When a couple decides to separate it’s never easy but when children are involved it’s all the harder.
Decisions by family courts in England and Wales are based on the principle that the child’s welfare is always paramount - but the benefit of ongoing contact with both parents is not explicitly stated in law leading in practice to thousands of non-resident parents, usually fathers, losing contact with their children.
I recently met with a group of Croydon fathers who were struggling to gain access to their children all of whom complained about the way in which their ex-partners were able to ignore court orders without facing any sanctions and weren’t prosecuted for making false allegations. Now of course this is only part of the story: sadly, there are men who abuse their partners and/or their children. But where this is not the case the fact that the relationship between the mother and father has broken down should not mean one parent being cut off from their children.
So the Government is right to consult on a law to include a presumption that a child’s welfare is furthered by involvement with both parents – unless the evidence shows this is not safe or in the child’s best interests.
Wherever possible, parents should resolve disputes concerning the custody of their children and access arrangements out of court but where people break these arrangements, there needs to be clear sanctions.
Children need a mother and a father. As adults, we must not allow breakdowns in our relationships to damage our children.