By Georgina Burrows
Britain’s most senior family judge, Sir Nicholas Wall, warned this week that parents were harming children during divorce proceedings by using them as “the battlefield” and the “ammunition”.
At a speech to the charity Families Need Fathers in Coventry, Sir Nicholas, who is president of the Family Division of the High Court, said: “Parents simply do not realise the damage they do to their children by the battles they wage over them.
“People think that post-separation parenting is easy. In fact it is exceedingly difficult, and as a rule of thumb my experience is that the more intelligent the parent, the more intractable the dispute.”
As a firm, we don’t generally see these problems, possibly because we give our clients extremely firm advice about the need to keep disputes about children away from court. We always encourage parents to resolve their differences about children away from the legal process if possible.
This said, it seems that people need, somehow, to vent their anger following a separation and, in my experience, where there are no assets or money, children become the “possessions” to be fought over.
It is always wrong and can be very costly financially and emotionally to use children in this way.
I have dealt with cases over the years where mothers have refused the fathers contact. In many of these, the denial of contact has been used to “punish” the other parent. Sadly, it is the children who ultimately suffer. In these situations, I have found that a firm, proactive approach to the case on behalf of the father has helped and established not only contact but also shared residence in some instances.
In most families, there is no reason at all why children should not spend equal or near equal time with both parents. Unless children have good quality and quantity contact with their father from a young age, the damage to the relationship can be irreparable. They are denied a shared history and memories.
If children have frequent and good quality contact with both parents, then the whole family can move forward and build their new lives following divorce or separation.
Children are the most precious outcome of a relationship and they deserve parents who work together whatever the circumstances.
- Georgina is a solicitor with Benussi & Co