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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dads have fewer rights than lesbian lovers

Irish fathers be warned.

According to a court ruling yesterday, the one third of you who are not married to the mothers of your children have fewer rights than a lesbian in a relationship with your child's mother.

In a preposterous ruling that has massive implications for 30% of Irish fathers, Mr 'Justice' John Hedigan ruled yesterday that a family of two women and a child was no less of a family than an unmarried man and woman with a child.

And then he ruled against permitting the father of a child guardianship of his own flesh and blood, because of the poisonous relationship between the father and the two lesbians.

Let's just tease this one out, because the implications are rather profound.

In Ireland, if you are not married, and you father a child, you have no de facto rights. You are obliged to seek those rights of guardianship, access and custody via the family law courts, which are held in camera, meaning that what is said in those courtrooms cannot be repeated, either in libel cases or in other formats like the media.

In other words, you could go to court to gain access to your child, only to be called for example a paedophile or a drug addict with no basis in reality, and be denied a relationship with your child.

And now, thanks to the most recent ruling yesterday, you can be denied a relationship with your child because the mother has shacked up with another woman and they don't want you involved!

This story will inevitably be spun as some sort of victory for equal rights for gay couples. It isn't. It's a defeat for fathers.

It's the story of a father denied a relationship with his son, a child he fathered, made up of half of his genes, because of the caprice of a lesbian couple and the blind stupidity of the Irish family law system, which favours everything and everyone over father's rights.

And it's the story of a little boy denied a relationship with his male parent because his mother is vindictive and because courts are shit-scared of doing anything that could remotely be spun as homophobic.

Conclusion: It's alright to deny human rights to people as long as they are children or fathers in Ireland.


boro said...

Its bullshit, pure and simple.

JC Skinner said...

Welcome to the Irish legal system, Boro.
Moral of the story is: if you're going to father a child, either marry the mother before the birth, or else frogmarch her down to court to underwrite your access and guardianship rights within minutes of her leaving the maternity ward.
Otherwise, you have fewer rights than some random lesbian does over your own child.

Missing neighbour said...

This would be hilarious if the implications weren't so serious, once again the Irish legal system triumphs. This guy must have been on the booze at lunch, surely he should have considered the danger in setting such a preposterous legal precedent? This is what happens when you have a judiciary full of privately educated and socially insulted dimwits. It’s like Alexis sale once said when explaining why British industry was in such a sorry state when compared to the rest of the world. The chairman of the board was too busy slamming his old school friend Sir Michaels' dick in the drawer to give a fuck.
In fact this is the legal equivalent of coming home to find the cat/dog has shit all over the house. You have to clean up the mess whilst the blissfully oblivious animal just carries on about its daily routine.

Missing Neighbour said...

Typo above. The word in question should read 'Insulated' not 'Insulted'.

James said...

With respect Skinner, Family Law proceedings are better off held in camera due to the fact that they're very private matters, usually with children at the heart of them. No solicitor with expertise in dealing with even the most horrendous cases would be in favour of opening that to a prurient media and public. With members of the family involved in the legal business I think I might have some good reason to believe this.

It's also on foot of them being In Camera that you haven't much of a way of backing up that 'you could be accused of being a paedophile and nothing could be done about it' (paraphrase). Yes, something could be done about it because In Camera courts otherwise operate within the same jurisprudence as the rest of the courts. That accusation would have to be backed up or dropped at once. Council, Judges and Burden of Proof are all present and correct in an In Camera sitting of any court.

As to the state of Fathers in this country, there was a landmark ruling from the same High Court in September. So you can't call Irish Law the biggest Ass of all. Of course, I don't disagree with you that it can be (usually because bad law has been sent to the justice system, see how the statuory rape legislation cooked up in a goldfish bowl is presently unraveling before the Supreme Court.)

Link to RTE here: http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0911/mrg.html

In this case, the father in question,(a gay man as far as I know so whether or not this would be a victory for Gay Rights is irrelevant as all parties are square) entered in to an ad hoc arrangement with the women. He had given them his sperm frankly with all the sophistication of a turkey baster and had consented to remaining a loving 'Uncle' rather than a 'Father'.

He was happy to have this caveat at the time but obviously the relationship twixt him and the couple went sour when he went back on his word which is sad to see, I'm the first to say that.

