I just wrote a long post about Fathers 4 Justice. The patriarchy ate it, so I’ll cut to the chase: Women who refuse to allow absent fathers contact with their children are NOT as a rule vengeful, capricious or manipulative. They, and often their children, are in fact far more likely to be disbelieved victims of abuse.

From Monday’s Guardian:

In the past decade, family courts have ordered 11 children to have contact with fathers who subsequently murdered them. A Women’s Aid report, Failure to Protect, found 18 cases of children ordered to have contact with fathers who had been convicted of schedule one offences – meaning violent crimes against children. It found that 64 children had been ordered to have contact with a parent whose behaviour had previously caused children to be placed on the child protection register. Of those, 21 had been ordered to have unsupervised contact with the abusive parent…

Family courts have a legal obligation to operate under a “presumption of contact” – meaning they must strive, wherever possible, to ensure that fathers see their children. Fathers4Justice claimed that the courts deny access in 40% of cases, but the actual figure is tiny. Even though two-thirds of contact court cases involve allegations of domestic violence – often towards the children as well as their mothers – the number of fathers denied access to their children by judges is just 1%. The family courts require exceptional circumstances to overrule this presumption of contact, and, indeed, some of the Fathers4Justice campaigners had been denied access for good reasons. The plot to kidnap Leo Blair, which led to the disbanding of the organisation earlier this year, offered an instructive insight into its members’ concern for a child’s wellbeing…

During a recent inspection of their service, [the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass)] officers frankly admitted: “The presumption of contact is so strong, it makes it difficult to challenge, and we don’t give adequate attention to the continuing impact of abuse on the child … We look for compromises, knowing the court will presume contact.”

Read the whole article. Read the case studies. Remember it next time you hear some fathers’ rights group talking about how they have been unable to enforce their contact order. Remember it, and ask yourself: why is the mother refusing this man access? What did he do?

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