counselling, supervised access, temporary orders which have automatic reviews built into the order, and continuing supervision and reports to the court, somewhat akin to putting the parents on probation.
5.71The court can end up focusing on persuading the recalcitrant spouse to allow access, which can become a power struggle with this spouse, and lose the focus on the best interests of the child. There is an assumption that access, even under conditions of conflict, is still in the best interests of the child. Social workers may play a supervisory role but there may be insufficient resources to enable access to take place after office hours. We have not been able to ascertain whether any of the difficulties with access and family violence or dysfunction described by Neilson occur in Hong Kong, due to the dearth of research here.
Women’s perspective of access orders
5.72Neilson stated that women who contact her organisation often complain that:
“their concerns over their former partner’s parenting skills are sometime dismissed on the basis that the woman is being neurotic and over-protective. When concerns are raised, it is often assumed that women wish to deny access rather than exert some control over access arrangements”.
5.73Her recommendations are as follows:
Limits should be set on the father’s access to the child which would put him in contact with the mother, and she should not be made totally responsible for facilitating access;
the need for fathers to have basic child rearing skills and a suitable physical environment should be recognised;
the court and Counsel for the Child should take seriously what mothers say about access arrangements;
the term “Child Advocate” should be used, rather than “Counsel for the Child”;
Child Advocates need not exclusively be lawyers but if they are not, they should receive training in family law;
lawyers who are Child Advocates should undergo specialist training in appropriate aspects of psychology, sociology, child development, counselling and mediation skills;
Child Advocates should be chosen on the basis of their personal qualities, particularly their wide range of experience and their capacity for empathy;