Daily Archives: January 19th, 2013

Factchecking MRAs

In yesterday’s QotD I linked to this Guardian article here. In it, the spokeswoman for ‘Fathers4Justice,’ Nadine O’Connor, is quoted as saying:

“More than 3.8 million children are growing up without their fathers in this country not because they are at risk from their fathers, but because they are denied contact, more than 50% of contact orders are broken and 93% of residencies are awarded to mothers. Are we really saying that 93% of fathers are unfit to share in the parenting of their children.”

Now, I immediately found this suspicious, and wondered where they were getting their numbers from. Putting ‘93% of residencies are awarded to mothers’ into Google, gave the F4J website as the first link, the aforementioned Guardian article as the second, and Nadine O’Connor’s home page as the third; the following links were unrelated.

A bit of internet hunting brought up a very interesting article from fullfact.org:

Although the figure is quoted on several websites (for example, see the UK Men and Father’s Rights statistics page, and the Cheltenham Group website), we could find no official confirmation of the number.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it didn’t recognise the 93 per cent figure, while the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) confessed themselves “baffled” as to the source of the Daily Mail’s statistics.

Eventually, our inquiries paid off. Fathers for Justice (whose reaction to the review was quoted also in the Daily Mail article), told us that, although they didn’t have a figure for the results of court disputes between parents, they did have numbers that appear to be the source of the Daily Mail’s claim.

They told us that this result came from the Child Support Agency (CSA). The CSA figure refers to the proportion of all separated or divorced couples with children, for which the children live with the mother.

Full Fact found the latest Child Support Agency National Statistics to confirm this figure. It recorded that “In 95.1% of assessed cases, the non-resident parent is male”. It would seem that the claim that 95% of resident parents are female is the corollary of this claim, however, this isn’t specifically mentioned in the document. Full Fact found an earlier report, though (June 2009, table 24) which did specifically record that 95 per cent of “parents/persons with care” were female.

Fathers for Justice told us that to their knowledge there was no record of the proportion of cases in which the courts awarded child custody to the mother.

If the CSA figures are indeed the source of the Daily Mail’s claim, then it has clearly been misrepresented. Not all of these couples will not have gone through the court system, but instead will have reached an arrangement either on their own or with the help of mediation. Their results cannot therefore be used as evidence of outcomes custody battles, which is the context in which the Daily Mail uses the figure.

So there you have it! In order to ‘prove’ that there is a bias against men in the family court, MRAs have to conflate fathers who abandon their children with those who are denied full custody of their children.

They are also conflating non-resident fathers who are still fully involved in their children’s lives after a civilised separation or divorce with those who are denied full custody of their children.

They are also being deliberately and cynically obfuscatory, as being denied residency doesn’t necessarily mean no contact, in fact, the term ‘non-resident’ doesn’t tell you anything about how much contact the father has with his children.