New divorce laws won’t mean a 50-50 custody split.
PARENTS going through divorce are being “ridiculous” if they think new laws will give them equal access to their children, says Britain’s leading family court judge.
The introduction of the Shared Parenting Bill will not result in couples having a 50/50 split of time with offspring because that is not always practical or in the child’s best interest, adds Baroness Butler-Sloss.
The Baroness, who was the first woman Appeal Court judge and was president of the Family Division of the High Court, reveals in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme tonight that she is against the new laws.
I think all parents should be sharing their children but that requires parents to be sensible
She says: “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 law is enforced, I will get half of the child’. Well that’s ridiculous. The 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 that requires parents to be sensible, to co-operate and to look at what is best for the children.
“But in about five per cent of cases that come through the courts the parents are unreasonable, or one parent is unreasonable – usually both – and the child suffers.”
The amendments to the 1989 Children’s Act aim to give children from broken homes new rights to maintain relationships with both parents.
The move is designed to ensure that the parent who moves out of the family home cannot be cut out of their children’s lives unless they are deemed likely to cause them harm.
Courts will also be required to consider the role of grandparents after divorce or separation, although ministers have decided against giving them new access rights in law.
Judges will determine access arrangements if they cannot be agreed between separating parents.
Those who defy court orders to provide access to children will face penalties including the removal of passports or driving licences, or the imposition of curfews.
But the move has been criticised by both fathers’ groups and legal experts like the Baroness.
The Law Society has described the Government’s proposals as “seriously flawed”.
Nadine O’Connor, of the campaign group Fathers4Justice, said: “The proposals are a fraud and no father should think this will give them any rights in law to see their children.
“This is licence for more litigation, not less.”
Sharing Mum and Dad: Dispatches was on Channel 4 Tue 14th Jan at 8pm.