Emotional Abuse, Parental Responsibility and CAFCASS
I had a terrible experience with CAFCASS. I had had to force my children's father to see his childen weekly despite him living close by. I had also had to take him to the CSA to get him to support his children. He had been emotionally abusive to the kids who were constantly made to feel they were a nuisance and totally unsupportive to me since we split up before my second child was born.
When the kids were about 13 and 11 he got a new partner and for some reason decided to apply for parental responsibility after all these years. The CAFCASS judge was all over him. The social worker took about 10 minutes to talk to the children about over 10 years of parenting and, schooled by him, they said they wanted time with their dad. Of course they did, he never paid much attention to them and used to work even when they had their one day a week at his.
I challenged this because I had never stopped him seeing the children (he was bad but not that bad and I thought the consequences of not seeing your dad when he lived in the same street would be worse than seeing him). I challenged the decision because the children were often upset by his offhand and self-absorbed behaviour and felt very left-out when he had time to spend with his new partner but had not time for them.
I was told by court staff that I could submit extra evidence and appeal. I prepared a written submission about his lack of interest over the years and hurtful behaviour, but when the judge entered the court she said she would not look at any further evidence and instantly confirmed his parental responsibility. Needless to say nothing changed except he tried to control our lives occasionally and made himself look good in front of his new partner. I had had the horrible experience of court and being made to look like the bad guy when I had been doing all the parenting work, had to give up a good job etc.
A court worker later told me that the abuse from a father has to be completely horrendous for him to be denied parental responsibility.
I have spoken to other single parents who have similar experiences with CAFCASS. I am a professional in a related area and was shocked that the service was so poor. I think there is an over-simplistic bias towards fathers and the court needs to look more closely at what has been going on in children's lives.
While it is obviously desirable for fathers to be involved if there is no risk of harm, instant and sweeping judgments do no good and can do harm.
My kids are now 21 and 18 and have a realistic view of their dad. He has an OBE by the way. I feel it is at least half mine for looking after his kids so he could do 'public service'. Who was it that said that if you don't bring up your kids well, nothing else you do matters. She was right.
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