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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Is Skype really the answer to losing the children in divorce?

8 Comments

When families are split apart by divorce – or simply relationship breakdown for unmarried couples – there is no question that younger children suffer more than anyone else. No matter how hard it is on the grown-ups involved, the children’s world will never be the same. Everything they have known will be blown apart.

When this happens, and assuming a “normal” situation whether there are two supportive parents and no specific reason that one should be excluded from a child’s life (and that doesn’t include spite on the part of one of the adults), no matter with whom they reside, they should have regular contact with the absent parent. That is actually physical, direct contact, so they can see each other, go to the park, go shopping – do whatever they like.

So I was puzzled slightly at the readiness by our leading family judge Sir Nicholas Wall to agree that Skype is an acceptable form of contact for fathers.

The President of the High Court Family Division refused to block plans by a man’s former lover to start a new life in Australia, saying it was in her two young children's “best interests” and that dad could stay in touch via Skype. He overturned a ruling last year by Judge David Tyzack QC, sitting at Exeter County Court, which banned the mother's "relocation" plans.

I’m sure you already know but Skype is a free form of video calling online. It means families and friends stretched across long distances can stay in good contact better than ever before.
Now, I am not saying that the decision is wrong. Sir Nicholas appears to have the interests of the children at the centre of the decision, which is where they should be. The woman was keen to emigrate because she had become "isolated, trapped and depressed” in Britain – and the children were keen to go with her. But dismissing contact issues by simply saying they can talk on Skype and that is enough, seems flippant in the circumstances.

As acknowledged by the judges in the case, whichever decision was reached, either supporting the father or the mother, it would be devastating to one side or the other. There is no doubt about that. Using Skype as a way of softening the blow for the dad though is clumsy at best and it was naïve to think this would not grab the headlines.

We see so many cases whether one parent or other shows no interest in supporting or having a relationship with the children. In this case it is heartbreaking that a father who made an appeal from the heart to stay close to his kids and nurture an “embryonic” relationship, should be denied the chance. Skype calls will be no substitute.

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor

Comments

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Underlying this case, and probably many others is the desire of one partner to go as far away as possible from the other and take the children with them.
This means that once again the children are not actually at the centre of attention. Does the partner who is ‘escaping’ have the right to take children with them? Does the partner who is staying put have any more rights? When young children are involved it is usually in their best interests to stay with the Mother. However they also need their father in their lives to give a balanced upbringing.
Someone has to make a sacrifice. The wife could stay until the children are old enough to decide for themselves. The husband could also emigrate to Australia, putting the needs of his children ahead of his. Possibly Skype lets the sacrifice reside where it often ultimately ends up, with the children….

By Nigel Heath on Thursday April 21, 2011

I can see Nigel’s point. It is a very difficult situation, indeed for some people, a move to another county can cause massive practical contact problems.

So far as children are concerned, there is nothing like a hug! Skype does not provide that….

By Andrew Woolley on Wednesday May 4, 2011

Please kindly take a second to read my letter to the judiciary dated 5 April 2011 at http://www.relocationcampaign.co.uk/Uturns.html and my letter dated 19 June 2011 at http://www.relocationcampaign.co.uk/11.html   The Court of Appeal finally responded to the pressure for reform of relocation law here http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed84456 ...

By Mr BD (LIP father in Re D [201 on Tuesday July 12, 2011

I don’t believe a mother should be prisoned to a country she doesn’t want to be in! It seems to be the UK that stops this happening more than other countries.
If I had my time again I would of not of told the father I was PREGNANT done a runner put father unknown on the birth certificate and had peace and harmony for the rest of our lives! but no now we have to suffer the rest of our lives. Ridicule me but its really he best thing to do. The child that never had a father can be compensated. The child will not suffer because there are no parents moaning about the other one like my other half does all the time! JUST DO IT RUN and don’t tell….

By berrit on Saturday December 15, 2012

I’m not sure I agree with Berrit above.

A child is surely entitled to have contact with both their parents?...

By Andrew Woolley on Tuesday December 18, 2012

Sir Wall made a terrible decision -he should retire. Clearly these two adults decided to have children in the UK. The decision should be about the best interests of the children. Therefore they need close, ongoing contact with both parents to help ensure their healthy development. The Mother needs to grow up be the parent and not act as a child. She can live in the UK for a couple years. While Skype is helpful it is not a substitute. It is really quite bizarre this Judge did not get it.

By david on Wednesday August 28, 2013

I agree with the Judge. Seriously, if the mother has no support and is struggling to bring up the kids, why shouldn’t she be allowed to relocate? You don’t think her life is an upheaval having to move back to Australia, or wherever she came from. If the father really wants to see the kids, why doesn’t he make the sacrifice to move. Oh, because he has a job and crap… well didums! A lot of women want to work even though they have kids but can’t because they’re looking after their children. I seldom see men making the sacrifices women make after kids are born. Men can relocate, why should the woman and the children stay in an unhappy situation! Great decision by the judge. This is the 21st Century. It’s about time things went our way!

By Salima on Wednesday June 24, 2015

I’d be really sad if this became a “women versus men” thing.

Isn’t this about what is best for the children? The generally accepted thing is that the children should have regular, full, contact with both parents. Is Skype a good enough substitute?

By Andrew Woolley on Friday June 26, 2015

What do you think?


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