John Bolch just can’t seem to get it right. About the most obvious things, he’s just doggedly wrong. There are a few complex issues in family law, but Bolch can’t even grasp the easy ones. The reason, we’re forced to conclude, is that he’s adamantly opposed to children seeing much of their dads post-divorce. What else can explain such willful ignorance?
His latest effort to convince his readers that fathers’ rights advocates have nothing to complain about appears here (Marilyn Stowe Blog, 8/9/16). His inspiration came from the recent scaling of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s house by members of New Fathers 4 Justice dressed in superhero outfits. That encouraged Bolch (as if he needed it!) to misrepresent New Fathers 4 Justice, the law on parenting following divorce or separation and the background of that law. Not content with that, he also demonstrates, for those familiar with it, an entire lack of knowledge about the science supporting shared parenting. I count that a pretty impressive record for a short blog post. Few others could get so much so wrong in such a small space.
As to New Fathers 4 Justice, Bolch claims,
New Fathers 4 Justice are, of course, under the illusion that the [Children and Families Act of 2014] gives mothers more rights than fathers.
No, actually, the group nowhere says anything of the kind. It merely accepts what’s true, that fathers are routinely sidelined by family courts when ordering parenting time. This is news to no one but Bolch who blithely refuses to glance at the data on primary custody in the U.K. His statement must be called a lie because Bolch clearly visited the group’s website, so he knows what it says about parenting issues.
Now on to the law itself.
Back in 2011 the Family Justice Review recommended against a legal presumption around shared parenting, taking the view that it could create an impression of a parental ‘right’ to a particular amount of time with a child, which would undermine the central principle of the Children Act 1989 that the welfare of the child is paramount.
Yes, the Norgrove Commission and its successor did indeed reject a presumption of shared parenting, but the claim that it would have created a “parental right to a particular amount of time with a child” was an excuse, not a reason. Clearly, no shared parenting law has ever been proposed that ignored things like parental fitness, domestic violence, child abuse and the like. Accordingly, the only “right” created would have been for fit parents whose contact with the child is in the child’s best interests. Bolch either doesn’t know the basics or he’s intentionally misrepresenting the facts.
Moreover, the Norgrove Commission, et al took as gospel the least reliable social science on the issue of parenting post-divorce. By that I mean they read a bit of Jennifer MacIntosh and her crowd and let their inquiry into the science go at that. If Bolch knows anything about the science on shared parenting, he’s never let on about it.
What we ended up with was the ‘presumption of parental involvement’, which came into force in October 2014 and says that when a court is considering whether to make an order relating to a child (in particular a child arrangements order) it is to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of both parents in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare.
I suppose we should celebrate the fact that Bolch was actually able to locate the statute governing his chosen topic. But of course actually understanding it proved beyond his ability. I know this because his entire point in summarizing the law is to convince readers that fathers have nothing about which to complain because their issues have already been addressed.
But that of course is so much nonsense. As I asked when the law was passed, what exactly does “involvement” mean? Can one day per year constitute “involvement?” After all, any amount of involvement constitutes involvement. The statute itself bears me out.
In subsection (2A) “involvement” means involvement of some kind, either direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child’s time.”
Bolch of course neglected to quote that part of the law. After all, the fact that “involvement” can apparently mean a single Skype conversation sometime prior to the child’s 18th birthday hardly accords with Bolch’s sunny view of fathers’ position in family courts.
So, as I predicted at the time, the new law changed nothing. Judges are now as free to deny children meaningful contact with their fathers as they were before the law’s effective date. And that’s just what they’re doing. Amazingly, Bolch admits as much.
I think the general consensus is that the presumption has made little, if any, difference to outcomes in disputes over arrangements for children.
I don’t blame the man for not reading his own stuff. It’s that bad. But still, maybe he should take steps not to contradict himself quite so often.
Oh, speaking of self-contradiction, Bolch casually admits that “The ‘discrimination’ against fathers comes not from the law, but from the implementation of the law.” That’s true enough. The words of the statute clearly don’t mandate discrimination against fathers or anyone else. What does happen though is that judges do discriminate against fathers and fairly often. The rate of maternal primary/sole custody in the U.K. is around 90%. Does Bolch or anyone else seriously believe that 90% of British children would be ill-served by having meaningful relationships with their dads? Certainly there’s not a whit of evidence for the proposition and yet that’s what the family courts do.
So, having admitted that those courts mostly give custody to mothers at the expense of fathers’ parenting time, Bolch goes on to contradict himself again.
As for the issue of bias, I have already dealt with this here. Sorry, but the courts are not biased, either against fathers or mothers.
Let’s see, according to Bolch, there’s “discrimination” against fathers, but not “bias” against fathers. Strange.
And finally, no John, you haven’t “dealt with” the issue of bias against fathers in family courts. Here’s my takedown of his particularly silly claim of non-bias in a previous post. Please read if for the detail I can’t offer here.
Put simply, Bolch’s way of “dealing with” the anti-father bias of family courts was to first say – without supporting evidence of course – that there is none and then say that, well, really, there is.
And that is the point: the law reflects society. If there are biases in the law, that is because there are biases within society. In other words, it is not because the law is biased, it is because society is biased.
I know it’s not easy to follow the laughable inconsistencies in Bolch’s “reasoning,” but let’s try. His way of “dealing with” bias in family courts is at first to deny it exists, then admit that it exists, then say that it’s alright that it exists because it reflects society. Except of course it doesn’t “reflect society;” many surveys of public opinion demonstrate massive support for shared parenting. The anti-father bias is all on the part of judges, custody evaluators, social workers, etc. Finally the very concept that the law is supposed to set right societal bias on the basis of things like sex, not promote it, is one Bolch managed to miss. What does he think the statue of the lady with the scales and the blindfold is all about?
It must be tough to be John Bolch, a man who’s desperately trying to convince readers that courts’ removing fathers from children’s lives is in their “best interests,” while bringing so little in the way of facts or intellectual acumen to the debate.
August 10, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization