Shared parenting: are the Government’s proposals up to scratch?

Children|June 22nd 2012

Professor Chris Barton emailed me this morning with a link to the Government’s consultation paper, which proposes changes to the law with regard to shared parenting. Tongue-in-cheek, he asked me if I had already memorised it!

In my opinion, much of the unhappiness and aggravation presently endured by separating parents when reaching decisions about the future parenting of their children is entirely needless. At present, when a court makes an order, it considers a number of factors set out in the Welfare Checklist. That list is wholly child-focused, with no consideration given to the parents’ roles. What this means in real life is that parents can find themselves fully involved with their children’s lives one day, and the next day not at all, when one parent decides to play judge and jury because there is no law to say “no”.

This is how the Children Act 1989 begins:

1 Welfare of the child.

(1) When a court determines any question with respect to—

(a )the upbringing of a child; or

(b) the administration of a child’s property or the application of any income arising from it,

the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.

(2) In any proceedings in which any question with respect to the upbringing of a child arises, the court shall have regard to the general principle that any delay in determining the question is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.

You will note that the rights of the parents to be involved are conspicuously lacking and I have written on several occasions how easy it would be simply to amend just this section of the Act, recognising that parents too have rights to interact with their children post-separation, but always subject to the ‘welfare of the child being paramount’ principle. It could be done without great cost, and parents would then have similar rights to those enjoyed by parents in Scotland. Well, it seems the Government has been thinking on similar lines!

The new proposals set out four different options for amending Section 1 of the Children Act 1989. As summarised in Family Law Week, these are as follows:

Option 1: requires the court to work on the presumption that a child’s welfare is likely to be furthered through safe involvement with both parents – unless the evidence shows this not to be safe or in the child’s best interests.

This is the Government’s preferred option.

Option 2: would require the courts to have regard to a principle that a child’s welfare is likely to be furthered through involvement with both parents.

Option 3: has the effect of a presumption by providing that the court’s starting point in making decisions about children’s care is that a child’s welfare is likely to be furthered through involvement with both parents.

Option 4: inserts a new sub-section immediately after the welfare checklist, setting an additional factor which the court would need to consider.

There have been a number of objections to any change at all, and Chris Barton knows full well what I think about the “Great and the Good”, who steadfastly prefer to focus only on the children of a separating family!

His email immediately took me back to my recent Oxford trip, where the assembled judges, legislators and academics all expressed strong opposition to “tinkering” with the Children Act 1989. It made me squirm in my seat, watching the entire hall nodding sagely in unison. I thought of all the clients I have represented, past and present, who of course care deeply about their children. They have been horrified to discover that, when separating, they may be immediately cut off from their children because the law gives them short shrift and more importantly, no steer. So a parent left “in control” of the children can exercise his or her decision at will. Then again, the vast majority of separating parents do reach agreement but tell me they would prefer a steer in law to assist them reach a decision. Only the most intractable of disputes however ever reach the ears of the “Great and the Good”.  So perhaps we are coming at this subject from a completely different perspective.

Thus, as regular readers will recall, I was less than overwhelmed by the publication of David Norgrove’s Family Justice Review in November 2011. I criticised that report on the family justice system for lacking flair. I believed that the Family Justice Review had provided the chance for a much-needed and necessary change to help separating parents. I regretted that David Norgrove and his panel had missed a great opportunity to put matters right.

It has been a busy few weeks here at Stowe Family Law, shuttling between our firm’s offices. Last week I visited all three offices; this week I have been based in London, returning to sodden Yorkshire only last night. So, my apologies for posting belatedly on this subject, because it did need some thought. My conclusion, as Prof Barton wisely guessed, is that despite all the flak attracted by the Consultation paper, I really like what the Government has produced.

Take this extract, for example:

The decisions made by family courts about the upbringing of a child are based on the principle that the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration. The benefit of ongoing involvement with both parents is already factored into these decisions, but it is not explicitly stated in the legislation that guides this process (the Children Act 1989). This has contributed to a perception that the law does not fully recognise the important role that both parents can play in a child’s life.

And surely that’s quite right?

Then there is this:

The majority of parents who separate reach their own agreements about the care arrangements for their children, and many manage this in a co-operative way, taking account of the child’s needs. When disputes about these arrangements arise, however, there is a risk that children’s needs are overlooked. Whether courts are involved or not, in too many cases one parent is left in a position where it is very hard to retain a strong and influential relationship with his or her child. This can result in children losing contact completely with one parent (usually the father), often with a lasting impact on their lives. The Government firmly believes that parents who are able and willing to play a positive role in their child’s care should have the opportunity to do so. The aim of the legislative amendment is also to reinforce the expectation at societal level that both parents are jointly responsible for their children’s upbringing.

Such statements won’t placate those parents at the other end of the scale, who want nothing less than 50:50 shared care, but they certainly please me. These few lines summarise all that I have ever campaigned for in relation to this most difficult of topics. I don’t support a strict 50:50 division of time, because I think that it can adversely affect a child’s welfare. I should also (and again) emphasise that yes, I agree that the child’s welfare should always take precedence. But overall parents rights have been ignored in law for too long and there has thus been no steer to give clients, and too much opportunity to take advantage of the lack of such steer by an embittered spouse.  In a society where increasingly fewer couples have access to lawyers, it is important that the law is as clear as it can be. Even where as in this case, there is no perfect solution that will satisfy everyone.

And so I wholeheartedly support the Government’s preferred option: an amendment to existing legislation, inserting the following text as a new subsection after section 1(2) of the Children Act 1989 and before the Welfare Checklist:

“In the circumstances mentioned in subsection (4)(a) or (4A) the court is to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that the welfare of the child concerned will be furthered by involvement in the child’s upbringing of each parent of the child who can be involved in a way not adverse to the child’s safety.”

This strikes me as bang on the money. It acknowledges the rights of both parents, in law, to play a role in their childrens’ lives post separation.

I also support the Government’s proposals to enforce orders, which are being flouted too easily by some parents. It is wrong to ignore the fact that some parents use their children as chess pieces, and play a cruel game. Sensible measures won’t stop all such games in their tracks, but may make parents think before acting.

None of this has predictably placated the founder of Fathers 4 Justice, who described the proposals as “the worst Father’s Day card ever for dads”, because the Government “simply could not strengthen something when the court of family law is absolutely rotten

However, it is the overwhelming criticisms by experienced family lawyers that I find difficult to understand. The Law Gazette carried the headline, “Lawyers slam shared parenting plan”. In its article, the head of the Family Law Bar Association described the proposals as “political posturing” and a spokesman for the family lawyers’ group Resolution said that the proposal would have little effect upon the law, but risked placing the demands of parents over those of children.

