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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Contact, residence, children and zombies

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I read an interesting article recently on zombie statistics. It was not a phrase I had heard before but is rather apt I think. A zombie statistic is one of those facts or figures that is repeatedly trotted out by people, most commonly in the media, on a specific subject. It may then be pointed out that it is incorrect or flawed but it survives in the published literature and next time someone is researching a similar topic, they Google the subject matter, read the figure, and bring it back to life. In more cynical cases, campaigning organisations can repeat certain figures knowing full well they are incorrect but still wanting to use them to further their causes. So these zombie stats are most commonly perpetuated through either lazy journalism or belligerent pressure groups.

The link to the story above was about an energy stat repeated in the Telegraph having been discredited previously. It has nothing to do with family law but we do have equivalent issues in our sector that I think we must work harder to eradicate. My favourite targets would be custody and access. Despite being superseded some years ago, these zombie terms keep coming back to haunt us and seem to be lodged in the brains of the public forever. The reality though is that they have been replaced by several different orders

  • A Residence Order says where a child should live. The court can, in rare circumstances, make such an order in favour of more than one person, stipulating how long the child should spend with each.
  • A Contact Order regulates telephone calls, visits, night stop-overs, weekends or holidays with the absent parent.
  • A Prohibited Steps Order is called into play when one parent objects to something that the other parent is doing concerning their child. That parent can apply to the court for the other person to stop doing it.
  • The court can consider a specific issue order if parents are unable to agree on a specific aspect of their child’s upbringing. 

Now I’ll admit that these aren’t catchy (this is family law after all) but I would have thought that after all this time, people would have been able to start talking about contact and residence rather than the out dated and misleading custody and access. 

Children should rightly be put at the heart of any dispute involving the parents. What is best for them should be at the forefront of parents’ minds and I think this “new” terminology is geared towards that so we should be doing all we can to educate people about the process and lay these zombies to rest once and for all. 

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor

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