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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Fathers get support on shared parenting


It appears there is still significant confusion around exactly what will be in the Children and Families Bill in relation to shared parenting. I have blogged several times on this issue in the last year. It has been a kind of “will they, won’t they” situation on a number of points in terms of what will be covered in new legislation.

The most high profile issue has undoubtedly been around children’s rights to have a relationship with both parents, eg it is presumed both parents will share responsibility rather than it being down to the mother to make the running and the father to chase in terms of actually spending time with their children.

It has been genuinely difficult to keep up and I admit I lost track of where we were with it. Initially, it was a definite yes to “better rights for fathers”, then the draft of the Family Justice Review left it out saying it would be too difficult to prescribe the amount of time a child should spend with each parent. In the Bill announced in the recent Queen’s speech to Parliament, it was back in.

Now Children’s Minster Tim Loughton has written to The Times to “clarify” the issue of “the right of artificial equality of time” with regards to shared parenting. And, I think this has actually brought a measure of clarity, though some of the language used is far from plain English. You can read it in full here but, just by way of a taster, selected lines include:

“Our proposals for shared parenting categorically do not create any right of artificial equality of time with children post-divorce.

“The state cannot create happy families so where disputes end up in court, the law must be clearer that children should have an ongoing relationship with both parents after separation wherever possible. Current legislation is not explicit on this point which means that intractable arguments end up in court, with too many children used as pawns in a 'winner takes all' game - creating a perception that the courts are biased against one or other parent, usually the father.

“Our proposals will send a clear message that both parents' have a joint responsibility to bring up their children, unless there is a clear welfare reason not to. We are toughening up enforcement of any breaches of court orders, with clear consequences for trying to 'play the system' to freeze the non-resident parent out of their children's lives. This will mean more parents will resolve their disputes out of court, instead of getting dragged into protracted litigation, where the only losers are their own sons and daughters.”

I think fathers will be happy that the Minister has waded in to clarify (once and for all?) where the legislation is pitched. It will encourage estranged couples to reach agreement outside of court but it will be tougher on those who breach court orders relating to contact. This has been one of the major criticisms of the current system. Orders and arrangements can be made but if an ex-spouse, often the mother, refuses to comply with it, the father is likely to have to privately fund any pursuit of the issue through the courts – and there is no guarantee at the end of it that there will be any real penalty if someone does not comply.

I guess it is still a case of watch this space but the letter has given me certainly a bit more clarity on where the legislation will be pitched and I hope bring comfort to fathers across the country being frozen out of their children’s lives.

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor


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I currently have this problem,  after splitting up with my ex we agreed to put down on paper what we bothe want regarding my two boys, it ended up her only letting me see my sons when it’s convenient with her, like so I only see them when she works and she would only let them stay over night on a saturday night every two weeks because it fitted in with her working. I however want them too stay for the Friday and Saturday night when it’s my weekend with them as I miss them very much and like taking them camping and things. She however won’t allow this or anytime I ask if I can see the them extra but has no reason at all not too let them see me. When I see my kids it’s allways me that hast to go an pick them up and drop them off,  I do all I can too see them and provide for them yet all I get in return is her making it harder and only reason seems tobe spite and bitterness with the kids being used to implement this. I think the laws should give both perents equal rights on seeing/looking after there kids if there’s no reason not too.

By Mark Williams on Thursday August 30, 2012

Mark: I am so sorry to see this. Of course I don’t know the background and can’t give advice—but the Court’s approach is usually that the children should be able to see their father often and certainly your suggestions seem reasonable.

So, it would seem you’d get support from a Court but I wonder of a mediation session might be acceptable to the two of you? It might work.  ...

By Andrew Woolley on Thursday August 30, 2012

I am currently around 4 weeks away from my first directions hearing. Since my split with me ex in feb my ex has demanded i see my child in a contact centre. For no reason!She chose to end the relationship, and i signed the house over to her have payed child maintanence since. I didnt see my child from feb to sometime in august where i had to attend a contact centre. I attended for around six sessions, only for the contact centre to close due to lack of funding. That was July 23. Since we have tried to start a contact centre but my ex has been unresponsive, waiting four weeks to tell us she hadnt made a referral and that i had to. And now were under 4 weeks away from court they are suddenly prepared to meet in a public place once a fortnight, as long as i stop court proceedings. because they offered no long term plan i have chose to continue with court. It may take a while but eventually i will be able to secure a stable relationship for my daughter. She hasnt got a voice and the system allows mothers to play games and waste eight months of my childs life. She has been without a father figure and i am more than willing to contribute to her life, financially and emotianally. ...

By Craig S on Thursday September 27, 2012

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