The Chair of the Law Society’s Family Law Committee seems to have gone even further,  describing the change as “unnecessary” and “populist” and went so far as to say that coupled with mediation, it could undermine the safety of children. Over at the Solicitors Journal, similar criticism has come thick and fast. I am left wondering whether these lawyers are reading the same document as me? “New joint parenting laws are not just unecessary they are dangerous” is the shrill headline. Another solicitor states “the danger is that it takes away from the principle that the child’s interests should be paramount.” But with respect, that is precisely what it does not do. It is all utter nonsense.

Personally and drawing upon my own, everyday experiences, the overwhelming majority of my clients are sensible loving parents who would appreciate an understanding of the role they play, in law. And if it works in Scotland, wont it work here too?

The Government’s consultation is open until 5 September 2012, and I do not doubt that many of my readers will wish to have their say, whether they are for or against. The authors are particularly interested to hear about international experiences, given that the Norgrove report rejected legislative change based on other countries’ experiences of shared parenting.

If you wish to submit a response to the consultation, you can do so here – but I, too, would be interested to hear what you have to say!  

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. Bruno D'Itri says:

    Our elected Government plans to bolster the legal right of a child to have a meaningful and on-going relationship with both its parents, post separation/divorce. It recognises that family law, as it currently stands, all too often fails to serve a child’s best interests in this extremely important respect.
    The Children Act (1989) rightly instructed the judiciary to serve the child’s paramount interests. However, the judiciary has singularly failed to understand or accept that a child’s paramount interests are, in the vast majority of cases, actually best served by facilitating and enforcing its meaningful relationship with both its parents. Instead, the judiciary has remained wedded to the archaic ‘single parent’, ‘primary carer’ model; an approach which has, sadly, led to a generation of fatherless children. Relocation law is a prime example: it rides rough-shod over any notion of shared parenting by placing thousands of miles between children and one of their parents. The judiciary’s approach is out of date and simply does not reflect the modern-day realities of 21st Century shared parenting.
    The aim of our Government’s proposed legislative changes is to make it very explicit to the judiciary that, for most children in litigated cases, ‘best interests’ equates to ‘shared parenting’.
    Let us hope that any amendment to the Children Act (1989) will be robust enough to safeguard a child’s right to be parented by both its parents. Let us also remember that this issue is not about parents’ rights: it is entirely about childrens’ rights.
    Furthermore, let us be absolutely clear that Shared Parenting does NOT, as many critics would have us believe, necessitate a precise 50/50 split of parenting time. This would be highly impractical in most cases. Rather, it is expected to range upwards from 20/80. Another objection from the critics is that it will endanger children. Very plainly, Shared Parenting will only be granted to parents who are not a proven risk to their children. Unsubstantiated allegations made by bitter and disgruntled ex-partners – intent on using ‘their children as weapons’, to coin Sir Nicholas Wall’s expression – ought not to be enough!
    It is a very great pity that the judiciary has failed to be proactive on Shared Parenting. For example, in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division, was presented with no less than 15 contemporary scientific psychological and sociological research reports which demonstrated, beyond all reasonable doubt, the verifiable benefits for children of maintaining close and meaningful relationships with both parents. This irrefragable scientific evidence went ignored or relegated by him. In contrast, our Government, to whom the scientific evidence was also sent, is taking full heed. This is precisely why our elected Government needs to legislate. Child welfare is far too important to leave in the hands of a few un-elected High Court judges, who often seem to be out of touch with modern society and family life, and who appear to have little understanding of the importance of scientific evidence.
    Best regards
    Bruno D’Itri

  2. Observer says:

    “I don’t support a strict 50:50 division of time, because I think that it can adversely affect a child’s welfare.”

    I don’t quite follow this logic. It’s the divorce that has the adverse effect, …

    … not the presumption that the STARTING POINT will be shared care.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      I have had cases where the parents did initially agree 50/50 shared parenting.
      My experience is that strict sharing can then cause a lot of logistical problems particularly as the children grow older and dont want to keep to the routine, some cases have resulted in the children being adversely affected, such as (one example) feeling insecure without a base. Children caught up in these situations may also start to play off the parents against each other, complaining about one to the other because they are too scared to say that it doesn’t suit them.
      I believe flexibility is part of the solution and that is why I like what the government is proposing. As I say in the post,I don’t think there is a perfect answer, but experience suggests that a rigid inflexible regime measured in terms of exact time which may suit the interests of the parents rather than the child is not the answer.
      Thanks for your comments also, all of which I am reading.

      • colette lake says:

        Yes, I see that, but it must be the case that petty much ANY strict regime will cause some kind of problem at some stage. 50-50 should simply be a REBUTTABLE presumption. either party can apply to the court to vary this if it’s not working, just as they can now, against any other contact arrangement that isn’t working. I am sure that 50-50 isn’t perfect in every case, but the experience of Kentucky is instructive here – it tends to work very well. The fact that, occasionally, it doesn’t is not a reason to eschew it.

  3. JamesB says:

    I agree with you and this article Marilyn. Probably a first. Regards.

  4. Bruno D'Itri says:

    An open letter to Tim Loughton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, 24 June 2012:

    The Government now recognises that the paramount interests of a child are served by facilitating and safeguarding its close and meaningful relationship with both its parents, post separation/divorce. In reaching this conclusion, the Government has taken into full and careful account the wishes of its electorate, the realities of 21st century family life, and a plethora of irrefragable psychological and sociological evidence and research, collated over the last decade or so, which plainly demonstrates the emotional, developmental and educational benefits for those children who are permitted to enjoy a shared parenting regime. In short, ‘paramount interests’ equates to ‘shared parenting’ (except, of course, in cases where there is a proven risk of harm).

    The will of our elected Government is clear. It considers that the Children Act (1989) – as well, perhaps, as some judge-made laws which followed in its wake – does not serve the paramount interests of the child in its current form and therefore requires modification and improvement.

    However, regardless of whatever modification the Government makes to the CA, it will be the eventual application of the law by the judiciary which will determine whether or not the will of the Government is enacted in practice.

    What, then, is the best way to ensure that the will of the Government is enacted in practice by the judiciary? In my view, the Government should tap unashamedly into the vast legal knowledge and experience of Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division, and of his colleagues in the Family Division of the High Court. The Government should, I would suggest, posit the following very specific question to Sir Nicholas: “In order for the will of the Government to be enacted in practice, what modification to the CA can you suggest?”

    Of course, it may well be the case that the judiciary actually opposes the proposed change! Sir Nicholas has, in the past, voiced his personal objections to a number of Government proposals. Nevertheless, it is imperative that Sir Nicholas provides a comprehensive and constructive reply to the specific question above, rather than simply expressing his personal opinion as to whether or not the CA should be modified in order to promote Shared Parenting. Plainly, it is not for the judiciary to make that decision. That legislative power is for our democratically-elected Government. The duty of the judiciary, I would venture to suggest, is to apply the will of our elected Government – to obey Government – to the best of its ability. For it to do otherwise, either proactively or by omission, would be very wrong.

