If you find this site useful, please donate to support our work
Subscribe

Get our latest news by email:

Search

Looking for something?

Facebook
« International Parental Alienation Awareness Day | Main | Talk by Sue Whitcombe and Pat Barclay »
Monday
Apr022018

Data desert reinforces prejudice over the role of fathers as parents

Creative Commons on PixabayWords matter.

 

They can release our thinking or they can trap it.

The term non-resident parent was introduced into family law to get rid of the terms “custody” and “access” more than 20 years ago. Referring to the allocation of parenting time with their children between separated parents the new terms “resident” and “non-resident” parent were felt to be less censorious and judgemental and carry less implication that one parent was more important than the other. The emphasis, at least in the cases that end up in court, was intended to move towards joint parental responsibilities and the search for arrangements that would allow both parents to fulfil their responsibilities to their children.

But in reality old assumptions quickly came to infect the “resident” and “non-resident” alternatives.

Separated parents quickly learned that “resident” carries more status in the eyes of friends and family, GP practice managers, schools and social workers than “non-resident”.

Even though at FNF Scotland we dislike the term intensely we end up using it every day. Fathers – and mothers – who come to us for help starting thinking of themselves as “non-resident parents” instead of just parents. They often themselves underestimate the contribution they can continue to make in the lives of their children.

Partly that is because of the advice they get when they go to a solicitor when they can’t reach agreement with their former partner that reflects the amount and quality of parenting time they had with their children before separation. The solicitor will know which sheriffs regard every other weekend as more than enough and who will not take kindly to a dad whom asks for more.

That’s why the recent Fatherhood Institute research is so important. A data desert leads to a policy and practice desert.

 If fathers – separated or not – disappear out of the data then they and their parenting become invisible and easy to dismiss, diminish and disparage. And the minimalist prejudices can be confirmed.

Policy makers, judges and legislators alike should rise to the challenge of recognising the realities of parenting in modern Scotland. There is something wrong when a single term “non-resident parent”  covers one parent who has his children with him up to 3 or 4 nights a week; another who see them every day but can’t take them overnight – housing benefit for younger fathers ignores their parenting responsibilities by insisting they share with other unrelated adults; and another who has his kids every other weekend because he was told not to ask for more; another who doesn’t see them at all.

It’s not only a father’s issue. If the data is inaccurate for fathers it is also inaccurate for mothers. Above all, it’s a children’s issue. Research from around the world shows that children do better in most areas of their lives with the involvement of both parents.

*This article was published in The Herald on 15 March 2018.  It is the first in a series of articles that Families Need Fathers Scotland will publish on this web site setting out our views on family law reform in connection with the consultation that is being carried out by Scottish Government.

 

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>