When dealing with divorce or the breakdown of a family, everything becomes a balancing act for a solicitor. Unlike in more straightforward property cases or employment disputes, there are often three parties involved in divorce and family law solicitors see a huge number of cases which involve one or more children.
The difficulty for family law experts is finding where the right balance. The law in the UK says very little about the rights of children and because of this most cases involving children are settled out of court with the help of a family law solicitor. Compare this to somewhere like Australia, though, where a new reform bill means that the safety and rights of children will be paramount in disputes between couples and the outcomes of complicated cases will be decided by a court of law.
Of course, it’s a very complicated matter, but does the law do enough for children in the UK? What does the law say and how are children protected? Should we move towards a system where children are given explicit legal rights or does our system do the job?
Well, the first concern for the family law expert in any relationship breakdown is violence. The UK law states that the courts will only make an order against a particular parent having access to their child if not making that order would be more detrimental. Where one parent has demonstrated the willingness to commit violent acts against children the courts in the UK can still be firm and clear and it will become very hard for a violent parent to gain any access to their child at all.
It’s an equally common view amongst family law solicitors that children are happier if both parents have an influence in parenting. This is, of course, the ideal, but often negligent parents impose a negative influence on children and this is where out of court agreement really do work. A system where the child’s right or desire to its own joint care results in a parent who is disinterested being forced by a court to take charge could be potentially very dangerous.
Of course the Australian system is fraught with problems and the administrative costs of allowing courts to have such power in deciding what is right or wrong for a child can come at a massive time cost. It’s well known that divorces can take up to two years to resolve and dragging out what is potentially a very difficult time for all is not desirable for anyone.
The way that children are protected in the UK relies on both parents putting their own personal views of each other behind them and agreeing to come to a sensible arrangement. The law provides for the occasions when the parents are unable to do this and courts will step in if they need to. Really this way provides an adequate solution in difficult circumstances and when children’s well-being is at stake, a more powerful but administratively costly court just doesn’t seem to be the right solution.
Clough & Willis Solicitors are based in Bury, Manchester and the specialist Family Law team at Clough & Willis have extensive experience in divorce law, maintenance payments, financial settlements and child custody and can advise on all aspects of your situation. All Clough & Willis divorce solicitors are members of The Law Society Family Panel and Resolution.