    Sir Nicholas is fully aware of the scientific evidence in favour of shared parenting. He is fully aware of the benefits to a child of maintaining a close and meaningful relationship with both its parents. We know this because, in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, Sir Nicholas was presented with a plethora of contemporary scientific evidence and research, which demonstrated, beyond all reasonable doubt, the veritable benefits for children of maintaining a close and meaningful relationship with both their parents.

    To his credit, Sir Nicholas reserved judgment in Re D and gave himself three weeks in which to carefully read and digest this very extensive scientific evidence, running to several hundred pages.

    To his further credit, in his eventual written judgement Sir Nicholas accepted the argument put forward by the litigant-in-person that current family law potentially relegates the harm done to children by giving insufficient weight to the importance of maintaining a close and meaningful relationship between children and both their parents.

    In summary, the judiciary is very aware of the serious harm which can be inflicted upon children when they are denied the right to maintain an on-going, close and meaningful relationship with both their parents.

    However, as was shown in Re D, the judiciary was hand-tied and constrained to apply current law. It could not, itself, introduce the new legal principle of Shared Parenting into the CA. Sir Nicholas has made it very clear that only Parliament has the power to do so.

    Those of us who have lost meaningful contact with our children due to current family law – and who live, day by day, in the soul-destroying knowledge that, according to the science, our children’s futures will be significantly blighted as a direct consequence – very much welcome our Government’s initiative on Shared Parenting.

    However, crucially, the Government should do all that it can to ensure that any modification to the CA will be robust enough to be effective in practice. The best person who can advise the Government on this specific point is Sir Nicholas Wall.

    I respectfully request that you advise me whether or not the Government will be seeking the input of Sir Nicholas on this very specific point.

    Yours Sincerely
    Bruno D’Itri

  5. JamesB says:

    Note:- The first part of this comment has been removed.

    not sure why you put all your faith in him in particular. I think you should replace his name with Bob Geldof. His opinions have far more sense and reasoning behind them. Or me, but Nick Wall, please not.

  6. Observer says:

    “My experience is that strict sharing can then cause a lot of logistical problems particularly as the children grow older and dont want to keep to the routine, some cases have resulted in the children being adversely affected, such as (one example) feeling insecure without a base. Children caught up in these situations may also start to play off the parents against each other, complaining about one to the other because they are too scared to say that it doesn’t suit them.”

    Yes, indeed, we hear this all the time, but it is a complaint trotted out endlessly by those who are against shared parenting, and that leaves cause for much suspicion.

    You’ll find, if you work with children, that if children are discontent about anything, it is about being made to feel in the middle, and being made to feel conflicted in terms of their loyalty. You’ll also find that this is a subtle form of parental alienation and child abuse, which is for the most part carried out by mothers (but not always). In these cases, the solution is not to listen to a child who has his/her arm (and brain) twisted; but to make dad the resident parent until such time as the other parent can learn to stop being controlling, and stop turning every little thing into a power game.

    This again seems to be an area where law and its blind (but occasionally well-intentioned) army of officers have a lot of catching up to do with the research, if they are to serve the children of this nation more responsibly.

  7. Observer says:

    At any rate, I went to great pains to say that I did not mean 50/50 shared care, but a presumption that this would be the starting point from which to hammer out tailored solutions.

    That’s very different.

    Without such a presumption, it’s the same circus all over again.

  8. Mandy says:

    I stumbled (thank the lord) on your website and felt compelled to respond. I am in the middle of a painful court case involving contact. My husband left, without warning, 2 yrs ago when I was 6 weeks pregnant with my second child. He had nothing to do with the baby for the first 6 months of his life. Now, baby 17 months, older son 5 yrs , I am being taken to court for 50 50 contact. I put my hand on my heart and can say I have encouraged contact with both boys from day 1.And we are sharing parenting approx 60 40. I am truly fearful that the proposals for shared parenting automatically going to 50 50 will have huge affects on our sons. It seems that I must provide “evidence” to show why 50 50 contact would not be appropriate. What evidence do I have besides a maternal instinct that says a child needs one secure base?A child psychologist would report ahappy intelligent boy. His primary school would back this up. I am proud to say that a lot of work has been done to minimise emotional damage to both boys. I feel trapped. I am at a loss as to why I must justify my belief that 50 50 would not suit our situation. The courts could rock the status quo….and who benefits?Certainly not the children. not entirely sure this is an appropriate response to attahced article. I may just be using this as a sounding board. At the very least, your website is the first Ive found to resonate with my parenting beliefs. Thank you.

  9. Yvie says:

    I agree entirely with Observer – there should be a presumption of 50/50 shared care. With that in place families should be left to determine between themselves the best arrangement to suit their children. Only the most intractable cases should need to resort to the Family Courts. I agree entirely with Fathers for Justice when they maintain that Courts are for criminals, not families.

  10. Observer says:

    Yvie, courts are indeed for criminals, and when you find yourself in one and are in the unfortunate position of being a dad, you are treated like nothing more than a criminal.

    Mandy, when you have a child with someone, that child then has two secure bases. It is myth that a child needs one home; doing a bit of reading on the subject will assure that the most stable and secure upbringing is one where both parents are involved. It seems like your ex was very irresponsible toward the beginning, but now wants to make up for that; lawyers will try to convince you and the court that this makes him inconsistent and deadbeat, but I’d give him a chance and make him feel valued. Everybody will be that much happier.

  11. BobTB007 says:

    Great Blog Marylin once again.
    I believe that the first option is best, it starts with a positive affirmation that would seem to be unambiguous and clear, however we are all aware of those lawyers who will use clever legal arguments to circumvent those very changes that would seem to be the will of parliament and therefore the people. These clever lawyers are at the heart of the high court and appeal judges ability to create precedents and therefore in line with common law (if I am correct) become the controlling influence on the legislation and not the legislation itself, but how many lower family courts actually follow precedent when deciding on how to construct a contact order?
    In fact what do they use? Where do they go to learn as to what is the most appropriate order to make. Ah I hear you cry that is where CAFCASS step in!
    Therefore CAFCASS become THE most influencing factor in any order for contact. It is mostly very difficult for any applicant or respondent to rebut the “report” (to my knowledge) once made.
    So am I wrong in thinking that the CAFCASS officer “interviewing” the mother, then the father, then (hopefully) separately the child(ren) would then write the report slanted in the favour of who they feel is the most believable?
    So to some extent, with this new legislation, the judge may have the ability to more easily “reject” a report too critical of the father than they do now or can he just still simply say without fear of being demonstrably wrong or wrong in law say
    “I have considered the paramounticy principal, taken on board the welfare officers report, which gives me a view of the wishes and feelings of the children and of the parents, looked at the welfare checklist balanced all the factors and come to the following conclusion……..
    (Minimal contact, or contact that seems to better suit the mothers position, because that is what they nearly always do)
    All based upon his/her wide ambit of discretion?
    That is my fear, unless we have a clear and concise guideline (like the Sealey report) upon which to base some form of reasonable contact.
    Having said all that why not consider this approach as mandatory
    Both mother and father HAVE to put forward a detailed and thorough child contact arrangement proposal. They then HAVE to put forward their reasons for why it will best work for the children.
    Those proposals are swapped (this can all be done in the gap found between application and the FDH). Both parents can comment and agree on the areas that they can agree upon and where they dont agree HAVE to put forward their reasons for not agreeing.
    Simples, this brings out everyones “shopping list” and makes sure that those ridiculous unsaid reasons (like revenge for example) never have the chance to see the light of day, no one would dare put anything like that down would they?
    The judge can then look at the papers, the arguments would be confined to that of the contact arrangement, no space for past history having an influence upon future arrangements, unless one can show that a parent who had been abusive could be considered a danger to the unsupervised contact with the children. The judge is then in a very clear picture as to what the REAL dispute is isn’t he?
    After all we are only talking about a contact arrangement based around a fourteen night period, how hard can it be if you can take out the spurious reasons for a parent to resist the other parents suggestions.

