Shared parenting ‘in need of reform’

A survey carried out as part of a television investigation on shared parenting after divorce or separation has found that almost 90 percent of those responding thought the law needed to be reformed.

A total of 1,103 people responded to the online survey for “Sharing Mum and Dad”, a programme in Channel 4’s Dispatches series, broadcast this January.

It found that 88 percent of those responding thought the law on parent separation needed to be updated.

Of those who had experienced parental separation – either as parents or children – 70 percent said more of the children’s time was spent with mothers and only five percent with fathers. Just seven percent said time was divided equally between both parents.

A total of 86 percent said they felt children suffered when they were separated from either of their parents for significant periods of time.

During the Channel 4 programme, Baroness Butler-Sloss, former president of the Family Division of the High Court, warned: “The problem about the phrase ‘shared parenting’ is the perception that parents have as to what it really means.

“I’ve heard one father who went into court saying, ‘Once this law is enforced, I will get half of the child’. Well that’s ridiculous. The child has to live in one place, so the duty of the court is to do what is best for the child.

“I think all parents should be sharing their children but that requires parents to be sensible, to co-operate and to look at what is best for the children.

“In about five percent of cases that come through the courts the parents are unreasonable, or one parent is unreasonable – usually both – and the child suffers.”

The Children and Families Bill will include a strengthening of the law to ensure that children have a relationship with both their parents after family separation, where it is safe and in the child’s best interests.

While there are mixed views as to whether legislation on shared parenting is the right approach, there are likely to be few who would disagree that when a relationship breaks down, the welfare and well-being of any children involved must be a priority.

At Palmers, we approach issues arising from relationship breakdowns sensitively and objectively, with the aim of helping couples to put aside their differences and reach outcomes that are as constructive as possible for their children and themselves.

For more information on arrangements for children following separation, or any other aspect of family law, please visit our website or contact one of our fee earners