared parenting time – i.e. the 30% Prof. Parkinson mentioned above. We would urge all other groups to also adopt this basis.

Adopting a standardised measure – using the criterion of ‘sleepovers’ – would benefit all countries when trying to compare and contrast their regime with other countries using vastly differing terminologies. Phrase such as “shared care”, “shared parenting”, “co-parenting” and “shared residence” could in an instant, all be directly compared and averages, trends etc deduced.

For instance, the usual custody order in England (and, from what I have heard today, this is probably true of many European countries), is for a father to be allowed to see his child at the weekends and perhaps on one afternoon mid-week. But only one of those ‘visits’ might involve a sleepover. Since 2006 (almost 10 years ago) the British government, in an official reports, has been promising improved ‘overnight’ stay and sleepover time for fathers.

  • “Under the new [proposed] scheme, shared care is when a non-resident parent has overnight care of their child for at least 52 nights a year.”

What does that translate into ? In terms of days, 52 nights amounts to 14% of a calendar year (365 days / 52 nights). A large minority of fathers in Britain do not even get this 14%. So as a minimum we would want to see the average minimum time increased from 14% to 30% – as measured in ‘sleepovers.’ In our more enlightened times this increase cannot be regarded as unreasonable but the present 14% is totally unacceptable.

British vs. Irish law

Before the conference, I was asked to include information about Ireland as well as Britain but in the few minutes available to me I can touch on only a few of the distinctions – and then only superficially. In the fullness of time detailed notes together with detailed citations and graphs will be available on the PEF website. In many ways, the basis of Irish law has historically been the same as Britain’s and even today it often duplicates statute laws passed in Britain 2 or 3 years previously. However, the main difference between the two countries is that in the mid-1930s (after independence) Southern Ireland adopted a written Constitution which put the family and parents at the centre of the state (See Article 41 to 43 of the Irish Constitution). It is superb in my view, obliging as it does all Irish governments to keep a covenant with its citizens by putting parents and family life at the heart of the Irish Constitution (See Article 41 to 43 of the Irish Constitution).

Britain has never had a single all-embracing Bill of Rights or Constitution but has relied on the protection of “Common Law” – which, like the Rules of Cricket remains to this day ‘a total mystery’ to many Europeans.

Britain may not have a single Constitution but in fact we have several unrelated written ones and until 40 years ago we have always had the power of Common Law (the people’s law) to limit the power of the state to interfere in family matters.

Only ‘statute law’ can override British ‘Common Law’ and that is what has happened in Britain. The ‘personal has become the political’ – and as a result family law (formerly Common Law) has been regulated by vested interests resulting in poor quality and badly working Statute law. Ireland has not only Constitutional law but statute law, together with a mixture of residual Common Law left over from its days as part of Great Britain.

But regardless of legal framework fathers in Ireland and Britain suffer the same iniquities. In the case of Britain it is Statute law that is misused and in Ireland it is the Constitution that is overruled.

Custody

There is another difference, however, between Britain and Ireland, and that is in their population size – 60 million versus 4½ million for Ireland. By comparison to other EU states, Britain, France and Germany have huge populations and monumental numbers of divorces and fatherless children.[5]

Whatever new system we advocate in the future as a replacement must be seen to work not only in smaller countries but also on a more massive scale when applied to the larger EU countries where the price of failure will be more massive.

Of the 60 million people in Britain, approx. 10% are of not of European decent and their customs and traditions are very non-European. In coming years this may pose a problem too for many EU countries

From my talks this morning at the Council of Europe, with the Children’s Rights Division, it is apparent that this dimension, if it has been noted, is being ignored.

As I speak, England’s parliament is going through the pretence of supposedly strengthening ‘shared parenting’ [6] But none of the options proposed will create any greater legislative support for shared parenting than does the existing law – which is poor at best.

Parental separation affects around 3 million of the 12 million children in the UK. In other words, 1 in 4 children in Britain grow up without a father in the household. [7] These 3 million children have little hope of seeing their father in the future; they have essentially been ‘made orphans by the state.’

In Britain 90% to 95 % of custody awards are given to mothers – the same can be said of cohabitees (unmarried couples) who separate, and from what other speakers have said this is a not uncommon rate in their countries. (See Appendix B).

This – as you must all be aware – is premised on obsolete 19th values and the 20th century model of the sole male breadwinner. As society has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, then so too must the law. This obsolete custody regime is commonly referred to as “sole-mother-custody” and is the default model in all English-speaking countries with only one or two exceptions, e.g. Australia.

Previous speakers have outlined their nation’s experience of custody and parenting and I suspect there will be many similarities to Britain’s. So I would like to expand the ‘event horizon’ – surrounding the black hole of child custody – and dip into adjacent fields in a general way. Claims in the media often exaggerate the level of lone fatherhood and of fathers caring for their children in a shared or equal manner.

For example, only last week the Huffington Post quoted the respected Pew Center, in America, as reporting that, “the number of single fathers has risen nine fold” compared with 50 years ago. [8] In reality that ‘9 times increase’ had raised the number of ‘lone fathers’ looking after children to only 8% – so it is so small as to be minute. Similarly, in the UK, it is claimed that 5% of children are cared for by lone fathers. But look a little deeper and most of these alleged ‘lone fathers’ are, in fact, widowers.[9]

In my view, and you may agree, many European governments are eager to make reassuring noises in the realm of family law reforms – but never actually deliver. This might even apply to your country.

Peter Tromp, the General Secretary of PEF, very recently drew my attention to Protocol 7 of the “Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom” (http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/117.htm ), issued by the Council of Europe in 1998, which I think you will find most interesting. In particular, Article 5 states:

  • “Spouses shall enjoy equality of rights and responsibilities of a private law character between them, and in their relations with their children, as to marriage, during marriage and in the event of its dissolution.” (See Appendix C).

So far only a few countries, such as Albania, Bosnia, Croatia and the Czech Republic, have ratified this undertaking. By in large, some of the smaller countries have signed it but not yet ratified it – but it is the larger more ‘advanced’ counties, e.g. Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom – to name but few – who have not even signed up to the commitment to better facilitate contact by fathers and have certainly not ratified it.

In any event the positives of Article 5 are negated and contradicted in the detailed wording found in Clause 36 of the ‘Explanatory notes’ of the Convention which allows countries to escape the full rigours of Article 5.

If your country’s government seems unwilling, or unable, to deliver better father contact time (visitation), then it could be in part due to the non-adoption of this particular Convention.

Failed legislation

Theoretically, Britain’s child custody legislation (following a divorce) is one of the most advanced. As far back as 1989 legislation accepted the concept of ‘shared residence’ (not just shared parenting) and legalised it.

But by a directive of government it has never been implemented in full and Britain has never had ‘shared residence’ (except in exceptional cases) and is no better placed than some of the more backward countries in the EU.

In Britain the Children Act 1989 is the pivotal legislation and it allowed for courts to make ANY (yes, any) type of custody order – and by implication any apportionment of time – it thinks suitable. Although the “sole-mother-custody” regime applies to over 90% of all custody awards in this has not always been the case. Before the 1989 Children Act (which is the crucial piece of legislation in Britain), ‘joint custody’ – a forerunner of shared parenting – was growing in popularity throughout the 1980s.

In some regions between 30% and 50% of custody awards were “joint.”

In the context of British law, ‘joint custody’ has always meant ‘joint legal and physical custody’, and not just the more abstract American ‘joint legal custody’ which imparts no rights.

The ‘fact’ that over 30% of custody awards were “joint” always surprises commentators and researchers – and for any doubters here today I refer them directly to the much ignored Law Commission’s ‘Supplement to Working Paper No. 96’ of 1987. [10]

So widespread is this ignorance that one has to ask if researchers and politicians choose to ignore it official data ? Mothers have a veto over a father’s visitation times (and this has also affected grandparent’s rights). The damage done to a child (the ‘pathologies’ as Dr Jan Piet de Man detailed), of not having fatherly input was for 20 years or more, down played or ignored. The new phenomenon that has emerged from this situation is “Parental Alienation” and is an unpleasant consequence of “sole-mother-custody” and the ‘locking-out’ of fathers from their children’s lives.

After listening to today’s speakers there is, I feel, a danger not yet foreseen and which we might be ‘sleepwalking’ into and if I explain the British version you may see parallels.

Originally, parents had both custody and guardianship of their children and courts were reluctant to intervene unless it involved obvious abuse or mistreatment. But statute laws were introduced in 1989 to remove the status of guardianship specifically from fathers, (the guardianship and custody role of unmarried mothers remains ambiguous), and ‘custody’ was replaced by ‘residence.’ (Appendix D).

In place of ‘guardianship’ both divorced parents were given ‘joint parental responsibility’ after divorce which may be comparable to “joint parental authority” in some other EU countries. However, in test cases ‘joint parental responsibility’ has been shown to be overridden more easily by the courts (a paper tiger) compared with guardianship rights which would not have allowed them.

So I would just bring this play on words to your attention which could later have far-reaching effects. We have learnt to our cost, that ‘residence’ and ‘joint parental responsibility’ is a lightweight alternative to the former terms and status. Courts can veto parental wishes and it is the courts that now have the exclusive power once reserved for parents. (Appendix D).

The result is that custody in the UK is, I am sad to say, the same today as it was in 1989 – more than 25 years ago – it has become set in concrete, and arguably worse since parents can now parent only ‘under licence’ from more interventionist courts.

Distorting data

I had also planned to deal at length with information supplied to the public that is manipulated and misused for ulterior motives but today others have covered the ground most adequately. So I can only lend my support to their comments.

However, I will just mention a few instances of the more grotesque distortions in Britain. The government has accepted a survey by Gingerbread (2008 and 2009), that the level of shared parenting in Britain is at 17% of custody awards in Britain. [11]

This is remarkable, if not implausible, particularly when compared with other more credible data (more examples can be found at Appendix E). If we examine reports from Denmark and Australia we find the level of shared parenting in Denmark is put at 20% and in Australia (since 2006) at around 15%. Only Sweden, long associated with shared parenting, can mange the same 20% of children in shared parenting arrangements after divorce.

All 3 countries have specific ‘shared parenting’ legislation in force – so how can Britain – with shared parenting ‘killed at birth’ in 1989 – have shared parenting amounting to 17% ? The obvious answer is a manipulation of definitions.

Equally, the claim is made in academic and official circles that when divorcing or separating only 10% of custody cases are decided in court and that parents sort out their own arrangement in 90% of instances. The implication is that at 10%, any reform is hardly worthwhile. With approx. 140,000 divorces every year affecting about 120,000 children, this is numerically impossible to square (allegedly 12,000 child welfare reports would have to be made out), when official statistics shows over 90,000 court orders made each year, and each would be dependent on a welfare report. [12] (Appendix B and F).

1970 – A decisive year

Before going further – and running out of time – I should just mention the key year of 1970. I don’t know if anyone has realised it but before 1970 there were no fathers’ groups. All fathers groups in Europe and North America date from after 1970. We would not be here today but for all the legal (and social) changes between 1970 and 1973.

These include divorce reform (between the years 1969 and 1973) legalised abortion in 1967 (UK), Equal Pay legislation, 1970 to 1975, and the universal usage of “the pill.” Not least was a seismic change is custody rules.

Without inferring any moral judgment, the year 1969 saw the first falls across the Western world in marriage numbers and the first notable increases in cohabitation. Thereafter, the state’s subsidy in expenditure terms to each child rose even though the birthrate declined – so each child unit cost the state more.[13] (Appendix G).

Whose Best Interests ?

Today many of the speakers have referred to the phrase “in the Best Interest of the Child” and this is the most enduring (and possibly worst) legacy of Anna Freud.[14] Among the most influential changes embraced by all legal systems around the world, was the adoption of Anna Freud’s 1973 book regarding the ephemeral and indeterminable concept of “the child best interest.”

Precisely because it is ethereal, lacks solidity and continuity or the ability to meet a child’s needs as the child matures, is arbitrarily set at a very young age, and is ‘indeterminable’ (i.e. it is impossible to define), it should be the least attractive of candidates to choose as a foundation for custody.

The concept ‘feigns’ putting child rights ahead of parental rights in the name of doing what is best for the child but in reality not only does the child’s voice not matter but parental opinions are brushed aside and the real power to determine a child’s fate rests with the court – which often never sees the child or at best ‘knows’ it after one of two hours of reading of court reports.

Though Anna Freud’s and her books are central to our present dilemma, she, and her lack of competence, sexual predilections and dubious mental state, are frequently overlooked.[15]

Freud’s mantra of ‘the child’s best interests’ should have been used to assist children’s development and help them towards a better future. But instead it has been used to cripple any attempt to normalise relationships between fathers and their children.

In my view, Freud’s experimentation [her term], on “orphaned” children is not transferable to children of divorce. Some of her children subjects, like those in London, were orphaned and traumatised by the bombing of the early 1940s. Others like those from the Theresienstadt (Czech equiv. Terezín), concentration camp were children of the Holocaust – and completely feral. [16] Completely without adult input, they had no idea of speech, language or social interaction. At least the London orphans had known their parents (albeit briefly) and felt parental love somewhere in their lives.

However, none of the 2 above scenarios comes close to that of children whose parents are divorcing – these children know their parents and have felt their parents’ deep and unconditional love. For their part the parents may not be able to get along but they still deeply love their children.

I believe, this dichotomy goes to the heart of the present 2013 debate in Britain – politicians cannot separate in their minds the two distinct scenarios of Public law (dealing with sometimes horrendous abuse and neglect suffered by children), and Private law cases where the two parents simply want a divorce but where both parents dearly love and want to maintain a relationship with their children.

Concluding remarks

The present situation is that in both Ireland and Britain the judiciary have chosen to ignore their obligations or at least interpret them in an unexpected way. In the case of Ireland the Constitution has been sidelined and in the case of Britain the judiciary selects only those parts of Statute law it finds convenient. The result is a disfigurement of ‘the family’; it is by-passed and fathers are no longer the central figures in the families they create and financially support. This has had “collateral damage” to society and the tax-payer, about which I will touch upon later. (Appendix G).

Having said all that I would like to end on a slightly more optimistic note. Looking to the future in Britain there are one or two bright spots of sanity in the form of parents being able to agree their own maintenance payments – without the ‘intervention’ of the state or rigid formulas.

  • [families should be] “empowered to take responsibility for the welfare of their children” [not the state and that parental] “responsibility is multi-faceted.” [17]
  • “Support and empower more parents who can, to make their own family based child maintenance arrangements . . . .” [18]

Already a reality is the re-introduction of the Married Man’s Allowance – an income tax coding concession – which is an official nod from government towards incentivising marriage and the role stability plays in children’s lives.

There is also the, in my view, beneficial switch to US “community property” style law which will bring gender equality a step nearer – a regime that I understand some EU countries already have.

In England, at present, we have a rather ugly and blunt instrument of asset apportionment (confiscation) which disadvantages fathers excessively but never women.

In addition, enforceable pre-nuptial contracts may become law in England and their scope may also include the ability to determine Child Support, property apportionment at divorce and child custody matters.

‘Parenting plans’ were mentioned earlier by other speakers, and they are essential to the smooth running of shared parenting. It is something that Britain’s bureaucracy already had printed and ready to send out as far back as 2002 but for political reasons never did. However, they may see the light of day with the possible introduction into English contract law of binding Pre-Nuptial Contracts which will / can specify ‘contact’ and sleepover times etc. after a divorce. [19]

If Britain does one day legalise Pre-Nuptial Contracts together with the promise post-nuptial contracts then Ireland will probably not be far behind.

Finally, after the banking ‘meltdown’ of 2008, the ‘tax take’ from companies and individuals is lower than expected because the economy is in recession and the “tax base” that governments depend upon has been attacked and has shrunk. In these challenging economic times, we would do well to bear in mind the accepted wisdom of the ages that, “the engine of wealth creation is the married man.” But with the ‘UN-married’ man with a family becoming an increasing minority in some societies we may soon have to re-write the phrase to read:-

  • “the engine of wealth creation in any society is the inclusion of fathers in stable family units and the economies of scale it brings.”

