Home > The Court Process > Equality in the Family Courts: Letter from Separated Dads to P.M

Equality in the Family Courts: Letter from Separated Dads to P.M

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 14 May 2020 |
Government Fathers Rights Father Child

Please see below the letter we sent on 12th May 2010. This was acknowledged on 19th May 2010, but as of today 16th May 2013, we have received no further correspondence from David Cameron and nothing at all from Nick Clegg. Ed Balls' response is here.

Does Lack of Response Reflect a Lack of Interest?

Does this reflect the lack of interest on the government's part? It is strange that equality is defended so fiercely in our society and yet, where separated fathers are concerned, it seems to be an irrelevance.

Letter sent on 12th May 2010 to:

David Cameron, Prime Minister

(and copied to)
Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister
Ed Balls, Shadow Children's Secretary

Dear Mr Cameron,

For many years now women have enjoyed equal rights in this country. Their rights of equality are recognised in the workplace, in the provision of goods and services, divorce and separation, and in all other areas of life, yet men who are separated from their partners and children continue to be treated as secondary parties in the Family Courts.

Fathers play a very important role in the mental and emotional development of their children, yet there have been many documented cases in which a father is allowed a woefully inadequate amount of contact: an hour a month in a supervised environment, or merely a few letters a year. The courts, Cafcass and others tend to be biased towards mothers and what they want, often prioritising the mother's emotional welfare over the child's needs.

If a father is lucky enough to secure a decent amount of contact, mothers can flout the order without any particular fear of reprisals. Individuals who breach other types of court orders are vigorously and fiercely pursued, yet in the family courts not enough is done to ensure that enforcement of a breach is a sufficient deterrent.

Whilst it is the child's welfare that is paramount in terms of contact with both parents, we believe that it is our children's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (right to family life) that are systematically breached under the current system.

We are an informal group of people who share a common aim – reform of treatment of fathers in the family courts. We are of no particular political persuasion, and come from all social, educational and financial circumstances. None of us formed our relationships or fathered our children thinking that we would ever be in this situation but we have, for various reasons, found ourselves in court fighting for the right to be fathers to our children.

Given that men and women enjoy equal rights elsewhere in society, why is there no legal presumption that men and women should share contact with a child between both parents? Separated single sex couples would not, and do not, have this problem. Fathers who are separated do not become worse parents as a result, neither do single mothers automatically become better parents. Of course, as loving, committed parents we want to be as much a part of our children's lives as possible – but the effect of non-contact with our children, often determined by a stranger at Cafcass with whom we have spent very little time, is detrimental to our children's growth and development as well as destroying many fathers' lives.

Fathers are too often the last party that the courts consider. We, for our part, would rather not be going to court at all, but do what is necessary to enable us to maintain relationships with the people who are of paramount importance to us in our lives. We implore the new government to prioritise a wholesale review of the family courts system, and to address the continuing discrimination against fathers to favour equal rights for fathers and mothers.

