So - fathers are to be given the legal right to spend time with their children after separation or divorce under new plans intended to keep both parents "involved".
The courts in England and Wales will be required to work on the presumption that a child's interests are best served by seeing both parents, unless evidence shows it would be dangerous.
It probably seems pointless here to mention that everyone involved in Family Law works under this presumption anyway, but yes, I shall mention it. Why else be a family lawyer if you don't want to do your best for the child and the family?
It's important to note however that this new law doesn't mean parents have the right to spend an equal amount of time with their children. Nor does it mean that a child cannot make their main home with just one of the parents.
This was a point Government was at pains to make clear, after moves in Australia to give fathers similar rights got snarled up in courts where the judges had to unravel the conundrum of how to give parents equal access without disrupting the child's routine. Children these days are so busy with extra-curricular activities, there's no point insisting the child is with Dad on a Tuesday night when she has swimming lessons 20 miles away at a pool near Mum's house, for example.
There have been many voices raised against the creation of a legal presumption in favour of shared parenting, those voices warning that it could result in an "unacceptable risk of damage to children" in certain instances.
But Children's Minister Tim Loughton, when he launched the consultation of the proposals to amend the Children's Act, Tim Loughton, said that in the majority of cases separating parents frequently resolved contact arrangement disputes without ever going to court.
However, he expanded on this by saying: "We must improve the system where court cannot be avoided -- where disputes are intractable or complex or children's welfare is at risk. We need to clarify and restore public confidence that the courts fully recognise the joint nature of parenting."
But again, I come back to my original point that most judges work from the basic premise that the best interests of the child are served when both parents are involved in their upbringing anyway.
It's also interesting to note that there is rarely if ever a mention of those parents who let contact arrangements lapse for whatever reason. Perhaps they have a new partner who isn't keen on being a step-parent. Perhaps they find, after a year or two, that it's just too much trouble to have their children stay with them at weekends.
I dealt with a sad case several years ago where the parents of two children divorced and the father re-married. His contact with his children lessened and lessened, he didn't stick to the arrangements to have his children every other weekend but instead cancelled whenever it suited, and then he moved several hundreds of miles away at the behest of his new wife and her children.
When the case came to court the judge praised the mother for doing her best to keep the children's father as part of their lives. But, as he sadly pointed out, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
The overwhelming majority of divorced parents want to remain a significant part of their children's lives. But at the same time, there are those parents that don't. And I don't hear any voices raised about that issue - do you?
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