Encouraging fathers – married or unmarried – to be at the heart of stable, loving family units not only releases resources for hard-pressed governments but provides a larger “tax base” for future governmental expenditure and improvements that will benefit government and assist all of our standards of living.

E N D

Appendices

Appendix A

More information about the public opinion polls PEF was recently involved with can be seen at the following sites:

  1. “Belgians like their shared parenting laws” http://motoristoppression.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/16/
  2. “Dutch, at 70% go ‘shared parenting mad’ http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/39/

In Feb 2012 and closer to home, the Guardian newspaper in Britain – renown for its generally feminist Stras_fig1views and left-wing opinions – sponsored a readership poll asking the question:

“Do fathers have adequate contact rights under current law ?” The result can be seen displayed here – 71% said they did not (Fig 1).

Another English newspaper, the Telegraph (generally known for its centre-right wing views), also undertook a readership poll in Feb 2012. ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9058018/Children-win-legal-right-to-see-both-parents-after-divorce.html ). It asked a slightly more complex set of conditional questions, namely:

  • Q. Should fathers be given greater access to their children after a divorce ?
  1. No, not if the father has walked out on the family
  2. No, mothers are better at looking after children
  3. Yes, children need their fathers no matter what the circumstances
  4. Yes, fathers should have the same rights as mothers

The result showed that 75% of Brits think fathersStras_figpoll should have the same rights as mothers regarding the care and parenting of their children after divorce (2nd Feb 2012). Only 7% said ‘no’ and only 2% (94 votes out of 4,793), said mothers were better at looking after children. The article also stated that 8% of single parents in Britain are fathers but no source was cited. The results will not only give hope to campaign groups that have argued for years that fathers deserve a legal right to more equal access after a divorce but politically it isolates parties opposed to shared parenting. An implication first revealed by the surveys PEF was associated with in both Belgium and Holland where the left and right political parties were shown to be out of touch with the aspirations of their electorate, especially women, who were in agreement at over 67%.

Appendix B

In Britain 90% to 95 % of custody awards are given to mothers – the same can be said of cohabitees (unmarried couples) who separate. NB. The Telegraph, of Feb 2nd 2012 (above), stated that 8% of single parents in Britain are fathers but no breakdown or source was cited. An English citation underlining this bias is the: Omnibus Survey Report No. 38 [ONS], “Non-resident parental contact, 2007/8.”

  • Respondents to the module
  • The achieved sample comprises of 265 respondents who were resident parents and 170 respondents who were non-resident parents. There were 10 respondents who were both a resident parent and a non-resident parent.
  • As in 2002, the majority (89 per cent) of resident parents were female while the majority of non-resident parents were male (88 per cent).

Another example underpinning the perception is in the ‘Millennium Cohort Study First, Second, Third and Fourth Surveys’, (page 50). Of the 18,815 questioned there were only 28 male main respondents, all natural fathers, 18 of whom were lone fathers”.

  • “The study mainly consists of interviews with the main carer. This was the mother in 98% of cases.”

In a paper by Joan Hunt & Ceridwen Roberts (“Child contact with non-resident parents”, pub. Jan 2004), they state that “over 80% of children of separated parents live exclusively or mainly with their mother” and that “there may be 2 million non-resident fathers in the population.” stras_fig2

Since 1991 the figures have ceased to be collected and so we cannot be absolutely certain but we can gain an insight from other sources, e.g. court awards and Judicial Statistics, the General Household Survey (organised by ONS). The graph left (Fig 2), is derived from General Household Survey of ‘heads of households’ among lone parents (2002). (Source: General Household Survey (GHS), ‘Population Trends’, No 109, Autumn 2002 (Fig 6, p.53).

Viewed over a longer time period the decline in father care – shown in yellow- is more apparent (from 13.7% in 1971 to 7.8% in 1992). However, as ONS pointed out at the time, the number of ‘lone fathers’ was too small to be reliable and a significant number were widowers. A Bradshaw & Stimson (1997) paper. first noted what is now recognized as a ‘gender divide’, characterised by perennial female under-reporting (see Bradshaw below). The graph also reveals the compensating rise for mothers given custody and thus became ‘head of lone parent households’ (shown in blue), rose from 86.0% in 1971 to 92.2% in 1992. [Coincidentally, the phenomena of custody figures ceasing to be collected also occurred in New Zealand when they made legislative changes]. stras_fig3

The cessation of data collection caused by the Children Act 1989 means that we have to use other indirect sources to assess custody by parents. One method is to measure the number of ‘dependent children’ cared for by lone parents (Fig 3).

As one would expect, in 1993 there are no lone fathers in the 16 – 24 age group (though this might not hold true today, 2013). As divorce becomes statistically more likely, i.e. in the 30 to 40-year-old age groups, the number of ‘never married’ women who are heads of households, i.e. with dependent children falls – but the number of separated, or divorced, or widowed who become heads of households increases (Fig 3). In part this is reinforced by extra-marital fertility, i.e. births to females who are not married. The Table also shows that for men in the statistically more ‘at risk’ age of divorce range lone fathers with ‘dependent children’ increase in number from between 9% to 29%, However, once again since the sample size is small so it cannot be relied upon and a significant number will again be widowers. Stras_fig3+

To confirm the falling trend in father care since 1970, the graph (left) shows the ‘disposal’ of children by the courts (by percentage), prior to the Children Act 1989, which came into force in 1991 (source: Judicial Statistics, courtesy of ‘SPIG’).

A healthy situation was developing in the 1980s with more fathers permitted by the courts to become involved in their children’s lives (see ‘joint custody’). However, all the gains of joint custody were negated by the Children Act 1989 – the decline in mother custody was reversed.

The Table below, ‘Child custody after divorce’ (Fig 4), clearly shows the fall in mother custody, down to 66%, and the rise in joint custody awards from 1986 to 1991(from 15% to 25%). [The present shared parenting campaign across all of Europe and America is to restore this level of fatherly involvement]. stras_fig4‘Joint custody’ as a court order award disappeared from family court judgments (it was intended to be replaced by ‘shared residence’ orders and ‘no order’ orders) and so the proportion of mother custody rose from 70% in 1990 to 90% almost immediately by 1992. ‘Residence orders’ (Sect 8 of the Children Act 1989), do not specify sole or shared residence, they can be granted to one or two parents and even to ‘third parties’, e.g. a lawyer.

Appendix C

Check mate ?

Protocol 7 of the “Convention on Contact concerning Children” issued by the Council of Europe (1998), and thus part of the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR)’ states: Spouses shall enjoy equality of rights and responsibilities of a private law character between them, and in their relations with their children, as to marriage, during marriage and in the event of its dissolution.” [ REF: Council of Europe - ETS no. 117 http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Reports/HTML/117.htm ].

However, the situation is immediately cancelled out (as with UN Charters) by wording that allows each state to exempt themselves as Clause 36 of the ‘Explanatory notes’ demonstrates: 36. The fact that spouses shall enjoy equality of rights and responsibilities in their relations with their children shall not prevent States from taking such measures as are necessary in the interests of the children. [ REF: http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Reports/Html/117.htm ].

Then again the situation is contradicted by the “Convention on Contact concerning Children” (Council of Europe – ETS No. 192), especially Articles 3, 4, and 5. [ Ref http://www.conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/192.htm ]. Only 8 of the 27 EU countries have ratified this Convention (e.g. Albania, Romania, Czech Republic and Croatia). None of the major western EU countries have signed it let alone ratified it.

Appendix D

Guardianship It is necessary to distinguish, in a few words, between the technical points of “Guardianship” and “Custody”. When both parents are married to one another they both have custody of the child and the father is the guardian, that is to say, he is the person who is responsible for the care of the child (though the actual care may be done by his wife), provides financial support, guides, safeguards his interests, etc and who makes all the major decisions in their life. These would include, for example, where the child lives, schooling, religion, medical permission and procedures, provides sustenance, the giving of permissions (in loco parentis) and being held accountable by all the authorities for the child. If a father is absent for any length of time then guardianship rights automatically pass (devolve) to the mother for that period.

“Custody” can easily be confused with the powers of “guardianship”, but custody is defined as where the child lives ‘primarily’ with the parent. When parents are married to one another the parents are deemed to have joint custody. Where parents were not married, ie the child was illegitimate, the mother had sole guardianship rights and the father none. Without guardianship rights one cannot expect to have custody rights. Unfortunately, the Children Act 1989 abolished guardianship rights for married fathers and reduced them to the same status as unmarried fathers:-.

  • “The rule of law that a father is the natural guardian of his legitimate child is abolished”. – Children Act 1989, Part 2 (4).

In English law unmarried fathers have historically never had any ‘rights’ (and few responsibilities) over their offspring Legitimate and illegitimate were also thus put on the same plane with the law remaining silent over whether mothers still had guardianship in the absence of the father’s right. All fathers were instead given the status of ‘joint parental responsibility’ which claimed to have the same powers – though events have shown clearly they do not.

When those new powers were tested in court one finds that the old powers of guardianship have now shifted to the courts. Summed up in a few words, parents might now have only a “licence” to parent. This is a technical point but it is a trend noticed in many other countries in the EU which are re-defining their legal phrases so that some countries have now adopted phrases such as “partial authority” or ‘parental responsibility.’

Once, parents had both custody and guardianship of their children and courts were reluctant to intervene unless it involved obvious abuse or mistreatment. That is now a distant memory. Indeed, the abolition can be seen as regressive and counter libertarian. It is reminiscent of aboriginal Australia where there is no status of children legislation regarding ‘illegitimacy’:

  • “ . . . . in the case of an illegitimate child only the consent of ‘every mother or guardian of the child’ is required. . . .”

Ref. http://motoristmatters.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/12/ and http://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/14.%20Aboriginal%20Traditional%20Marriage%3A%20Areas%20for%20Recognition/legitimacy-children-adoption?print

Appendix E

Distorting data

The very idea of falsifying data is instinctively repugnant to most minds but especially to scientists and academics. It is difficult to believe that a trust would be so abused for personal political gain. However, we should remind ourselves that it was at a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in 1996, that Irwin Hyman together with Leonard Eron proposed a campaign of what they called ‘advocacy research’. They proposed using just bits of research as propaganda tools in order to change public policy. The symposium was debating smacking children and despite numerous studies presented, it was impossible to establish a body of evidence showing a causal relationship between smacking and negative ‘outcomes’ for children (see also “Punishing parents” by Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/2358 and author of “Where Have All The Intellectuals Gone ? Confronting 21st Century Philistinism.”

The ‘Gingerbread’ surveys of 2008 and 2009 set out to find ‘What were the problems and difficulties mothers experienced with contact arrangements.’ This included how mothers managed their arrangements for the non-resident father to spend time with his children.

They did not set out to find the number, or the effectiveness, of ‘shared parenting’ but their results have been used for that purpose in the years since 2008.

“Early in the design process, we decided against including questions for respondents who said they shared their child’s care equally with the other parent.”

The survey of 2008 had 550 participants with the overwhelming majority being mothers with residence and only a small minority of non-resident fathers. http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/Problematic%20contact%20after%20separation%20and%20divorce.pdf.

The survey of 2009 (http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/contact-problems-separated-families), also by Victoria Peacey & Joan Hunt, used a sub-set of the 2008 participants and numbered only 41 parents from 40 families (27 resident parents and 14 non-resident parents). The level of ‘shared parenting’ in England & Wales – deduced from their survey of ‘problematic contact’ was a claim of 17%. This data has been accepted in government circles and, as the graph below shows, the official organ of statistics in Britain (the ONS) would appear to confirm the level – but at 18%.

However, the 18% is based on measurements where 58% of children who never stay with their non-resident parent (father), were omitted and those included were those who had a non-resident parent (father). [See ONS "Figure 4" below].

Stras_figure_4_pic Source: Fig 4 ‘Population Trends No 140’, Summer 2010 www.statistics.gov.uk/populationtrends/ptissue/ and and www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/…rd/…/population-trends—no–140.pdf

This would imply only 42% are being counted or did not have a non-resident father – this might map onto the level of illegitimate birth in the UK. Since in the region of 90% of custody (residence) awards are to mothers the graph above is measuring only a fraction of a population ( see Appendix A above). Stras_fig5

In comparing Britain with Denmark, Peacey & Hunt would prefer to put custody arrangements in a favourable light (17%), but as the Table here shows (Fig 5), in 2001 children who lived (i.e. resided) with both parents amounted to over 75%.

The following Table (Table 3.1) is taken from Peacey & Hunt’s 2009 Gingerbread survey entitled; “I’m not saying it was easy . . .”. In the 2nd half, i.e. “Summary” it is noticeable how mothers tend to under-report or report adversely, i.e. 35% say there is ‘no face-to-face’ time but fathers report this happens in only 15% of cases.

Stras_Key_point Source: http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/Contact%20problems%20in%20separated%20families.pdf

Mothers downplay categories such as “At least every week” and ‘At least every month’ (at 34 and 18) but fathers report it to be 46 and 20 respectively. This phenomenon was first identified by Bradshaw and Stimson in a 1997 paper (http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2008/05/09/8/ ). It was then confirmed by Bradshaw and his team at the University of York in research into Child Support payments (see “Non-Resident Fathers in Britain”, Bradshaw, Stimson, Williams & Skinner (Uni. of York, pub. SPRU). Interim report 1997).

Appendix F

The anticipated ‘plateau’ in divorce numbers foreseen by reformers in 1968 never materialised in the immediately post-reform years. The country had to wait until 1986 before the disquieting increase ceased and it was not clear until the mid 1990s – given the annual fluctuations – that a plateau had, indeed, been reached. Stras_div_eng

The graphic (right) shows divorcing numbers finally ‘plateau’ed’ at approx 150,000 per annum after 1986. In the period we learn from Parliamentary Answers (among other sources), that about 120,000 children p.a. were affected by their parents divorce. Numerous government sponsored Reports and academic papers have, since 2004, promulgated the view that only 10% of custody cases are determined by family courts. This dissemination of this figure is thought by many to be untrue and flawed. This is entirely due to the Omnibus Survey and an examination of the basis (see below) explains why it failed to capture an accurate picture for such custody issues.

  • The Omnibus Survey [circa 2004] is a multi-purpose survey based on a representative sample of adults aged 16 or over. The report is based on 935 adults. 649 were resident parents 312 were non-resident parents and 26 respondents were both (so are counted in both categories).” The DfES made available the results on Friday 19th March 2004
  • The most recent Omnibus Survey s still multi-purpose survey but has increased its sample size to about 1,800 adults with over 300 questions asked

From academia, Prof Liz Trinder – now at University of Exeter – writing in the Guardian (6th Feb 2012), also wrongly relied on data from the ONS Omnibus Survey when she claimed that, “Only 10% of separated families go to court about contact.” (See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/06/no-bias-against-fathers-childrens-act ).

Trinder is not alone in this misplaced dependency – Joan Hunt & Ceridwen Roberts (“Child contact with non-resident parents” 2004), Mavis Maclean, Bren Neale, Amanda Wade, Carol Smart, Vanessa May, and Clare Furniss (to name but a few), have all blundered since 2004 in this most basic of facts. In a government Green Paper (‘DfES and DH Research’, paras 6, 19 and 64), it stated:

  • As already stated, around 10% of parents experiencing relationship breakdown choose to resolve their contact issues with the help of the courts every year. In 2003 this resulted in 67,000 contact orders being made by the courts. This figure continues the rising trend that has been seen over the previous 10 years, between 1992 and 2002, the number of private law contact orders made by courts in England and Wales more than tripled from 17,470 to 61,356.