Yours faithfully

John Rowlinsonon behalf of

Here is the response we received from Ed Balls.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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[Add a Comment]
This is simply not the case, nor is it at all true that mothers are given any leniency. I agree some women play the system to be abusiveand the same is true of some fathers. There is no equality in this country, we have patriarchal systems, where the fathers needs are put before a child's right to a normal litigation free childhood. After 7 years, I have gone along with every contact order and before proceedings began, I began contact. Despite numerous professionals saying the case should close,and despite my teenager having contact with her father we are still in proceedings. Why? Because the father wants his child to respond to him in a nice way, he says it's not improving enough. How is that my or a courts responsibility, it's up to a parent to make sure the contact they have is positive and to know how to respond to a child Not a child's responsibility. And in reality these are complex psychological issues within a family context that should be dealt with outside of courts. They are not clear cut facts and even when there are, they don't seem to matter. Law is a money making game and it's not right that families are put through them and that someone can play the game better than someone else and this rather than truth is the determining factor in resolution. The whole thing is fundamentally flawed and broken and no one benefits other than the system. Also the lord chief justice for family courts is a lead supported of father for justice, so any bias that may exist is certainly not in the favour of women.
Rose - 14-May-20 @ 4:09 AM
Celyn’s dad part: but eventually I had to leave with my 2 boys and stay at a family refuge hostel.Long story short, she was swearing at my children often calling them degrading names. This time I had a young daughter with the mother.When I left, the mother said she would lie in court and can manipulate anyone.She seemed quite confident in knowing the courts are biased towards women and how things would turn out for me...She blocked my contact, so I made an application to court where the courts and CAFCASS decided i should receive 1night a week contact.To point out i was granted ‘homelessness status’ (its a legal status) due to domestic abuse from her to my children and please also remember I’ve brought 2 children up as a lone parent without and help from social services!I’m given 1 night a week contact. I’m sure if the roles were reversed it would be totally different!?!Moving on keeping in line with her promises the mother starts cancelling my contacts.With messages mocking me, she started accusing me of abuse of ‘every nature’ including taking photos of any bump or bruise mostly not in my care...with the most horrific allegation she made the social services report highlighted mum was more interested in simply bad mouthing me than her daughter and that the allegations were Implacable hostility.I went back to court with evidence of her cancellations and mocking me, evidence of her allegations.The Magistrate walked into the court and instantly gave me a dirty look rolling her eyes at me whilst shaking her head.Her mind was made up before I had spoken a word!It ended with me having to pay half my ex-partners legal costs.The way the Magistrate looked at me she would have happily blocked me from seeing my daughter altogether had their been any mistakes made by me... I believed in justice before that day, integrity, decency etc... I believed that the stories I had read of men dressed as superdad tying themselves to buildings due to the courts thats there must be more to it!Its my belief that there are a number of Magistrates that are in their positions simply for ‘social status and power’I don’t believe they can all be like it but the cruel ones definitely enjoy what their doing.Whats worse the system knows this yet nothing is being done.There is calls for a Judge based system but for now our children must instead face years of abuse. I will be going back to court soon as mam is refusing contact again refusing holidays and has social services involved due to a succession of bad relationships, never getting my daughter to school on time (everyday)and non-completion of homework. What mother would refuse a child a short break in Disneyland Paris!Clearly she is struggling to cope but still refuses my contact!My daughter is nearly 8 now and has been subjected to 8 years of abuse simply because of the courts bias towards mothers. My final words.PARENTAL ALIENATION IS ABUSE!Only together can we sto
Celyn’s dad - 26-Nov-19 @ 8:18 AM
