We are pleased to welcome a family law blogger, who pens the following post on the important legal subject of child welfare and divorce.
The Government has announced plans to reform the law in relation to how child arrangements are resolved when parents separate. It would like the courts to adopt a presumption that the involvement of both parents would be to the benefit of a child.
That sounds like one of those typical legal statements which sounds so obvious that it shouldn’t have to be said. Nevertheless, some have already jumped on this statement to signal a rise to a presumption of equal parenting between separated parents and thus benefit those fathers who feel that their interests come second and their time with their children as a consequence reduced.
This statement of intent may sound like great news to fathers who feel their time with their children is limited. However, research has shown that it is not the amount of time that a child spends with both parents that matters, but the quality of that time and the continuity of that relationship.
In a recent survey, young adults who had experienced a family breakdown were interviewed about their experiences and the feedback was that what children really need is for their parents to demonstrate a commitment to them. The survey also revealed that children wanted their parents to be flexible and accommodate their needs and wishes, especially as they grew older. The nature of the relationship with each parent prior to separation would also be a key indicator to the nature and the long term value of the relationship a child had with their parents after separation.
There will be cases where the nature of the pre-separation relationship was very poor, where there was a history of domestic violence or high conflict between the parents, and that will inevitably affect the relationship a child has with their parents. Especially if there is no recognition on the part of the parents of their responsibility for their own behaviour, nor a desire to change.
So what can we gather from this research? It is easy for a child residence dispute to end up in court, and parents’ motives and that of their divorce solicitors are often based on factors other than just child welfare.
The motive can be financial: a belief that having the children will mean you should have more money or pay less maintenance. This could be true but is hardly in the best interests of a child.
Spite could be another motive where a relationship has ended acrimoniously. One parent may intentionally want to prevent the other from having child access, perhaps forgetting that there are children stuck in the middle of the conflict.
Remember the following golden rules:
- Consider what your child, if he / she is old enough, actually wants and needs.
- Remember that it is about the quality of the time you spend with your children and not just the number of nights a week you have.
- Adjust to the fact that children will have two homes when their parents separate.
- Avoid going to Court unless absolutely necessary. They do not want to see their parents fighting. If you have a disagreement, do not involve your children and do not let them witness it.
- What a child needs is certainty, to know where he or she is and that they have loving parents.
About the author
Sam Butterworth writes for Stowe Family Law, the UK’s largest specialist law firm, run by senior partner and TV legal expert Marilyn Stowe.