Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Contact with Children

Neither parental responsibility nor the payment of child maintenance has any bearing on access to children.  With parents separating, the priority must surely be the residence (formerly called custody) of children.  Usually, with one parent having residence, the other will require contact (previously known as access).  The most important factor in any form of contact is whether it is beneficial to the child/children concerned. Enshrined within The Children’s Act 1989  is the principle that ‘the child’s/children’s welfare is the most paramount consideration.
It is always hoped that separating parents can come to a satisfactory settlement however should the courts be involved in the decision, the wishes of children aged 14 years and older are considered and are used to decide where the child will end up staying. Some courts may also consider the wishes of children aged between 8 and 13 years. It is important to note that the child does not choose where they want to live, the court considers their wishes and preferences about the parents.

Separating parents should put to one side the issues they have which each other in order to come to an agreement that acknowledges that the child/children’s well-being is the most important issue that need a satisfactory resolution.

Warring parents SHOULD NOT use their child/children and the terms of residence or contact as an opportunity to score points over the other party.

I can’t comment on how the family courts operate as I’ve had no personal experience of these.  However, I do know of many fathers who feel that the decisions of such court have victimized them and been more favourable to the mothers.

Tragically, official figures show one child in five whose parents have separated will lose touch with their absent parent within three years and in some cases they will never see them again. Many more lose contact with a parent most often with fathers when the parents have not been able to agree on where the child should live and how the child should be raised.

Parents should try and ensure that their contact time with their children should be a positive experience.  The children are often the innocent victims of the relationship breakdown. They are caught in the middle.  They don’t want to side with one parent against the other.  They often have to find their own way of dealing with their emotions and feelings about the separation of their parents. 

What follows is my list of DO and DON’TS to make that contact as helpful an experience as it could be for both parent and children:


  • Do keep all contact appointments.
  • Do let your children know how special they are to you
  • Do keep your word/promises to your children
  • Do show interest in your children and all they are involved with
  • Do assure your children that both parents love them and always will
  • Do ensure that your time together is quality time
  • If a venue for contact is an issue, do agree on a neutral venue
  • If planning to take the children away on holiday, do consult the other parent first letting them know of your intention.  If you do take the children away, always inform the other parent of your location.
  • Do try and keep calm when collecting the children.  Being drawn into any form of argument will create a bad atmosphere for the rest of the contact.
  • Do assure your children that you will always have room for them
  • Do male allowances for your children’s behaviour and feelings.  They will be hurting as well as you and this will manifest itself in different ways.
  • Do take your children back to the other parent at the agreed time.  If there should be an unavoidable delay, let the other parent know asap of the problem and keep them updated about progress.


  • Don’t ever cancel your contact time – your children are your top priority come before any other engagement
  • Don’t question your children about the activities of your ex-partner
  • If in a new relationship, don’t initially include your new partner in your contact. Your children need time with you alone.  Eventually, the time will come when your children will feel comfortable about your new partner’s involvement
  • If in a new relationship, don’t talk about your new partner’s children/family in front of your children until you have strengthen your relationship with your children and they are ready to be involved in your new family.  It must be on your children’s terms, not yours.
  • Don’t’ leave your children with others during your contact time.  It is YOUR time not anybody else.  Your children deserve (and need) your undivided attention
  • Don’t criticize the other parent in front of your children.
  • Don’t ignore your children or leave them to their own devices during your contact time
  • If the venue of  the contact is the ‘’old’ family home, don’t change the children's rooms or immediately re-allocate them (eg. to the children of your new partner).   Your children don’t want to feel that you have replaced them with your ‘new’ family.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Child Maintenance

Irrespective of Parental Responsibility, both parents are legally responsible for the financial costs of raising their children. Upon a relationship breakdown, arrangements for the children’s safety and well-being should be the first consideration.  Sometimes the danger is that parents can use their children to direct their feelings/emotions onto the other parent.