Indeed, this is the exact wording used in a parliamentary answer (see http://www.publications.parliament. ukhttp://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmconst/116/116we32.htm ) and has been used on frequent occasions since. It is no coincidence that these cabal of luminaries, and others, are of the persuasion that contact is working fine and is the best option for children and that shared parenting is fraught with dangers and drawbacks. Doubt has to be cast on this assertion of 10% of custody awards because data from many other sources indicate a much higher level. For instance, the “Disposal of selected applicants in private law in all tiers of court” (see Fig 6), lists all awards processed by court in England & Wales. If only 10% we settled by a court Stras_Fig6order then “Total Orders Made” would be in the region of 15,000 (i.e. 10% of 150,000 divorces). But as we can see in 2002 and 2011 Residence orders alone were in excess of 30,000 and Contact orders ranged up as high as 60,000.

To underline the level of court ordered custody awards, CAFCASS, a semi governmental agency, handled 33,803 private law cases (i.e. divorce) and together with public law cases handled 73,937 children’s cases in 2004. CAFCASS produces annual report and the numbers can be checked for any year since 2001. In 2007-08 CAFCASS worked with 77,134 children and in 2010 it worked, according to their Annual Report, with 147,000.

In Parliament, question are frequently asked of ministers concerning CAFCASS and about child custody generally. (see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmconst/116/116we32.htm ). The replies are illuminating as this diagram (below), from 2005, demonstrates. According to stras_Fig_6+government sources there were approx. 60,000 contact orders made for fathers every year

From Joan Hunt’s paper of a few years ago (“Child contact with non-resident parents”, pub 2004), we learn that:

  • “In 2001, 146,914 children in England and Wales experienced parental divorce, 68% of them aged 10 or less and 24% under 5.”

So how can it be claimed that only 10% go through the court system ?

Hoisted by their own petard ?
What this claim really hides is that the fate of 90% of children fail to go through the court system and therefore, presumably, the state is derelict in its statutory duty of care and actually has no idea what happens to them. Are these reformers who feign ‘child rights and ‘child protection’, intellectually “comfortable” with the fact that if their claims are true it would mean 90% of children each year disappear from the safety radar ?
Is it acceptable to leave 90% of children without a safety net, i.e. arguably ‘at risk’, solely due to having no “check list” as required by the Children Act 1989 ?is this why some private law cases migrate to public law some years later when abuse, neglect, torture and even death have occurred ?

The various government Depts. (i.e. Whitehall), are themselves unable to co-ordinate an agreed figure for children of separating parent. For example, the Ministry of Justice (see Table 2.4 of ‘Family matters’) showed that in 2011 the total number of ‘applications’ to courts amounted to some 178,517 p.a. (using historical standards, this indicates a separation level of some 165,000 couples). [See also Table 2.5 Family Matters Summary statistics on matrimonial proceedings, 2007-2011 http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/statistics/courts-and-sentencing/jcs-2011/family-matters-tables-chp2-2011.xls ].

Addendum -Unmarried families are more likely to fall apart“. ‘The Times’ (London) of, Feb 5th 2005 carried a story that new research had indicated that “THREE QUARTERS (75%) of all family breakdowns affecting young children now involve unmarried parents” and that “The findings indicate that family breakdown is no longer driven by divorce, but by the collapse of unmarried partnerships” (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1471297,00.html). It continued:

  • An estimated 88,000 children aged under 5 were affected by the separation of their unmarried parents in 2003, compared with about 31,000 children under 5 whose married parents divorced, the research concludes. According to the 2001 census, 59% of households with children are married, 11% are co-habiting and 22% are lone parent families.
  • The study is likely to provoke heated discussion among family policy specialists. While it argues for the Government to do more actively to promote marriage, critics say that encouraging parents who do not want to marry to do so simply does not work.
  • Harry Benson, author of the research and director of the Bristol Community Family Trust, an independent relationship education and research body, based his findings on Office for National Statistics data on divorce and jointly registerd births, together with ONS research on the ratio between breakdown rates for married and unmarried families.

Is this, one has to wonder, the population being measured by the DCA and the Omnibus survey that has given rise to the absurd 10% figure ?

When a political point is to being made even seemingly innocuous data is found to be either untrue or distorted, as in the case of Carol Smart’s Oct 1999 paper “Divorce in England 1950-2000: A Moral Tale” when she writes:

The trend did not start rising before 1950 and the impression that it continued through the 1950s is totally false. What actually happened was that under war-time conditions divorces increased and ‘emergency powers’ were enacted between 1947 and 1950. Divorce had actually fallen by 1950 and thereafter, all Stras_Fig7through the 1950s, divorces actually declined as the diagram shows (see Fig 7).

To confirm this data, the Table below (Fig 8), is taken from the House of Commons Research Paper (No 96/42) of 1995 and prepared for the impending Family Law Act of 1996. It shows, in conjunction with other graphs on this page, that divorces only began to increase in the 1960s. Given the above citations it is understandable to disregard journalist Maxine Frith’s otherwise excellent article entitled “Breaking up is hard to do: Divorce the harsh truth” (Feb 3rd 2006), – which focused on a series of court cases involving vast settlements awarded to ex-wives when she states:

  • “Between 1958 and 1969 the divorce rate reached almost 100,000 a year, but yet again, it took the law a long time to catch up with social changes, . . . .”

The actuality is shown in Fig 7. No where in the 1950s did divorce reach 100,000 pa. It was not until the mid 1970 (not the 1960s) when divorces first topped 100,000 pa.

Stras_Fig_8Prof Parkinson (the University of Sydney), in his recent presentation to the UK parliament (Dec 2012), perhaps best summed up the situation:

“ . . .. One of the other inaccuracies that I identified in the Norgrove Report was the much repeated claim that 90% of people resolve parenting arrangements for themselves without litigation. The Report cited one study to the effect that “only 10% of separating couples go to court to settle their disputes about contact” and concluded therefore that “most separating couples” make their own arrangements (Family Justice Review, Final Report, 2011, p.133). However, the study the Committee cited does not actually support that 10% figure and nor does it indicate that the remainder, or even “most” couples, make their own arrangements. . . . “ – Ref. Lader, 2008, Table 2.9 p.23).

Appendix G

The late 1960s perhaps represented the high water mark of Cold War paranoia and the sense of latent dangers. Into this atmosphere certain milestones were passed in England including the legalising in 1967 of homosexuality, albeit only among adults over 21, was seen as brave if not foolhardy given the known dangers of espionage. Thereafter, the cultural hegemony (in the non-Marxist sense), of shared values whereby the complex stratified social structures (social order), that gave identity and value to each social and economic level, began to unravel.

The public of 1970 were not equipped to assess what was happening to them and ‘for them’. They were unaware that their world was going to be turned upside down. These events have now been adopted into the mainstream culture for a younger generation and part of a ‘normal’, liberal society, i.e. taken for granted.

After 1970 and at nearly every level of economic and social life, social trends began to move away and take up their present position, e.g. declining number of marriages, increases in divorce, a falling birth rate, the pensions ‘panic’, smaller Completed Family Size (CFS), Total Fertility Rate (TFR) falling overall but in some sectors increasing. These changes were not ‘pain free’, nor were they without cost.

The unit cost paid by the state for each child, for example, more than doubled. The public had not the faintest hint of this. There was no expectation at the time that the reforms would cost the tax-payer dear – close to the £20 billion in benefit subsidies in 2010.

In 1998 – and using 1996 prices – it was calculated that the gross cost of state benefits to SLM (single lone mothers) alone, was £20 billion – calculated as payments that were not off-set by tax receipts from the recipient SLM [Ref: R. Whiston]. This was more than endorsed by a Parliamentary paper in 2000 and in a paper titled “Price of Parenthood” by Jill Kirby (Centre for Policy Studies, pub 2005) which stated:

  • “The cost of `child-contingent support’ has risen by 52% since the Labour Government came to power, and now exceeds £20 billion a year.”

Stras_Fig9In England & Wales the number of first time marriages (the true barometer) reached their zenith in 1971 and in the years thereafter they relentlessly declined (Fig 9). Throughout the 1950s divorce had been declining (see Fig 7), and marriages increasing – cohabitation was so unheard of that is was not officially counted or measured until 1989. However, during the 1960s small legal amendments were made to how payout to divorcing spouses (wives) were made, e.g. lump sums, resulting in a slight upward swing – as the graph, Fig 10 below, reveals. Then in the years between 1968 and 1972 most advanced Western countries curiously adopted the same form of divorce reform. stras_10The trend of a growing number of divorces did not develop a rapid momentum during the 1960s but was a slow one (see Fig 10 and 11).

Until the present era the previous peak number of divorces had been in 1947 (60,000), caused by the return of husbands from ‘active service’ in the armed forces and finding matters not as they would have wished. ‘Emergency measures’ were put in hand to grant “Quickie” divorces to deal with the backlog. Twenty five percent of all divorces were petitions by husbands on the grounds of their wife’s adultery. Today there are around half that number of men who petition for divorce.

Divorce number had gradually increased to 60,000 by 1969 -71 which some have used to justify the need for the reforms of two years later. However, the level of divorce after World War II, which also reached 60,000 in 1947, was incentivised to a large degree by a relaxing of court rules at the instigation of government and policies aimed at recognising the pre-existing marital dislocation caused by war and subsidising the process. Those incentives and subsidies were removed in 1951 and the results were almost instantaneous.

At the time (i.e. 1968 – 1972), the argument for remodeling the Western world’s divorce regimes was that after a small surge in divorce numbers would be followed by slump and continue at that plateau (reminiscent of stras_111947 to 1950).

Fig 11 (right) shows the gradual increase throughout the 1960s followed by the sudden upsurge of 1971 -72 as the reforms became operational. There was a small ‘slump’ (circa 1973) but it was short-lived and divorce numbers increased unabated to the present level of 150,000 per annum.

The combined effects of social change among marriage, divorce and cohabitation together with subsidies (since 1976), for never-married-mothers has produced greater nominal fertility, a large population, yet a smaller birth rate and smaller family size.

The cost to Society is in the form of taxation, i.e. the burden of subsidies to non-family units with children (SMHs), ‘alternative life-styles’ and to support ‘low income’ households. The government’s own subsidy to women who bring a divorce petition in the form of Legal Aid was costing £2 billion per annum – jepardising the whole legal aid budget. New Zealand had faced exactly the same problems 10 years earlier. British Courts were administering approximately £4.7 billion of ‘client’ assets and the divorce ‘industry’ was worth around £20 billion per annum in fees.

Addendum – 13th Nov 2013, initial statistical reports indicate a 9% drop in private law cases brought using Legal Aid, as measured between Oct 2012 and Oct 2013. This is thought to be the first effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012” (LASPO), introduced in June 2012 which denies legal aid in certain family court matters.

In a 300-page report published on Dec 11th 2006, family breakdowns (inc. divorce), caused ‘social problems’ costing more than £20 billion a year (see The Times, Jenny Percival, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article667633.ece ). stras_11_a

If one of the underlying assumptions at the time of the 1969 Divorce Reform Act was that the inability to divorce and re-marry lead to an increase in illegitimate births then that myth was dispelled in the following years as births outside wedlock dramatically increased from approx. 50,000 to 250,000 (Fig 11A).

The ease with which state benefits were widened, deepened, made available to the unmarried, and single motherhood made politically acceptable during the 1980s led to a significant increase. Indeed, it became politically incorrect to criticise ‘single motherhood’ in any form, publicly.

Unnoticed by much of the population a technical but far-reaching change was introduced in this period whereby ‘benefits’, which had always been based on ‘contributions paid’ in by claimants, were replaced by payments based on perceived ‘need.’ Thus, those that had never paid into the system (teenage mothers, single mothers and their children, etc) gained most.

As the following graph displays (Fig 12), the unit cost, as measured by Treasury Expenditure, rose dramatically over the years between 1970 and 1997 – mainly benefits to children yet the number of child decreased. This graph is not adjusted for inflation and when it is, as in Dr. Patricia Morgan’s analysis, the increase is still significant. stras_fig12The year 1976 is highlighted due to the introduction of the Finer Report’s recommendations that state benefits, e.g. ‘Child Benefit’ etc, should be paid to all mothers – not just married mothers. The societal relevance of the above (expenditure and illegitimacy) can be found in Prof. Lawrence Stone’s marriage and divorce trilogy using historical records found at Lambeth Palace.

Similar social changes were happening in other countries with comparable consequences as the graph below (Fig 13) shows (Percentage of Births to Unmarried Women, 1980 – 2007).

stras_13There are many interesting comparisons in the above graphic, none more so than Holland and Britain. Holland with smaller population than the UK has nonetheless seen a 10 fold increase in births to unmarried women (4 to 40), whereas Britain has seen only a 4 fold increase (12 to 44). The key factor in that SLMs in Britain are numerically much larger in comparison to Holland.

The Table below (Fig 14), is a 2004-based ‘national population projections for the UK’ (and its constituent countries, e.g. Scotland). It depicts the trend from 1945 to 1990 with the actual family size for women who have children, rather than those who might in the future have children, falling from 2.42 in 1945 to 2.24 in 1990. stras_14In the 1970s birth rates tumbled according to ONS data. At the same time, abortions were increasing.

Once restricted to married women and for medical imperatives it was evolving into a form of delayed contraception. In a given year, if we add back the annual number of abortions, i.e. 190,000, to the number of ‘live births’, i.e. of 646,000 per annum the combined total of 836,000 births per annum would equal the numbers born in the 1950s (i.e., 1959) and restore the 2.4 children per family ratio.

This trend of fewer children per family has only been exacerbated in the years since 1990 with average family sizes plunging below the critical Population Replacement level of 2.1. Presently it is spiralling downwards to 1.75 in 2011 and may go lower (Source: ONS Population Trends 118, Winter 2004, and see also Population Trends 109, Autumn 2002).

The picture, if anything, is more depressing than the 1.75 would indicate (see Fig 15/ ‘Figure’ 1 below). This is because the picture reflects an aggregate picture of Completed Family Size units and includes single women who usually have smaller families, and immigrants who conversely usually have slightly larger family sizes stras_fig15then the indigenous population. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is the average number of children a hypothetical woman would be assumed to have.

The catastrophe for Britain, in common with other EU nations, is that since 1981 the CFS trend has dipped below ‘Replacement level’, and that since 1961 TFR has also collapsed. Arguably, though both began declining in 1961, TFR has stabilised at 1.75 since 1981, and that 2011 has been equal to CFS trend line. However, this hides something that has been identified by Norway Statistics, namely, that the majority of population increase, and this affects CFS and TFR, has been Third World immigration. See below. Collateral damage resulting from a falling TFR and CFS, can be seen in the state pension schemes whose viability is seen as being threatened.

From 2002 onwards the panic over the so-called ‘Pensioner Dependency Ratio’ gained momentum. The Spring 2004 edition of ‘Population Trends’

stras_16 (page 11, Table 4), shows the ratio between those of working age (16 – 65) and those of pensionable age (over 65). The ratio was constant from 1981 to 2002 at approx. 3:1 (36m v 10m 2002), as Fig 17 demonstrates. In 2026 this is expected to be 39m v 13m and by 2031 38m v 15m (33% and 40% respectively). stras_17

Prior to the banking collapse of 2008 this was a ‘manufactured’ panic in that sufficient fund would still be available to pay pensions even at the 2.5: 1 ratio in 2031. It is invariably forgotten that Pensioner Dependency Ratio in 1900 was 14:1 and fell to 3.5:1 in 2000. Despite this 100 year decline, pensions were still paid and even increased. By 2040 this ratio is projected to fall to 2.5:1. The projected decline in this age-based support ratio is not only less steep than recent history but it should have come as no surprise. Men of the ‘baby boom’ years i.e. circa 1947, will, in the main, live only 10 to 12 years after retirement and so will cease to be an extraordinary drain on the government backed National Insurance Fund (NIF) by 2022 – well short of the alleged ‘difficult’ year of 2038 or 2050. The Table below (Fig 18) shows selected years including some adverse opening balance events, such as 1993-94, and how quickly the fund bounced back, i.e. the opening and closing balance in 2000.

