Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Right (adj.): Good, proper or just.

THERE is a belief that if you give people new rights they become somehow better people.

So if everyone has the 'right' to a mortgage they will always make the payments; the 'right' to drive a car means they will be good drivers; and the 'right' to own a pet means they are trained and treated well.

Except we all know that some people take out a mortgage when they can't afford it, and when too many people do that there's a crunch in the world economy, people pass their driving test and forget all they were taught, and there are animals whose owners are something less than animal themselves.

So giving fathers the right to see mothers jailed if they block access to their children after a split might just cause more problems than it could possibly solve. There are bad parents of course, but they're not taught to be better by taking away their driving licence, setting them a curfew or jailing them for up to six weeks.

What happens in a case of someone who married and divorced someone who later refuses to pay their share? Some parents might withhold access until their ex-partner meets their commitments, but according to the courts - and the new proposals - this would be bad parenting.

Anyone who did so could be fined, have their driving licence seized and face jail.

There are parents of both genders who have tales of  exes who have denied access unreasonably and are rubbish mums. I have fathers of my acquaintance frustrated that joint custody isn't the starting point for a family court, that their exes can move hours away and their precious time with children is eaten into by long car journeys, that former wives trash them in earshot of the offspring.

The problem is not one of gender, because bad parents come in every shape and size, but it is simply to do with an inability to accept that rights are about more than being recognised as the owner of something.

Of course there should be shared parenting. Of course mums and dads should get fair access. But the reason 20 per cent of children lose touch with an absent parent within three years is often because that parent has chosen to absent themselves.

The CSA was set up in 1993 and has consistently failed to be any good. There are as many stories of draconian insistence on high payments as there are of parents who fail to pay at all. It's utterly toothless, takes years to do nothing much, and has £3.8billion of maintenance arrears which it's not bothering to collect. Five per cent of it is from wealthy mothers who won't pay - 95 per cent is from dads.

The agency has recently got some new powers to seize money from bank accounts and has set up a task force which has grabbed £12m, but it's a drop in the ocean and making people pay doesn't make them better parents.

The truth is that it's not the state's job to tell other people how to raise their children, and seeing as we're not about to force sterilisation or 'child licences' upon anyone there are always going to be imperfect parents some of whom will try their best and others who'll do their worst.

If the Government really wants to help the best it can do is make mediation an unavoidable part of any divorce or custody dispute, to force people to get around the table and hammer out a deal.

When I divorced, even without children, there were things to argue about and my husband refused point-blank to do it through mediation because he thought he'd 'lose'. Instead we did it through lawyers, which cost us thousands and took forever, and he ended up losing even more.

I have female friends dealing with feckless exes and male friends who agreed everything their ex-wives asked for, and ended up with unfair division of assets. All of us, had we no option but to sit down with an independent mediator, would have got a better deal.

But then mediation is not as headline-grabbing as "lock up your ex-wife", which is what the Government prefers, so while it's making £10m available for mediation services it's not making it mandatory. As a result nothing much is going to improve.

And from an early age our children should be taught that the culture of 'rights' is flawed, that half the ones we talk about now are nothing to do with making things more even and everything to do with making our lives more frustrating and futile.

Rights are things you fight for - the right to sit on the same bus as white folk, to vote, to work, to be heard. When you get what you want, all of humanity is slightly improved.

Responsibilities are things you have a duty to do. To care for another, to pick up your litter, vote and work even when you don't feel inspired about it. You do them because you ought to, not because you really want to. But still when they are fulfilled the world is a better place because of it.

Rights are quite often wrong unless you also take responsibility for holding onto them.

"Responsibility? I took it once, left it in a pub."


Anonymous said...

To me this is akin to saying that women shouldn't have the right to an abortion because some of them simply use it as a form of birth control.

mrswupple said...

familiar story. What about those admittedly few cases where men use the child as a bargaining tool and exact 'revenge' for being abandoned by murdering said child/children? And it's most often men who regard a child as a possession or reflection of themselves. Not facing responsibilities can't be cured by punitive hastily thought out legislation. Of course it may save the Goverment money..

Simon 44 said...

I think that this whole issue can be explained by human hature, and how that is evolving. Unless a person is actually mentally retarded, if they are acting the arse, they know they are acting the arse, and relying on the law and society to help them get away with it.
If you don't buy the shoes, you know you are in the wrong. You are also wrong if you bankrupt yourself in order to avoid your responsibilities. It's the same old story, while we are alive, we have the law, hopefully when we die, we get justice. However as an atheist, I am very keen to expereience justice while I am alive.

Anonymous said...