  12. BobTB007 says:

    I am not sure that this legislation will explicitly state that there will be a “presumption” of 50/50 shared contact, in fact they have taken great pains to say that that is what it is not saying.
    One unfortunate by product of the “negotiating” process (I am professionally sales trained) is that people normally have three positions. The first is their opening (blue sky?) position, this is a starting point above which they would wish to be so they give themselves room to be see to “compromise”. The second is their real objective, the third is their minimum acceptable before they “walk away” (court next…..)
    So from your brief comment your ex started out claiming he wanted 50/50 and you both settled upon a 60/40, an outcome I am sure that he would consider satisfactory when one compares that to which he may have got in the courts.
    Talking personally, my starting, middle and end position was always 5 nights a fortnight and half of all school holidays. I could not balance my family, work and social commitments at the distance I live away from my child to be able to facilitate any more, given his schooling and the time it takes to take him to school (and I am self employed so have great flexibility) . I believe that this equates to a split of 60/40.
    So if the legislation said the starting point was 50/50, I would personally say, great but I cannot sustain that but this is what I could sustain…….
    And 5 years of court hearings over 20-30 court appearances (including successful and unsuccessfully appeals) could have been dealt with at the first hearing based upon not mother wanted but what father could effectively support.
    Why do people fear a 50/50 start point provided?
    The judge will still have the ability to see if an abusive parent situation could be a danger to the child, nothing new there.
    The judge would still have the ability to factor other case by case evidence put forward by either party
    The Judge would still have the CAFCASS report upon which to make his judgement
    But, he/she would now be FORCED to give a sound and reasoned judgement as to why he feels that the child would fare best by moving away from the 50/50 start point.
    Oh dear I hear the Judiciary cry WORK, omg I will now have to do my job properly and base my decisions upon facts and factors that I will have to WRITE down and PRESENT back to the parties, who can, if I am not GOOD at my JOB make an appeal against me.
    So the focus is taken away from one parties ability to make trouble to actually having to prove to the Judge that their position will actually benefit the child.
    If a couple are declared responsible for making a baby then looking after the baby based upon the domestic arrangement (without the benefit of judicial input) whilst they are in a relationship, then provided it is safe to do so, why can the start point not be 50/50?

  13. Yuri says:

    In Australia, discussions about joint physical custody and shared parental responsibility have been at the forefront of proposed family law changes for the past two decades. Following the enactment of revised family law legislation in 1995, modeled largely on the U.K. Children Act 1989, it has been recognized that cosmetic changes, such as “residence” and “parental responsibility” taking the place of “custody, ” and “contact” replacing “access,” are insufficient. In sum, the 1995 act did not meet its objective of decreasing litigation and conflict in family matters.

    The Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill 2005 was enacted in March, 2006. The law provides a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility for parents, and requires courts to consider equal time in the first instance in parenting disputes after separation and divorce and, if that is not feasible, then “substantial and significant parenting time with both parents” (considerations in this regard include geographical proximity of the parents, parenting capacity for equal time, parental communication capacity, and impact in the child). “Substantial and significant” time means periods not only at weekends and school holidays but also during the school week, giving the parent an opportunity to be involved in the child’s daily routine and occasions and events that are of particular significance to the child or the parent.

    The bill was designed, along with a national network of Family Relationships Centres, to avoid litigation as the means of arriving at arrangements for the parenting of children after separation. Its principal revision to the former Family Law Act is not only the establishment of shared parental responsibility as a rebuttable presumption, but also a stated recognition that this is in the best interests of children after parental separation and divorce. Exempt are cases where there are grounds to believe that there has been abuse of the child or family violence. The new law also required monitoring of Australian family courts in making shared awards.

    Much has been said about Australia’s approach in the current family law debate. However, anecdotes are not evidence of a rule, nor must they trump human rights. The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) review of the 2006 shared parenting law indicates that it is widely supported by parents and professionals and is working well for children, including youngsters under 3. Litigation rates have fallen and there is a matching increase in the use of dispute resolution services (Kaspiew et al 2009).

    Far from the reforms being a failure, the AIFS’s evaluation concluded that “The philosophy of equal shared parental responsibility is overwhelmingly supported by parents, legal system professionals and service professionals.” Numerous opinion polls in Australia have confirmed those assessments.

    What we saw in Australia was not the failure of shared parenting but the latest round in an ideological struggle that is analogous to a painful and unnecessary courtroom squabble between former spouses.

    The government‘s measured response to the Norgrove erroneous narrative of the Australian family law approach is warranted and welcomed.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Thanks very much for taking the time to respond so fully with your perspective from Australia. It’s great when readers take the time to respond, but in your case, given all that we are hearing about the experience of Australia, most of it negative, it is very helpful and much appreciated.

  14. E.C. says:

    I agree with you, Marilyn, that a mandated 50/50 arrangement is a recipe for disaster for most of the litigating parents I see. My office is full of stories of one parent who wouldn’t let a child take a weekly ballet class or go to a birthday party because it would cut into “my time”, and other examples of selfishness that hurts the child. In my observation it does not cut down on litigation; high-conflict parents will find a way to fight, they’ll be back in court because he won’t sign a travel consent for the kids’ vacation or she left them with Grandma too many times.

    We have a presumption of “maximum contact” in the Canadian Divorce Act. Children are supposed to get the maximum contact with each parent that is in their best interests and the “friendly parent” has an advantage. In practice this means joint custody is the norm, which is to say, equal shared parenting *responsibility* is the norm; but children usually don’t have exact 50/50 time at each home.

    It is extraordinarily difficult to get a parent legally cut off from a child in this country. It takes years and years of evidence-gathering before the other parent will be allowed to stop sending the child to the other parent in some capacity. This is good for non-resident parents who really haven’t done anything wrong, but it is horrible when one parent poses a real danger to the child or the other parent. It is irresponsible to wave that off all “of course that will be dealt with properly as it always has been.” In Canada and the U.S., at least, it hasn’t been and it won’t be unless it gets serious study and consideration by everyone involved in family court. It’s a very difficult and complex issue.