Stras_fig_18BEven when the opening balance is perilously low – as in 1993/94 at £3,577,000,000 – there was still sufficient liquidity to fund a higher level of claimants that year at £44,318,000,000. The inclusion of payments to Northern Ireland (from “the Troubles” starting in 1970 to the ‘peace process’ ending in 2000), is just one example of the many ways all governments siphon off money from the NIF to finance other activities.

If there is a pension danger it will come in the form of women particularly divorced and separated women. They will have paid less into the National Insurance Fund but draw our more. They will live for, say, 25 years after retirement at 60 (2007 + 25 = 2032), and even 10 years ago represented 90% of all beds allocated in residential care home.

The majority of these women will cease to be an extraordinary drain on the NIF by 2032. So after 2022 the demand on the NIF should have almost halved and by 2032 when most women will have come to the end of their lives, it should have reduced by close to another half. The worst case scenario at present seems to revolve around figures for the years 2020 and 2038.

In the 1990s Population Trends (ONS) published the following ratios (Fig 19), under the heading ‘Pensioner Dependency Ratio’. stras_19Accepting that the Pensioner Dependency Ratio indicates the number of working people required to finance state pensions of the elderly, this is to accept the unsophisticated nature of present day criteria. No regard has been given to the increasing amount of work that will be done by robots and the assumption is that only living ‘human beings’ will be taxed in order to fund pensions. Indeed, we are beginning to see this shift in the so-called “Green Taxes”. Predictions of a crisis in state pension schemes due to the ‘baby boom’ generation (born circa 1947) beginning to make claims (at age 60 for women, and 65 for men), ignores the natural progression of rising productivity (Mullan 2000):

  • “On present trends the worker in 2041 will be the equivalent of more than two workers today” – (Catalyst 2002: 10).

This will mean modest improvements in state pensions are immediately affordable without increasing contributions because of the NIF surplus. Mullan’s conclusion is still achievable but only if the current banking and lending crisis is overcome – and it will also only be achievable when Starbucks, Amazon, Vodaphone and a host of other billion pound turnover companies begin paying their fair share of taxes.

E N D

Footnotes:


[1] See “Belgians like their shared parenting laws” http://motoristoppression.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/16/ and “Dutch, at 70% go ‘shared parenting mad’ ” http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/39/
[2] Prof Lawrence Stone “Road to divorce. England 1530-1987” (Pub’d 1990).
[5] For example: Belgium 10½ million; Portugal 10¾ million; Greece 10¾ million; Switzerland 8 million; Germany 80 million; France 65 million; Holland 16 million.
[6] Children and Families Bill 2013.
[7] Source – Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA), Department for Education and Skills (DfES), Department for Trade and Industry (2004), “Parental separation: children’s needs and parents’ responsibilities” Cm 6273 TSO . Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20040722013944/http:/dfes.gov.uk/childrensneeds/docs/DfesChildrensNeeds.pdf
[9] ONS ‘Population Trends’
[10] Law Commission’s ‘Supplement to Working Paper No. 96’. by J. A. Priest and J. C. Whybrow (Pub 1987) (abridged version http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2008/10/12/12/ ).Full version http://lawcommission.wordpress.com/1986/10/01/00001/
[11] a) Based on a 2008 ‘Gingerbread’ report written by Victoria Peacey & Joan Hunt and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. b) “I’m not saying it was easy: problematic contact after separation and divorce.” Peacey V and Hunt J (2009).
[12] See CAFCASS Annual Report, and ONS Judicial Statistics versus ‘Child contact with non-resident parents’ (2004) and “Caring for children after parental separation: would legislation for shared parenting time help children ?” (May 2011).
[13] See Appendix G.
[14] Co-authored with legal experts Solnit and Goldstein.
[15] Dorothy Burlington’s children all suffered horribly under Freud’s therapy which lasted 40 years.
[16] See “Anna Freud: Part 3 – The curse is cast”, (2009) http://robertwhiston.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/21/
[17] “Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility: the future of child maintenance” – – Green Paper, Dept Work Pensions (DWP).
Posted in Custody, English, Guardianship, PEF, Robert Whiston (Men’s Aid UK), Shared Parenting, Shared residence | 2 Comments

European Parliament leaders strongly support shared parenting

Roberta Angelilli, Vice-President of the European Parliament, was uniquivocal in her October 2013 Strasbourg address.

European Parliament Building, Transcript by Peter Tromp, Strasbourg, October 23, 2013

Speaking at the conference “Facing the crisis of the family”, Vice-President Roberta Angelilli and Carlo Casini, President of the Constitutional Affairs Commission, were whole heartedly behind moves to introduce better child custody arrangements in Europe and pressed for a comparative survey on children custody in all EU states.

Roberta Angelilli, Vice-President of the European Parliament

Roberta Angelilli, Vice-President of the European Parliament

Opening statement [See footnote 1 below] by MEP Mrs. Roberta Angelilli, Vice-President of the European Parliament [See footnote 2 below], at the conference “Facing the crisis of the family in the name of the children: First comparative survey on children custody in Europe” [See footnote 3 below]:

“First of all, good afternoon to everybody. I would like to welcome you to the European Parliament. Welcome and many thanks to the Colibri network and all the partner organisations here today. Thanks for inviting me because in my opinion this meeting today is a very important meeting. It is an important opportunity to stress very strongly the need to protect children often at risk in the event of family tensions and conflicts.

As we all know Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union [See footnotes 4 and 5 below] states clearly that every child has the right to have a normal personal relationship and direct contact with BOTH parents. ALWAYS. I would like to underline ALWAYS, also in cases of separation or divorce. I would like to add “ABOVE ALL” in these cases. For this there are many member states that provide for shared custody. If applied effectively the shared custody can bring great benefits to children. But too often however shared custody is just a formal concession without concrete effects. And what prevails is the same old model of exclusive custody to one of the parents.

As we know the definition of shared custody belongs to national family law. So it is not in the competence of the European Union, but in the competence only of member states. This explains the differences in the definition of shared custody and its effective implementation in different national systems.

In my responsibility of European Parliament mediator for cases of international child abduction I know the problem very well. In fact there are additional problems after divorce or separation when parents have different nationalities. These can lead to international child abduction. Obviously there are many international instruments in support of the best interest of children. But, despite that, because of the uncertainty of the applicable law there are conflicts of jurisdiction and insufficient knowledge and awareness of the rights and the duties of binational couples.

This is why I have proposed a “pilot project” with the aim of creating an information tool for bi-national couples on parental responsibility and the rights of children in cases of separation or divorce.

Also on my initiative the European Union has launched a study on cross-border abduction of children by a parent with the aim of analyzing the legal framework at the national and at European level and assessing the practical problems in the implementation and application of existing legislation.

Finally, with others colleagues I propose a written declaration on the protection of the right of children to maintain a concrete relationship with both parents, obviously in cases of divorce or separation.

So I remain at your disposal for all your requests and for working together in the best interest of children. And sorry but in five minutes I must go.”

— END —

Footnotes
[1] Video of the opening statement by MEP Roberta Angelilli, Vice-President of the European Parliament; http://www.vaderinstituut.be/media/strasbourgconference2013
[2] Roberta Angelilli, Vice-President of the European Parliament (MEP for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), Italy)
[3] Conference “Facing the crisis of the family in the name of the children: First comparative survey on children custody in Europe”, European Parliament Building, Strasbourg, October 23, 2013
[4] Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000/C364/01),
Article 24 (The rights of the child), Clause 3:

‘Every child shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis a personal relationship and direct contact with both his or her parents, unless that is contrary to his or her interests.’

[5] European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) | Helping to make fundamental rights a reality for everyone in the European Union
—————————

The Platform for European Fathers (PEF) wrote to Mrs. Angelilli on January 15, 2014:

RE: Strasbourg Conference Oct 23rd 2013

Dear Mrs. Angelilli,

On behalf of our organisation the Platform for European Fathers – PEF – (see note 1), may I say how we fully support your views on ‘shared parenting’ as they were stated in your opening statement at the Strasbourg European Parliament Building Conference on October 23rd, 2013 (see note 2).

We lament with you that only ‘lip service’ is paid by too many EU member states to the requirements of the EU Constitution in Article 24 (The rights of the child), Clause 3 to address this issue.

What concerns us is this: How forcefull is the European Parliament’s and European Commission’s view regarding Article 24, Clause 3, namely that “Every child shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis a personal relationship and direct contact with both his or her parents, unless that is contrary to his or her interests.” ?

So that we may go forward to press our case in Europe, may we ask for your confirmation that the EU is fully committed to the Fundamental Right that a child is always entitled to contact with ‘both’ of its divorced or separated parents ?
And how can the EU ensure that member states comply and ratify this right (Article 24, Clause 3) ?

In your opening statement in Strasbourg you also made mention of three of your latest initiatives:

  1. Your proposed “pilot project” with the aim of creating an information tool for bi-national couples on parental responsibility and the rights of children in cases of separation or divorce.
  2. Your EU initiative regarding a study on cross-border abduction of children by a parent with the aim of analysing the legal framework at the national and at European level and assessing the practical problems in the implementation and application of existing legislation.
  3. Your proposal, with others colleagues, of a written declaration on the protection of the right of children to maintain a concrete relationship with both parents – obviously in cases of divorce or separation.

PEF would be most interested to hear from you what progress has been made so far on these three initiatives (do you have any concrete information and reference sources), and how may we assist you to advance your views among Members of European Parliament from other EU member states?

Finally, what concrete advice can you give to the Platform for European Fathers (PEF) so that we can better advise parents from the EU who ask for our help ? We have in mind many occasions when the EU fundamental rights your spoke of, are not being honoured by the national courts of EU member states (nor by the child welfare authorities of these EU member states).

What EU institutions and EU ‘mechanisms’ can be best utilised to refer these parents to for further EU support in thease cases ?

We look forward to your reply.

On behalf of the Platform for European Fathers,
Sincere regards,
Peter Tromp MSc
Secretary General of the Platform for European Fathers (PEF)

  • Note [1]: The Platform for European Fathers – PEF – is a child and father focused national charity operating across most EU member states. PEF is particularly concerned that children are being marginalised by legislation and find themselves ‘fatherless’ after a parental divorce which negatively impacts their health and ‘life chances’. The PEF is an independent Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that represents national father, fatherhood and equal parenting organisations across Europe.
  • Note [2]: http://europeanfathers.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/39/

———————————————————————————————————-

Roberta Angelilli‘s reply received by PEF, where she underlines the relevance of shared parenting legislation to be derived from Article 24, par. 3 of the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights:

On Wednesday, 29 January 2014 her staff on behalf of Mrs. Roberta Angelilli answered the following in reply to the letter of January 15, 2014 from the Platform for European Fathers (see PEF-letter below):

Dear Mr Tromp,

On behalf of Ms Angelilli thank you very much for your email and your interest in the activities of this office and sorry for the delay in answering you.

Regarding the respect of Article 24, par. 3 of the Charter, Ms Angelilli has stressed in many occasions the relevance of shared parenting, not only in the framework of international child abduction.

For example, she presented a parliamentary question for written answer to the Commission asking an assessment of joint custody at European level.

And there are many written questions that Ms Angelilli has presented on the issue of child abduction involving several Member States.

Indeed, in the event of separation or divorce, what Article 24 states should mean a balanced and continuing relationship for the child with both parents.

From the information available on the website of the European Judicial Network, many Member States have made provision for joint custody, which, if rigorously applied, can be extremely beneficial for the children. However, quite apart from international child abduction, there are very many cases of children born to parents of the same nationality, who, following a separation, no longer have regular contact with one parent.

This is a hidden issue that results in thousands of children losing contact not only with one of the two parents, but also with their relatives on that side of the family.

In terms of safeguarding the child’s best interests, both parents have the same right/duty to raise, educate and support their offspring, with equal status and rights.

- For what concerns the initiatives undertaken, the written declaration on Written declaration on “the protection of the right of minors to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents, even if the latter are legally separated or divorced” is now closed.

- The implementation of the pilot project is ongoing, the output is expected in March.

- The EP study on cross-border child abduction is also in progress. We should have the preliminary results (principal findings) between February and March.

There are several mechanism for supporting parents in the EU (the Hague Conventions, Regulation 2201/2003 for example), although the definition of joint custody belongs to substantive family law. As such, it does not fall within the EU’s competence but remains under the sole responsibility of the Member States. This explains why there may be differences in the national systems as regards the definition of joint custody and how it works in practice.

I would like to underline that in order to fill existing gaps in EU law application, the European Commission has launched a review of the regulation 2201/2003 and will adopt a report on how it has been applied in practice.

The EP study follows a previous one on ” “the parental responsibility, child custody and visitation rights in cross-border separation” and aims expressly to provide an in-depth analysis of the present legal instruments and should clearly indicate any shortcomings as well as present proposals for improvements.

The study should in particular concentrate on how to guarantee the effectiveness of the judicial cooperation as foreseen by the Brussels II regulation and the Hague Convention.

I hope this will be useful for you.

This office remains at your disposal.

Best regards
Luisa Pecoraro
on behalf of
Roberta Angelilli
Vice Presidente del Parlamento Europeo

European Parliament (EP)

European Parliament (EP)

Posted in 2013, English, EPP-Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats), EU law and regulations, European Parliament, PEF, Platform for European Fathers, Roberta Angelilli, Vice-President of the European Parliament | 2 Comments

Lithuanian Conference – October 4th, 2013

Lithuanian International Conference on “Equally shared parenting and residence after divorce – children’s psychological stability. Legal and psychological aspects.” (Seimas, Vilnius, Lithuania, October 4th, 2013)

On October 4th, 2013 the conference on “Equally shared parenting and residence after divorce – children’s psychological stability. Legal and psychological aspects.” was organised at the Lithuanian Parliament Building” in Vilnius by:

  1. Mrs Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė, chairmen of the Child Welfare Group of the Lithuanian Parliament;
  2. Mr. Kestutis Griciunas, President of the Lithuanian Association Against Parental Alienation (APTA);
  3. Mrs. Birutė van der Weg – Bražiūnienė, founder of the Lithuanian Association Against Parental Alienation (APTA), Netherlands.

The conference has resulted in the establishment of a Lithuanian taskforce preparing proposals for the reform of family law in Lithuania.

Program and PEF contribution

Below is the program of the conference and a picture of the keynote speech presented by Peter Tromp MSc, secretary general of the Platform for European Fathers, at the opening of the conference.

Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas:

Media exposure:

Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas

Tarptautinė konferencija „Lygiavertė tėvystė po skyrybų – vaikų psichologinio stabilumo pagrindas. Teisiniai ir psichologiniai aspektai“(nuotr. Dominykos Staniūnienės).<br />
Dienos nuotrauka -> 2013 metai ->
Nuotraukoje: Tarptautinė konferencija „Lygiavertė tėvystė po skyrybų – vaikų psichologinio stabilumo pagrindas. Teisiniai ir psichologiniai aspektai“.
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Data: 2013-10-04 – 2013-10-04
Įvykio aprašymas: Tarptautinė konferencija „Lygiavertė tėvystė po skyrybų – vaikų psichologinio stabilumo pagrindas. Teisiniai ir psichologiniai aspektai“(nuotr. Dominykos Staniūnienės).
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Autorinės teisės

© Seimo kanceliarija. Archyvas, 2008  Į PRADŽIĄ       NAUJIENOS       RODYKLĖ       KONTAKTAI       PAIEŠKA       PAGRINDINĖ SEIMO SVETAINĖ

THE PROGRAM OF THE CONFERENCE – Konferencijos programa – APTA

TIME

SUBJECT

SPEEKER

9.00-10.00

Registration of the participants

10.00-10.10 Welcome word Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė, the chairmen of the Child Welfare Group of the Lithuanian Parliament, Kęstutis Griciūnas, the chairmen of the Lithuanian Association Against Parental Alienation (APTA)
10.10 -10.30 Legalization of Equal Parenting after divorce in EU member countries Peter Tromp MSc, child psychologist, the secretary general of the Platform for European Fathers (PEF)
10:30-10:45 Psychological feelings of children and adolescents during divorce of their parents Valija Šap, medical psychologist
10:45-11.00 The participation of psychologists at the child custody cases in Lithuanian courts: future vision and reality Dr. Nomeda Gutauskienė, lector at Mykolo Romerio University, medical psychologist at Child Development Center
11.00: 11:15 Coffee break
11:15-11:30 Possibilities of mediation in family court cases: psychological aspects Dr. Jolanta Sondaitė, lector ar psychology institute of Mykolo Romerio University
11:30-11:45 Parental alienation syndrome (PAS), it’s psychological damage, prevention, diagnostics and psychological help for programmers, children and alienated parents Birutė van der Weg – Bražiūnienė, founder of the Lithuanian Association Against Parental Alienation (APTA), Netherlands
11:45-12.00 Parental alienation after divorce: the result of children’s psychological abuse, the proof and criticism Kęstutis Griciūnas, president of the Association Against Parental Alienation
12:00-12:15 Negative experience in childhood Dr. Robertas Povilaitis, the head of Children’s Line
12:15-12:30

Discussion

12:30-13.15

Lunch break

13:15-13:30 Relocation freedom vs. child‘s interests: it the peace possible? Dr. Gediminas Sagatys, attorney
13:30-13:45 Family relations in the shadow of the fences at detention institutions Živilė Mikėnaitė, the director of Kaunas Remand Prison
13:45-14:00   Children’s right to communicate with non-custodial parent – legal regulation and putting it to practice  Dainora Bernackienė, the head of the Children’s Rights Protection department of Governmental Children Rights Protection and Adoption Service under the Ministry of Social Security and Labor
14:00-14:15     Children’s right to family ties: from legal regulation to practical ensurance Inga Juozapavičienė, advisor of Children’s Rights Protection Control
14:15-14:30 Child support. From parents dis(agreement) to the judgment  Diana Labokaitė, the Judge at Kaunas District Court, the member of  judicial council
14:30-14:45      Children’s relationship with non-custodial father/mother (The practice of foreign countries) Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė, the member of Lithuanian Parliament
14:45 -15:00 The practice of courts judging child custody and visitation disputes Gintaras Putvinskis, attorney
15:00-15:15 Legal aspects of child custody and visitation Dr. Inga Kudinavičiūtė – Michailovienė, lector at Mykolo Romerio University
15:15-15:30 The execution of court orders regarding child transfer and visitation. The bailiff‘s point of view Sonata Vaicekauskienė, bailiff
15:30-15:45 Main child custody reforms Paulius Markevičius, lawyer
15:45- 16:00

Discussion, final arguments, closing

Thank you letter:

Subject: Sincerely thanks

Vilnius, October 8, 2013

Dear Mr. Peter Tromp,

The Association Against Parental Alienation of Lithuania sincerely thanks you for participating in the international conference “Equal parenting after divorce – the basis of children’s psychological stability. Legal and psychological aspects”.

The Association together with Mrs. Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė, Member of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, are happy to have managed, without any external funding, to organise such a high-level conference that gathered great and distinguished speakers and attracted a wide audience of experts, specialists and people concerned with the topic under discussion.

Thank you for your valuable presentation on shared parenting and support for our ideas. Your presentation got attention of the Lithuanian media ((a) http://www.lrytas.lt/lietuvos-diena/aktualijos/po-skyrybu-vakarieciu-vaikai-gyvena-tai-pas-teva-tai-pas-motina.htm; (b) http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/skyrybu-mesmaleje-atstumto-tevo-patirtis-kokios-ietys-istraukiamos-kovoje-del-vaiku.d?id=62959006), induced discussions and thus helped attract public attention to the problem of the unequal status of parents after divorce.

We believe that this conference will pave the way for a change of the public opinion and, most importantly, a reform of family law.

We are highly interested in further cooperation with you and your organisations and we would very much appreciate the possibility to join the Platform for European Fathers.

We would also like to kindly ask you for the abstract of your presentation which would be of use while drafting the resolution of the conference.

Please find some pictures from the conference attached. Also you can find pictures on the website of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania (http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter/w5_vaizdas.nuotrauka?p_cat_id=104748&nt_id=174092&p_kalb_id=1).

Yours sincerely,

Kęstutis Griciūnas
Marius Zamulskis
Ramūnas Kvietkauskas
Paulius Markevicius
Tomas Markevicius

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Benefits of shared care and residence for children, parents and society (Peter Tromp, Lithuanian Conference, Oct. 4, 2013)

PEF Presentation Lithuanian Conference, Oct. 4, 2013

“Equally shared parenting and residence after divorce – children’s psychological stability. Legal and psychological aspects.”
(international conference at Lithuanian Parliament – the Seimas)

***

 Benefits of shared care and residence for children, parents and society

by Peter Tromp MSc

Shared parenting legislation in Europe

October 4, 2013

***

Presentation by Peter Tromp MSc [[1]], Secretary General of the Platform for European Fathers (PEF), at the conference on “Equal parenting legislation and shared residence rights after divorce and children’s psychological stability: Legal and psychological aspects.” held in the Parliamentary Building of the Republic of Lithuania (Seimas) in Vilnius on Friday, October 4, 2013.

***

Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas

Tarptautinė konferencija „Lygiavertė tėvystė po skyrybų – vaikų psichologinio stabilumo pagrindas. Teisiniai ir psichologiniai aspektai“(nuotr. Dominykos Staniūnienės).<br />

1. Introduction

Good morning. First of all I would like to thank you for inviting me to this conference on shared and equal parenting rights in Lithuania.

My name is Peter Tromp. I am a child- and educational psychologist from the Netherlands representing the Platform for European Fathers (PEF) and the Dutch Father Knowledge Centre (VKC).

The Platform for European Fathers (PEF) was formally founded on June 27, 2011 to represent father organisations and fathers interests at the European policy levels in Brussels. Its founding meeting was in the buildings of the European Parliament and coincided with the conference organised in and by the European Parliament on the policy issue of a European minimum Paternity Leave of two weeks. PEF now has 24 member organisations from 15 different EU countries and is rapidly growing.

And the Dutch Father Knowledge Centre (Vader Kennis Centrum) was founded in 1988. It champions the cause of involved fatherhood and equal parenting and keeping both parents actively involved in children’s lives, also after divorce and separation.  It works with policy makers, scientists, campaign groups, lobbyists and reformers and aims to make knowledge and information available about the role, the contributions and the efforts men and fathers are making in children’s lives, particularly in raising and educating (their) children. Whether that is in the family – both before and after divorce – or in any of the other living environments where children grow up, like childcare and education.  The aim is to have these contributions and efforts of fathers and men in caring for and educating children better acknowledged and supported on the social policy level.

In my presentation of today I would like to speak to you about some of the benefits of post-divorce ‘shared parenting’ arrangements for children [2]. At the end of my presentation I would like to conclude with summary introductions to the situation of – and developments in – shared parenting in the European Union.

2. Some definition issues in post-divorce shared and equal parenting

Before elaborating on the benefits of post-divorce ‘shared parenting’ for children I would first have to spend some words on some of the different issues surrounding a definition of shared and equal parenting.

Joint legal custody, joint physical custody, shared parenting, equal parenting, shared residence, shared care, bi-location, co-parenting are all terms and concepts that are being used in the context of shared and equal parenting. They all have different meanings and different legal connotations.

When I am talking, however, of the benefits of shared and equal parenting I am referring to any post-divorce form of parenting in which both parents share in the day-to-day care and residence for the children in a mutually agreed post-divorce parenting plan or arrangement between the parents. This excludes forms of shared parenting that are only limited to joint legal custody without sharing in the day-to-day physical care for the children, as I consider these custody forms to be ‘shared parenting’ only in name and not in practice.

3. The benefits of post-divorce shared parenting

If we look at what available scientific research tells us what the best interests of children are with regard to parenting arrangements after divorce or separation, then the picture cannot be clearer. Comparing the outcomes for children growing up in shared parenting arrangements, having regular contact with and care from both parents after divorce or separation, with the outcomes for children growing up in single parent families in the sole care of only one of their parents, generally the mother, than children growing up in shared parenting do much better.

Better outcomes for children in shared parenting arrangements

From a meta-analysis on 33 underlying separation researches Robert Bauserman (American Psychological Association, 2002) concluded, that children growing up in a form of shared parenting with frequent contact with and care from both parents, had
- less behavioural – and emotional problems,
- exhibited higher levels of self-worth and self-confidence,
- were better capable of building and preserving social contacts and relations, both within and outside the family and
- performed better at school,
than children who had grown up in the sole care of only one of their parents.

Children growing up in shared parenting of both parents after divorce and separation did so much better than children growing up under sole care of only one of their parents, that shared parenting arrangements after separation by far proved to be the “second best” parenting arrangement for growing up children, providing them with a new post-divorce family situation that best approached the ideal situation of an intact family.

From a range of other researches it further became clear, that children growing up in shared parenting of both parents
- develop better,
- are more satisfied,
- prove to be better adapted and adjusted and
- have more self-confidence and self-worth
in comparison with children growing up in sole care of one of their parents (Nunan, 1980; Cowan, 1982; Pojman, 1982; Livingston, 1983; Noonan, 1984; Shiller, 1984.,1986; Handley, 1985; Wolchik, 1985; Bredefeld, 1985; Öberg & Öberg, 1987).

From a Harvard study on 517 separation families over a period of 4 years wide, children growing up under post-divorce shared parenting proved to be less depressed, exhibited less unadjusted behaviours, and achieved better school results than children growing up in post-divorce sole care. (Buchanan, MacCoby, Dornbusch, 1996.)

Also, boys growing up in shared parenting are found to have less emotional problems than boys growing up in sole care (Pojman 1982; Shiller 1986).

Adverse effects on children’s health and well-being of growing up fatherless in one-parent families

The available research clearly shows that children growing up in sole care – mainly fatherless and with their mothers in mother-headed families – do much worse than children growing up in shared parenting.

Children being raised by one parent are at a greater risk for many things as they grow up, including health risks such as poorly controlled diabetes and asthma. (Holmes, 2007)

A Swedish large scale population study on children’s health found that children growing up fatherless in single-parent families also have more depression complaints, use more and earlier drugs and alcohol (binge-drinking), get more accidents and more often commit suicide, than children growing up in the care and with the involvement of both parents. (Swedish population study into the consequences of single-parent families on children, Ringbäck Weitoft, Hjern, Haglund, Rosén, 2003).

And a recent Dutch study on the importance of fathers for their children after parental separation and divorce (ENOVA, 2008) found that in the Dutch province of Drenthe 62% of all children in need of special youth care and youth welfare provided by the Dutch state originated from single parent families headed by mothers.

Also a consistency has now been determined between growing up in fatherless single-parent families and the prevalence of children being diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder ADHD/ADD. Children in single parent families are at twice the risk of being ADHD-diagnosed and prescribed with the drug Ritalin than children from intact two-parent families (Strohschein, 2007).

Child abuse risk and “new boyfriend-” or stepparent-risk

Child abuse can happen in all types of families, but it happens most in single parent mother-headed families and in new “patchwork-families” with stepchildren.

Children, especially boys, growing up in single parent mother-headed families are at twice to 2,5 times the risk of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional and mental abuse and neglect by either the mother herself or her “new friend”, the so-called “stepparent”. (Holmes, 2007; AMK, 1999, 2000, 2001)

Brought into a situation of social exclusion from the paternal half of their families by the present mother-only custody and care practises in family law and family courts, and with their fathers and paternal grandparents no longer involved or present in their lives, isolated children more often become victims of emotional, physical and sexual abuse or neglect by the mother or her new boyfriend. The devastating results of social and family court policies giving prevalence to mother-only custody and care for the divorce children involved in terms of rising child abuse cases and occurring family-drama’s are now reported on frequently in today’s journals and newspapers of all of our societies.

Effects on children of growing up fatherless in single parent families in the different age groups (O’Neill, 2002)

Children (0-12)

If we take a closer look at the effects of growing up fatherless on the different age groups children (0-12) growing up in fatherless single-parent families have a greater risk of a life in poverty, run more risk on physical, emotional and sexual abuse, more often become runaways from home, have a greater risk of becoming homeless youths, have more risk of health complaints and have more problems at school and in their social contacts with others (O’Neill, 2002).

Teenagers (12-18)

Teenagers growing up in fatherless single-parent families have a greater risk of teenage-pregnancy, to end up in (youth) crime, to smoke, to use alcohol and drugs, of playing truant, to be suspended, of becoming drop-outs and ending their school careers at an early age school, and of getting adaptation problems (O’Neill, 2002).

Young adults (18 onwards)

And young adults, having grown up in fatherless single-parent families, stand a greater risk of not having finished a proper vocational education, earning lower incomes, becoming jobless and in need of benefits, at risk of becoming homeless, or of getting involved in crime, of developing chronic emotional and mental-health problems, of developing general physical health complaints, and sooner have cohabiting relations, more often have extramarital children, only to end up in separation and divorce more often. (Meta-study “Experimenting in living, The fatherless family”, Civitas, O’Neill, 2002).

Parentification of children of divorce in single parent families

British teenage-girls who have grown up in sole care or single parent families reported that they get stressed out and overloaded by the separation problems of their parents, especially caused by the call on them by their caring parent, in 90% of the cases the mother, for support in the fight concerning the children, put up with the other parent after divorce and separation. (Bliss survey, 2005: Girls take strain or parents’ split)

In single parent families it is often not the child who is being taken care of by the parent, but – as “mother’s little helper” – the child becomes an instrumental friend and partner to the parent in distress taking care of the parent’s welfare instead, thus forcing children of divorce into early maturation and depriving them of their youth. This phenomenon is documented in the psychological literature as that of “parentification”.

Post-divorce father involvement in children’s lives makes all the difference

Another line of comparative research focuses on the different effects on children of growing up with either involved or not involved (i.e. excluded) non-residential fathers after parental separation and divorce.

Carlson (2006) found in her research “Family structure, father involvement and behavioural effects on adolescents” based on the 1996 and 2000 data cohorts of the USA National Longitudinal Youth Study on 2.733 10-14 year old adolescents living only with their mothers while their fathers were non-residential that the greater the involvement of fathers was in the lives of their adolescent children, the less behavioural problems the adolescents had in terms of aggression, antisocial behaviour, and negative feelings like anxiety, concern, depression and low self-esteem.

Shared parenting leads to fewer conflicts between the parents and between the child and its parents

It is frequently contested by antagonists to shared parenting that present shared or equal parenting arrangements are self-selective on the issue of pre-existing conflict levels between the separating parents as they are court-provided on a voluntary base of consensus and consent between the two divorcing parents involved.

It is therefore important to note in this context, that the better outcomes for children documented in the quoted research above have also been found in research that controlled for pre-existing levels of conflicts between the parents as a self-selecting factor for shared parenting.

Furthermore it is also frequently claimed and presumed by antagonists to post-divorce shared parenting arrangements that shared parenting is the cause of more post-divorce conflicts between the divorced parents as it raises the level of interactions and contacts between the two separated parents.

The meta-study conducted by Robert Bauserman (APA, 2002) however found that, in contrast with what is usually claimed, the number and levels of conflicts between the parents in shared parenting arrangements strongly diminished in comparison with the number of conflicts in situations of sole care with access arrangements. As a result these lower level of conflicts between the divorced parents in shared parenting arrangements contributes greatly to better child welfare and well being.

Moreover, not only do parents experience less mutual conflicts in shared parenting arrangements, but also children growing up in shared parenting appear to have fewer conflicts with their parents, than children growing up in sole care of one parent (Karp, 1982).

