British Blogger Clueless on Children’s Need for Equal Parenting

November 17, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

He’s back. And as anti-shared parenting as ever (Marilyn Stowe, 11/10/14). The ‘he’ I refer to is John Bolch who puts in an appearance on Marilyn Stowe’s blog from time to time. Stowe blogs on family law in the United Kingdom and, by the standards of such things, isn’t the worst of family law pundits. That of course raises the question of why she allows Bolch to pollute her blog with his opinions that are invariably anti-father, often anti-fact and sometimes just jaw-droppingly nutty. The one linked to I’d put in the first and second categories.

Here’s a piece I did on Bolch back in March. In it he pronounces a child custody case to be thorny and difficult for the judge to decide. Indeed, he recites its facts for that very proposition — that family court judges often deal with intractable cases, i.e. those with facts that don’t permit easy judgments to be made.

But the remarkable thing is that the case he described was in fact simplicity itself. Here’s how I summarized the facts as stated by Bolch.

As Bolch himself described it, on the one hand we have a father against whom there are no findings of unfitness. On the other we have an illicit-drug-using mother who apparently abuses her daughter physically, lies to the court, fabricates abuse charges against the dad and somehow gets the little girl to ingest pot. She does all that in the spirit of parental alienation and goes on to do everything she can to keep the dad out of his daughter’s life.

Given those facts, the unquestionable conclusion should have been for the father to have primary custody with supervised visitation to Mom. She should attend parenting classes until she can prove she understands that their child needs both parents in her life. Mom must demonstrate that she’s put aside her alienating ways and stopped abusing illicit drugs. She needs to show she’s no longer violent towards her daughter. That done, she can gradually be reintegrated into her daughter’s life until Dad and Mom have roughly equal parenting time. During all that time, she should pay child support commensurate with her earning ability.

In short, it’s a simple case. Dad’s a fit parent and Mom’s not. But for Bolch, those facts represent the toughest of cases, and there’s only one way that can be true — if he takes it as a given that Mom gets primary custody. In that event, yes, it’s a toughie. It would indeed be hard to cram those facts into the pre-made jar of British family court practice in which mothers are presumptively custodians of children and fathers aren’t.

So, having established Bolch’s predilection for maternal custody, his latest piece comes as no surprise.

A recent effort by the British government to make fathers’ lives ever more difficult comes in the form of child support authorities giving information on arrears to credit agencies so that dads can be denied things like credit cards, mortgages and the like. So if Dad wants to provide a better place for his child to live, he can’t. If he wants to purchase items for the child on credit, he can’t. If he wants to buy a better car, he can’t. Get a mobile phone? Ditto.

And of course Bolch is all for anything that makes life harder for non-custodial dads. (I say “dads” because some 90% of non-custodial parents in the U.K. are fathers. But the law applies to non-custodial parents of whatever sex.)

Now, those who support non-custodial parents are up in arms about the new proposal. They rightly point out that (a) it targets fathers, (b) like all the other draconian methods of child support enforcement, it makes actual payment of support harder, not easier and (c) nudges non-custodial parents ever closer to or deeper into poverty.

To those complaints, Bolch offers not a word of reply. He seems to believe that pretty much anything the government does to punish non-payment will result in greater levels of payment. But of course that very concept is based on the belief that non-custodial parents don’t want to support their children, a theory that holds in only the barest minimum of cases. The simple truth is that the great majority of non-custodial parents do want to support their children, but some fall behind for reasons they don’t control. The new rules would make no distinction between parents who can’t and those who choose not to pay. About that Bolch is blissfully ignorant.

But this is a blog by John Bolch, so it gets worse, not better.

His next windmill at which to tilt is the effort by equal parenting advocates to get courts to enforce the visitation orders they issue. They rightly point out that courts and laws have no difficulty in enforcing child support orders, so why not those of visitation? Why should dads have to pay when mothers routinely prevent access? That’s a particularly pertinent question when we consider the known fact that non-custodial parents whose visitation isn’t interfered with are far more likely to pay support than those who don’t see their kids.

Bolch has no answer, so he sets up a straw man — the notion that shared parenting proponents want to couple visitation rights with child support. The reality is that shared parenting organizations around the world want parents to have equal or near-equal time with their kids and they want courts to use their power to ensure that that happens. Failing that, they want visitation orders enforced as vigorously as those for child support. But of course they’re not, a fact Bolch probably knows, has no defense for and therefore assiduously ignores.

Finally Bolch gets down to his core claim.

As I mentioned earlier, the group considers that the system discriminates against fathers. It once said that that it considers that the first step towards a fair solution to the child support issue “must be to eliminate the anachronistic sex discrimination: the gender apartheid”.

They went on: “We must jettison the view that sees mothers as carriers and fathers as cashpoints”. Well, the fact is that the system, both in respect of post-separation arrangements for children and child support, does not discriminate — it is not gender-specific. The results of the system merely reflect the situation in society: that more mothers are child carers and fathers are generally the main breadwinners. Whether that is right or wrong is another matter, but the system can’t be blamed for it.

There you have it. According to Bolch, the system of awarding custody doesn’t discriminate against fathers because mothers tend to do the majority of the hands-on care while fathers tend to be breadwinners.

It’s hard to be so wrong in so many ways. The claim probably sets some sort of record for purblind dumbness.

Let’s see. First there’s the concept that children attach to both parents at an early age and the loss of one via divorce is deeply injurious to them. Bolch, together with the entire British system of child custody, have no idea of that simplest and best-known of scientific facts. To him, the only thing that matters is who changes the nappies. If Mom does that and Dad simply earns the money with which to buy the nappies, then Mom gets custody, Dad loses access to his child and the child loses its father. Never mind that there’s no social science with which to support such outcomes and never mind that there’s a boatload of it supporting the need of children for both parents. Science? Bolch don’t need no stinkin’ science. Outmoded notions of what’s good for kids is all he needs to draw his anti-father/anti-child opinions.

Then there’s his notion that, when it comes to children, there’s ‘caring’ and then there’s ‘breadwinning,’ and the two have nothing to do with each other. According to that, again, changing nappies and spooning in the strained peas constitute care, while going to work to earn the money to buy the food, the clothes, the roof over everyone’s head, the doctor visits, etc., is, well, something else, something less. In Bolch’s strange world, those things don’t count. The rest of us notice that those things that don’t count just happen to be things Dads tend to do, but Bolch is oblivious to his own biases.

Bolch is right of course that child custody orders “merely reflect the situation in society,” that mothers tend to be the hands-on parents and fathers’ earnings make that possible. The glaring error he makes is to pretend that, because that tends to be so, fathers don’t matter to children and so the kids can afford to lose Dad as long as they don’t lose his pounds and shillings. That’s completely untrue, but Bolch is so imbued with his anti-father bias that he doesn’t grasp the obvious.

For most, the concept of equal parenting is a simple one. What’s complicated is defending a status quo that’s bad for children, bad for fathers, bad for mothers and bad for society generally. It’s truly daunting to go to bat for a system that contradicts the great weight of social science on children’s welfare and family structure. Bolch of course is utterly unequal to the task, but I’ve yet to locate anyone who is.


National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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