One of the first things a parent without residency of children should do is make financial provision for the children of the relationship (known as child support or child maintenance).
If possible, both parents should be able to agree on a private arrangement for this.  This agreement can include details of maintenance payment, which parent is responsible for what aspect of the child’s life, access arrangements etc.  Don’t just make a verbal agreement however make sure everything is documented and signed by both parties.

If you agree maintenance payments in this fashion, don’t pay your ex-partner in cash unless they are prepared to sign a receipt saying that they have been paid child maintenance money.  Make sure that you can provide an audit trail of your payments.  The reason for this is that your ex-partner may deny receiving these payment and if you can’t prove that you have made them, you will have to make them a second time.  Ideally, pay the child maintenance by Bank Transfer so that you can evidence that on a certain day every month you paid the agreed amount into an agreed account.

Importantly, if your ex-partner refuses to accept voluntary child maintenance payments, don’t accept this, At the end of the day, the payment isn’t to your ex-partner but for your child.  When your child is old enough to understand, your ex-partner could use this to poison your child against you…”they were never bothered about you….they never even gave any money for you..etc.”  If you find this happening, open up a separate Bank account and deposit the money in there that you would have given for Child Maintenance.  One day, your child will ask you why you didn’t contribute.  You will then be able to say that your ex-partner said they didn’t want payment, however you didn’t accept this and placed the money regularly in a bank account which you then hand to your child. 

Initially, me and my ex-wife went down this route whereby we agreed a set amount for maintenance, access, and shared parental duties.  However, when I changed jobs I suspected she thought she might be financially better off if she arranged maintenance payments through the Child Support Agency.  The downside about this approach is that a financial assessment is made and enforced within any condition being made for access/visiting rights.  The amount of times children  stay overnight can be taken into consideration  but it doesn’t entitled the parent paying child maintenance to automatic access of their children.

Currently, there are three statutory child maintenance scheme being used to work out maintenance payments.  They are run by either the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
These are
  • The 1993 Scheme run by the CSA
  • The 2003 Scheme run by the CSA
  • The 2012 Scheme run by the CMA
At the moment only a few people are on the 2012 Scheme but it is intended to extend and gradually replace both the 1993 and 2003 Scheme.

For now, there is no charge for using the CMS to make a maintenance arrangement.  However, in the future, you’ll have to pay a fee when you apply unless:
  • you’re aged 18 or younger, or
  • a victim of domestic violence.
If the CMS arranges maintenance, they will make a calculation based on legal rules which take into account:
  • the income of the parent who should pay maintenance
  • the number of qualifying children. These are the children you are caring for
  • the number of relevant other children. These are other children that are also being supported financially.
The calculation doesn’t take into account the income of the parent with whom the children reside or how much you actually need to bring up the children. The amount that parent gets will be fixed. However, the CMS will review the calculation each year.
If the CMS works out maintenance payments, it should take about four weeks to set up the arrangement.

The parent who pays maintenance will usually have to make regular payments directly to the other parent, either monthly or weekly, usually into a bank account or by money transfer. This is called Direct Pay.

However, if Direct Pay is not suitable, the CMS can collect payments from the other parent and pass them onto you. This is called Collect and Pay. For now, this service is free, but eventually the parent paying maintenance will have to pay a fee for this. If you're getting maintenance by this method, you'll eventually end up with less money.

If you’re the parent who should pay maintenance arranged by the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), and you don’t pay, they can take action against you to make you pay. This is called enforcement action.

The Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) can try to recover arrears of maintenance in the following ways:
  • take money from  earnings. This is called a deductions from earnings order
  • take money from benefits. This does not apply to arrears under the 1993 Scheme
  • take money from a bank or building society account. This is called a deduction order
  • apply to court for a liability order. If a liability order is granted, they can refer the case to the bailiffs who could come and take property away to be sold to cover arrears and costs
  • apply to court for a charging order to force the selling of property and use the money to pay off child maintenance arrears.
If all other enforcement methods have failed, the CSA or CMS can apply to court for the non-paying parent to be disqualified from driving or sent to prison.

