Sunday, May 17, 2009

Children Live With Fathers In 47% of Cases

The Times reports a survey carried out by Cafcass, the children's court service in England & Wales. Figures, Cafcass reckon, indicate that some claims made by groups such as Fathers4Justice might be exaggerated and that wouldn't surprise me. The key findings printed in the newspaper were;

• Only one in ten separated or divorced couples ends up going to court to fight over contact with children

• The study looked at a sample of 308 applications for contact.

• Three quarters (77 percent) were made by non-resident parents, usually fathers.

• Fathers instigate 45 percent of the 3,000 residency applications each year.

• In 48 percent of disputed cases last year, children were allowed to live with their fathers either full-time or part-time.

• In only 14 percent of cases was there to be no contact at all.

Claims by fathers groups may well be exaggerated, but the article doesn't make it clear that 'living' with the father could refer to every other weekend and practically no different from a conventional contact order. Also 14 percent of cases were there is to be no contact seems rather a high figure to me.

Full story Source The Times 16 May 2009


Nick Langford,  17 May, 2009 18:09  

I wonder if you have actually examined any of the claims made by Fathers 4 Justice before dismissing them.

This report first appeared in the Times on September 26 last year, and was conducted by the Oxford Centre for Family Law and Policy (OXFLAP).

The claim that only 10% of separating parents resort to the courts is not derived from this report and comes instead from the Blackwell and Dawes report of 2003 which found that of those parents for whom contact was working, 11% had court-ordered agreements - quite a different thing altogether, and one which shows how ineffective the courts are. This 10% figure has now become government doctrine, along with many other false or misrepresented statistics.

A more accurate estimate would be between 30 and 40%, and indeed in 2003 Margaret Hodge claimed that 60% of separating parents agree without going to court. You have only to compare the divorce and separation statistics with those for contact and residence applications to see that the 10% figure just isn't plausible.

The Oxflap report looked at 308 contact cases from 2004 out of 78,000 - that's less than 0.4%: hardly representative, and the cases were chosen for the researchers by Cafcass, who of course want to refute our claims. It's another case, I'm afraid, of research proving what those who commission the research want. Research which contradicts what they want to believe (such as a Newcastle University study last year with a sample size of 17,000) is ignored.

As for the figure of 3,000 residence applications, that's out by a factor of 10: in 2004 there were 35,385 orders for residence.

As the main researcher for F4J I always tried to be scrupulously accurate with the facts, and to ensure that any claims we made could be substantiated. The news that 48% (not 47%) of children get to live with their fathers all or part of the time is nothing to crow about: 52% don't get to live with them at all, and must put up with varying degrees of direct and indirect contact, or lose touch entirely. That 14% of this carefully selected sample of 308 end up with no contact is profoundly worrying; a more representative sample might well come up with a higher figure: Blackwell and Dawes put the percentage at between 15 and 28% and Bradshaw and Millar at 40% within 2 years; Elizabeth Butler Sloss put it at 60%.

I see no reason to revise the F4J claim that 1,000 children each week are denied a continuing relationship with one of their parents by the family courts.

Fiona 17 May, 2009 22:16  

Yes, it may surprise you I have examined claims made by F4J although over recent years it has been more difficult to access the information because documents such as the blueprint are now only available to members. I am also familiar with the other reports you mention and I would agree that the OXFLAP study like the survey of sheriff clerks’ perspectives on child contact here in Scotland doesn't entirely add up. However, as I am sure you are aware funding for large in depth studies isn't readily available these days.

I think it's important not to compare apples with pears and "48% of children get to live with their fathers all or part of the time" is not the same thing as "48 percent of *disputed* cases last year, children were allowed to live with their fathers either full-time or part-time" nor are estimates of the overall number of children who loose contact with their fathers comparable with the number of court case outcomes. Estimates, are just that, estimates. We simply don't know and it can't be deduced how many fathers must put up with varying degrees of direct and indirect contact, or lose touch entirely.

There are literally hundreds of reasons why contact breaks down and in some cases children 'living' with fathers some of the time just isn't practical or the fathers don't want/can't do it. Recently two fathers applied for residence and when it wasn't granted they turned down 50:50 shared residence and refused all contact .

Anyway, please don't shoot the messenger I found the article and the timing of it somewhat odd.

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