I was pleased to hear that the Law Society recently criticised government plans to introduce into UK law, a presumption that parenting of children should be shared. In response to a Ministry of Justice consultation, the Law Society described as “admirable” the principal of getting parents to co-operate in caring for their children after divorce and separation, but described the concept of actually enshrining that in law as “seriously flawed”.
As someone who was a specialist children’s Solicitor for many years [all my caseload was children related and I was on the Law Society’s Children Panel – often acting on behalf of children themselves in care proceedings and often on behalf of parents or grandparents in contact or residence order cases], I have to say that I share the Law Society’s views entirely.
Every case involving a child is different and the idea that the government is simply putting them all into the same straitjacket is wrong. Sadly not all parents take their responsibilities seriously – it’s a clear fact, that many parents, even when they have time with the children, don’t spend it well and do little in terms of childcare. I’ve run cases where I’ve got custody of children for mother in place of father, and father in place of mother – in some cases one or other parenting ability was seriously flawed and the idea that the starting position has to be a simple equal share of the children’s time with parents is simply wrong. Children are not chattels to be equally divided. They are individuals, with individual needs and it’s those needs and need to be addressed as a priority.
The current law is far from perfect – but the principle is entirely sound. The Children Act says that the “paramount consideration” is the “interest of the child”. I think that is spot on. Let’s hope the government gives up this stupid idea of social engineering and allows each case involved in the care of a child to be decided on its merits. In this case, one size certainly does not fit all.