Good one Foxy...I agree with you..this is what I put on the DM wall, I'd never commented on their "stories" before but the article annoyed me.
I've been through a terrible custody battle, my ex-husband took my daughter back to his native country and I had to fight through the courts to get her back into the UK. Once we were offered joint custody he then decided he couldn't be bothered & flew home, we haven't seen him for 10 years!! BUT he still rings and plays the "She is my daughter so I should have a say" card even though he hasn't visited, she cant remember him and he has never paid a penny to her upkeep. Before this happened I had a healthy respect for the courts but now I feel let down by the whole system. In theory I agree that parents should both parent their children but parents have to give as well as receive, why should a parent (male or female) have the right parental control when they don't give (financially or emotionally). These types of laws need to be closely monitored, parents shouldn't get rights because they donated their DNA, they should get rights based on their parenting skills. - KK

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if women were a bit more choosy about the men they get to father their kids they might not get messed around.

Far too many women start breeding with men that I wouldn't trust with a plastic watch.

My conclusion is women simply see men as a non permanent fixture and just hope the one they get provides the sperm and money.

Don't get me wrong, I'd lock up men who don't pay for their kids (or castrate them) I'd like to see no men marry or produce kids, the world would be a much better and less noisy place without children.

Anonymous said...

What crap, anonymous. I married a man that I loved, that I thought I would spend my life with, whom I gave my all to, including two great kids. What did I find out 6 months ago? That he had screwed my co-worker, my friend, who knows how many of his own co-workers and is now having an affair with a 25 year old at work. He's in his 40's. So I kicked him out, have no money, he barely sees the kids and bitches about EVERYTHING.

And you know what? Not a single person can believe this is him. That's how well he kept his double life hidden. NO ONE knew about it, all thought he was a great guy, the perfect family man. Meanwhile he was a cheating dog the whole time.

Soap said...

I do think that in certain cases this could be a benefit, there are cases where a mother point blank refuses to let a father see his children for no reason other than a power thing, even if the father is as good a man as any. So in THOSE cases and those cases alone, the threat of jail/curfew/losing a drivers licence is probably a good thing, just needs to be assurances it isn't going to be misused by men who are bitter at their ex-wives.
Of course as you said, getting to the problem before it grows, through mediation, is probably the best thing to do.

Cagetheanimals said...

Women have been using children as pawns and objects of revenge against fathers for years. Even when she has cheated. I'm glad the spiteful cows are finally to be held to account.

As for the sideshow who likened this to the birth control Nazis.. What are earth are you blathering on about?

Andy said...

Wow, misogony rules all right! Cagetheanimals, I'm guessing you're single? Jeesh, what an idiot. Excellent article Foxy, shame you attract ill-conceived arguments and trolls!

Anonymous said...

What it boils down to is adults behaving like adults, full stop. Put the children's needs first, and bury whatever resentment you might have towards each other so that your children grow up well adjusted, emotionally sound, and socially adept. It is not rocket science, it is simply a matter of prioritising THEIR needs above your own selfish revenge.

Anonymous said...

Wow. All I've got to say is a) I never want to meet cagetheanimals in person and b) thank God I got divorced before kids came along.

Anonymous said...

When my ex and I split, all bar one of my 'friends' said that in the same circumstances they would not allow the ex to have access to their children. They would (in their words) punish them. Sadly, those people would use prison as the ultimate punishment. But the only ones who truly pay are the children. As for me, I made sure that my ex remained a part of my kids' life. We now share custody and not one of us would have it any other way.

Mas said...

What a contentious issue you have raised. I just wanted to let you know that mediation is compulsory in divorce when you have children. And whats more you have to pay for it. This was galling for me as we had actually sorted everything but the divorce wouldn't be granted without. I should also say I was the one who left but only after a year of trying to get him to leave and he just wouldn't go and the atmosphere for my children was toxic. As the mother leaving I have had a lot of judgement made about me but my children have never felt abandoned not ever and now they are at college they live with me and have little contact with their father who did everything possible to cut off contact. I used to drive 1000 miles ever weekend to make sure I had my weekends with them. I wish he had not tried so hard to run our break up into a cliché. I so wanted to be friends. There is so much more going on than people can ever know (just so we are clear he slept with anything that moved - the break up was perfectly reasonable) and the situation is never ever black and white. If one parent just can't be arsed then isn't it better that they just bugger off into the sunset anyway? It breaks my heart when female friends stop childrens contact with their fathers over money. The money is a completely separate issue to whether children have relationships with both parents.

Anonymous said...

Mediation is not compulsory. The individual situation dictates the appropriateness of mediation.

divorce lawyers said...

He is a cheater and you done a right thing by kicking him out how can he do this even he have a family.

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