Last week there was a glimmer of hope for those dads going through a difficult divorce and struggling to reach agreement on when they can see their children. It came from an unusual source – the Queen. In her speech to Parliament laying out what legislation will be tackled in the forthcoming Parliamentary session, she confirmed that the Children and Families Bill would finally get a hearing. This has been talked about for some time and I won’t dwell on the detail of it but there is a section which addresses the issue of the right of children to a relationship with both parents. Obviously, the detail is still to come (it appears to have changed several times already) but hopefully it will give some help to those fathers – and they are not in the majority I would argue but are in a very difficult position – whose ex-partners are obstructive to them seeing their children.
I have said many times that a vital ingredient in reaching an agreement acceptable to all on divorce is for the parties involved to act like adults. That doesn’t always happen, ultimately causing upset to all involved, not just the intended recipient.
Some of the more far-reaching ways in which divorce adversely affects dads has been laid bare in a survey from the group Families Need Fathers, published through the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fatherhood.
The Fathers' Journey is a survey of 295 separating and recently separated fathers. It found 11 per cent of the fathers who responded to the employment questions became unemployed or were signed off sick in the pre-separation year, and 22 per cent in the year after. Thirty-three percent became unemployed in the year post-separation. Half (49%) said their relationship with their children was weaker in the year after separation, though 35% said their relationship had improved. Interestingly, only 54 per cent had sought the advice of a solicitor.
While all the statistics give serious food for thought, the last one is particularly disturbing and emphasises how important it is that we make people aware of the real benefits that taking proper legal advice can bring and that the costs need not be high. I only hope that the Bill announced by the Queen can help fathers everywhere who are going through relationship break-up get the right advice and, ultimately, achieve the right agreement for all concerned.