Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Fathers on trial

Sir: It has been two years since my wife left me, after 14 years of marriage, taking my two daughters with her to set up home with a man she'd had a month-long affair with. Since then I have read many articles about family courts and how they treat fathers. Griffin Stone's (When your wife kidnaps your child', 24 August) was without a doubt the most powerful.

I won limited access to see my children, every other weekend and half the school holidays, but my ex only brings them when she feels like it. As I am self-employed and must cancel work when there is a hope that I may see my daughters, she knows that not showing up will hit me emotionally and financially. Friends and relatives can't understand why I don't take her back to court for breaching the order. In future I will show them Mr Stone's article to help them understand.

I am 'allowed' to phone the children once a week, Wednesdays at six p.m. Often they are not there. When I call back later I am told I cannot speak to them as the court order says Wednesdays at six. If I dare protest, my wife threatens to call the police and report me for harassment. She holds all the cards, and any application for enforcement of the order is very likely to end in less contact, not more.

As Bob Geldof asked in his recent television interview, what did I do wrong for the state to shut me out? How come their mother can move any man into my daughters' lives without any question, and yet the 'system' perceives me as some sort of threat to my own flesh and blood?

Many children of this generation are growing up without the involvement of their father. This can only lead to further troubled relationships down the line.

I recently told my MP of how unfair family courts are. He told me the judiciary are doing a great job and wouldn't hear any criticism of family-court judges. I have forwarded your article to him in the hope that he, too, can see the error of his ways.

Name and address withheld

From Mr Robert Bartlett

Sir: Griffin Stone should know that the family-court system in the United States is also absolutely biased against fathers. I have spent the last ten years waiting for my child to grow up and to see how her mother has used her as a pawn in an extortion racket. I have had to ignore the pain and have focused on building a relationship by phone, email and using our time together wisely. Finally, my daughter, at the age of 16, has moved in with me and my patience has paid off. There is no joy in this vindication only sadness and anger at the incompetents who glibly enforce biased social policy.

Robert Bartlett

San Rafael, California

Relatively unfair

From Mr Richard Nottage

Sir: Rachel Johnson (`The cost of dying', 17 August) states that `in France, relatives pay a modest 5 per cent impost on legacies above 137,000 euros'. If only. ... Not all relatives are taxed in the same way. A child, for example, pays 5 per cent on the first 7,600 euros exceeding 46,000 euros, on a scale that rises to 40 per cent. Legacies to those who are not relatives are taxed at 60 per cent on sums over 1,500 euros.

Richard Nottage


From Mr Rory Knight Bruce

Sir: Rachel Johnson's remarkable restraint in writing about death duties is, in part I suspect, because she has not yet had to pay them. Her highlighting of John Major's deal to absolve the Queen of the burden wrongly faced by millions of hard-working subjects serves to highlight its arbitrary injustice.

What the war did not ruin, lawyers and death duties did their best to undo, particularly in the English countryside. It is a miracle if any reasonably sized landowner has any time for voluntary community work while pondering the misery and proportion of his inheritance that will be stolen by the government on his death.

While the Conservative party is casting around Europe for good examples in health, crime prevention and transport, they could do worse than examine family values and the work ethic in the majority of countries where death duties do not apply - and pledge their abolition forthwith. …

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