    I see the fathers’ rights commenters are out in force. Inasmuch as I have seen cases where one parent tried to turn the child against the other parent for no real valid reason, it has been both mothers and fathers doing this. And the claim that children don’t have preferences about where they want to live, or unflattering opinions about either of their parents, unless the mother is being “controlling” and “putting them in the middle” is just not accurate.

  15. Bruno D'Itri says:

    It is a terrible pity that, the moment one puts forward a valid argument for a presumption of shared parenting, in the best interests of children, one is instantly dismissed as a ‘fathers’ rights commentator’! There are many women who persuasively argue that the family justice system requires modernisation to properly reflect 21st century shared parenting realities (for example, see Karen Woodall’s blog). Are they, too, to be categorised as fathers’ rights commentators? Please… let’s try to get beyond the gender stereotypes and concentrate on child welfare.

    The problem with the current system is that the law ascribes the status of ‘primary carer’ to one parent: the one who carried out 51% or more of child care duties before separation/divorce. It then bestowes upon that parent a disproportionate amount of power over the children, vis-a-vis the non-primary carer. Sadly, in many cases that power is abused as ‘children are used as weapons’ (to coin a phrase adopted by Sir Nicholas Wall).

    The suggestion that a good and caring parent cannot easily be excluded from the lives of his or her children is nonsense. I was found by the courts to be an excellent, caring, responsible father, and yet I was not able to see my children, firstly for a period of 8 months and, later, for a period of 1.5 years. I now see them for just one weekend a month, in a motel room, due to their having been removed overseas. I can assure you that I am not the only good parent who has been unjustly excluded from the lives of his or her children, due to an out-of-date family legal system. There are thousands. And their children are missing out as a consequence. This is plainly a child welfare issue: not a fathers’ rights issue.

    A presumption of shared parenting is exactly that. A presumption. A starting point. IF a parent is found to be unfit or a veritable danger to his or her children, then shared parenting will not be granted.
    What a presumption of shared parenting will do – I hope – is to permit a good and caring parent to be able to participate in a full and meaningful way in the lives of his or her children WITHOUT having to battle in the courts at very great financial expense in order to ‘win’ such a right. The onus will be on the side who wishes to restrict contact to prove their case.

    The love an excluded parent feels for his or her child is so incredibly powerful that s/he will spend a fortune in order to try to see their children again. It is this parental love upon which the current legal system feeds. Plainly, not all family lawyers are money-grabbing. However, it is the system itself which perpetuates the steady transfer of funds from needy families into the coffers of the law firms. Surely all those who believe in the principles of justice and of child welfare will welcome the Government’s introduction of a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting?

    My real concern is that the wording which the Government drafts will be ineffectual in practice. Love him or loathe him, the best person who can advise the Government on the most effective wording is Sir Nicholas Wall.

    I hope that Sir Nicholas will be willing to assist the Government in achieving its objectives, in the best interests of child welfare. I hope that he will use his undoubted experience and knowledge to ensure, as far as is possible, that the change to the Children Act will do what our Government intends in practice. I hope that Sir Nicholas will not sit back and, intentionally or otherwise, wait for the legislatiive change to fail.
    Bruno D’Itri

  16. Marilyn Stowe says:

    Readers might be interested in Dr Rob George’s report of two speeches on the Australian experience in the June edition of Family Law, published by Jordans, at page 758.
    He reports on the talk by Prof Patrick Parkinson of the University of Sydney to a seminar in London, entitled “Meaningful reform to the Children Act 1989; learning from the Australian experience” and the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Diana Bryant AO who gave the International Family Law Lecture in London about the lessons to be learnt from the 2006 Australian shared parenting reforms.
    The full text of Prof Parkinson’s paper will be published by Jordans in Child and Family Law Quarterly and Bryant CJ’s paper will be published in Issue 3 of International Family Law.
    Rob George has however written an excellent summary of both speeches both of which are candid appraisals of the changes made by the Australians in 2006.
    Was the Norgrove FLR therefore correct to come to conclusions that it did in relation to the Australian experience?
    In the same edition, there is an article by Prof Belinda Fehlberg of the University of Melbourne who believes so.
    Read all three, they are very interesting!

  17. Yvie says:

    I think there is a subtle difference between a mandated 50/50 shared care and a presumption of 50/50 shared care as the starting point. When parents feel relaxed that they are both considered equal it is conducive to good parenting and leaves the way open to both parents to work together in the best interests of their children. Certainly as children get older they will want to do their own thing. Sharing care 50/50 doesnt and shouldnt mean that they will be unable to do it.

    My son did not get the 50/50 shared care that he would have liked but neverthless he and his ex. (who bitterly opposed him) are now in communication with each other. Already my son has had extra time with the children by arrangement with his ex and his ex. will be collecting the children early this week as the youngest boy has a party to go to.

    It can be done, but it does take two. Parents having to go through the Courts for contact only adds to the bitterness and stress and it is totally bad for the children however hard the parents try to avoid letting them know there is conflict.

    Give parents equal time by law and give them a chance to parent their children in the right manner. I am confident that most parents will not let their children down. There will be some who thrive on conflict however and this should not be allowed to stand in the way of parents who are prepared to put their children first.

  18. William says:

    After being in the Family court system for nearly 3 years I do hope the law can now clearly see through bitter women who use their children as pawns. I believe the proposals for punishment are measured correctly and this in turn will hopefully women/men to stop paying ‘lip service’ to court orders !
    I dearly miss my children and one thing is for sure, they will find out about all the lengths I went to.

  19. Observer says:


    You are so right here. I often wonder if it is because we have laws that treat human beings as children that they never really grow up. As soon as we treat adults as adults, we will see them start behaving as adults. There is not much profit for lawyers in all this, but children will prosper.

  20. Mr X says:

    Thank you Marilyn,
    I feel like a little ray of sunshine has shined on me from an angel on high….

    In my case, I am a father that has won a Shared Residence Order, but every day I face discrimination from Schools, GP, and the CSA, simply because I am not the majority carer. Further, I cannot not really plan an independent life for myself and my children because I am always dependent on what my ex-wife does. If she moves away, or worse applies for Leave to Remove, I am absolutely stuffed, as the law in the case of Payne vs Payne, is weirdly not about the welfare of the Child, but of the mother, and how can that be consistent with the Children’s Act of 1989? I am amazed how anti-fathers the legal professional and the Child Welfare services including CAFCASS really are? Why, why does it have to be this way? Why is there such a cabal of Judges, academic, and this Select Committee, and other against allowing a father to play an important parental role in their child’s life? Why?

    Thank you Marilyn, at least you care.
    (Note:- This comment has been anonymized in order not to identify the family concerned.)

