Men on the receiving end of Non Molestation Orders are faced with the process of self-funding their case against a mother effectively bankrolled by the state

“Are dads being airbrushed out of existence?” might sound like the sort of internet conspiracy theory dreamt up by men’s rights activists, angry dads in Batmen outfits, or even outright misogynists.

Yet a report out today suggest this is precisely what is happening, at every level of the parent/state interface, when households recorded as single parent log no data on the parental involvement status of the fathers.

The Fatherhood Institute report, called “Where’s The Daddy?” points out that single fathers are legally part of one morass, from deceased dads, through willingly absent “bad dads,” to those fighting tooth and claw to play a more active role in the children’s lives.

Starting at birth

This legal erasing of dads begins at birth, when a mother automatically has parental responsibility for “her” child.

Non-married fathers (47% of the UK total but 96% of the under 20s) can have their name on the certificate by jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother (at her agreement), getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother, or getting a parental responsibility order from a court, which is normally taken as a hostile stance against the mother.

In the UK there are 4 million British children growing up in single parent households, roughly 90% of which are headed by mothers.

The report makes the useful (if bureaucratically nightmarish) suggestion that all forms filled in where the parent interacts with public services (hospital, school, etc) go into more detail about the nature of a father’s involvement.

This will help with both provision of services for single fathers, and also to help establish a paper trail of fatherhood involvement – useful in family courts for custodial access and establishing child maintenance, as fathers who are more absent pay more.

Family courts versus fathers

And here we reach the next battlefront: family courts. Do they favour mothers? Legally, in certain circumstances, there is no doubt this is the case.

When the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 was implemented in 2013, hundreds of thousands of people were suddenly no longer entitled to free legal aid.  A key exception was women who claimed domestic abuse, which leads to the application for Non-Molestation Orders.

In the year following its introduction, applications for LASPO boomed by 300%.

Prior to LASPO, the legal aid split was roughly 40% v 60% to men and women. Post-LASPO it is now 15% v 85%. That LASPO is the cause of this change is entirely unambiguous.

Here, you can draw one of two conclusions: either domestic violence incidents against women rose 300% annually (which flies in the face of recorded crime data), or an increasing number of women began to “fight dirty,” realising they’d automatically qualify for free legal aid if more serious allegations were made.

Men on the receiving end of Non Molestation Orders (which effectively kept them out of the children’s lives until disproven) were thus faced with the costly process of self-funding their case against a mother effectively bankrolled by the state.

A profound mental effect

Divorce, ensuing parental alienation and even false allegations all have a profound affect affect on fathers, and there is a raft of evidence to show this increases depression and suicidality.

Suicide is now the biggest killer of British men under 50 and one stubbornly high-risk demographic are men in their Forties – the time when relationship breakdown is most likely to impact.

At the end of last year, I co-authored the Harry’s Masculinity Report, the UK’s biggest-ever academic study into men’s mental wellbeing, and it was abundantly clear that loving relationships and family were essential pillars of men’s positivity. Fathers told us time and again their children were often their “only reason to live”.

By that metric, is it any wonder that when a man’s very reason to live is removed – either by authorities that barely recognise their existence, or by family courts that bankrolls the legal challenges of mums yet not dads – then his own will to live can tragically ebb away?

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