In a speech to the annual volunteers’ conference of shared parenting charity Families Need Fathers, Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the Family Division, has criticised separating parents who wage legal war on their children, using them as ‘the battlefield and ammunition’ in their own personal disputes. In his view, feuds over contact are rarely about the children.
He went on to say, “Parents, in my experience, often find it difficult to understand that children both love and have a loyalty to both parents. There is nothing worse, for most children, than for their parents to denigrate each other. To use the trite phrase, each parent represents 50 per cent of the child’s gene pool. If a child’s mother makes it clear to the child that his or her father is worthless – and vice versa – the child’s sense of self-worth can be irredeemably damaged. Parents simply do not realise the damage they do to their children by the battles they wage over them.”
Sir Nicholas also warned that legal aid for private law proceedings could be abolished following the Family Justice Review currently underway. He told the conference, “Be under no illusions. The recommendations are likely to be radical. There are no sacred cows. I have no idea what the final recommendations will be, but you do not need a crystal ball to see that legal aid for private law proceedings is likely to be further diminished if not abolished: that long and protracted contact and residence disputes will become things of the past, and that out of court mediation and conciliation will be encouraged.”
Recent decisions in child contact cases show that the courts do recognise the importance, where possible, of children having a relationship with both of their parents.
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