Holistic Centre for Body, Mind & Spirit

Fathers Win Legal Right to Time with Children after a Divorce


The right of divorced parents to see their children is to be enshrined in law as part of government reforms to the family courts.

Judges will have a legal duty to ensure that both fathers and mothers have an ongoing relationship with their children as part of the Government’s response to a review of the family justice system carried out by the businessman David Norgrove. Courts will have to take the new law into account unless the behaviour of one of the parents has raised concerns about the safety or welfare of the children involved. Any parent who refuses to accept the ruling will risk serious penalties, or even a prison sentence.

The approval of a legal right to access for divorced parents will be seen as good news for fathers, who are usually the non-resident parent after divorces. But ministers will stop short of an “equal time” law for both parents.

The Government will formally set out its response to the Norgrove review on Monday as it attempts to cut out delays and bureaucracy built into the family court system. In an attempt to reduce the number of family law cases, a further £10 million has been found for mediation services to encourage more couples to settle their disputes outside the courts. But ministers have decided that they want to give a clearer indication that in the 10 per cent of cases that do end up in court, it is vital for children to have an ongoing relationship with both parents.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that one in three children lives without their father.

“Judges will have their final say,” said a Whitehall source. “We will recognise it in law. But the interests of the child should always come first.”

Tim Loughton, the Children’s Minister, said he wanted to change the “familiar picture in the UK of parental separation leading to thousands of children losing meaningful contact with the ‘non-resident parent’ – usually the father.”

He added: “The state cannot create happy families, or broker amicable break-ups. But if children are having decent, loving parents pushed out of their lives, we owe it to them to change the system that lets this happen.”

The move is a considerable coup for campaigners for fathers rights who say the current presumption that mothers are primary carers is outdated. It could also strengthen the hand of fathers in the growing number of cases in which mothers breach contact orders between their former partners and their children already agreed in the courts. But there may be resistance in the legal profession and among children’s charities. Mr Norgrove’s review concluded that it risked creating a presumption of a parental right to shared time, which would undermine the principle of the interests of the child coming first.

Children’s charities will be wary of anything that put the rights of parents above that of the child.

Michael Savage, Rosemary Bennett

Fathers Win Legal Right to Time with Children after a Divorce

In cases of separation or divorce, the priority should always be the psychological and emotional needs of any children involved. In most cases children love and are attached to both their parents. Attachment is a fundamental human behaviour so irrespective of what has happened in the parents’ relationship, children are likely to attach and bond with a genuine love for their parents. This attachment is likely to remain even through major difficulties, although there are of course great complexities within every parent-child relationship.

We focus on avoiding emotional pain for the child and would support the child’s need for unfettered access to both parents – assuming both parents do offer that child their unconditional love. Parents must also be sufficiently psychologically stable to be able to give the child a good enough relationship that is safe and healthy.

When working with parents and children, we recognise and respect the complex dynamics and needs of a family as a functioning unit with its own unique culture, as well as the needs and wants of each individual within that unit.

When challenges do present themselves, or when there is a complete breakdown or crisis within the family unit, we are able to offer support in a number of different ways. Our most important function is the ability to deal with the complex range of emotions and reactions different family members may be experiencing within themselves or in relation to each other. In an often emotionally challenging scenario, we provide a grounded, safe, non-judgemental space and our psychological insight and understanding provides the ground on which dilemmas and differences can be teased out, explored and negotiated respectfully and appropriately.

When the heart is hurt, the consequences can last a lifetime. The more we can do at an early stage, the better. By managing a wound well and soon enough, it can not only be sufficiently healed but also turned into a strength.

We have several different types of counselling and psychotherapy available, including family therapy, to deal with these complex issues. We will work with as many members of family as needed, and our specialists will call upon mediation, problem solving and negotiation techniques as a critical part of their work.