Wednesday 5 August 2009
FathersNotGuilty – epetition response
We received a petition asking:
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to prosecute women who use false accusations to restrict fathers access to children.”
Details of Petition:
“It is well know that many women lie to the police to prevent or restrict fathers access to their children. The Police and family courts not only turn a blind eye but their acceptance of this practice only encourages women to keep doing it. Fathers are not guilty by default! They are usually the more level headed parent, willing to put the childs interests first and yet they are criminalised by the false accusations of their ex partners. It is often the mothers who are breaking the law and putting their childs interests second to their own selfish and vindictive tendancies.”
Read the Government’s response
Thank you for your e-petition.
When considering whether to make a contact or residence order, the Children Act 1989 requires the court at all times to make the welfare of the child its paramount consideration.
The Government is aware of the difficulties that can be faced by non-resident parents in maintaining contact with their children, sometimes because of the obstructive behaviour of the parent with whom the child resides. The Government believes that where it is safe and is in the child’s best interests, a child will benefit from both parents’ continued involvement in their upbringing and from regular meaningful contact with both parents. Where both parents have parental responsibility for their child they are equal before the law, and this continues after they have separated. Many parents who separate or divorce do manage to agree arrangements for their children. And only around 10% do seek a court order to resolve a disagreement.
In contact cases, where one party makes allegations, or if there is reason to suppose, that a child or a party has experienced domestic violence, or that there is a risk of violence, the court must, at all stages, identify at the earliest possible opportunity the factual and welfare issues involved. The nature of the allegation or admission and extent of admission or what may be proved is also considered.
The court may decide to hold a “Finding of Fact” hearing to hear the evidence from both parties about the allegations made. If the court considers that the allegations are unfounded, or less serious than suggested, it is for the court to take due account of this and the overall reliability of that party’s evidence in deciding the type and level of contact ordered. The standard of proof is the “balance of probabilities” – a lower threshold than for criminal offences that have to be proved “beyond reasonable doubt”.
There are no ‘punitive’ responses to unfounded allegations and although costs can be awarded, as in any other cases, this power is not used often as it can lead to financial difficulty for the resident parent, which is contrary to the child’s best interests.
The petitioner suggests that fathers are being criminalised. While breach of a non-molestation order is now a criminal offence, the focus in children’s proceedings is not on attaching blame or finding guilt but on making arrangements for children that best serve their interests and are safe for all the parties.
“It is a rare breed of human who can blend a free spirit, a decisive nature, a deep respect for life, love for adventure, and an uncompromising sense of integrity into human happiness and being. Such individuals hear the heartbeat of wholeness.”
“Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding” Convention on the Rights of the Child
A child who is separated from one or both parents is entitled to “maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests” (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, Article 9)