The CSA or CMS also have the power to apply to the High Court to prevent a person from getting rid of property or transferring property if they believe the reason that person is doing it is to avoid paying child maintenance.

If a parent disposed of property to avoid paying maintenance, the CSA or CMS can apply for an order to cancel the sale or transfer. This is called an order to set aside the disposition.
However, the court can't set aside a disposition if it was made:
  • for a reasonable payment, and
  • to a person who acted in good faith who was not aware of your intention to avoid child maintenance payments.

I hope that this outlines clearly rights and responsibilities as they relate to Child Maintenance in the UK.  The important advice for both parties is Keep a record of everything including any contact you may have with CSA/CMS.

How to contact CSA/CMS:

Child Support Agency Helpline
Telephone: 0845 713 3133 
Textphone: 0845 713 8924
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Saturdays, 9am to 5pm
You’ll need your National Insurance number and date of birth when you contact the CSA/CMS

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Parental Responsibility

More increasingly I’m being asked about Fathers who are being denied access or are finding seeing their children difficult due to various issues so I thought it was time started  to address some of the issues involved in this vast subject.

Before I go any further I do want to thank all mothers who, despite their own personal feelings, recognise that children need both parents and therefore co-operate and allow their children full contact with their biological fathers.

My first post in this field deals with the legal rights and responsibilities of all parents.  

As a parent, you have certain legal rights and responsibilities which is known as ‘parental responsibility.’

What is Parental Responsibility in a nutshell?   

To summarise, a mother (married or unmarried) automatically has parental responsibility.  If you  are the father and were married at the time of the birth of your children, you also have automatic parental responsibility.  Divorce DOES NOT invalidate your parental responsibility.   As an unmarried Father, some parts of the UK will also automatically grant you parental responsibility if you’re named on the birth certificate but this is worth checking on and not taking for granted.  As an unmarried father, you can apply for parental responsibility either with or without your child’s mothers consent.

Verbal agreements may seem okay when things are amiable with your ex-partner but always get a copy of such agreement in writing (whether formal or informal) with your ex-partner signing and also dating the agreement. 
To have a Parental Responsibility arrangement legally recognised, fill in a Parental Responsibility Agreement form (also known as Form C(PRA1) ).  Take the agreement to your local county court or family proceedings court, where it can be signed and witnessed.  Also take the child’s birth certificate and proof of your identity, like a passport or driving licence.
Then send 2 copies of the form to the following address:
Principal Registry of the Family Division
First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn

If you want parental responsibility but can’t agree on arrangements with the mother, you will have to apply for a court order from your local county court/family proceedings court  which currently costs  £215.

If you have parental responsibility for a child you don’t live with, you don’t necessarily have a right to contact with them - but the other parent still needs to keep you updated about their well-being and progress.
You’re also responsible for:
·         disciplining the child
·         choosing and providing for the child’s education
·         agreeing to the child’s medical treatment
·         naming the child and agreeing to any change of name
·         looking after the child’s property
Parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially, whether they have parental responsibility or not.
More information about Parental Responsibility and the forms needed to apply for it can be found at

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Are times (attitudes) a changing?

Long standing readers of my blog will know that I have been campaigning for gender equality in acceptance and awareness for victims of Domestic Violence for quite a period. 

During the last year the popular English soap opera, Coronation Street, ran a storyline where popular car mechanic Tyrone Dobbs was a victim of abuse perpetrated by his partner Kirsty.  Overall, I felt that the scriptwriters handled this well and helped raised this taboo subject into the public consciousness.  I did hope that attitudes will change as a result.  However, I are being to wonder whether times are changing?

