Our proposals for shared parenting categorically do not create any right of artificial equality of time with children post-divorce (Shared-time law may harm children, letters page, Wednesday 13th June 2012).
The paramount principle that children’s interests and safety must always come first will remain firmly in place.
But there is no avoiding the fact that all the evidence is clear that children do better with both parents as fully involved in their lives as possible.
The state cannot create happy families so where disputes end up in court, the law must be clearer that children should have an ongoing relationship with both parents after separation wherever possible. Current legislation is not explicit on this point which means that intractable arguments end up in court, with too many children used as pawns in a ‘winner takes all’ game - creating a perception that the courts are biased against one or other parent, usually the father.
Our proposals will send a clear message that both parents have a joint responsibility to bring up their children, unless there is a clear welfare reason not to. We are toughening up enforcement of any breaches of court orders, with clear consequences for trying to ‘play the system’ to freeze the non-resident parent out of their children’s lives. This will mean more parents will resolve their disputes out of court, instead of getting dragged into protracted litigation, where the only losers are their own sons and daughters.