My advise to any father who is going through the courts regarding their children is pay for the best barrister you can!Unfortunately here in the UK you have to pay for justice.If your on a low income, have disabilities, care for someone or are a lone parent and are unable to finance this then you must be realistic.In 99% of cases the courts on every level are biased towards mothers. I have been to court many times in many situations regarding my children and I can only say the system is so broken that 10 to 20 years from now it will be a massive scandal receiving the same attention as some of these big female abuse scandals of late or the celebrity abuse scandals. Before anyone makes the assumption that I’m a scorned father with deeply biased views please read on...My background, I’m a lone parent and have brought my 2 sons up alone from the age of 22 as their mother walked out on them to start a new family when 2 boys were aged 1 and 6.Their mother was known to social services, she openly admitted to hating her oldest son and on occasions being physically violent to him.This woman systematically beat me daily as I’d stand between her and my older son often I would go upstairs if I felt her temper going as she would follow me away from my son to punch, kick scratch or pull lumps out of my hair...There were reports from social services regarding her violence to her son.I am a man with NO criminal convictions and follow a mainstream Christian faith. Maybe you could pray not for me but that things change for children and this abuse stops. My experience in court was at every level from the legal advisors, magistrates and CAFCASS at every opportunity she was given excuses for her behaviour always giving her the benefit of the doubt etc...On more than 1 occasion she failed to turn up to court and on more than one occasion she failed to turn up to CAFCASS.I was told this directly by the CAFCASS officer but this failed to included in ‘HIS’ final report.Other examples of their mothers behaviour was; coming in and out of my children lives often disappearing for 12 months or more.Another example was she felt she had to explain to my young children at the time that she was having a ‘boob job’ not appropriate to tell 2 young primary school age boysafter not seeing their mother for 2years.To this day I’m not sure if she even had it done?!? Eventually she was refused access to her children but only when they were both over 10.I guess during this time, my children are aged 16 and 21 now i always felt that if it was my behaviour like this they would have thrown the book at me and i would have been stopped seeing my kids almost straight away!But instead my children had to suffer years of nonsense instead. Moving on and the rolls reversed...During my boys teenage years I remarried, my relationship ended because I wasn’t happy with my new partners behaviour towards my children.I paid for Relate counselling but eventually
Celyn’s dad - 26-Nov-19 @ 8:08 AM
Hi, I have two sons aged 7 and 4 and have been separated from my Ex for 18 months. For that time I have regular mid-week access for 1 night and a regular weekend every two weeks. I do school runs, homework and attend all parents evening. Every time there has been an emergency I have always stepped in and helped out. My son's are exceptionally happy and everyone comments on how well they have copped and adapted. On the whole my relationship with my ex-partner is generally good with a few hiccups now and again. Over Christmas she declared her intentions to re-locate and will significantly diminish my access, all midweek access will no longer be accommodated. I was utterly devastated and I am still very upset. Not only does my access become diminished to my son's personally, but it's diminished access to schools, their teachers, clubs and all their friends will be just a name to me. It also affects the wider family as they will now be further away from my parents. My commute to see them will be close to a 3 hour round trip which I feel is unfair and not in the children's best interests. I have got my solicitor lined up and has advised that she has a less than 50% chance of success which has given me some confidence and we have mediation. Her sole reasons are personal to her and not based on the children's happiness and welfare. Has anyone been through something similar and have good advice? Thanks
gxm158 - 4-Mar-19 @ 3:26 PM
@Jon - were you given permission to appeal. I would appeal if you were and consider the result unfair. The courts are supposed to be considering fathers more, not ignoring them.
Jude=] - 11-Dec-17 @ 2:03 PM
As father I had a very negative experience, in family court as I felt powerless and my ex was the only one being listened to one sided. I have the best interest of my child at heart and was only asking the court to enforce by 50/50 of my child which I had for over 2 years. Butmy ex said she think I have to much time with my daughter and the court and shock the court started asking my ex-partner what she wanted. And now havelost two days access. Is this a experienced that over father's have had in the family court, as felt like I wasn't there even.
Jon - 5-Dec-17 @ 2:48 PM
I'm just wondering if anyone can help me I'm a father to a little girl who's nearly 2 I separated from the mother of my child in 2015 in the beginning I had no contact at all had to go through solicitors and everything eventually I got contact but on her terms that my daughter comes to my mother's who I live with or supervised contact in a center, bear in mind I have a disability I'm deaf and wear two hearing aids my ex will not let me do anything alone with my daughter simply for being deaf and because my daughter has development delay but she's okay to leave my daughter with her ex who's father to my daughter's sister he has a disability himself adhd and epilepsy I just don't think it's fair at all that I'm being treated this way is there anything I can do? She shows jealousy towards me current gf and has said that my daughter will never meet my current partners parents ever or if I ever went on to have any more kids she wont let my daughter see them surely there's something I can do
