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Trethowans Solicitors look at the legal issues of Shared Parenting
In this helpful article Dawn Gore, a Paralegal from Salisbury and Southampton Solicitors Trethowans explains how prospective legislation on shared parenting may benefit families involved in divorce and separation in the future.
Dawn specialises in advising parents on issues involving children, particularly those of residence and contact. She also advises on instances of uncontested divorce.
In the majority of cases, when a couple celebrate the birth of their child, they do not have in mind that the relationship may break down in the future and what the arrangements for their child will be in that event.
Research shows that 61% of first marriages end in divorce and that 25% of all children in the UK will experience the divorce of their parents. There are no figures for children of unmarried relationships, but it is estimated to be twice the number involved in separation and divorce.
Traditionally, children were cared for day to day by their mother whilst the father was the breadwinner and had little input in the upbringing of their children. These days, however, fathers play a much more active role, sharing the responsibilities with the mother.
In the unfortunate event that the relationship or marriage breaks down, the arrangements for the children need to be settled. Fortunately, most parents are able to agree those arrangements between themselves, without involving solicitors or the Courts. In some cases, however, disputes arise with each parent seeking ‘control’ of the children. Sadly, despite the best intentions of most parents, the children become caught up in the dispute and are expected to choose with which parent they wish to live with or how often they should see the other parent.
The Courts have long been of the view that parents should agree arrangements for their children between themselves and will only become involved in the event that they are invited to make a decision as to those arrangements because a dispute has arisen. In those circumstances, the Court is often asked to determine with whom the child should live and it is common for an Order to be made that provides for the child to live with one parent and take up contact with the other.
Although there is no presumption that the child should live with the mother, due to circumstances that is often the case. This then leaves the father believing he has been relegated to that of a ‘part-time’
Since the inception of the Children Act 1989, the Courts have had the power to make Orders that share the responsibilities for the children between the parents, but Orders of this nature are still fairly unusual. Until now perhaps.
Brian Binley, Conservative MP for Northampton South presented to the House of Commons on 13 July 2010 a private members bill on shared parenting.
If successful, any legislation is likely to provide for a presumption of shared parenting and will only be rebutted if the Court does not consider that to be in the best interests of a child’s welfare, specifically in cases involving abusive parents, domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse or where a parent has a significant psychiatric disorder.
Mr Binley quotes himself on his blog as saying:
"Shared parenting legislation is vitally important for all involved, especially the children.
Very often Court Orders are made without the knowledge of the importance of a father’s involvement and my bill will make sure that neither parent is shut out from a child’s life when sadly a relationship breaks down.
I don’t need to underline the importance of both parents in a child’s life. A significant proportion of the social problems in today’s society are a result of when a child doesn’t have the love and support of both parents.
I hope the Bill will go some way to help this which can only be good for society."
Research shows that children who have the love and support of both parents are more likely to succeed educationally, emotionally and form lasting relationships in adult life.
This, therefore, has to be seen as a positive move and has been welcomed by Becky Jarvis, the Policy Officer of Families Need Fathers who has pointed out that shared parenting legislation is common in other Countries including Australia, France, Denmark, Belgium and some US states.
This article has been written by Dawn Gore, a Paralegal and Certified Family Law Assistant in the Family Solicitor Team at Trethowans Solicitors.
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Trethowans is a leading regional practice in the South of England with offices in Salisbury and Southampton. Our family team advises clients across a wide range of areas such as childcare, divorce, domestic violence, financial provision, mediation and separation. A number of our solicitors are “Accredited Specialists”