In the UK, there are approximately:
- 700k new births each year,
- 8 million families with dependent children1,
- 2 million relationships in distress,
- 130k separations each year,
- 50k new child arrangements applications each year (111,000 children2),
- 1400 cases returning to court for enforcement
That is approximately a 3% failure rate on court orders, which statistically might be considered an acceptable failure rate, but the reality is that is likely to be 3108 children whose lives have been further disrupted, upset or have been put on hold again.
We need to work harder and earlier to stop parental conflict before it has a chance to start and before the damage is done not just to the ex-partners’ relationship but more importantly before there are any negative effects on the children.
Although the Family Law of England and Wales is equitable, there are many areas of society who still maintain entrenched views about the roles of Fathers and Mothers in children’s lives both in ‘together’ families and in separated ones. These views when held in combination with a distorted view of the purpose, process, and role of the Family Court leads to an increased number of unnecessary Family Court applications and enforcements.
If we all worked together in the interests of the children then we would be supporting parents towards a mutually agreed written framework and away from the combative arena of family law.
It is our belief that more needs to be done to confront, and address these fundamental societal beliefs; to expose them at the earliest point possible following separation and to help provide a greater structure to the learning and framework development that is required to work towards a positive parenting environment for the children and families involved.
A Communications Problem
We believe that there is a need for a multi-pronged approach to address this problem and prevent the current growing demand from overwhelming the Family Court. This will involve:
- Educating Society over the roles of Parents post-separation and the role of the Family Court (including educating people working within the Family Court system).
- Wider availability of early intervention programmes like the ‘5 Steps to Co-parenting Success’ Co-parenting Programme, to build pre-emptive parenting frameworks.
- A greater understanding of the triggers associated with family separation conflict from the professionals working within the family separation systems.
- A more standardised approach to Child Arrangements Orders to improve the robustness of the language and framework set out.
- The further development of post-court support to help implement orders and prevent enforcement or reapplication.
Mostly, we want to see parents working together – understanding that it’s difficult for everyone involved, but through the establishment of a written framework early on, there is less room for grey areas; which means less room for conflict and ultimately it means a more positive co-parenting environment for the children.