Theresa May Sees Problems With Family Courts
Was Theresa May’s observation of the problems with Family Courts stymied by others, and that she really wants to help families, and most importantly the children, in a truly Gender Free environment.
Who stifled her beliefs?
Now as PM she can bring to bear her strong views as outlined in Bournemouth in October 2004. Unfortunately in Politics you have to be patient and there may be other forces at work to stop you attaining your reasonable goals.
We look forward to the changes she wants.
We now also hope that she will investigate the prejudice against help from Government for Men and Children as victims, being subjected to Domestic Violence and a genuine Gender Free application of the Coercive and Controlling Behaviour crime in the Serious Crimes Act 2015.
Tories Promise Family Court Shake-Up
By Helene Mullholland, in Bournemouth, 5th October 2004, The Guardian
The Tories pledged today to scrap the beleaguered family court service in a bid to ensure fathers and grandparents get better access to their children.
In a clear nod to the cause championed by activist group Fathers4Justice, the shadow spokeswoman for families, Theresa May, promised to axe the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass).
In a separate move, she also pledged to replace the family court system with a new mediation service.
Ms May called the introduction of Cafcass under Labour "the biggest mistake in family policy", and said her party would seek to abolish it to end "the heartbroken stories" of parents denied fair access to their kids.
"It is a bureaucratic shambles, it is deeply unjust and it is letting families down," she said.
In a confused message she blamed Cafcass for decisions actually made by family courts. The role of Cafcass is to coordinate the work of guardians who support children involved in custody disputes.
The body has been beset with problems since the decision to abolish the self-employed status of guardians, which led to many leaving the service.
Ms May said that within the first month of a Tory government, a bill would be drawn up giving a "presumption of co-parenting and a right for both parents to be involved in bringing up their children where couples separate".
"We will ensure that the law serves the best interest of the child - and children deserve to see both parents."
She added: "Courts should be the last resort, not the first. The aim will be to intervene early to make sure disputes don't have to go to court but are sorted out quickly in the best interests of the children."
In an apparent reference to situations involving domestic violence, Ms May added that "child safety will remain a priority".
She also struck an inclusive note for families, acknowledging unmarried and gay couples as families - while still asserting the Tory preference for marriage as "the best environment for bringing up children".
Tacitly conceding previous Tory failures to "properly" represent family in government, which is placed "under threat as never before", Ms May nevertheless failed to announce anything else directly targeting families or women.
On 17th October 2004, the Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for the Family, Theresa May, pledged to end the misery of the family courts
Unveiling a Strategy for Institutional Change
“We Conservatives recognise what the experts and common sense have always told us: that the best parent is both parents. It is time for a family court system that protects children and respects parents.
Children who go through divorce - 146,914 of them in 2001 - have already lost out. We must not add to their distress with a court system that means they forfeit one of their parents as well. Under the next government, there will not be another generation of parents without children, and children without parents. Everyone - including the lawyers - accepts the time for change is overdue.”
Theresa May underlined that the programme was a practicable reality in advanced discussion within the legal profession, child development experts and parenting groups. She said:
“Too many families have been torn apart by divorce and separation. Not just because the adults’ relationship has ended, although that is painful enough. But because the bond between parent and child, or grandparent and grandchild has been broken.
Our Country deserves a better system of family justice: one that is open, fair and accountable; that protects children and respects parents; but above all, that recognises that the best parent is both parents."
Under the proposals, CAFCASS, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, will be abolished. Theresa May said:
“CAFCASS has been a disaster from Day One. Its officers write tens of thousands of trivial reports each year - on decent families caught up in divorce. CAFCASS breeds heartache and delay. CAFCASS clogs up the system.
It’s the bottleneck in the divorce system wasting hundreds of millions of pounds a year.”
Theresa May underlined her respect for the hard-pressed Guardians ad-Litem co-opted by Labour into CAFCASS.
“The Guardians in CAFCASS provide an invaluable service to children in real need. But this part of the service is under-funded. Resources that should go to cases of real neglect are squandered by CAFCASS on matters which should not be dealt with by the courts. CAFCASS has got it back-to-front.”
Other measures include:
- Legislating the presumption of reasonable contact
- Adopting the ‘good reason’ principle
- Implementing Section 11 (iv) of the Children Act for co-parenting
- Accrediting court-approved mediators and facilitators
A Restructured Court System
For parents who have reached the stage of issuing legal proceedings about contact, Conservative proposals include:
- Clear guidelines prepared by child development experts and stakeholders in conjunction with the judiciary to outline the range of beneficial post-separation arrangements
- Mandatory mediation before the first hearing conducted in the knowledge of what the Courts are likely to order
- Family courts working to expert guidelines acknowledging that the child’s needs are best served by “frequent and continuous” contact with both parents
- Court-backed mechanisms, including mandatory information sessions, to make these court-backed guidelines available to parents before the hearing Establishing Clear Expectations
Theresa May said:
“Children don’t need frequent and continuous litigation. They need frequent and continuous contact - with both parents. We must end the era where parents litigate for years just to see their children for two hours a fortnight. Yes, we need more mediation. But mediation must take place in a clear context. Parents have to know what the courts are likely to order.
Predictability is so important in the months before a case starts.
We want parents to sort out their differences without resorting to unnecessary litigation The Courts should be the last, not the first resort”
Conservative proposals mean that most contact disputes should be settled before the first hearing, as happens abroad. Theresa May explained:
“At the moment there is simply no information available. Separating parents have no way to find out what to do about their children. No-one tells them what the Courts are going to order. Then they find that the Government will pay their costs to continue arguing in court. Labour is fighting fire with petrol.”
The Conservative scheme represents a radical departure from recent Government proposals. Labour’s Consultation Paper (Cm6723) pays lip-service to the idea of guidelines. But the first step remains untaken.
Theresa May said:
“The Government has failed to offer families a system that works. You have to start by bringing the judges, experts and stakeholders on board to agree what sort of orders the Courts should make. That way, you know what you’re trying to deliver. Then you build a legal system to deliver it. The Government never did its homework. It forgot the foundations. It’s the same old gerry-building: ‘anything goes.’
Theresa May said she could not condone the tactics of pressure groups like Fathers For Justice, but added, “Let’s not forget that there is a legitimate grievance. Can any parent - hand on heart - imagine anything more terrible than losing their children? What would you do to see them? We’re going to build a proper system of justice”
“It is not just the parents who have had enough with a third-rate service.
It’s the professionals. We found that the lawyers, judges and experts have been calling for radical change too. Their proposals go into Whitehall in perfect order; they come back from Margaret Hodge’s DfES in tatters - with CAFCASS back in charge. At the end of the day, the issue is really very simple. What do children want: one parent or two?”
1. There should be a presumption that 50/50 time with each parent should be the optimum, that can then be discussed on a balance for both a husband and a wife to work to provide for their children, after all, how do widows and widowers look after children. Most cultures accept that extended families are perfectly capable of being involved for the long term social, educational and physical development of children, without reliance on the state.
2. There should be re-training of Judges and others to ensure that a truly balanced and Gender Neutral approach is taken when helping with the decisions that affect children for their long term futures in being meaningful members of the community and society. The present presumption of mothers being the parent of residence is discriminatory and fails children too often.