UKIP gave its backing to 50-50 shared parenting for parents who separate, at its party conference in September, a move that has proved popular with many fathers' rights campaigners. We asked the party's Deputy Chair, Suzanne Evans, to share her personal reasons for supporting fathers' rights.
---This is article #32 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
Why is UKIP putting a commitment to 50-50 shared parenting in its Manifesto for the 2015 General Election? Because, quite simply, it is the right thing to do.
It is also long overdue. Do we live in a society where – in principle at least – there is gender equality, or not? Do we live in a society where fathers are increasingly being encouraged to take a more active role in children’s lives, by taking paternity leave and so on, or not? Of course we do, so why the status quo on this key issue should currently be so inadequate is beyond me.
I first encountered the problem of fathers being excluded from their children’s lives over ten years ago when I was dating a lovely man who had a daughter he had not seen since her mother had started a new relationship. He would show up to collect his daughter as per their agreement, but no one would be at home.
Mum’s new partner was less than friendly; he went to quite extraordinary and frightening lengths to put pressure on him not to see his little girl for no other reason than he and mum would find it inconvenient.
My father died when I was six
Even when he was diagnosed with cancer, his ex-wife still refused to let him see his daughter. The court process was utterly useless, not to put to fine a point on it, and he died having not seen his own child for some three years. Attending his funeral was bad enough; under these circumstances it was utterly heartbreaking.
My own father died when I was six. While my mother was brilliant – everything a good mum should be – it was tough growing up without a dad and in a family where life had suddenly been turned upside down.
While I’d be the last person to suggest warring couples should stay together ‘for the sake of the children,’ as I think that too can do horrendous psychological damage to young minds, it seems to me common sense that in most cases children will benefit from having two parents in their lives.
Everyone benefits when dad's involved
Parenting is a tough job at the best of times, even when two people share responsibilities. As a single mum myself, I know it can sometimes be overwhelming doing it on your own.
Frankly, not only do children benefit from having two responsible, loving parents, the parents’ will benefit from continuing to support each other through shared parenting after divorce or separation too.
Of course there will always be fathers and mothers who for very good child protection reasons should not have unfettered access to their children, and UKIP’s position should not be seen as watering this down at all.
A child’s welfare must always come first and we would certainly not shy away from depriving any parent proven to be abusive or a danger to children of their rights.
Grandparents need better rights too
Our policy is purely to address the imbalance in current parenting arrangements; to make sure good fathers are treated equally by the system; and to back up parents refused access to their children by former partners for no good reason.
A UKIP government will also give grandparents visiting rights. They too have built up often very strong and loving relationships with their grandchildren and to be suddenly cut out of their lives does neither them or the children any good.
We know we can’t stop families breaking up, and we know we can’t force all parents to take their responsibilities seriously after relationships break down, but at the very least we can stop penalising those who want to do their right thing by their children.
---Picture credit: Flickr/David Precious
To find out more about UKIP's support of 50:50 shared parenting see Suzanne Evans speech to the party's Doncaster conference "a safety net not a hammock".
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