Throughout my research, I’ve come to realise there’s not much in the way of information regarding bias in Family Courts. News articles are few and far between, and support/advocacy groups are even rarer. We all know the problem is out there, though: we’ve heard the stories, we might know people who have fought for – and lost – their children and some of us may have experienced it first hand.
I have absolutely no doubt that it is an extremely emotional and exhausting ordeal for those involved – especially for the fathers who are downgraded to visitors. Those involved know that gaining shared custody is an uphill battle, despite the law reforms from 2006 and 2012. Various forms of sites and bodies exist to respond to this issue. Information hubs/advocacy groups are all support networks that are essential during divorce and custody battles. They provide extremely beneficial services to those in need – resources on how to get the best possible outcome and information on what to expect. The give the much-needed evidence that those suffering are not alone.
What isn’t helpful, however, are those support groups and information hubs that resort to biased and/or inflammatory comments. The people who host these communities have a moral obligation to moderate the conversation and condemn those who are out of line. Many sites I have visited have not upheld this responsibility. While I do not wish to name and shame, a simple Google search will give examples of what I am talking about. These groups talk about men’s rights and father’s rights; the conversation should instead focus on the child’s rights.
Support sites are not the place to highlight the faults of women, or to give sweeping comments such as “she’s a bitch/crazy/psycho”. Whilst many cases do include women (and men) who vindictively use the Family Court to further their personal agenda, these sweeping statements do little to fix the situation. In fact, it can be more of a hindrance to justice than anything else.
Shared parenting works best under particular circumstances, especially when both parents are cooperative and are able to properly handle the emotions commonplace in divorce (see AIFS’s Prof Moloney’s report here and here). Defamatory comments on the Internet can very well be used in court to prove that one parent will cause conflict and disruption should parenting be shared.
Outside of court, misogynistic comments alienate the women – such as myself – who wish to support those felt by the injustice. The problem extends beyond the gender lines and into the judgments made by the court; it should not be about man versus woman, father versus mother. Pointing the finger will get us nowhere.