Take, for example, two recent public fights between celebrity couples.  In one, the victim was found with a bloodied nose and bite marks after the alarm was raised in a hotel.  Photographs emerged of the other couple out dining with one party reaching over and appearing to grab the other party by the throat.

Without any shadow of doubt, both these incidents are serious violent assaults and the more serious injuries probably occurred in the first account ( bloodied nose /bite mark).
And yet, that crime passed with little comment.  

English readers will know that in the second attack I describe the victim was celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her assailant was her husband, art dealer Charles Saatchi.  There then followed a media outcry.

What of the first attack?  This featured the actresses Emma Roberts who allegedly inflicted the damage on her boyfriend Evan Peters.  This was perhaps the more brutal of the two cases and yet, Mr. Peters refused to press charges so nothing more was said.  Rather ridiculously, this alleged attack was then described as a disturbance.  I suspect though, that had Emma Roberts been discovered with a bloodied nose and bite marks, disturbance would have been a far too weak word to describe the actions of an animalistic attack.

So are times a changing?   Hmmmm, maybe not.

I think that a token acknowledge that men can also be victims of domestic violence is being made, without recognising the seriousness of the issue.  Take, for example, my local regional newspaper, The Nottingham Post.  They have being running an effective Domestic Violence awareness campaign called Man Enough.  My only criticism of it is that it is Gender-biased.  I can’t blame the paper for this really, because the whole Domestic Violence support industry became Gender-biased after being highjacked by Misandrists.

The man Enough campaign is about encouraging men to stand up and pledge that they will not commit any form of violence against women.  Of course, I applaud this fully, but I feel that it falls short because (probably unintentionally) it perpetuates the myth that all men are potential attackers and it is only women that are abused by their intimate partners.

Despite a high-profile DV campaign, the Gender-biased approach was evident.  In May 2013, a report appeared of a local video that had gone viral of a couple where one partner began behaving in an aggressive manner by throwing shopping items such as canned goods at the other person.  However, because the person throwing the tins was female the report was written in  jokey fashion.

 Had the roles been reversed, again there would have been a great furore. In fact, the following film is well worth a watch to once again show how inconsistent attitudes are:

It shows how fickle people’s opinions may be.  When viewing a woman hit her male partner, it seems an acceptable attitude to assume that the man deserves it because he must have been cheating and that the man had it coming.  Conversely, if a man is viewed hitting a woman, there can be no valid excuse, as it’s wrong.  It doesn’t matter whether the woman has been cheating or not.  There is NO EXCUSE.  Let me state here and now, strong and loud, irrespective of gender, THERE IS NEVER ANY EXCUSE FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE.

The following month, a columnist took the Coronation Street story as her inspiration for her latest musings:

“…Obviously a lot of viewers agreed with me, as Coronation Street won best storyline with the ongoing domestic abuse story between Kirsty and Tyrone.

While it focused on Tyrone as a male victim of domestic abuse – and did a fantastic job in raising awareness on male victims of domestic abuse – Women's Aid reports that one in four women will experience violence from their partner at some point in their lives….”

I took issue with the way in which the article was written, commending  a TV programme for highlighting female-perpetrated abuse against men then using it to comment on violence against women.

“As a male victim of Domestic Violence I applaud anything that brings greater awareness to the issue and I was pleased overall the way in which the Coronation Street scriptwriters handled this sensitive issue. The soaps certainly fulfill a role in teaching society about what is actually happening out there. However, this article could have done with some better research. It focuses on the Male Victim of Domestic Violence storyline and then quotes a statistic from Women's Aid which bears no relevance whatsoever to the article. In writing about male victims of DV, why then quote '1 in 4 women will experience violence from their partner at some point in their lives." In the context of the article, a better quote would have been "1 in 6 men will experience violence from their partner at some point in their lives." If any reader wants to know more about the impact of domestic violence on me and my children, my blog is a worthy starting point.”