The RTE reporting of the story corroborates me so far, in the event: http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/0416/guardianship.html

Apparently though, the child, now six years old, has never met her Father and he was arguing that he had a significant attachment to her.

The High Court Justice (that's what he is, there's no need to place it in inverted commas and insinuations that he was drunk on the bench are scurrilous)acknowledged this but unlike in the case of September 2007 (linked to above) it was not reciprocated by the child and the fact is that the 'Father' had once been happy to be a mere 'Uncle'. The Lesbian couple must be afforded some compassion and calm in how they reacted to him going back on his word. Put yourself in their situation.

The High Court Justice concurred that Mr. A had misled them in this instance.

His fundamental concern of stability of the child's family situation took precedence. However, what's not a matter for courts of law is perhaps the Lesbian couple repairing the relationship with Mr. A and involving him in the child's life. If it has gotten acrimonious enough on foot of the problems he initiated then perhaps that's not possible.

Just maybe though, both parties might be able forgive and forget. I don't think it's warranted to be as dogmatic as you've been with regards to this case Skinner.

JC Skinner said...

James! How wrong can one man be?
I could name a dozen family law solicitors in favour of amending the in camera rule to permit independent witnesses and the right to cite statements and rulings in other courts, such as slander actions.
Not to mention the fact that members of Treoir and the entire body of Parental Equality want to see the in camera ruling substantially amended or removed entirely.
You want me to back up the statement that you could be accused of being a paedophile in family court and stripped of access to your kids until you DISPROVE the libellous allegation that you cannot sue for slander over?
No problem. It happened to many fathers I know and it happened to me.
I don't see any reason to 'afford the lesbian couple' anything, given that they in their fit of pique to deny the child a relationship with his own father, have managed inadvertently to create a legal climate whereby random lesbian lovers have more rights over a child than the child's own blood parent has.
I can't expect you to understand that, any more than I can expect you to understand that any 'sperm donor' contract signed PRIOR to birth carries no weight because there was no agreement AFTER the birth relating to the father giving up his rights to parent his child.
I don't expect you to understand that, because I would lay good odds that you have never been through the family law courts as an unmarried father, and never personally experienced the reality of the circumstances that you nevertheless feel strangely qualified to endow with a misplaced sense that it purvays perfection of judgement.
Because it does not.

James said...

Skinner, please don't perceive it personally or like I'm being holier than thou. It wasn't meant to disparage your own experience but do you think it might be colouring your judgement?

The man had no relationship with his child and she's now six years old. Introducing the sperm donor in to her situation could jepoardise her welfare especially when he and the Lesbian couple do not actually get along. At least you must acknowledge that there is a possibility for this.

'Random' Lesbian lovers though? That's just a little bit much animosity. They're the only parents the child has. Not a gaggle out walking in the street. He may want to be a parent but he's never actually been a parent to the child. They were a friend of this man, an agreement was reached and he decided he didn't like the terms afterwards.

You talk of slander yet seem eager to portray these women as harpies with nothing to show for this. They were not the ones who rowed back on a very solemn agreement.

In hindsight they should have sought a sperm donor through more conventional means. This thing beckoned disaster due to the dangers of them knowing the donor. Again, my apologies if I've offended you Skinner. I realise that it's an issue that you have intimate acquaintance with.

With regards to In Camera proceedings your experience as you describe it as alien to me but I'll take you at your word while suggesting that privacy of family proceedings should still be a driving concern. If the procedure can be reformed while still meeting this concern then so much the better but I don't think court-reporting on family cases is an area anyone desires. Is it?

JC Skinner said...

A simple question for you, James. Following this ruling, does or does not any woman who shacks up with a mother have more rights over that woman's child than the unmarried birth father of that child under Irish law?
That's the core issue here, and it's outrageous.
The details of this single case are to me much less important than the ramifications for unmarried fathers in Irish law. Because no unmarried father has any de facto rights more than the man in this case.
Oh, and you may wish to look at Dr Carol Coulter's report from last October on the whole issue of in camera and casting some illumination and accountability upon the family law system.
She recommends allowing reporters into family law courts, allowing barristers to publicise proceedings to the media, greater statistics on family court rulings to be maintained and for them to be made public for the first time (so we can finally say with full confidence just how ubiquitous rulings in favour of mothers are), and so on.