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Entries in English family law (2)


Judge calls for an end to "Catherine Tate" approach to post separation parenting

English Appeal Court Judge Lord Justice McFarlane has called for an  end to the “Catherine Tate approach to postā€separation parenting”.

In a key speech to the Association of Lawyers for Children in June 2013, he deplores the situation where the parent who holds all the trump cards, because the child is currently living with them, simply shrugs her shoulders and says to the other parent, who merely wants to see his child, “Am I bothered?”.

Commenting on recent changes in England and Wales he says: "The system, the law, now requires them to be bothered. They have a responsibility to be bothered and if they persist in abdicating from that responsibility they can expect all those they encounter in and around the court system to bring them up short." 

His speech outlines the approach which will be taken by the newly created Family Courts in England and Wales, and the way in which the Children and Families Act 2014 will bring about a different approach in England and Wales by replacing "contact" and "residence" orders with "child arrangements" orders.

In his speech he refers to a recent judgement on an appeal from a father who had been denied contact with his two young children by the children’s mother for no apparent reason other than her refusal to engage in the process.

“Parents, both those who have primary care and those who seek to spend time with their child, have a responsibility to do their best to meet their child's needs in relation to the provision of contact, just as they do in every other regard. It is not, at face value, acceptable for a parent to shirk that responsibility and simply to say 'no' to reasonable strategies designed to improve the situation in this regard.”

He also make some favourable comments about fathers seeking contact with their children

"In particular, whilst deprecating some of their tactics, I had, in the course of a number of meetings, sat down in calm circumstances and listened to the stories of a number of fathers who considered that they had been profoundly let down by the system. Whilst it might be that there are genuine, child focused, reasons why individual members of the various fathers’ groups have been denied contact, that could not be said of most of the individuals I have met in that context over the years. There is, in my view, a core validity to the essential complaints that these fathers make."

Despite his surname, Lord Justice McFarlane has no remit within the Scottish court system, but we hope his comments will be heard by family lawyers and judges north of the border.


English consultation on co-operative parenting

Tim Loughton MPDivorced or separated parents who play the system to "freeze" their ex-partner out of a "meaningful relationship" with their children should face tougher penalties, according to English Children's Minister Tim Loughton.

His comments to the Westminster Justice Committee come as a consultation on co-operative parenting following family separationis launched by the English Department nfor Education.

The consultation refers to situations in which children's needs are being overlooked in disputes about care arrangements between separated parents.

It states that: "In too many cases one parent is left in a position where it is very hard to retain a strong and influential relationship with his or her child. The Government firmly believes that parents who are able and willing to play a positive role in their child's care should have the opportunity to do so."

"The aim of the proposed legislative amendment is to ensure that this happens in court cases and to reinforce the expectation generally that both parents are jointly responsible for their children's upbringing."

"The Government also believes that a tougher approach is needed in cases where court orders are breached, and it intends to explore the scope for additional enforcement sanctions for the courts."

Families Need Fathers Scotland is bringing these developments to the attention of Scotland's politicians.