Children Need Fathers
Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D
Southern England Psychological Services
David Blunkett is currently in the news for wishing to have contact
with his unborn child. It is hoped that times will have changed
by the time the child is born, or shortly thereafter, so that he
will not have the type of problem in having little or no contact
with his child as many fathers have today. I will not give a direct
answer to the question posed in my title but the answer will become
clear as I go along.
As an expert witness for many years I have acted as an independent
psychological consultant to the courts, requesting mostly that fathers,
but also mothers, are given opportunities for contact with their
children. Very often the parties are in dispute over contact, especially
fathers. In most cases those seeking contact and wishing to play
a vital role in the life of a child have been fathers. Some fathers
have sought such contact over many months and even many years. In
some cases after a great number of attempts of seeking to play a
role in their children’s lives they have given up. This is
unfortunate and damaging to the child, especially in the long-term.
In most cases the separation between the partners has been hostile
and this hostility has been maintained long after separation and
divorce and passed on to the children, usually by the mother. The
custodial parent, usually the mother, has tended to make it difficult,
sometimes impossible for father to maintain and build upon a relationship
with a child or children due to the implacable opposition which
many mothers have for such contact.
There has often been a process of ‘alienation or ‘poisoning
the mind’ of the child against the father by denigrating him
in the eyes of the child. This tends to be denied by the mother.
She claims to have made every effort to encourage a child to be
receptive to being with the father. But suddenly or gradually the
child who was previously so close to the father is now disinclined
to meet with him!
If contact is provided, it tends to be minimal or very restricted.
Sometimes a mother will insist, with no valid reason, that a former
partner should only have contact by post, supervised contact or
unsupervised contact but fairly restricted contact. In the extreme
mothers have changed the name of the child without the father’s
knowledge or permission when the mother has formed a new relationship.
The judicial system has gone along with the unfair and unjust
procedures over many years. It is for this reason that there now
exist such organisations as “Fathers 4 Justice” and
also “Shared Parenting” etc. Some of the measures employed
have not been to everyone’s satisfaction when they have reached
the headlines in recent times. However, I and many others, whilst
not always condoning the methods, have understood and sympathised
with the frustrations endured by many fathers. It is because fathers
have been unable to achieve justice by legal or legitimate means
that this behaviour has developed into more extreme forms of rebelliousness.
My own position as an expert witness has equally been frustrated
by the implacable and outmoded legal system in place today which
does not adequately deal with these matters. It is my view that
the child needs to maintain positive contact with both loving parents.
The exceptions are when one or both parents are violent or abusive
either sexual, physically or emotionally towards the child. The
fact that one parent may have to resort to being the litigant does
not give that parent a positive persona to the child or to others.
It is unfortunate that the custodial parent will sometimes use the
power of control as an argument when accusing the father of assertions
of abuse, these being false.
I favour both natural parents providing time, guidance, and love
towards a mutually conceived child or children. Ideally this should
be on a 50/50 basis. One cannot, however, hold to this precise sharing
of time in every case. One should however, use this as a starting
point. (It must be said that there are a few judges who agree with
me at this time. It is encouraging however, that a few do agree.)
This view however, is not normally accepted by the judiciary. They
still cling to the opinion that mothers should be the most prominent,
or even the only, care providers. Fathers are considered to be at
the periphery, virtually rejected from family life. At present there
are numerous single parents, both male and female who are care givers.
At least one third of these care providers who have custody of a
child or children are now men. These men are as capable as mothers
in caring for their children.
After many years of seeking appropriate or even any contact with
a child some fathers unfortunately give up the struggle, despite
the sadness they feel in having to do so. When some contact exists,
this contact is not only restricted and therefore unnatural, such
as no overnight stays with father being allowed, but often unsatisfactory
in many other ways. It is also tragic that the father sometimes
has to overcome the reluctance of the child to be with him because
of the “brainwashing” against himself which has been
perpetrated by the mother and often her family. It is also very
difficult for fathers to develop a long-term relationship when they
have not seen their child for a considerable period of time, or
the interval between seeing their child is too long.
Not only are fathers excluded or limited in contact with their
children but also the child is prevented from having contact with
father’s extended family. Judges, it appears, are loathe to
treat mothers in any punitive manner. This is even when mothers
actively prevent contact for non valid reasons. Such obstinate behaviour
by mothers occurs even when courts state that mothers must co-operate.
One Judge, who will be nameless, stated “What would you
have me do if a mother refuses to obey the ruling of the Court…..Imprison
To this I replied with a similar question: “What would
you do if the father had custody and the mother wished for equitable
contact. Would you not then consider some punitive action?”
The same Judge then considered the matter: “Would penalising
or imprisoning the mother in the final analysis not be harmful
to the child who we must most importantly protect?”
To which I replied: “Of course the child must be protected,
but does it not also harm the child in the short and long-term
to be deprived of a loving and caring father?”
The Judge had no answer to this.
Therefore, based on my experience, wobetide any expert witness
who supports a father in seeking contact, especially on a 50/50
basis, that is shared residence, when a mother is implacably imposed
to such an arrangement. I have sought fair and equal contact for
fathers with their children in cases in which I have been involved
but my experience with some judges has been disappointing.
I deem it most important for a child now and in the future to
be cared for by two loving parents. The ideal is for both parents
playing an equal part in the child’s upbringing. Much of the
troubles of society today are due to the fact that many children
do not have the benefit of two loving parents being involved in
their lives. This results in educational problems, truancy, delinquency
and future problems in their own relationships. Father’s role
with their sons is of particular importance in preventing delinquency
as much research has indicated. Daughters also who have a positive
relationship with their fathers are more likely to be able to establish
a good relationship with males as adults.
In some cases I have been viewed as being a biased psychological
expert when I have recommended joint residency. I could not understand,
and neither could the fathers, why I was not seen as being “independent”
in my conclusions and recommendations because of this opinion that
fathers and mothers have both rights of an equal nature for the
care and love of their children.
In at least one case, irrelevant allegations have been made of
my own derelictions by a biased mother and her solicitor with the
objective of discrediting me, my judgement, my recommendations and
my good name. Some Judges fortunately have the good sense to note
these irrelevant ploys as they were merely for the purpose of denigrating
me so that my views would be discounted. It was especially unfortunate
that one well-prepared report which I considered to be independent
was considered to be biased and was not even considered by the court.
I personally could not see where one recommended equal partnerships
in rearing a child could be considered as “biased”.
In one recent case, a whole report was discredited, as I suspect
was I because of my recommendation to equal contact. I was not even
allowed to be present at the hearing. My message therefore to expert
witnesses involved in family matters and parental alienation especially
There is no room in our current judicial system for new and better
ideas regarding justice and fairness for fathers with some Judges.
Indeed why does the case of access or contact have to be a judicial
issue? Might this matter be better served outside of such a forbidding,
worrying and costly scenario? Despite this, I will continue to represent
fathers seeking contact with their children and hoping that with
time and good arguments, views will change and fathers and indeed
mothers will be justly treated by the courts on a 50/50 basis or
as close as possible.
In this way, children will in future benefit in the short and
long-term. Children need both parents to have the best possible
chance of growing into emotionally healthy and adjusted adolescents
and adults. This is also a vital way of improving society on the
whole in the future.