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Top family judge speaks out….

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Following on from my Blog on 12 November 2012 titled “Shared Parenting Presumption – clarification or confusion”, the debate is still continuing.

I am not sure if you will have watched the “Dispatches” programme on Channel 4 on Monday 14 January 2013 but I did and found it to be very interesting. Apart from my usual shouting at the television to comments made by some, I felt overall that the programme gave a reasonable outlook of the issues.

The presenter, Tim Lovejoy, who is a divorced father of twin daughters, interviewed a mother who has been involved in lengthy Children Law litigation (costing the couple approximately £1 million in legal fees between them); visited a Child Contact Centre to see families who are using such facilities for having contact between parent and child; interviewed Baroness Butler-Sloss, a retired Appeal Court Judge and previous president of the Family Division of the High Court and interviewed divorced parents who have a successful shared care arrangement.

Baroness Butler-Sloss stated that parents were “ridiculous” if they thought the laws would give them equal access to their children.

She went on to say that “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 is enforced, I will get half of the child’. Well that’s ridiculous. A 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 this requires parents to be sensible, to co-operate and to look at what is best for the children”.

The programme went on to show a divorced couple who have one child and have managed to put aside the differences they have as a result of their relationship breaking down and have reached an agreement where they, as parents, and their daughter are happy. This particular family have worked an arrangement which means that their daughter spends one week with her mother and then one week with her father. This arrangement only works because the parents are able to communicate well with each other and the outcome is that their daughter is pleased that she is able to spend time with both of her parents.

In my experience, whilst this week on/week off arrangements is not typical, where both parents are trying to work together to ensure that their children spend quality time with each parent, whatever the actual arrangements, the family is far happier and will be able to move forward.

Many couples can benefit from instructing solicitors who are also trained as Collaborative Lawyers to assist them in reaching agreement. The Collaborative process encourages couples to try to discuss matters together in order to reach a satisfactory conclusion whilst agreeing not to issue court proceedings. This approach is becoming more widely used and is an alternative form of dispute resolution.

If you are experiencing similar issues and require further advice please contact Sue Mason on sue.mason@clarionsolicitors.com or 0113 336 3340, who is a trained Collaborative lawyer.
 

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