That is the title of a new book written by Dr Edward Kruk, an Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of British Columbia, specializing in child and family policy. It is so similar to how we feel about the inadequacies of the current presumption of shared parenting that we’re adding it here to re-iterate our own well established views on the matter.
Dr Kruk essentially states that the current presumption in Canada, which is very much like our own new working presumption, does more harm than good and needs to sit within an evidence-based fact finding process which includes the voice of the child in a meaningful way. Dr Kruk takes the view that often children are their own best experts in what is best for them regarding contact and should be viewed as such when it comes to their best interests. Which of course is something we agree with, assuming the child has not been pressured into a particular point of view.
In his article on Psychology Today, Dr Kruk explains further:
“first of all we adopt an evidence-based approach derived from research asking children themselves about their needs in the divorce transition, and then taking responsibility to reform our laws and public policies to address those needs….. Most simply stated, it is the responsibility of social institutions to support parents in the fulfillment of their parenting responsibilities to their children’s needs.”
And it seems that State side they share all the same problems we do here in the UK. They also seem to be experiencing a positive revolution in how the voice of the child is being accommodated, but much like our family justice system there is still room for improvement. Dr Kruk even refers to a young girl in England and her case, which left her estranged from one parent. Aimee Nicholls, now 16, talks about her parents’ divorce, which happened when she was just 5. Aimee says:
“Despite what people want you to think, I’ve learned that family law… works exactly how it was designed to work… It makes more money for everyone working in family law, and my situation is only partly resolved after 11 years of fighting… The system doesn’t like giving up, unless you’re one of the few families it allows to be different to “prove” that it’s fair. It clearly isn’t fair.”
Aimee goes on to describe how social services misled the courts about her wishes and feelings, how the judge ignored her sentiments in court, how court experts painted a picture of her father that was both untrue and deeply hurtful and finally, how the child welfare officer in her case lied in her report to keep her from seeing her father, and even went so far as to ‘misplace’ her wishes and feelings document. None of this will sound strange or unusual to those of us working in the darker corners of the Family Justice system.
She finishes by saying, “The system is completely broken. Almost everyone working in the system has some vested interest in what’s going on…. If it’s not money and work, it’s politics… The whole secrecy thing, it just makes it… worse. I personally think that would be one of the main things that would resolve this…. Nobody else’s voice gets heard. Politicians just need to stop this, and not in a few months, or two years, or a few weeks even. They need to do it now…”
We don’t know what’s happening by way of improvement in the US, but here at least, for now, under the current President of the Family Division, Aimee would be heartened to know that transparency is Sir James Munby’s priority. It may be too late for Aimee, but we hope, it won’t be too late for the future generations of children going through the courts.
And more than anything, we sure hope Sir Munby can pull it off, because children like Aimee all over the country are growing up with a negative, and unfortunately understandable view of the family justice system. A view which is also held by a large portion of the general public.