On 26 November 2022, Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family court, and Jacky Tiotto, CEO of CAFCASS (which was created to represent children) will address the annual conference of Families Need Fathers (FNF) – again this year! Their attendance treats with contempt mothers’ outrage at McFarlane and CAFCASS public support for domestic violence deniers (see mothers’ protest at FNF’s 2017 conference).
FNF dismiss domestic violence as: “False and unfounded allegations [which] poison proceedings when a non-resident parent is seeking parenting time with his children. Judges need to make findings of fact as soon as possible and to take false allegations into account when determining the best interests of the child.” FNF claim that “there is widespread abuse of men and boys in the context of the family courts” and accuse women of “making allegations” as “a motorway to obtaining legal aid”.
At least 69 children were killed by parents, overwhelmingly fathers and step-fathers, between 2004-2020[i] and two to three women a week, many of them mothers, are killed by partners and ex-partners. Often this is the result of family courts forcing children to have contact with fathers known to be violent, and/or to police refusing to protect women and children.
It is horrifying and terrifying for the thousands of mothers who are struggling to protect their children and themselves from domestic violence, to see misogynist groups like FNF so deeply embedded in the family courts. In fact, five fathers’ groups have been embedded in CAFCASS for years, including Families Need Fathers. There is no comparable representation of mothers who do the day-to-day work of caring for children.
Even the government’s own findings that the family courts are riddled with “sexism, racism and classism”, (see Harm Review 2020) have not deterred McFarlane and CAFCASS from openly supporting FNF.
In 2020, McFarlane told FNF’s Conference:
“I’m also pleased to be supporting Families Need Fathers, since becoming president and indeed for a long time before. I have good relations with groups in the Midlands of Families Need Fathers and now nationally. We meet regularly and the communication is always on a detailed civilised, discussive level, which from my perspective, does move thing things on. Indeed, I find that I’m in agreement with very much of what is said by [M] and the other representatives of Families Need Fathers who come to visit me.”
In 2021, when the Domestic Abuse Act was being debated in parliament, Tiotto advocated for “parental alienation” (the junk science invented by paedophilia supporter Richard Gardner to discredit women and children who report violence) to be included in the definition of domestic abuse. Had this succeeded, the law introduced to protect victims would have been an abusers’ charter. Parliament rejected “parental alienation” from both the Act and its Statutory Guidance, and it is increasingly discredited worldwide[ii]. Despite this, CAFCASS officers continue to “diagnose” it in support of abusive fathers who use the family courts to avoid prosecution and continue to abuse women and children.
The family courts which are supposed to decide the welfare of children on the basis of evidence have shown themselves to be on the side of organisations of fathers who are violence deniers. McFarlane and CAFCASS support for FNF is a blatant attempt to shore up male supremacy in the family.
We are calling for:
- An end to the corrupt sexist collaboration between the president of the family court, CAFCASS and men who deny domestic violence.
- The family courts to start protecting mothers and children instead of punishing us for daring to leave violent men.
- Misogynist groups to be immediately removed from any board, consultative or otherwise.
- CAFCASS to stop all references to “parental alienation” or “alienating behaviours” to promote child contact and residence with violent fathers.
- An end to the “presumption of contact” in all cases involving domestic abuse so that no violent father is allowed unsupervised contact with children.
- An end to the secrecy of the family courts which enables sexist judges and CAFCASS to endanger and traumatise children (and mothers) by insisting they must have contact and even live with violent fathers. All courts must be open to public scrutiny.
Children need love and protection, not violent fathers.
[i] Sunday Mirror 21 February, 2021
[ii] In September 2020 the World Health Organisation withdrew “parental alienation” from it’s classification index