I must make it clear though, that this is not a criticism of the newspaper.  They are only reporting on the attitudes and perceptions that still exist.  To give the media its due, they recently ran an interview with myself allowing me to speak up for male victims:

Are attitudes / times a changing?  I’m not too sure yet, but slowly the message is beginning to filter though.  

Monday, 19 August 2013

Prone to Violence

I consider myself to be a logical person and a rational thinker.  For example, I usually keep things in the same place and so if I can’t find an item, I retrace my steps and hopefully soon find the object I’ve misplaced.  If my search is unsuccessful, I won’t rest until I discover it.   My logic tells me that the object I seek is exactly in the same place where I left it.  Most of the time, this approach works for me.  If it doesn’t, I can never rest until the search is over. My logical thinking always telling me that it’s exactly where I last placed it.  

However, if my ex-wife had misplaced something (losing her keys/purse etc.), I was always blamed for taking it (or moving it) .  This would then always seem to provide an excuse for yet another violent outburst. Having gained some insight from the excellent  ‘Prone to Violence’ by Erin Pizzey and Jeff Shapiro, I can now understand where her approach comes from.

When I was assaulted by my ex-wife, a similar thought pattern kicked in.  I ended up making excuses for her behaviour because that was the only way I could make logical sense of the abuse.

Looking back, I still struggle about how my ex-wife can portray herself as a pillar of the local community when I and our children know the real truth about her.  When challenged about her behaviour towards us, she either denies or waters down the severity of the offence.  Recently, she did admit to our daughter that she had had ‘anger issues in the past’ which is the first time she’s acknowledged anything.

I have reflected over these feelings before and my online friend, Andy Thomas of ‘A Voice for Men’, suggested I read Erin Pizzey and Jeff Shapiro’s ‘Prone to Violence.’  This was a most insightful book and is being featured on ‘A Voice for Men’s’ website currently. 

Erin Pizzey founded the first refuge for all victims of domestic violence in the 1970’s.  She discovered that out of the many women coming to her refuge, most were as violent (if not more so) than the partners they were leaving behind.  ‘Prone to Violence’ is an account of the real truth about Domestic Violence. However, it can be a disturbing read because its message is one that the Governmental Policy Makers don’t want you to hear. 

I count it a real honour that some of my blogs are included along Erin Pizzey’s articles on ‘A Voice for Men’ website.  Erin’s latest article is well worth a read as she writes about how Domestic Violence policy developed to the detriment of men and their rights:

Reading ‘Prone to Violence’ has given me some of the answers I’ve been seeking for a long time about my ex-wife’s abusive behaviour.  The book is based on experience and observation and lays out how Domestic Violence victims fall into two camps:  Battered Spouses and those Prone to Violence.  

The battered spouses tend to have grown up in emotionally-enabled families and fall victim to violent partners.  However, the ‘Prone to Violence’ types come from emotionally-disabled families, never knowing the proper love, care and nurture as young children that so many of us take for granted. As a result, these ‘Prone to Violence’ people learn from an early age that the only time they are noticed and given attention is when anger manifests itself and so they become addicted to that emotion/pain, even creating situations so that they can feel the buzz that the violent reaction gives them. 

The following excerpt seemed to be written for me and, at the very least, gives me some comfort of explanation that I have been searching for:

Prone to Violence, Chapter Five

……If you accept, as we do, that you are both emotionally and chemically bonded to your parenting, then it becomes so much easier to understand your own addiction. In a healthy family, that bonding plays its part while a child grows and learns. Then, when the child is ready to turn outwards, the bonds are slowly loosened, while the parents readjust their lives to use their time for themselves and enjoy their future with each other. The child meanwhile seeks to recreate the good, warm, loving  relationships and home environment that it experienced in its own home. Usually, this child will succeed. An emotionally and chemically synthesised maturing adult will seek the same relationship  with its partner. 

