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Why some non resident fathers are pushed over the edge.

If you look up Abused Father Syndrome in any sociology or psychology textbook, you won’t find it, so what is it we are talking about? Could there be such a psychological condition recognised in the future that could be used as a defence or partial defence in the law of provocation?

Abused Father Syndrome (AFS) arises when the victim has been a long and constant sufferer of Domestic Violence (DV) perpetrated by his children’s mother and/or the maternal family over many years. The type of DV that a non resident father suffers most from is emotional and psychological abuse.

Unlawfully denying a father to a continuing loving relationship to his children by the children’s mother when the relationship fails constitutes emotional and psychological abuse. We use unlawfully to mean without a lawful reason to stop contact such as being convicted of child abuse or DV.

The mother informing the children’s school that the father cannot see the children to prevent the father from being involved in his children’s education even when the father as Parental Responsibility (PR), calling the police and lying by telling them that the father goes round to her house to harass her, so she can frustrate family court proceedings and to get the father arrested and locked up; which would keep the father from seeing his children, getting the maternal family to beat up the father to keep him away from his children are a few types of psychological abuse.

After suffering years of abuse at the hands of his children’s mother and maternal family it has a devastating affect on the father. Sometimes, mainly around Christmas time a father may commit suicide because he cannot handle the abuse any more. But what happens in the most extreme cases of a father suffering from AFS is that he kills the mother of his children. Can this behaviour be interpreted as DV?

The Department for Constitutional Affairs, which used to be the Lord Chancellor’s Department, published a paper in 2003 called Domestic Violence: A Guide to Civil Remedies and Criminal Sanctions, which gives the legal definition of DV as being:

“Domestic violence and abuse is best described as the use of physical and/or emotional abuse or violence, including undermining off self-confidence, sexual violence, or the threat of violence, by a person who is or has been in a close relationship. Domestic violence can…involve…the destruction of a spouse’s or partner’s property, their isolation from friends, family, or other potential sources of support, threats to others including children, control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation and the telephone, and stalking” (Probert R., Cretney’s Family Law, 5th Ed. 2003, p.107).

After reading the legal definition it is easily seen that AFS is the result of years of suffering from DV very much in a similar way female victims have suffered, and as a result, when women have lashed out they have been able to use the term ‘Battered Women’s Syndrome” to assist the defence of provocation in murder cases to prove it affected the accused’s personality for it to become a relevant characteristic, (Taylor CJ, R v Thornton (No 2) [1996] 1 WLR 1174, Jefferson, M., Criminal Law, 5th Ed. 2001, p.90).

If we are meant to live in a society where men and women are treated equally in the eyes of the law then it would only be right if non resident fathers if they have been victims of DV have the same defences as women and be able to claim AFS. After all, non resident fathers are only human too.

Pete Molloy

Order of authors on research papers

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