Less loyalty and allegiance conflicts

It is also frequently claimed by antagonists to shared parenting that children growing up in shared parenting arrangements with both parents do not have a place and home of their own (“Do not take away the children’s home”, it is claimed). Children in shared parenting arrangements are pictured as being constantly underway between houses and as being continuously exposed to conflicts of allegiance. Available research however confounds this picture. Children are more flexible – within reason of course – than we expect them to be. What is more important to them is keeping their relations with both their parents. (Steinman, 1981, Luepnitz, 1986, Shiller, 1986, Coller, 1988, Tornstam, 2000).

Children want it themselves

The last argument these antagonists make against shared parenting is that proponents of shared parenting only argue from the point of view of the parents and do not take the interests and wishes of children into consideration. From child-research in which children themselves are questioned on their preferences however, it becomes clear that children themselves also most prefer shared parenting and care from both their parents after separation (Fabricius, 2003). Children themselves most want to preserve and maintain their relations with both parents after divorce and separation. They consider having narrow links and bonds with both their parents as being important to them, while growing up in shared parenting leaves them more satisfied than growing up in sole care. (Kelly, 1993).

Also the national public, both women and men, is strongly in favour of shared parenting legislation by overwhelming majority (67-76%)

Representative public opinion surveys in several countries also have time and again proven the general public to be strongly in favour of co-parenting and alternating residence legislation after divorce by a two-thirds to three/quarters (i.e. 67% – 76% majority votings). And, contrary to what a noisy minority opposition of conservative gender feminists wants us all to believe, both modern women, young and old, as well as equality feminists proved to be even more strongly in favour of co-parenting and alternating residence legislation then the male population is the countries where representative opinion surveys were held. For more detailed information of the results of recent national representative public opinion surveys on these issues amongst the Dutch and the Belgian populations I refer to the Appendices A and B at the end of my presentation.

For that reason I am confident to predict that if an independent representative public opinion survey on these issues would also be organised in Lithuania, that the majority of the Lithuanian population, both women and men, would also support a family law reform based on a presumption of shared parenting and alternating residence parenting arrangements after divorce. The Platform for European Fathers offers its support in searching for the necessary funding for such a representative public opinion survey in Lithuania.

Breaking the cycle of broken families: Less divorces and separations

Finally, children of divorce growing up in single parent mother-headed families themselves are at a 3,5 times greater risk of separation and divorce later on in their lives (Spruijt, 2007), thus contributing to a self perpetuating and accelerating cycle of new broken families into the future.

Post-divorce shared parenting arrangements on the other hand however – instead of accelerating the pace of separation and divorce resulting into broken families in the future – also prove to be a valuable incentive for keeping two-parent families together when possible. The more shared parenting arrangements are to be implemented instead of mother-only custody and care after separation, the fewer parents are inclined to go for a divorce. (Brinig & Allen, 2000) This contributes directly to the best interest of the children involved, as all of the research so far has indicated that intact two-parent families are still the best and most ideal setting for children to grow up in and flourish into the jewel in society’s crown they deserve to be, instead of growing to be a liability and burden on the state.

To come to a first conclusion on the benefits of shared parenting for children, parents and society

Overseeing the presented and available social research objectively and rationally one is inclined to ask therefore why sole care and residency at present still is championed, and shared parenting still isn’t, as the preferred default and dominant presumption for post-divorce parenting arrangements in Western family law systems and family court practises?[3] In any other sphere of life such a degree of dysfunctionality would not be tolerated.

Seen from a point of view of the best interest of the child the current practice of sole care in family law should be considered as completely incomprehensible. If we really – and not in name only – give priority and weight to the best interests of children, then the available research provides us with a very clear message. This message is that:

  • after intact two-parent families, the outcomes for children in post-divorce shared parenting arrangements prove to be the next best situation for children to grow up in
  • post-divorce shared parenting arrangements are in the best interest of the child(ren), while sole care arrangements in single parent families are not
  • shared parenting and keeping both parents involved in children’s lives after parental separation and divorce seems to be the only way to go.

This very clear message does not only emerge from the available social research discussed. It is also communicated to us by the civil servants that are in charge of society’s institutions that have to deal on a daily basis with the effects of mother-only custody, care and residency practises and fatherlessness of children.

In April 2008 the British senior judge Mr. Justice Coleridge, responsible for family courts across South-West England, shortly after having passed judgement in the divorce of Sir Paul McCartney from Heather Mills, in a speech to British family lawyers launched a devastating attack on the fractured and fragmentising British society caused by family breakdown and divorce. In his speech he warned British government that family life in the fractured British society was now not only in disarray but in complete meltdown. Quoting from the Daily Mail this is what the senior judge said:

“Family life is in ‘meltdown’. Family breakdown is a “cancer” behind almost every evil affecting the country. Mr Justice Coleridge blames youth crime, child abuse, drug addiction and binge-drinking on the “meltdown” of relations between parents and children. He warns that the collapse of the family unit is a threat to the nation as bad as terrorism, crime, drugs or global warming.

The speech to family lawyers contains a fierce attack on the “neglect” of successive governments. The 58-year-old judge, who is married with three grown-up children, will say family breakdown is an epidemic affecting all levels of society from the Royal Family down. It is “on a scale, depth and breadth which few of us could have imagined even “a decade ago. It is a never-ending carnival of human misery. A ceaseless river of human distress. “I am not saying every broken family produces dysfunctional children but I am saying that almost every dysfunctional child is the product of a broken family.”

The judge, who is in charge of family courts across South-West England, will say he has a duty to speak out. He will call on the Government to put the family at the top of its agenda, alongside the economy and the war on terror – and make it “rather more important than taking oaths of allegiance”. His speech will say: “Families are the cells which make up the body of society. If the cells are unhealthy and undernourished, or at worse cancerous and growing haphazard and out of control, in the end the body succumbs. “In some of the more heavily populated urban areas, family life is quite frankly in meltdown or completely unrecognisable . . . it is on an epidemic scale. In some areas of the country family life in the old sense no longer exists.”

The judge condemns families with a mother and several absentee fathers. He says: “Single parents often do a fantastic job, but a great many, perhaps through no fault of their own, do not. “A large number of families now consist of children being brought up by mothers who have children by a number of different fathers, none of whom take any part in their lives or support or upbringing. “These are not isolated, oneoff cases. They are part of the stock-in-trade of the family courts.”

Judge Coleridge has spent the past eight years presiding over cases of divorce, children in care and family break-up.” (Source: Coleridge, Daily Mail, 4 April 2008)

And speaking to The Times of 21 August 2006, Rod Morgan, the chairman of the UK Youth Justice Board, said:

“What many young children lack are any sorts of boundaries being set to their behaviour so that literally they don’t know how to behave properly. There has not been a role model to explain things and to set boundaries. Most children we know like a reasonably structured existence and many don’t have it,” he said. He said that, without change, increasing numbers of young people would be drawn into the formal criminal justice system, a trend that has accelerated since Labour came to power. Between 35,000 and 40,000 young people are today being prosecuted in front of magistrates. Ten years ago many would have been punished informally outside the courts. “What magistrates are telling us is that many young people are coming before the youth courts who, in their judgment, don’t need to be [there]. … — the police are more and more being used as a disciplinary back-up force …

… Mr Morgan blames changes in demographics and the rise in the proportion of lone-parent families, particularly those headed by a woman, for the problems. “We know that the proportion of families where young parents — often mothers bringing up a child alone without the presence of a male role model and a father present on the scene, and without the support of an extended family — are having to cope with more and more challenging child behaviour in fairly deprived areas.” He said that some children were being raised in homes without even the most basic discipline being imposed, such as instructions about what time they should be up or back indoors. That behaviour presented serious problems in schools, where teachers’ confidence was undermined by the threat of being taken to court or by parents who have no regard for authority.” (Morgan, The Times, 21 August 2006)

4. Fracturing societies: the scope of the problem of broken families and fatherlessness

To give you a better idea of the scope and extent of the problem of broken families and fatherlessness in most countries of the European Union, allow me to first draw you a picture of the present situation of family breakdown in the Netherlands, as that is the country I come from and know the best.

An estimated total number of 60.000 new children – coming from both breaking marriages and breaking registered partnerships – are experiencing the divorce or separation of their parents in the Netherlands every year (every day 160 Dutch children are experiencing the divorce and separation of their parents).

From a total of 3.2 million children in the Netherlands between the ages of 0 and 18 years old, an estimated 1 million children have already experienced the divorce or separation of their parents. This has resulted in a situation where it is now estimated that 1/3 of all Dutch children are from broken families.

Most of these Dutch children of divorce and separation (an estimated 85% to 90%, i.e. 850.000 to 900.000 children) grow up in mother-only care and residency in single-parent mother-headed families with their fathers being non-resident and living elsewhere.

Measured one year from the time of divorce or separation an estimated 45% of the Dutch children of divorce and separation have lost all further contact with their fathers and are growing up completely fatherless in mother-headed single-parent-families or patchwork stepfamilies. Another 45% of the Dutch children of divorce and separation are estimated to grow up with their mother while their fathers are being marginalised and the children have only minimal, reduced and restricted contact and access arrangements with their fathers of one weekend every two weeks and some extra time during school holidays. (Cresskill, Griffith & Hekman, 1986)

This results in a situation in the Netherlands where an estimated 500.000 Dutch children of divorce and separation grow up completely fatherless (15% of all Dutch children), while another 500.000 Dutch children of divorce and separation grow up with marginalised fathers (another 15% of all Dutch children).

This situation of 30% of children left fatherless or with marginalized fathers after parental separation is prevalent in most European Union countries, including the new East European members. The incidence of fatherlessness tends to be still somewhat lower in Southern European countries and higher in Northern European countries.

For future trends we need to look at the USA, being at the forefront of the situation where Europe is also heading to. And in the USA now already 40% of all children are growing up completely fatherless (Source: Newsweek figures from January 2006).

A recent Dutch research study on the Parental Alienation Syndrome in the Netherlands (Kaplan, 2008) found PAS in the Netherlands to be a much bigger problem than was previously estimated. Some of the main conclusions of the Dutch study on Parental Alienation are:
• 72% of Dutch separated fathers believe PAS to be a problem.
• 64% of mothers believe PAS to be a problem
• According to father’s PAS is a severe problem in 21% of cases
• But according to mothers PAS is only a severe problem in 10% of cases.
• Overall Dutch fathers consider serious PAS twice as big a problem as Dutch mothers

5. The present status of shared parenting legislation after parental separation in Europe

Current judicial practice of mother care and custody is heavily influenced by John Bowlby and Anna Freud. In the 1950’s and 1960’s this view of mother’s role was revolutionary. The validity of this view has now been doubted and the judiciary has not kept pace with present day psychiatry.

The upshot of this is an over-reliance by judges on their own abilities to be able to award custody in terms of black and white (father versus mother) instead of shades of grey, i.e. shared parenting. The focus of the courts seem to be always in making the grandiose custody statement for children, instead of delivering care and residence arrangements in minute detail making shared parenting into a real possibility and delivering peace between the two adversarial parents by keeping both parents involved in children’s lives.

The present dominant European family legislation and family court practice regarding court ordered parenting arrangements after parental separation, is still a combination of joint legal custody legislation combined with sole physical custody. Courts are giving children to the sole care and residency of one parent, i.e. the custodial parent who is nearly always the mother, while the noncustodial parent is made nonresidential to the children and further put at a distance and excluded from his/her own children by:

- highly limited access or contact arrangements for noncustodial parents (normally limited to one weekend every two weeks, making serious parenting impossible)

- a deliberate policy of non-intervention by the courts when court-ordered access arrangements are broken by the custodial parent, usually the mother

- severely repressive legislation aimed at criminalizing noncustodial parents who do not accept being excluded from their children (stalking legislation, DV legislation, abduction legislation, restrictive injunction orders, etc.)

- fiscal and welfare policies and practices are geared to favor and support children, but only when living with one half of their separated families. This is often combined with extraction of money from the officially designated non-resident parent for support of the “family with children” which the state itself has imposed upon that family.

This choice of discriminative and repressive instruments implemented to achieve social policy goals seems to be common in all countries of the European Union.

More and more policy makers are seeing the writing on the wall. The ramifications include rising youth crime, an aging population and a lower birthrate. The well-documented disastrous effects that family law and family court policies have on children’s lives are becoming obvious, with ever increasing demands for larger budgets so that social services can meet the demand of broken families. The consequences of children growing up excluded from half of their families cannot be ignored.

The reaction of policy makers so far – and this can be observed as a generalized reaction to many policy situations today – is to make largely cosmetic adjustments to the present defective system which will take an inordinate time to have any effect (if ever), These types of policy already have a proven track record of failure. To make a mark on the problem, it is not enough to copy failed solutions from other jurisdictions.

6. Looking at the present trend in family law reform in EU countries (Europe)

We are now witnessing a distinctive shift in the different national family law systems of the countries in the European Union. Following the strong previous family law tradition of single care, residency and custody orders and practices favouring mothers during the second half of the twentieth century (as the only meaningful parent after divorce), There is a distinctive shift towards more equal and shared parenting arrangements and keeping both parents involved in the post-divorce care and residency arrangements for their children.

The first mainly symbolic steps of acknowledging the importance of both parents in children’s lives were based on Article 8 (Article on family life) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) (Council of Europe, 1950, 2003). As a result a post-divorce presumption of joint legal custody was put in effect in family law since the late nineties of last century (1996/1998) in several EU countries, including Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The present general European trend within family law reform in European countries is, however, most definitely pointing strongly in the direction of moving away from sole physical custody and care legislation with court practices tending towards joint and equal physical custody and care legislation. Both trends recognize the importance of keeping both parents and extended families actively involved in children’s lives after parental separation.

Let me give you some brief summaries by country on the present state of Shared Parenting Legislation in the countries of the European Union:

a. Italy now has a mix of joint legal custody and elements of joint physical custody since a law change that came into effect on 16th March 2006.

b. France has a mix of joint legal custody and elements of joint physical custody (Residence Alternee) that came into effect in 2002. An estimated 17% of French children of divorce are now growing up in shared parenting and alternating residence arrangements.

c. Belgium on the initiative of its Socialist Party now has implemented presumptive 50/50 joint physical custody legislation (effective bi-location of the children) after parental separation in both its House of Commons and Senate which came into effect when it was formally published by the Belgian Federal Government on the 4th of September 2006. An estimated 35-45% of present Belgian divorces are now resulting in shared parenting and alternating residence arrangements. The new Belgian federal law on bi-location will be discussed at more length in my presentation below.

d. The Netherlands like Norway, Germany etc. since 1998 do have presumptive shared parental authority after divorce, but they only have a very weak “equal parenting and care” presumption in their family law, which in legal practice only allows for alternating residence when the mother consents.

In the Netherlands joint legal custody was implemented in family law by the Dutch Parliament in 1998 making joint legal custody the standard for post-divorce parental authority. And with the new Dutch Law on Continued Parenting after Separation (no. 30145), that went into effect on 1 January 2009, this was followed by the introduction in Dutch family law of the basic principle of the equality of both parents and the presumption of equal parenting (both before and after divorce or separation, and regardless of whether the parents were previously married or not). The new Dutch family law also introduced an incentive for separating parents to come up with a mutually agreed parenting plan during the separation and divorce proceedings.

Considering however the poor Dutch tradition on effective family law reform, the mainly decorative value of Dutch family court orders for fathers and the Dutch family court’s tradition of legislating from the bench, it still remains to be seen what this new Dutch law will bring in day-to-day family court practises for divorcing and separating parents and their children.

e. In Germany, a regional professional court intervention model called the Cochem model, based on principles of shared parenting, is gathering strength. This German Cochem court practice model will be discussed at more length in my presentation below. In this model parents are only allowed access to the family court for parental separation and divorce after they have themselves also filed a shared post-divorce parenting plan agreed by and between both of them.