  21. Bruno D'Itri says:

    Sir Alan Beith wrote to Mr Cameron last week, expressing his objections to the promotion of Shared Parenting:

    Mr Beith’s views closely reflect those of many family lawyers. According to them, the status quo is fine. It has been suggested that such resistance to change is fuelled by vested interests. It’s not too difficult to understand this hypothesis: the introduction of Shared Parenting legislation in Australia led to a 30% reduction in family law litigation.

    Mr Beith’s opposition to Shared Parenting legislation is, perhaps, best viewed in some historical and cultural context.

    In the 19th century, British family law was such that, if the father so wished, separated mothers were likely to lose all contact with their children. Development of the law occurred very slowly indeed. Some change came with the Child Custody Act of 1839 and the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, but it was not until 1925 that the welfare of the child became paramount. At every stage, there were numerous ‘Mr Beiths’ who resisted any development in family law.

    Even today, in certain Middle Eastern cultures, separated mothers are treated despicably and are often denied access to their children. Here, too, there are ‘Mr Beiths’ resisting change.

    Sadly, the injustices once experienced by British mothers are now being visited upon British fathers in 21st century Britain.
    A father can be fully involved in the day-to-day care of his children. And yet, following separation, he can find himself completely excluded from their lives.

    How can this possibly be permitted to occur?

    Following separation, the family courts automatically seek to anoint one parent with the status of ‘Primary Carer’. This will usually be the parent who, prior to separation, undertook 51% or more of childcare duties. In most cases, it is the mother. The law then bestows upon that Primary Carer a grossly disproportionate degree of power and control over the children, vis-à-vis the ‘Non-Primary Carer’ (the father).

    Of course, in most cases, separated parents are able to focus upon the well-being of their children and come to a mutually agreed childcare arrangement.

    However, in many acrimonious cases, the Primary Carer ‘uses the children as weapons’ – to coin a phrase adopted by Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division. The children are used as a means of punishing a former partner by restricting contact. Such abhorrent behaviour currently goes unpunished by the family courts, their rationale being that to punish the children’s Primary Carer is tantamount to punishing the children themselves. With no effective deterrent, such behaviour is set to continue. As we know, our Government is looking at ways of introducing such deterrence.

    Single Parent-Primary Carer or Shared Parenting?

    There now exists a plethora of contemporary scientific evidence which demonstrates, beyond all reasonable doubt, the significant emotional, developmental and educational benefits for children of their being permitted to remain in a close and meaningful relationship with both their parents, post separation/divorce. Indeed, fifteen such scientific reports were presented to Sir Nicholas Wall in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50. Sir Nicholas reserved his judgment for three weeks in order to read this very extensive evidence. He concluded that family laws potentially relegated the harm done to children by irrevocably damaging their meaningful relationship with the Non-Primary Carer.

    Mr Cameron – to whose Government the scientific evidence was also presented – understands the need for family law to develop in line with contemporary scientific evidence and with the realities of 21st century parenting. We need only to look at last Summer’s riots to see where fatherlessness can lead. In contrast, Mr Beith appears ‘behind the curve’.

    I am one such Non-Primary Carer. Before separation, I was actively involved in the lives of my two sons. Post separation, I was excluded. Despite numerous court appearances, including three at the Court of Appeal, and despite being found by the courts to be an entirely loving, caring and responsible father, I have lost meaningful contact with my sons. I fought for years in a legal system which simply could not understand and/or give due weight to the importance of a father (or ‘Non-Primary Carer’) in the optimal development of a child.

    As I see it, the problem lies in the fact that the judiciary has opted to interpret the Paramountcy Principle of the Children Act (1989) by using the ‘Single Parent-Primary Carer’ paradigm.
    Relocation law, in the form of Payne v Payne (2001), is a prime example: it rides rough-shod over any possibility of shared parenting by placing thousands of miles and any number of oceans between children and their Non-Primary Carer.

    What Mr Cameron seeks to do is to rectify this judicial error by making it very explicit indeed to the judiciary that the full and meaningful involvement of a good and loving father is vitally important in serving the paramount interests of a child. In reality, there is no material conflict between the Paramountcy Principle and the Principle of a Presumption of Shared Parenting.

    Bruno D’Itri

  22. Bruno D'Itri says:

    Sir Nicholas Wall and Sir Alan Beith should listen carefully and with much humility to the words of this very admirable and courageous young lady, to understand what effect current family law has on the children…

    Bruno D’Itri

  23. Observer says:

    Mr X, there are thousands – no, tens of thousands – who feel exactly the way you do. And that is why those who still resist shared parenting and a more positive attitude toward fathers are in the moment of their swan song now. Still, it’ll be decades before real change settles in…. In the meantime, what Bob Geldof called ‘state-sponsored child abuse’ will go on, until the moment that history judges it and a few straw men are identified (whilst all the lawyers, educators, health officials etc. who supported this system get off scot free).

  24. Bruno D'Itri says:

    When parents separate or divorce, the court automatically seeks to anoint one parent (usually the mother) with the legal status of ‘primary carer/resident parent’. It then bestows upon that parent a grossly disproportionate degree of power and control over the children vis-à-vis the ‘secondary carer/non-resident parent’ (dad).
    In many acrimonious cases an embittered resident parent uses this power to exclude the second parent from the lives of the children. The courts are reluctant to punish this abhorrent behaviour, their rationale being that to punish the primary carer is tantamount to punishing the children. With no deterrence, this behaviour is set to continue.

    Quite naturally, an unjustly excluded parent will employ the very costly (£200 plus per hour) services of solicitors and barristers in a desperate effort to regain contact with his children. Truly obscene sums of money begin to flow from broken families into the coffers of the law firms. The Family Justice Industry feeds upon the love an excluded parent has for his children.

    A presumption of Shared Parenting would permit a loving parent to be fully involved in the parenting of his children, post separation or divorce, without the need for costly and lengthy litigation. In Australia, for example, litigation reduced by circa 30% following the introduction of Shared Parenting legislation. Of course, in those relatively few cases where there is a serious and proven risk of harm, contact can and should be restricted.

    Plainly, a similar reduction of circa 30% in British family court litigation would prove extremely damaging to the Family Justice Industry. It is little wonder, then, that the Law Society is vehemently against a presumption of Shared Parenting. Family lawyers are not saints; we should not naively assume that their leaders would place genuine justice for parents and children ahead of their desire to maintain their income stream.

    The judiciary is no better. Sir Nicholas Wall – the former President of the Family Division – sought to blame parents for “using their children as weapons”, without accepting in the least that it is the System itself which facilitates, encourages and fails to deter such abhorrent behaviour.

    The real scandal is that the Law Society and the judiciary have succeeded in persuading our Government to dilute its original Shared Parenting proposals. There is now a very serious risk that the status quo is set to continue.

    Shame on the Law Society. Shame on the judiciary. Shame on the Government.