Gazpjenkins - 12-May-17 @ 3:20 PM
I separated 2yrs ago from my partner, I have 2 children and she keeps changing her mind for contact, the children are on child protection due to her mental health, At the last conference they have put it on the plan that I have to seek legal advice, due to her keep changing her mind, I have went to a solicitor and I cant afford to carry on, I love my children and miss them, is there anything I can do to get it of the plan and see them again, I know I need it in righting as she has agreed again for me to see them, agents the plan,she will stop contactafter a few weeks and I don't want to damage my kids.But I cant afford a solicitor is there anything I can do.
JoLay - 17-Apr-17 @ 3:35 PM
This is based on my own experiences and are my opinions: Until the powers of leverage over children empowered to a mother in the majority of cases are completely pulled apart - then Dads who divorce from maligned mothers are at their absolute mercy !! That has been my situation for the last nearly 20 years - I have no contact whatsoever with either of my two older children simply because the way in which the process of law is staged acts a firewall between my rights versus hers. Further the politically preconceived ideologies of influential court workers as well as the vestige of interests of legal "actors" further disrupt the abilities of any non-resident parent to achieve legal parity or support. I had a "perfect" contact order which I had to fight tooth and nail for - yet this was over a short time disemboweled by my ex through brainwashing the children while they were still very young and the only way to seek any recourse would be to destroy mine and my children's lives entirely by "playing" the court's system. This would serve to benefit no-one but the incalculably greedy law firms who themselves hate dealing with the child contact side of matters (it's messy, unrewarding and less lucrative than resolving the tangible matters of ancillary relief) - This they make penalisingly plain in the way they deal with anyone seeking to maintain such ongoing arrangements against a discrepant mother. In my opinion, the Courts, on formulating ancillary and contact orders ought to be periodically checking with the respective parties beneficiary to those orders that they are getting what they should in terms of financial arrangements and contact arrangements respectively in order to ensure that matters are progressing properly and if not then why not ? By doing so this could prevent massively damaging effects on families who end up fighting through courts on ongoing bases as well as saving huge wastage of court time. The problem that arises is that both orders are treated very differently. If the tangible financial order is not maintained then this is considered a criminal offence and is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. However, the witholding and abating of contact arrangements being intangible are haphazardly subjective and open to huge amounts of corruption by errant mothers - yet there are no criminal penalties whatsoever. Just a single high-profile example of a suspended sentence or a night in jail prescribed against a worst offender would overnight halt swathes of mothers who might have intended to play such tactics - being advised by their legal representatives to think twice or risk a criminal blight to their name ! Until this situation is totally overturned then nothing will alter and my damning first sentence statement will prevail. My suspicions are that both huge vested interests politically, financially as well as professionally (posturing) will prevent this ever happening.
EIBF - 12-Feb-17 @ 11:56 PM
I have started proceedings to get access to my children, I cannot afford legal advice, do you have any tips / advice for me ? My ex has blocked access for 3 years and will not discuss the matter. I have completed the new c100 at my local court. My ex is trying to get the case moved and hence delayed again by saying that the court if is due to be heard at is not in the durastiction, both courts in question are 6 miles from the children's home. Many thanks
Graham - 25-Aug-14 @ 12:35 PM
Please help. My grandson is being abused and neglected from his mother who is taking cocaine habitually and lives with a drug dealer but social services beleive her lies and think my son who has complained is just doing it to cause the mother stress. They do not see him cry at night scared he may not see his son alive again. He went for custody but the courts basiially laughed at him. His mother is on police bail for the drugs but still no one listens. He has been told if he complains to anyone he will lose contact of his son. Has anyone been in the same situation? How do you fight the social services? How do you make them see you are telling the truth?
Lynn - 27-Jun-14 @ 3:38 PM
I was wondering if someone could tell me what rights I have in regards to my disabled daughters disability benefit??? Currently I have no say over what happens to it, even though I have joint custody of her and I want to make sure it is spent on meeting my daughters needs and not, as I suspect, just included in my ex wife's family budget
Al - 12-May-14 @ 9:37 PM
hi i was wondering if a mckenzie advisor will be able to get in contact with me
tiger - 14-Oct-12 @ 12:37 AM
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