The German federal minister of Justice has previously (February 2006) announced future family law reform in which “elements of the Cochem model of multi-disciplinary court orchestrated intervention” are to be integrated into the German family law. Which elements, however, are as of yet unknown. This family law reform at the federal level has, therefore, not yet materialized.

f. Spain introduced a new shared parenting law in mid-2005 which is regarded as wholly inadequate by Spanish family rights lobbyists. Government officials and professionals on their own initiative are attempting to introduce policies reintegrating alienated children with their alienated parents and there is a vigorous movement for change.

Spain also already has alternating residence legislation in three of its regions: Cataluna, Aragon and Valencia. The national government is now preparing a national law proposal on custodia compartida and alternating residence, but there are strong concerns that the presumption of alternating residence in it will be strongly compromised by gender discriminative domestic violence regulations which will only solicit and give rise to further gender wars and false accusations between the parents instead of peace.

g. CZECHIA: Finally there is a Czech High Court jurisprudence presumption on alternating residence that has not (yet) specifically resulted in alternating residence law reform.

h. The UK under the present conservative government has, as of yet, failed to legislate for promised shared parenting legislation in its new Children and Families Bill that is now still under debate in its House of Lords. No effective shared parenting laws are in existence. In a study of the British Law Commission’s research papers it was found that court-ordered shared parenting was commonly practiced in the south part of England in the second half of the last century until it was eliminated by the Children Act 1989 (Whiston, 2009a). Also some judicially-motivated efforts to introduce norms of shared parenting do exist, in spite of the family-hostile parameters of the present law and fiscal framework.

i. Luxembourg is also said to have introduced post-divorce joint physical custody legislation.

Other jurisdictions

- Australia passed a Shared Parenting Bill in the Senate in 2006 of the window dressing sort. Australia in fact is a good example of the sort of jurisdiction that repeatedly passing pretend laws that are having no real effects on keeping both parents involved in children’s lives after parental separation. And each time it is claimed that the present law proposal will be better than the last, while children of separation continue to grow up in a family-hostile environment. The same pattern can be observed in EU-countries like the UK, the Netherlands and Spain.

- In the USA several states have implemented shared parenting legislation.

7. Belgian law on alternating residence of 2006

Since September 2006 the Belgian federal law on “bi-location” or “alternating residence” came into effect after having passed both houses in the Belgian federal parliament. [4]This new law additionally introduced a presumption of joint physical custody, care and residency as the norm or preferred post-divorce parenting arrangement to be ordered by the Belgian family courts. Furthermore immediate unilateral court-access for either of the divorced or separated parents in requesting for additional reinforcement orders if needed was introduced.

Contrary to common belief the Belgian family law reform of September 2006 however did not introduce a 50/50 joint physical care and residency arrangement as the fixed end-result for all divorcing or separating Belgian parents. Instead it introduced a presumption of dual location or shared residency which by law should be taken into serious consideration and thorough investigation with priority in each individual case by the Belgian family courts and judges on the request of either one of the divorcing parents individually and separately.

So it was introduced in the Belgian alternating residence law of 2006 that when only one of the separating parent parties requests the Belgian court for an alternating or shared residency and care order in the divorce and custody proceedings, the law puts the Belgian family courts and judges under the obligation to seriously investigate alternating and shared residence of the children with both parents first and foremost as leading in the court-orders to be subsequently imposed in the divorce and separation proceedings, even when the other parent party did not consent to the alternating residence request. In effect the wishes with regard to the post-divorce residency and care arrangements of either parent parties involved were thus again acknowledged and reinstated at the core of Belgian family law and family court proceedings regarding physical custody, residency and care.

Furthermore Belgian family court judges were also endowed by the law with the obligation to explicitly specify in writing their motives for decisions and provisions with regard to the imposed post-divorce residence and care arrangements if they were to deviate from the presumptive and preferred bi-location or alternating residence and care arrangement in their court-orders.

These new Belgian law provisions have put shared parenting at the forefront of the Belgian family courts decision-making regarding the care, access and residency of the children involved, while the need and obligation imposed by law on the Belgian family courts and judges to extensively specify in writing in their imposed court-orders as to why a shared parenting or bi-location order was not imposed, opens the possibility for appeal of the courts decisions and motivations.

A further additional but underestimated new element of the Belgian family law reform also is that divorce and custody cases in the Belgian Court are by law kept open and are never closed until the children are mature. At the same time the Belgian law introduction of immediate or priority access to the courts and judges on the request of either one of the parties one-sidedly. This can be activated unilaterally and individually – without the need of being represented by a lawyer at the court-session requested for – for additional reinforcement orders of the court when the court-ordered parenting arrangements were not sufficiently complied with by the other parent and when there were complaints about the other parent with regard to abiding by the specific parenting arrangements laid down by the judge in the original case residency, care and access order(s) given.

Abstract

All across Europe the child custody debate has moved to the top of the political agenda. The battle lines are essentially the stark choice between mother-only-custody of the child versus shared parenting where both parents are participants in child custody and care. Much is at stake – not just for gender feminists, who support the former, and fathers and equality feminists, who support the latter, but also for children and whether the balanced, healthy society we all seek will become a reality. This is a clash that must be won. It cannot, as American author Warren Farrell famously said, be an undeclared war won at a battlefield where only one side turned up. The question today is whether children in the post divorce scenario grow up to be a liability and burden on the state, or a jewel in society’s crown ? After 30 years of feigning deafness, politicians across Europe are acknowledging the contributions and efforts fathers should be allowed to make to young children if they are ever to be properly ‘socialised’.” This cannot be done under the present regime of mother-only-custody still to be found in most European countries.

This presentation will address the psychological and emotional needs of children but it will also mention the concrete changes underway. Fathers, who for too long were excluded from the social policy level and who were denied any input in shaping policy, are today making small inroads. For instance, there are developments in shared parenting to be found in EU countries like Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Czechia and to a degree in Dutch and German family law which I will also cover in this paper. Slowly, ‘outcomes’ for so long championed by fathers’ organisations, are being adopted as the criterion rather than ideologically driven dogma. It was just 10 years ago that the consensus was that it was unnecessary for a father to have any role after birth and fathers were increasingly seen as superfluous to children’s needs. Slowly, as society has unravelled, it has been recognised that children in fatherless families run greater mortality and morbidity risks. That their ‘quality of life’ is poor, their ‘live chances’ negligible. Without fathers present they become victims of physical abuse, emotional and sexual abuse, have poor health, poor education, become drink and drug dependent, homeless and jailed.

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  • Luepnitz, D.A. (1982) Child custody: A study of families after divorce, Lexington, M.A.: Lexington Books.
  • Luepnitz, D.A. (1986) A comparison of maternal, paternal, and joint custody: Understanding the varieties of post-divorce family life, Journal of Divorce, 9(3):1-12.
  • Morgan, R. (2006) Teachers have lost courage to tackle bad behaviour, UK Times, By Richard Ford, Home Correspondent, August 21, 2006, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2321556,00.html
  • Noonan, L.P. (1984) Effects of long-term conflict on personality functioning of children of divorce, Doctoral thesis, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, Berkeley. UMI No. 84- 17931.
  • Nunan, S.A. (1980) Joint custody versus single custody effects on child development, Doctoral thesis, California School of Professional Psychology, Berkeley, UMI No. 81-10142.
  • O’Neill, R. (2002), Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family, A Meta-analytic study, Civitas, Institute for the Study of Civil Society, September 2002
    http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/Experiments.pdf
  • Öberg, Gunnar; Öberg, Bente (1985) Den delade familjen : samtal med 60 familjer om gemensam vårdnad, Stockholm University, Pedagogiska institutionen, Forskningsrapport nr 26
  • Öberg, B., Öberg, G. (1985) Den delade familjen, Stockholm: Pedagogiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet, Forskningsrapport nr 26.
  • Öberg, B., Öberg, G. (1987) Skiljas – men inte från barnen, Stockholm: Natur och Kultur.
  • Öberg, B., Öberg, G. (1992) Pappa, se mig! Om förnekade barn och maktlösa fäder. Stockholm: Förlagshuset Gothia. Utgiven i samarbete med Rädda Barnen.
  • Pojman, E. (1982) Emotional adjustment of boys in sole custody and joint custody compared with adjustment of boys in happy and unhappy marriages. Los Angeles: California Graduate Institute, Doctoral dissertation.
  • Ringbäck Weitoft, G., Hjern, A., Haglund, B., Rosén, M. (2003), Mortality, severe morbidity, and injury in children living with single parents in Sweden: a population-based study, The Lancet, Elsevier, Volume 361, Number 9354, 25, January 2003
  • Rudolph, J. (2007) Du bist mein Kind; Die Cochemer Praxis, Wege zu einem menschlicheren Familienrecht (You are my child; The Cochem practise, inroads to a more human family law), Berlin, 2007
  • Shiller, V. (1984) Joint and Maternal Custody: The outcome for boys aged 6-11 and their parents, Doctoral thesis, University of Delaware. UMI No. 85-11219.
  • Shiller, V. (1986 a) Loyalty conflicts and family relationships in latency age boys: A comparison of joint and maternal custody, Journal of Divorce 9:17-38.
  • Shiller, V. (1986 b) Joint versus maternal custody for families with latency age boys: Parent characteristics and child adjustment, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 56:486-489.
  • Spruijt, E. (2007), Scheidingskinderen; Overzicht van recent sociaal-wetenschappelijk onderzoek naar de gevolgen van ouderlijke scheiding voor kinderen en jongeren (Children of divorce; Review of recent social research into the effects of parental separation for children and adolescents), Netherlands, SWP, April 2007
  • Steinman, S. (1981) The experience of children in a joint-custody arrangement, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 51:403-414.
  • Tornstam, L. (1996, 2000) Dwelling Choices for the Children of Separated Parents (Separationsbarns boende), Nordisk Socialt Arbeid, 1996(3):193-203, Translation by Dr. Mark Wood, Men’s Rights Agency, http://www.mensrights.com.au/dwelling.pdf
  • Tromp, P.A.N. (2006), Present status of shared parenting legislation in Europe, Father Knowledge Centre Europe, Netherlands, June 2006
  • Vårdnadstvistutredningen: Vårdnad boende umgänge (SOU 1995:79).
  • Whiston, R. (2009a) Children Act 1989: The elimination of shared parenting, Presentation held at the International Conference on Family and Equality “Justice and Father’s & Men’s Dignity” on 2-4 January 2009 in Drama, Greece.
  • Whiston, R. (2009b) Law is parochial, Presentation held at the International Conference on Family and Equality “Justice and Father’s & Men’s Dignity” on 2-4 January 2009 in Drama, Greece.
  • Wolchik, S.A., Braver, S.L., & Sandler, I.N. (1985). Maternal versus joint custody: Children’s postseparation experiences and adjustment. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 14, 5-10.
  • Zohrab, P.D. (2009) The Move to Female Subjectivity as the Standard for Law and Policy, Presentation held at the International Conference on Family and Equality “Justice and Father’s & Men’s Dignity” on 2-4 January 2009 in Drama, Greece.

________________________________
Peter Tromp MSc, Child and educational psychologist, Platform for European Fathers (PEF), Brussels and Father Knowledge Centre Netherlands, Utrecht

Appendix A: Dutch public opinion survey on the preference of the Dutch population for shared parenting legislation

 

Dutch, at 71% go ‘shared parenting mad’

Peter Tromp MSc and Robert Whiston FRSA, Dutch Father Knowledge Centre Press Release, September 14, 2012

The Dutch term for shared parenting is ‘verblijfsco-ouderschap’ (or co-residential parenting) which broadly translates as shared or co-parenting.

In a national representative opinion survey with the Dutch public 71% said they agreed with co-parenting after divorce as the legal presumption for postdivorce custody, residence and care arrangements. And, despite minority feminist protests against the concept of shared or co-parenting, Dutch women even more than men favoured the newer regime – 76% of the Dutch women as opposed to 67% of the Dutch men supported shared parenting legislation to be implemented.

One of the many surprising results found that women , at 52%, were significantly more in favour than men (at 39%), in believing that ‘residential co-parenting’ after a divorce or separation in principle should start immediately after childbirth, i.e. is not child-age-restricted or limited to older children.

The poll, undertaken in Sept 2012 by the opinion research firm IPSOS Synovate (“The Political Barometer“), in conjunction with the Dutch based ‘Father Knowledge Centre’ asked a series of inter-related questions probing the preferences and opinions of the Dutch general public.

The main results of opinion poll commissioned by IPSOS Synovate and the Father Knowledge Centre found that a two-thirds majority (7 out of 10) of the Dutch think that co-parenting is the best solution after a divorce. In addition:

  • Almost half (45%) of the Dutch think that co-parenting (shared care and accommodation) after a separation should be possible – even immediately after birth.
  • 8 out of 10 (80%) of respondents believes that schools and agencies dealing with their children should keep both parents equally well-informed and involved in the development of their child after divorce or separation.
  • Slightly more than half (53%) believed that parental and access arrangements which have been ordered by the court should be complied with.

 

Sample size

The survey was conducted on-line by IPSOS Synovate on behalf of the Father Knowledge Centre among a representative sample of 1,243 Dutch people aged 18 years and older. The results are subsequently weighted by age, gender, education and region, so that the group surveyed a good reflection of Dutch society.

Further analysis

This particular survey is significant in that it generates information not only about the respondee’s gender (male / female), and age, but also their intended voting preferences. [1]

There are far more Political Parties in Holland than we are accustomed to in the UK and with apparently similar names it would be helpful to list them for the reader.

Political Parties in the Netherlands
SP (Dutch Socialists) PVV (Dutch Social Conservatives)
D66 (Dutch Liberal Democrats) VVD (Dutch Liberal Conservatives – now in government)
CDA (Dutch Christian Democrats) PvdA (Dutch Social Democrats – now in government [Labour] )

Some of the disaggregated results based on gender (male / female), region and age, etc, are shown below:

  • Co-parenting was chosen as the best solution after a divorce by 74% of respondents who had a secondary education and 75% by those with a higher education. The figure in support of co-parenting among less well-educated Dutch respondents was lower at 64%.
  • Dutch women have a significantly stronger preference for co-parenting after divorce than men (Women: 76% Men: 67%).
  • The majority of Dutch women (52%) believed that residential co-parenting after divorce or separation in principle could start immediately after childbirth, i.e. is not child-age-bound and limited to older children. A significant minority of men (not necessarily fathers) agreed, i.e. women: 52%, men: 39%).

Small generational divide

  • The older Dutch generation of (those aged over 50) were significantly more in favour, at 76%, of residential co-parenting after divorce and separation as the best post-separation parenting solution, than the middle-aged generation of the 35 and 49 year olds, at 66%.
  • It was also found among the Dutch survey that the older generation (aged 50 + and by a margin of 84%) were significantly more likely to favour schools and institutions informing both parents equally after separation and be involved in the development of their child. The younger generation, i.e. those aged 18 to 34 supported this slightly less, at 75%).

Political analysis

  1. Respondents belonging to the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) and the Social Liberal Party (D66), strongly supported shared and co-parenting after divorce, at 79% and 80% respectively.
  2. The Christian Democratic (CDA) and the right-wing PVV party preferred the shared /co parenting option by over two-thirds, at 66% and 69% respectively.
  3. Dutch voters who at the last Dutch national elections of September 12th, 2012 preferred to vote for Dutch Social Democratic Party (PvdA), which is now in the government coalition supported co-parenting in 79% of cases.
  4. Among D66 voters, the Dutch Liberal Democratic Party, 80% of respondees found residential co-parenting significantly more often the best solution for parenting arrangements after divorce or separation,
  5. The Dutch who preferred to vote for the Dutch Christian Democratic Party (CDA), in 66% of instances preferred co-parenting for custody arrangements after divorce.
  6. Those who voted for the Dutch Social Conservative Party (PVV), at the last Dutch national elections of Sept 12th 2012 expressed a 69% preference in favour of shared/co-parenting for custody arrangements after divorce.