    Bruno D’Itri

  25. Bruno D'Itri says:

    History teaches us that powerful and wealthy “special interest groups” have direct and very influential access to Government officials and that they often get their own way, irrespective of what is actually ‘good’ or ‘just’ for society.

    The raison d’etre of the Law Society is to serve the interests of the Legal Industry. Of this, there is no doubt.

    The Law Society is perfectly aware of the extensive and compelling scientific evidence demonstrating, beyond all reasonable doubt, the significant benefits for children of remaining in meaningful contact with both parents post separation or divorce.

    However, the Law Society is also very aware that Shared Parenting legislation is likely to be highly damaging to the interests of its members, as profitable litigation would significantly decrease.

    The Law Society thus faces a real dilemma…

    Should it stand up for the interests of children and support Shared Parenting legislation or, instead, should it stand up for the interests of its members and oppose Shared Parenting legislation?

    It has opted firmly for the latter, and is using all of its sophistry and guile to try to convince our Government that Shared Parenting legislation will be harmful to child welfare.

    Some Government officials, such as Alan Beith, have been taken in. Other Ministry of Justice officials have also been seduced and have stated recently that Shared Parenting legislation is NOT actually expected to alter outcomes in family justice cases. The sole purpose of any new legislation, they have said, is simply to try to dispel the widely-held (but, according to them, quite unjustified) “perception” of anti-father bias in the system! Apparently, hundreds of fathers are only imagining that they are not able to see their children!

    We must do ALL we can to expose the shockingly immoral and self-serving behaviour of the Law Society in order to serve the genuine best interests of thousands of children.

    Bruno D’Itri

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      This is utter codswallop!

      • JamesB says:

        I think Bruno touched a nerve there. I do also agree with him. We should have more representation and less lobbying. Like the fiasco on sanitary products recently, then we get MPs telling us men don’t pay tax on razors when they do, in Hansard. Westminsterbubbleitis.

  26. Bruno D'Itri says:

    Codswallop? What, all of it, Marilyn?

    I’m open to correction, but I’ll need some convincing!

    Which of my premises and deductions are wrong or illogical and why?

    Of course, I’m not privy to the conversations going on within and between the Law Society, the Government and the judiciary, but if you can suggest another plausible explanation for the stance taken by the Law Society, I’m all ears!

    Let me remind you of an extract from your initial post:

    “The Chair of the Law Society’s Family Law Committee seems to have gone even further, describing the change as “unnecessary” and “populist” and went so far as to say that coupled with mediation, it could undermine the safety of children. Over at the Solicitors Journal, similar criticism has come thick and fast. I am left wondering whether these lawyers are reading the same document as me? “New joint parenting laws are not just unecessary they are dangerous” is the shrill headline. Another solicitor states “the danger is that it takes away from the principle that the child’s interests should be paramount.” But with respect, that is precisely what it does not do. It is all utter nonsense.”

    It IS indeed utter nonsense UNLESS you consider ulterior motives.

    Best wishes
    Bruno D’Itri

  27. David Mortimer says:

    False allegations of domestic violence and child abuse are used in the family courts on a daily basis right across the country by resident parents (mothers in the vast majority of cases) to dictate the outcome of contact and residence applications with impunity.

    The family courts view separating couples as two legal components: the ‘resident parent’ and the ‘non-resident parent’ (who does not live with the child). Although these two legal concepts might sound similar they are treated completely differently in the family courts. The only legal right a non-resident parent has is they can apply to the courts for contact. They do not have any other significant or presumptive rights over their children.

    Most people believe they have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law if they were accused of domestic violence or child abuse given they are criminal offences. However, this principle only applies in criminal trials which have to prove a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It does not apply in the family courts which are civil proceedings where the best interest test is applied to all decisions which are made on a balance of probability.

    Family court judges do not believe it would be in a child’s best interest to question what the resident parent has said (to see if it is true or not) because they claim do so would undermind their authority as the primary care giver. You might wonder how any decision could ever be reasonably considered as safe and in a child’s best interests if they do not check.

    As a result of being separated from the father, children are placed at higher risk of child abuse, academic difficulties, conduct problems, and involvement with the criminal justice system.

  28. JamesB says:

    re : Family court judges do not believe it would be in a child’s best interest to question what the resident parent has said.

    Sad, but true, they don’t seem to listen to nrps. Another example is pwcs get orders on demand and nrps are told to apply and pay the fee for a hearing, is quite shocking. Last hearing I went to I took my Dad and he was shocked and taken aback by the circuit cout judges behaviour and approach with regards to giving a damn about the children’s relationship with me.

    For example, said Judge said “this is all too much for the pwc to have to go through” and “you are speaking about you and not the children” (that is what he just did). It was utterly riddiculous and bias and the perception is true written about above that the public view the places as anti nrps – because they are, the judges, the lawyers, the staff and cafcass, and everyone else, they will drive you crazy if you are not careful

  29. David Mortimer says:

    When are family court judges going to start referring cases of perjury to the police given the Lord Chief Justices ruling?

    “If a judge considers that the Police should pursue an investigation in respect of the commission of perjury by a witness or a party at a trail, the judge must make this clear in his judgment and make the necessary order so as to require the court to send the papers in the case to the Police or the appropriate authorities. If the judge does not make such a direction in the course of his judgment, then the Police can assume that there is no case of perjury to be investigated. However, should relevant evidence come to light, the aggrieved party may return to court to place the fact before a judge and/or appeal. It will then be open to that judge to give the aforementioned direction if appropriate”

  30. Bruno D'Itri says:

    Retired President of the Family Division, Baroness Butler-Sloss has recently expressed her strong objections to Shared Parenting legislation:

    There are three major flaws in the views of the Baroness.

    Firstly, she makes the erroneous and very misleading presumption that those calling for Shared Parenting legislation want a rigid 50/50 split of parenting time.

    Most reasonable voices who have campaigned for Shared Parenting (such as Families Need Fathers and The Custody Minefield) have acknowledged for years that a rigid 50/50 split of parenting time would be impractical in many cases.

    Instead, they have called for the significant and meaningful involvement of both parents, in order that the child may benefit from being properly parented by both its parents. Theirs has always been a qualitative approach.

    Of course, in order for a child to have a significant and meaningful relationship with both its parents, it will need to spend some minimum quantum of time with both parents, but this need NOT be 50%.

    Many who are vehemently against Shared Parenting legislation are finding it extremely difficult to counter the widespread and powerful scientific evidence in favour of Shared Parenting. They have commissioned a couple of academics in an effort to discredit Shared Parenting, but the evidence in favour of Shared Parenting is overwhelming. The general consensus among social scientists is that Shared Parenting is beneficial to children. There are parallels with Oil Companies who commission selected academics to try to discredit the evidence for Global Warming.

    Instead, opponents of Shared Parenting are rather desperately (and mischievously) attempting to shift both the debate and their attack upon the notion of 50/50. The Baroness succeeded in getting the Express Newspaper to headline this 50/50 notion!

