They’re all at it now. Yesterday I posted on Facebook regarding a website ostensibly giving legal advice to parents, but which was hopelessly out of date, but further searching reveals more.
The first was Law and Parents and an entry about residence orders. Not only had they seemed to have missed the introduction last year of child arrangements orders, but even if residence orders were still current, their information about them would still be very wrong. Other entries were equally inaccurate or obsolete. Some of the information pre-dates the 2014 Children and Families Act, but some also seems to pre-date 2001 – there is no mention of CAFCASS, for example. Elsewhere they refer to non-existent ‘Orders of Residency’ and to ‘Custodianship Orders’, which so far as I am aware have never featured in UK law and only apply in some US states. It makes you wonder where they are getting their information.
Where their information is correct it is taken, uncredited, from other sites; their definition of a prohibited steps order, for example, is lifted directly from a forum post on Wikivorce.
The Law and Parents item is dated 12 September 2015; over on Dad Info there is an entry on Residence and Contact Orders, but at least it dates back to 2012 and perhaps they just haven’t got around to updating it yet. A search for child arrangements orders, however, proves fruitless. Bear in mind that Dad Info is funded with your money and recommended by Government; as a result plenty of fathers will be making applications for orders which don’t exist.
Then there is the website Family Lives, which also has an entry – undated – on residence orders, this time from the perspective of grandparents. The article is credited to the Grandparents’ Association, which is an improvement on Law and Parents, which doesn’t credit any of its borrowings, but should be of concern to the Grandparents’ Association which is, as one would expect, fully up-to-date with Child Arrangements Orders.
Even Families Need Fathers, which I sometimes recommend, hasn’t yet caught up with child arrangements orders and is still telling people to apply for contact, while it also refers to ‘residence’, which isn’t a concept which survived last year’s reform.
This sort of nonsense by people who should know better isn’t confined to the internet; the recently published DIY Divorce and Separation, by a group of barristers, recommends readers to join highly controversial groups of dubious benefit such as Fathers4Justice rather than direct them to more mainstream and reliable resources. The book is confused about the distinction between position statements and chronologies and gives strange advice on making applications, very much from the applicant’s point of view and not at all child-focused. It is clear that it has been written by barristers who never actually draft applications – a quick proof-read by a solicitor would have been beneficial.
Last year we had to contend with Family Breakdown by self-styled parenting ‘guru’ Penelope Leach who recommended against overnight staying contact before a child is five. This was dreadful advice: children who have no overnights with their fathers before the age of three are twenty-seven times more likely to lose all contact. Leach based her ideologically driven views on writings by the Australian academic Jennifer McIntosh which had been thoroughly discredited before Leach published her terrible book.
There are many aspects to family law and it is difficult to keep current with all of them; some websites become enormous and keeping track of everything on them is a huge task. Giving out advice on the law is a profound responsibility, however, and giving inaccurate or obsolete advice can have devastating consequences to the families and children concerned. I would plead with these sites to remove the misleading information until they can replace it with something else. For litigants, especially those representing themselves, be very careful where you get your information from, make sure it is of good quality and check the most recent edit date on every entry; more reliable sources include Wikivorce, MATCH, Netmums, Relate, Reunite, gov.uk.