The implications for all British politicians and electoral success is clear.

END

 

References:

A similar study has previously taken place in Belgium and was published in the largest French-speaking Belgian newspaper ‘Le Soir’ on 25 June 2012:

See the original Le Soir article about the Belgian research:

  • Divorce: la garde a la cote alternee (Le Soir Belge – DORZEE, HUGUES – Page 7 – Lundi 25 June 2012).
  • Une majorité the Belges preconise la garde alternee (Le Soir Belge – Page 1 – Lundi 25 June 2012).

Dutch translation of the Le Soir article:

And in collaboration with the partner organizations of the Father Knowledge Centre within the Platform for European Fathers (PEF), these surveys also in other European countries still take place.

END

Footnotes:


[1] The breakdown was by a). gender (male / female), b). region, c). age, d). training / education and e). political voting preference as at the last Dutch national elections of Sept 12th  2012.

Appendix B: Belgian public opinion survey on the preference of the Belgian population for shared parenting legislation

 

The majority of Belgians (69,5%) favor their shared parenting law

Source: Belgium – Le Soir – Page 1 – Translated from French to English by Pieter Tromp – Monday, June 25, 2012

A majority of Belgians (69,5%) favors joint physical care and residence of the children after divorce

According to a poll conducted for the Francophone Belgian family and parenting magazine Filiatio, seven out of ten Belgians are in favor of equal accommodation or bilocation of the child between the homes of divorced parents. This type of care is far preferred above sole care arrangements for the children with one of the parents, combined with a “fortnightly weekend of access with the other parent ” (15.2%) or the “5/9″ – parenting arrangement with the children staying five days with one of the parents, and nine days with the other parent ( 5.2%).

A clear difference was observed between the Belgian language communities: with joint physical care, residence and custody being more popular with the Flemish (81.2%) than with the Francophone (54.5%) community. “The socio-economic factor must play a role”, analyses Prof. Yves-Henri Leleu, a specialist in family law at the University of Liège (ULg): “Accommodation in alternating residence arrangements costs is more expensive: it takes two homes, two cars, etc.. Also the “northern (Flemish) counties” are more emancipated. Finally, there is certainly more family support services made available (crèches, nurseries …) on the Flemish side. “

Divorce: Shared parenting is popular in Belgium

Source: Belgium – Le Soir – DORZEE, HUGHES – Page 7 – Translated from French by Pieter Tromp – Monday, June 25, 2012

Families – A survey by « Filiatio » confirms the attractiveness for equally shared physical custody, care and residence

A couple separates: Who will take care of the children? Mom or Dad, or both? The vast majority of Belgians favor alternating residence and shared parenting after the divorce.

According to a survey conducted by AEGIS / Deep Blue, on behalf of the magazine Filiatio (1), nearly seven out of ten respondents (69, 5%) favor an egalitarian accommodation of the children with both their parents after divorce.

This type of care is far preferred above sole care arrangements for the children with one of the parents, combined with a “fortnightly weekend of access with the other parent” (15.2%) or the “5/9″ – parenting arrangement with the children staying five days with one of the parents, and nine days with the other parent (5.2%).

However, there is a clear difference between the north / the south: this mode of “custody” is praised more by the Flemish (81.2%) community than by the Francophones (54.5%). The reasons? “The socio-economic factor must play a role”, analyses Prof. Yves-Henri Leleu, a specialist in family law at the University of Liège (ULg): “Accommodation in alternating residence arrangements costs is more expensive: it takes two homes, two cars, etc.. Also the “northern (Flemish) countries” are more emancipated. Finally, there are certainly also more family support services made available (crèches, nurseries …) on the Flemish side.”

A view shared by the authors of the survey: “There is also greater professional support in family law in Flanders. And, conversely, greater resistance on the French side,” says Céline Lefevre from the magazine Filiatio.

“Avoiding Conflicts”
Either way, the results of this survey are surprising. They confirm the evolution of mentalities in Belgium and abroad (France, Spain, Italy …). This evolution results from a new legislative framework – the Belgian Bilocation Act of September 14, 2006 – in which judges are encouraged to review egalitarian care, residence and housing arrangements of the children with both parents with “priority”. Unless it is “manifestly contrary to the interests of the child.”

In order to decide, the judge takes into account different criteria (geographical distance, “the serious unavailability” of a parent, the age of the child, expressed non-interest in caring for the children or neglect of the children …). “The law does not require or prescribe a generalization of the bilocation formula, but focuses on advocating an agreement and avoiding disputes. If neither of the parents approves for joint physical custody, the judge will not impose it automatically,” says Professor Leleu.

But the trend is there: the “equally shared care and residence” has gradually become accepted and entering the customs. While it has both its advantages (maintaining bonds with both parents equally; giving free time to both parents …) and its disadvantages (instability and displacement, an obligation to “double” necessary accommodation facilities …), as is shown in a study by the University of Liège (Casman, 2010).

In addition, ‘part time’ parents also seem to have a typical profile: 30-40 years, higher educated, steady jobs with employers, having flexible working schedules, etc.

And in practice?
We do not have data to assess objectively the part of court decisions in favor of this type of care.

“In general”, Céline Lefevre adds, ”it seems that the egalitarian accommodation or bilocation is under-represented in court decisions. So there would be a discrepancy between what Belgian people think and what is applied by judges.”

“Each case is specific”, tempers Professor Leleu. “This type of accommodation is not applicable all the time. In some cases, it is counter-indicated (geographical distance from parents, tensions between the parents …). In addition, it requires a lot of dialogue between the former spouses (medical follow-up, sports activities …)”

The survey Filiatio has conducted also considered other aspects of family life (child report, the role of law, court delays …), including mediation. Again the conclusion is clear: more than six out of ten Belgians (64%) are in favor of “imposing obligatory mediation to separating parents.”

(1) This survey was conducted by telephone in March 2012 based on a representative sample of 500 people aged 18-70 years with a margin of error of 4.4%. (www.filiatio.be)

69.5%
This is the percentage of Belgians in favor of “equally shared physical care and residence”. With strong differences between the Flemish (81.2%) and the French (54.5%) communities in Belgium.

Original articles in French:


[1] Peter Tromp MSc is a child and educational psychologist, secretary general of the Platform for European Fathers (PEF) and president of the Dutch Father Knowledge Centre (VKC – Vader Kennis Centrum). He can be contacted at Jacob Cabeliaustraat 17; 3554 VH Utrecht; Netherlands; T. 0031. 30.238 3636; M. 0031.6245.06249; Skype: Peterpan17; E. secretary@europeanfathers.eu; and tromp@casema.nl; I. www.europeanfathers.eu ; www.vaderkenniscentrum.nl

[2] Because children are the future of any society, I will take in my presentation the perspective of the children involved in divorce in documenting some of the effects of divorce. This does not mean however that divorces do not also have profound effects on the quality of life of the divorcing adults involved. They do. But – although in most of the psychological literature divorce is acknowledged as one of the main life course events and possible trauma’s – not much research is readily available yet on the exact traumatising effects of parental alienation and exclusion resulting from the destructive sole care and residence practises of Western family law systems and family court practises on the divorcing adult parents. One recent Dutch study documented however that divorced parents count for 48% more of company’s and society’s sick leave costs in the workspace (Kunst a.o., 2007). Also a relationship between divorce and suicide has been documented. This indicates that the costs of divorce for society and companies are still far from being documented extensively and can be expected to be tremendous, both for children and the adults involved.

[3] It is not within the scope of this presentation to further elaborate on the parochial, subjective and irrational reasons why Western family law systems and family court practises instead still opt for single parent mother-only custody, care and residency as the preferred default and dominant presumption for post-divorce parenting arrangements. Instead I refer to the excellent presentations that were simultaneously held on this subject at the Drama conference by Robert Whiston FRSA (“Law is parochial”) and Peter D. Zohrab LLB, BA, BA(Hons), („The Move to Female Subjectivity as the Standard for Law and Policy“), to further elaborate on the critical issue of why subjective, irrational and parochial choices at present are leading in Western family law systems and family justice practises.

[4] Belgium already had a presumption of joint legal custody in its family law since the nineties of the last century.

Posted in 2013, Conference, Custody, English, Equal Parenting, Guardianship, LITHUANIAN ASSOCIATION AGAINST PARENTAL ALIENATION (APTA), PEF, PEF in the Media, Peter Tromp, Peter Tromp (VKC Netherlands Primary founding father and Secretary of PEF), Platform for European Fathers, Platform voor Europese Vaders, Secretary PEF, Shared Parenting, Shared residence, Vader Kennis Centrum, Vader Kennis Centrum (NL) | 2 Comments

Strasbourg Conference, October 23rd, 2013: Child custody in Europe

A mini-conference ‘Child Custody in Europe’ was held by Colibri Platform at the European Parliament Building in Strasbourg, France in the afternoon (H. 14:20 – 18:00 CET) of October, 23rd 2013.

  • For the program, papers and presentations see below.
  • The conference was held in the European Parliament Building in Strasbourg, France in Tower N, Room Low 3.1.

European Parliament (Tower N, Room Low 3.1.)
1 Avenue du Président Robert Schuman
67000 Strasbourg, France
+33 3 88 17 40 01
Europa.eu

Regards,
Peter Tromp MSc
Secretary general PEF

Available conference presentations and papers:
STRASBOURG – EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT – 23 OCTOBER 2013 Room LOW 3.1

Opening introductory speech by Hon. Roberta Angelilli, Vice President of European Parliament:

Drs. Jan Piet de Man, Psychologist for children and family, family mediator, Belgium:
JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY IN BELGIUM AND AGE-ADAPTED PARENTAL PLANS (ppt)

Dr. Antonio Jose Fialho, Judge of family Court, Portugal:
“SHARED RESIDENTIAL CUSTODY-PERMANENT CARE: THE PORTUGAL CASE”

Prof. Dr. Jur Hildegund Suenderhauf, Evangelische Hochschule Nürnberg, Fakultät für Sozialwissenschaften, Germany:
“SHARED PARENTING RESEARCH AND CUSTODY SITUATION IN GERMANY”

Dr. Simone Pillon, Lawyer : Italian Forum of the Families, Italy:
“IN THE NAME OF THE CHILDREN OR THE SOCIAL COST OF THE DIVORCE IN A BOOK”

Dr. Ioannis Paparigopoulos, Lawyer, President of Gonis Attika, Greece:
“CUSTODY IN GREECE AND MEDIATION IN THE WORLD”

Dr. Marc Juston, Judge, President of “ Tribunal de Grande Instance de Tarascon”, France:
“CUSTODY IN FRANCE AND TROUBLES OF FRENCH MODEL”

H.17.15 – Dr. José Luis Sariego Morillo, Lawyer and family mediator, Spain:
“CUSTODY IN SPAIN”

Mr. Robert Whiston, FRSA, Chairman of the Platform for European Fathers (PEF): “CUSTODY IN BRITAIN

Dr. Vittorio Vezzetti, Paediatrician, Scientific Responsible for European Platform for Joint Custody, Co-parenting and Childhood “Colibri”, Italy:

  • “FIRST COMPARATIVE SURVEY ON CUSTODY IN EUROPE”
  • “CONFERENCE CONCLUSIONS – A COMMON STRATEGY FOR CO-PARENTING IN EUROPE”

Videos from Strasbourg Conference on Custody in Europe – 23 October 2013

OCTOBER 23rd, 2013 - EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, STRASBOURG - FACING THE CRISIS OF THE FAMILY - IN THE NAME OF THE CHILDREN: FIRST COMPARATIVE SURVEY ON CHILDREN CUSTODY IN EUROPE

OCTOBER 23rd, 2013 – EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, STRASBOURG – FACING THE CRISIS OF THE FAMILY – IN THE NAME OF THE CHILDREN: FIRST COMPARATIVE SURVEY ON CHILDREN CUSTODY IN EUROPE; Accreditation by e mail to info@colibri-italia.it

Posted in Conference, European Parliament, Shared Parenting, Shared residence, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Bonn Conference, 10-11 August, 2013

Kick-off conference in Bonn and press information for Twohomes.org (New International Platform for Shared Parenting)

dl46&display PEF Secretary General Peter Tromp attended the kick-off conference for the new “International Platform for Shared Parenting” (Twohomes.org) in Bonn, Germany on 10 and 11 August 2013. Below you will find the Press Information issued afterwards, and links to the Program and Attendants list of the kick-off conference.

logo-pdr

Press Information

Two homes work better for children after separation

Shared parenting is a win-win-win situation

Bonn, Germany, 13 August 2013.

Shared parenting, with an equal standing of both parents, has been proved to be in the best interests of children, because they can stay in a meaningful relationship with both their mother and their father after separation or divorce. Shared parenting reconciles family and work. Shared parenting provides benefits to society.

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Experts from numerous countries met for the launch of twohomes.org in Bonn, Germany

“We must extinguish the flames of conflict between separated parents so that children can benefit from the support of their mothers and fathers. There must be more widespread awareness, acceptance and implementation of shared parenting as a viable and preferred solution among the public and involved professions.”

This resolution was adopted at the Kick-off Workshop of the International Platform on Shared Parenting (twohomes.org) held in Bonn, Germany, on 10-11 August 2013. This new organisation brings together the best of evidence-based research and modern best practices on shared parenting.

Parents organisations, family professionals and scientists from 14 countries in Europe and North America called upon governments, judges, lawyers, mediators and social workers to promote peace between parents and to develop new ways of helping families to operate better after separation.

Angela Hoffmeyer, initiator of the international cooperation, underlined: “Across Western societies there is increased enthusiasm for shared parenting. Our aim is to raise awareness of the benefits of this living arrangement for children and to overcome reservations still prevailing in the legal system.”

Recent Swedish research revealed that children in separated families with shared parenting experienced less bullying than those with only one involved parent. Previous research from three continents had already shown that after parental separation, children long for both parents and suffer when they have only little contact with one of them. Those with shared parenting do better in school and have lower rates of psychological problems, child abuse, substance abuse, behavioural problems, developmental problems, delinquency and teenage pregnancy.

Contact: Angela Hoffmeyer, phone +49-170-800 46 15, angela.hoffmeyer@twohomes.org

Website: www.twohomes.org

Press Information International Platform on Shared Parenting 2013-08-13.pdf


Link to the swedish report:

http://www.socialstyrelsen.se/publikationer2012/2012-5-15(external link)


International Platform on Shared Parenting twohomes.org

Kick-off Workshop on 10th and 11th of August 2013 in Bonn, Germany

In the context of international cooperation and networking, the “Project Group Shared Parenting”, which was initiated by the German organisation Väteraufbruch für Kinder e.V. (VAfK), hosts a kick-off workshop in Bonn on August 10-11, 2013. Our cooperation partners who participate in this workshop are scientists, family professionals and representatives of European and American parent organisations.

The kick-off workshop is meant to implement an exchange of experience and research as well as a cooperation at a new international level.

After a brief overview on the state of research and legal as well as practical implementation of Shared Parenting in the different countries (parts I and II), two issues represent the central subjects of part III:

  • the webplatform “twohomes.org” which is still under ongoing development
  • the structure and organisation of the future collaboration at an international level

Programme and List of participants:

International_Platform_on_Shared_Parenting_Kick-off_Workshop_Bonn-Programme.pdf(external link)

International_Platform_on_Shared_Parenting_Kick-off_Workshop_Bonn-Participants.pdf(external link)

Posted in 2013, English, International Platform on Shared Parenting, PEF, Peter Tromp, Peter Tromp (VKC Netherlands Primary founding father and Secretary of PEF), PEV, Platform for European Fathers, Platform voor Europese Vaders, Secretary PEF, Twohomes.org, Vader Kennis Centrum, Vader Kennis Centrum (NL) | Leave a comment