As chairman of Parental Equality I welcome you to our website.
Parental Equality is celebrating nearly a generation of work in support of shared parenting issues. The generation since 1992 has seen enormous changes in Ireland:
- Divorce has been legalised
- Some 40% of births are outside marriage
- Family law activity has increased substantively to where it now accounts for 20% of all civil legal actions
A huge industry of professionals now earn their living from the fallout of family breakdown.
The “no Brainer solution” of Shared Parenting is still being resisted and deliberately avoided by the statutory services, educational and the judiciary while the politicians bluster and pussyfoot while failing to act decisively in promoting and supporting shared parenting and joint custody with legislation and practical supports
Parental Equality has been at the leading edge of promoting change in the family law system and in challenging the culture of ‘Sole custody to the Mother, with subservient and controlled access to the Father’. This discriminatory approach to parental roles isolates and demonises men in general, so much so that some 50% of fathers lose contact with their children after relationship breakdown. In driving fathers away from their children it has led to:
- Colonies of single parent families, led almost exclusively by mothers, where children have very little experience of enriched relationships with their loving fathers.
- The Irish State acting as a substitute father to tens of thousands of children, with spiralling costs to the exchequer (and thus the taxpayer)
- Elevated levels of male depression, male suicide and societal violence and infanticide.
The verdict on government Family Social Policy is clear: it has added to the problem rather than contributed to a solution.
What We Want; What Our Children Need
At Parental Equality we believe that the default solution after relationship breakdown should be shared Joint Custody with equal social, tax, educational and welfare supports for both mothers and fathers. Parental Equality has living, working models to prove that treating mothers and fathers with parity of esteem as parents creates a WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN outcome:
- Children win by retaining and developing deeply loving and engaged relationships with both their mothers and fathers. Because they are not forced to take sides they gain greater security in their upbringing.
- Mothers win because they are not left as sole custodians and effective sole guardians of their children’s welfare. By sharing the parenting experience mothers share with fathers the same opportunities for personal and career development. Their level of stress is reduced, as they do not have to pursue fathers for maintenance, which mothers often say re-enlivens the bitterness and arguments, and prevents them from moving on.
Gone too is culturally enforced martyrdom of single motherhood, and the stigmas which are sometimes attached with sole parenting. Moreover, if single mothers meet other single fathers, it is likely that those fathers have themselves an involved commitment with their own children. Any new relationship is more likely to be based on an equality of expectation and resources.
- Fathers win by having parity of esteem as parents. Instead of trying to deal with the emotional trauma of being treated as second-class parents, subservient to the whims of the mother and often repositioning their expectation of themselves and their engagement with their children, fathers can plan to rebalance their career and family life commitments for the benefit of themselves and their children. By having equal access to state child benefits, equal and positive support from the statutory services in dealing with the whole range of parenting issues, fathers will experience a release of loving energy which recognition of their role will bring and this energy will be positively available for their children. This removes the longer term trauma of future reconnections with their father and his families.
- Extended families – grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins – will all win. No longer the embarrassment of children and their grandparents and cousins etc, when they meet in the street, in school, etc. The present discrimination in favour of maternal grandparents and extended families, while isolating the father’s side of the family, will no longer be necessary. Grandparents who are generally completely innocent and often unaware of the parent’s conflicts and who end up cut off as a result of family separations can now be assured of secure long term relationships with their grandchildren. In this space grandparents can provide the wisdom and ease of age, the vital linkages through the family genealogy, and a comforting ear for the problems of growing children.
- Society wins by the maintenance of the familial and communal bonds that shared parenting brings with it. Families are best able to impart communal values and to maintain a sense of good behaviour and to look out for their own, instead of abdicating to the state the day-to-day responsibility for their children. With a reduction in the exchequer spending on maintenance, the consequent reduction in spending on adversarial court hearings and costs of social workers reports, etc, taxpayer monies can then be directed into productive family support, which can benefit children and their parents.
In short, building a shared parenting culture is about improving the Quality of Life for all of our citizens.
Overcoming Prejudice and Vested Interests
Some, because of their baggage, blindness or prejudice, or because they want to gain financially from the hurt of others, do not want change even when it’s for the better. They will continue to say that joint custody and shared parenting cannot work. To those I say: ‘Get out of the way of those who are actually doing it successfully’.
Working for Change
The landscape against which support groups such as Parental Equality operates is also greatly changed:
- Technology has been a central driver in change. Mobile phones are now standard. Being on the Web as you are now is increasingly the norm. The Freedom of Information Act allows a citizen to have access to information which was at best a black art in the past.
- In the past voluntary groups were composed of well-meaning, unpaid, caring people who did their best with very little funds, and no one expected miracles from such groups. Today there is a huge shift towards a professional voluntary sector, with over 70% of workers in this area being paid. This process has raised the expectation of callers to the various services. Callers expect helplines to be available 24/7/365, and they expect a range of supports without having to contribute for these supports.
Parental Equality is largely unfunded. We get some small grant aid that does not support even the maintenance of this website. Current state funding is concentrated on those groups within the Golden Circle of political correctness. For most of our work we rely of the incredible level of commitment of a small band of do-ers who have risen above their own personal problems and reached out to help others. On your behalf I thank all the Parental Equality volunteers and wish for them and their children good health and happiness.
If you would like to be involved in building solutions for our children’s futures, then I encourage you to become involved with us in Parental Equality. Whatever your skills there is something you can contribute and remember: Parental Equality needs you and can only develop with your participation. So let’s hear from you.
Liam O Gogain
Chairman, Parental Equality