    Secondly, whilst the Baroness concedes that children benefit from Shared Parenting when their parents are behaving “sensibly”, she states that the children of parents who are not behaving “sensibly” cannot benefit from Shared Parenting, as this would be harmful.

    In the very common scenario in which the court-appointed Primary Carer (usually mum) is upset and aggrieved with any aspect of the separation or divorce, and refuses (or is emotionally incapable) to behave “sensibly” and refuses to facilitate contact , the Baroness suggests that the Secondary Carer (usually dad) should NOT be involved in the parenting of the child. The Baroness appears quite unable to perceive firstly, the injustice of her argument and, secondly, the long-term damage to the child in losing one of its parents. The Baroness gives paramountcy to the wishes and feelings of the Primary Carer mother.

    Thirdly, the Baroness appears completely out of touch with the current Zeitgeist concerning 21st century parenting. She is firmly wedded to the ideology of the 1960′s and 70′s which strongly held that children needed the nurturing of their mothers and the financial support of their fathers. In no other of the Baroness’s judgments is this out-of-date ideology so stark as in the judgment of Payne v Payne (2001).

    Bruno D’Itri

  31. JamesB says:

    Can I ask what a Zeitguiest is please? Is it like a Poltergeist?

  32. JamesB says:

    I just looked it up. I think Zeitgeists exist. I am not sure what the ones are for 21st century parenting though. I know my nine year old daughter feels she is entitled to a birthday party with friends. Maybe that is such a zeitgeist. She did ice-skating then a lunch and had a nice time.

  33. DT says:


    Zeitgeist means ‘spirit of the time’ in German.


  34. JamesB says:

    Ah, l’espirit de temps!

    The good old spirit of the time, like football hooliganism in the 80s, or outlawing homosexuals before the 60s?

  35. Debby says:

    I have encouraged my ex husband to have contact with my daughter since we parted but he is very emotionally abusive saying terrible things about me to our daughter who is only 6. He sends harassing emails. I have had to limit his time with her whenever he is very aggressive repeatedly and then try to reintroduce contact when he calms down. He has now sent a solicitors letter with a proposed parenting plan which just fills me with dread. It is a weapon to control our lives and to be able to continue more emotional abuse but with the law behind him, this time. I don’t know how to prove emotional abuse. I don’t want to stop him seeing his daughter but he is a very angry man and I don’t know how to prove this as he showcases well to others. My daughter is always very polite to him and wary of him and often comes back upset by things he has said, christmas day was especially bad. A law that presumes a mother is stopping the father from 50/50 parenting for revenge or out of spite precludes those mothers like myself who are being systematically bullied and are only trying to protect their child. I am not sure I trust that the judge will be able to see the truth in this situation. I am very fearful for my child.

  36. Bruno D'Itri says:

    Hello Debbie

    If what you say is true, then I feel very sorry for your daughter. You say you don’t know how to prove your ex’s bad behaviour – have you tried presenting his abusive emails to the court? Has your daughter been interviewed by social services/cafcass?

    The problem is that many non-resident parents (usually dads) face the same type of alienation and abuse you describe, but, in their case, they are completely excluded from their children’s lives for many months or even years.

    The Shared Parenting Bill will permit both genders to be treated on the same basis in law.

    Sadly, bad parents of both genders will still remain after the introduction of shared parenting legislation.

    However, the unfair discrimination against non-primary carers will at least have been removed.

    What will remain will be the paramountcy principle – the child’s best interests will be the courts’ primary concern.

    If your daughter is suffering due to your ex’s bad behaviour, this should be addressed by the court.

    I am sure you will agree that thousands of good fathers should not continue to face discrimination due to the bad behaviour of a few.

    Bruno D’Itri

  37. Richard says:


    It really is nice to read something that actually make sense on this issue for once. My children and I have been lucky, as their mother and I have been able to agree totally on shared parenting and how to implemented this.

    I think you’re totally right that 50/50 parenting shouldn’t always be thought of as the ideal situation, it can often end up being a poor solution which doesn’t really work for anyone involved. Also it depends how you define 50/50 anyway, My children live with me 3 nights a week plus all of my holidays, but this includes them spending the majority of every weekend with me. Although they are with me just under less than 50% of nights, if I were to try to increase this they would actually be spending far less time with their mother than they do with me.

    As far as having my rights a parent recognised, as I contribute 50% towards the direct care of my children and also bear the majority of the financial responsibility for their upbringing, it would be nice to just be recognised as a ‘parent’ rather than having to be a ‘Non Resident Parent’, as actually it’s quite insulting.

  38. troy says:

    In my opinion, much of the unhappiness and aggravation presently endured by separating parents when reaching decisions about the future parenting of their children is entirely needless.

  39. Sue says:

    I agree that it’s very important that a child has access to both parents, however I think 50/50 shared access is extremely difficult to implement when a) the parents do not live near each other b) the age of the child and c) most importantly how good a relationship the parents have. I think good mothers are getting a battering because of the bad ones and some fathers are getting away with terrible behaviour! If they don’t get there own way they threaten court, my daughter has gone through hell because of a very bitter ex husband! There are a lot of good and fair mums out there who do actually put their child’s needs first unlike the father!!

  40. JamesB says:

    I have seen shared parenting 50:50 work well on more than one occasion in real life. Where it works 1 parent has the children 4 days one week including the weekend and the other the same the following week. I have never seen shared parenting 50:50 not work.

  41. JamesB says:

    I admit that I haven’t been there for a while, but I think the credibility of these places is shot to pieces and they are dead but walking and serve limit function in future to stamp social worker documents and pre nups and the like. Of course civil courts otherwise serve a useful function. Interested to see recently the Magistrates courts seem to have taken this (child contact) matter from them, complete farce.

  42. JamesB says:

    If you are a man and you end up in these places best bring a sense of humour as otherwise they will drive you crazy with strange accusations like parking on a hill and taking children out road side of a car, many others I have posted on here before also including brunch vit c, etc. Court says one thing and does another. They say how one person parents isn’t open to criticism from the other yet when they do just that they let it go and listen to it day in day out.

    Farce, can see why people walk away, all you get offered is abuse with regards to maintaining a relationship with children following separation.

  43. JamesB says:

    Having car doors locked while in car and not another sunscreen were two others plus inadequate sleeping and housing arrangements. Inadequate car seat and high chair. So much nonsense, the law doesn’t help and encourages the nonsense and throwing money at lawyers, I can see how the judges in these places go crazy. Like the one complained about for swearing in court yesterday. The best interests of the child is a laissez faire cop out argument the Children Act should be repealed.

  44. JamesB says:

    As per your original post. I agreed with you before that it needed changing and did submit to the consultation but it has not been changed. Westminster bubbleitis and non representative distant government again did nothing to improve things which has forced me to vote ukip who are the only party with a policy in this area. Would be good if politicians actually represented the people they are supposed to. They do not as seen by the referendum and this subject and these courts and many other examples.

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