 On the whole, the emotionally able will avoid the discomfort and turmoil of the emotionally disabled. If by chance they do attempt to form a relationship with an emotionally disabled person, they will then find themselves in the position of a battered woman or battered man. Confused and bewildered, they continually misunderstand the messages they get from their partners. It is very rare  that they can actually do very much to change their partner. If their partner will not seek help, their best bet is to get out before children are born and they become the unwitting parents of another generation of damage. 

 Children born into violent homes will usually express the violence and betrayal of their childhood according to how it personally affects them, their position in the family, and their genetic inheritance. Instead of flowing with the warmth and the love of a happy family, they have had to survive against the violent and often incestuous onslaughts of their parents. Violent and incestuous families do not let each other go. The parents take little pleasure in each other's company, and use one or all of the children in the highly complex emotional theatre and battleground of the family.

Betrayal is the key word in these families. Betrayed parents in turn betray their children. They rob them of their childhoods. They exploit them physically. They exploit them emotionally. They keep them on edge in a jealous rage for attention. Then when the children do finally break away, the rest of their lives are spent in reaction against their parents. 

 Should a girl from a non-violent home marry a boy from such a family, the chances are that no amount of reassurance will ever convince him that she will be faithful to him. That primary betrayal of a faithless or promiscuous mother will make him morbidly jealous for life. His only hope is that he can find someone who can help him not only to come to terms emotionally with the damage, but also to be able to identify the moment when an event can trigger a chemical reaction in him that sets  off the emotion of jealousy, and then to relate it to the past, not the present. Sometimes it can be a smell, a perfume, an inflection in a voice, which can stimulate the feelings of betrayal, and bring the rage flooding back into the present. He then behaves in such a way that it is out of proportion with the current event. 

 Unfortunately, so far, very little work has been done in this field in Britain, where there is noticeable resistance to any attempt to understand why human beings behave as they do In other countries where I lecture, I find a great deal of interest and research going on. 

Thank you Erin Pizzey.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Apply with Caution - Adventures in Job seeking

I commenced writing this blog  when I lost my last job.  My dismissal came about because I received a police caution and I declared this caution at work.  Although the crime was not connected, or as far as I was concerned, bore any relation to the work I was doing, I felt the decision was harsh.  My conduct was deemed inappropriate despite the fact that there had been no issues with my conduct prior to my declaration.

I shared with my then employers, my whole back story and the context in which I gained the caution believing/hoping that they would understand.

They didn’t.

Since then, I’ve been searching furiously for work.  I can get plenty of volunteer roles.  People seem to want to make full use of my skills, talents and experience for free.  However, when it comes to paid work, no-one wants to take a gamble on me.

Most application forms ask for a declaration of criminal convictions.  Some also ask for warnings/cautions etc as well.  I’m not totally convinced whether prospective employers actually appreciate the difference between a conviction and a caution either.  If I get to an interview and  there’s possibility that my caution will be revealed in post-interview checks, I volunteer the information to the interview panel.

Usually on the forms, there’s a disclaimer stating that your conviction/caution will not be a factor in my potential recruitment.  When I’ve declared it to an interviewer, I’ve always been thanked for my honesty and told that my application will be judged on its merits and my caution will not influence the overcome.

However, I tend to receive the following feedback:

“We liked you as a person, you gave a strong interview BUT because of your caution we don’t want to take a chance.”

When I reveal my caution to prospective employers, I also tell them the context in which I received it and this has led me to question myself whether they really believe my testimony.

There I am, a big burly chap sitting in front of them, telling them that I was a victim of Domestic Violence and my caution was result of my befuddled attempts to try and minimise the conflict at home.    Do they really believe that men can be victims and affected by Domestic Abuse?  I fear they don't.

The reality is that I know that , without any blemish on my record, I would walk into  the vacancies I’m applying for without any problem.

Prior to receiving the caution, I was offered every job that I’d been called to be interviewed for.  Post caution, nothing.

All I can do is stay positive, keep knocking on doors and believe that very soon someone will take a chance on employing me.