Lobby Your MP About Fathers' Rights
We've received many emails and facebook postings from dads who want fairer rights where their children are concerned and would like to lobby government to make this possible. We decided to help by putting together a letter structure for you to follow.
Dads who are separated from their kids often have cause for complaint – whether through their experience with the Family Court, Cafcass, the Child Support Agency (CSA), or the apparent bias shown towards mothers with care of the children. Issues are wide-ranging, but a huge number of separated dads want to be able to have their voices heard, and one of the best ways to do this is through your MP.
Your Member of ParliamentIt is your MP's job to represent the interests of his or her constituents, so you should only write to your own MP. Some of the most effective letters to MPs are written in your own words, using ordinary language. You should provide enough background as to your case to explain what has happened to you, and why you are asking for the support of or help from your MP.
Early Day MotionsEarly Day Motions (EDM) are motions tabled by MPs on particular issues that they wish to debate. MPs who agree with the EDM sign them, and, in some cases, the EDM can collect over 200 signatures. Because of the large number of EDMs in circulation at any one time, it is quite rare that the issue actually gets debated. That said, an EDM can often be widely reported and brings issues into the public consciousness. You can search for a list of EDMs online, and write to your MP to request that they sign one if it is something that you feel needs to be brought to their attention.
For example, EDM 373 relates to greater protection for children in cases where a mother wishes to relocate her child nationally or internationally. It is based on research by the charity Reunite, which states that too much emphasis is placed on the risk of distress to the mother if not allowed to relocate, and too little on the child's rights to see its father.
How to Write your LetterWhen you write to your MP, start with:
"As one of your constituents I am concerned about (insert your issue here), for example:
- The lack of enforcement by the family courts when a resident parent breaches an order relating to contact with the non-resident parent.
- Fairness and parity in the family courts for non-resident parents.
- The overt bias shown to mothers by officers of Cafcass.
- The Child Support Agency's rules relating to maintenance that is calculated by the number of overnight stays with the non-resident parent.
This affects me because (enter details about your particular circumstances here). A brief paragraph about what has happened to you and how you have been unfairly treated will suffice.
The next element of the letter should explain the basic framework that relates to your particular issue. MPs are confronted with many issues on a weekly basis and, as you have first hand experience of 'the system', you are much better placed to explain what your issue is. For example:
- The family court and Cafcass made recommendations as to contact with my children, which my ex-partner has completely ignored. I now have no contact with my children and the courts seem to be powerless to do anything about it. I feel that my children are being harmed emotionally, and I am being punished, because of my ex-partner's refusal to allow me to spend time with my children. By refusing to enforce the order or impose sanctions, the court is by implication in breach of my children's Article 8 rights (European Convention on Human Rights; right to family life).
- It is in the best interests of the vast majority of children to spend time with both their parents. As the non-resident parent I feel that, as I do not have day-to-day care of my children, the courts and Cafcass appear to be intrinsically biased towards the wellbeing of my children's mother. Too many of the decisions made by the courts focus on the happiness and satisfaction of parents with care, and I feel that the interests and emotional wellbeing of the non-resident parents and the children themselves are seen very much as secondary in the court process.
- Child Maintenance Payments are calculated on the basis of the number of overnight stays with a non-resident parent. In practical terms, however, I often spend the vast majority of the next day with my children and bear this financial burden. The maintenance calculation does not take these days into account. Surely, a fairer system would be to calculate actual days rather than the number of nights my children spend in my care.
What You Want DoneThis paragraph explains what you would like the MP to do in relation to your issue. For example:
- (If there's an EDM) I would therefore request that you consider signing EDM (enter number here).
- (If it's a general issue) I would therefore request that you approach Helen Goodman MP, who has responsibility for child maintenance/support, about this issue and possible reforms to prevent future injustices.
- (If it's about proposed legislation) I would be grateful if you could contact (insert name of MP), who is responsible for this element of the Bill.
If you require further information regarding this issue, you may find detailed analysis here: (only if there are particular sources of information that you feel your MP should consider along with your letter).
What Happens NextOnce you have written to your MP, you should receive a response. If you can, enter into a dialogue of correspondence, remembering to say thank you if they do something to help you. (A lot of MPs aren't thanked when they do help their constituents so if you are polite and grateful for their assistance, they'll remember you and be more willing to help!) Remember, if enough people raise the same issue it is much harder for Parliament to ignore it – and laws can be changed.
** NEW** Separated Dads Chat Room & ForumThe Separated Dads Forum is a place where you can discuss relevant issues and concerns including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or just have a general chat with other dads.
Please help us launch it and make it a great resource for dads going through difficult times. We hope to see you on the Forum soon....