A detailed psychological analysis of the family found no evidence the child had been abused, but concluded instead that the mother had alienated her from her father. It also recommended that if the mother didn’t change her behaviour, the child should live with her father.”[The mother] has been using control as a coping mechanism of …perverse anxiety,” wrote the psychologist. “There has clearly been a campaign of parental alienation.”
That’s from this excellent article about British Columbia dad, Dieter Geesing (CBC News, 6/22/10). He and his unnamed wife have a daughter who’s now 10 years old. They’re divorced and have a nice agreement about sharing parenting. The only problem is that Geesing’s ex ignores it. Ok, that’s not the only problem. The other problem is that the court ignores the fact that his ex ignores the agreement. Geesing hasn’t seen his daughter in over a year.
So what’s the result of his ex-wife’s frank refusal to abide by the terms of the court order that reflects their agreement? Nothing. Nada. Nichts. Zip.
Records show there have been no consequences for the child’s mother. Geesing has been told he has no legal recourse but to go back to court to ask the judge for help, which could take several months.
That, it turns out has real consequences, not only for the father but for the daughter as well.
“I love my child. It’s not fair to her. You are cheating her of her childhood,” he said tearfully. “This child has a right to interact with her father.”
Indeed, it’s clear from the article that the mother’s alienation of the child began long ago. That’s why the court included this requirement in its original order, a requirement that, not surprisingly, the mother has also ignored.
The court also instructed the mother to pay for and attend counselling to help establish a “healthier” relationship between father and daughter. A letter from the counsellor to the judge shows Geesing’s ex-wife has since failed to co-operate.
I’ve said this a thousand times – courts don’t enforce their own visitation orders. The penalties for failure to pay child support are swift, sure and known to all. The penalties for failure to abide by visitation orders are essentially nil. It’s true in the United States. Australian academic John Hirst wrote a lengthy essay in part on the refusal of family courts there to enforce visitation orders. This article gives another example from Canada.
It also cites the work of the always-excellent Dr. Edward Kruk of the University of British Columbia. Dr. Kruk’s research shows that, non-custodial fathers from all walks of life very commonly experience maternal interference in their visitation rights.
A 2009 study by Edward Kruk at the University of B.C.’s school of social work took a detailed look at the parental roles of 82 Vancouver-area fathers, from all walks of life, post-divorce.
Of the 82, 56 reported “lack of access” as their No. 1 problem. Thirty of the 82 fathers reported being completely disengaged from their children’s lives.
Fathers’ rights activist Jerry Arthur-Wong said,
“I know fathers who have been to court 50 times — in front of a judge — only to be told that they will get access but they do not,” said Jerry Arthur-Wong, the executive director at Vancouver’s only men’s resource centre.
“It’s like the court appearance had no impact on the other parent.”
That’s only to state the obvious. As John Hirst pointed out in his essay on the family court system in Australia,
Just as the Court had there imagined, leniency had disastrous consequences for children. Since access orders were defied with impunity, thousands of children were kept from their fathers, though the Court had ruled that their best interests required that they see them.
In other words, when mothers know that they’ll face no consequences for doing so, they feel free to ignore visitation orders. And that is contrary to the best interests of children. Dieter Geesing’s case should be Exhibit ‘A.’
Years ago, Dr. Sanford Braver’s research showed that the primary reason why non-custodial fathers don’t pay child support is that they’ve been “parentally disenfranchised” which includes denial of visitation by the mother and refusal by courts to require her compliance. Of course non payment is wrong legally; neither party may legally refuse to comply with a custody order because the other party isn’t complying. But as a practical matter, that’s what the dads did. Braver wrote,
[W]e found a correspondence between the mothers’ denial of visitation and the fathers’ refusal to pay child support.
So the other side of the custody coin reads: ‘Moms, if you want support paid in full and on time, let daddy see his kids.’ The failure to enforce visitation orders hurts everyone – children, fathers and mothers alike.
And yet it continues. In spite of all we know about the value of fathers to children; in spite of courts’ obvious need to have their own orders respected, it continues.