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.
Comments and response - Fathers affected by family breakdown
Andrew, regarding the last statistic, I suggest there are several reasons why men are reluctant to consult solicitors. Most Men I speak don’t see the divorce/spearation process as a level playing field. Also most men I’ve spoken to would prefer mediation but it appears women can wriggle their way out of that all too easily, often with drastic consequences for the man. End result is that many men bury their head in the sand ignore what’s going on, in the hope it will all go away. I would be interested to see the figures showing how many divorces/separatiions are initiated by men vs women….
By John on Thursday May 17, 2012
I think that about 65% of divorces are actually issued by women but I imagine they’d argue that is because the marriage breakdown was caused by the men. That said, mediation is one of the very important tools at the disposal of a good specialist divorce lawyer. Indeed we have trained mediators within our team. An issue with it though can be that one person has got to stage XYZ in the process of coping with the breakup whereas the other hasn’t yet started that process. There can be huge anger and fear at that point and this is not conducive to reasonable discussion. Apart from mediation, almost all our clients’ cases avoid a Court hearing as we resolve them using ADR normally. “ADR” includes negotiation, mediation and collaborative law….
By Andrew Woolley on Monday May 21, 2012
Hi Andrew, Just thought that id write a comment regarding the latest statistic. I went through a break-up last september, been fighting to see my son ever since. Attended mediation, which my ex refused to go too (nothing was even said about her not attending). Currently been to court twice, had a load of allegations thrown at me, so far it has cost 3000 pounds. I’m back at court in july for a 3 day hearing, for a fact finding. For a barrister we have been quoted 1500 pounds per day. And I still have no idea what the outcome will be, as I don’t get legal aid the financial cost is ridiculous. My ex gets free legal aid and can basically just do and say what she pleases. As for sickness, when all of this happened I was signed off work for a month with stress. I’m still not right now but have no choice but to work or would lose my job. Most people just cannot afford the long legal battle and the financial cost, plus the stress of the court case. I know from first hand how it affects you mentally. Just seems that in this day and age that there is no justice at all for decent caring fathers that just want contact with there child….
By gavin cockerill on Sunday June 3, 2012
I’m really, really sorry to see Gavin’s post above. I can’t comment on his case at all, but as a general comment I see mothers and fathers deeply upset by divorce all the time. It really annoys me how the Press often says divorce is “easy”!!!
As we say in our main article, it is so important for both people involved to behave like adults but sadly it only takes one of them to ruin that. ...
By Andrew Woolley on Wednesday June 6, 2012
I think proposed changes should be in relation to dads with no history of abuse. It’s understandable why mothers who have endured abuse, and witnessed abuse towards their children, are reluctant over contact. Unfortunately, it’s all too-easy for abusive fathers to jump-on-the-bandwagon with dads who genuinelly miss and love their children. I believe changes should be made, for good dads. Not for fathers with a history of abuse. The idea of imposed contact I can’t see happening. If a child has tears streaming down his or her face pleading not to go, their behaviour changes for the worst, they are telling mummy they’re father’s not looking after her or him, that he’s hurt them, or is shouting at them, no mum I have ever spoken to would send their child for contact under those circumstances. The courts would be inundated with cases. Every situation is different. Some dad’s would go to the ends of the world and back for their children. I’ve met dad’s like that. Who have been so depressed they’ve not been able to work (genuine depression, is where you can’t hold down a job, in spite of whether it earns you money. It’s not something you can get over within a matter of weeks). There are some father’s who can’t afford legal bills, but for those who can, who chose to spend their money elsewhere, I think that says everything. How can you put a price on your child? It’s a far stretch from father’s who are heartbroken enough to dress up as batman and climb Buckingham Palace! Who would spend their every penny to see their children, and walk hot coals to be part of their life. Those are the fathers the law should help.
By Jenny on Saturday August 11, 2012