Separating families need “support, not a boxing ring”

23 Mar, 2022: Separating families need “support, not a boxing ring,” says the Family Solutions Group, a group of family law experts brought together by the UK’s top family court judges. On 23 March, the group held an event to help turn this vision into reality.

Taking the fight out of family separation: Is it time for radical change in how we support separating families?
(L to R) Adam Colthorpe (Dads Unlimited), Helen Adam (Family Solutions Group), Suella Braverman MP, Siobhan Baillie MP,
Sir Andrew McFarlane (President of Family Division) and Dr Jan Ewing (Research, Exeter University)
Photo: thanks to Shared Parenting Scotland

Helen Adams, family mediator, tirelessly leads this project forward. The speakers (above) drew an enthusiastic full-house. Top UK judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, continues his remarkable commitment to major downsizing the family law business he presides over.

Like the What about me? video, everyone now puts children’s needs and voices right at the centre, where they belong.

The core recommendations are for an early dialogue process for families that is outside the legal setting. Their Press Room hand-out summarises it boldly.

In some families “children are at great risk of harm … [that will] affect the rest of their lives. We need a system that will hold families through the turbulence of break-ups and protect children … Families need … therapeutic support, information about parenting when separated, managing emotions, conflict resolution, plus information about support pathways for their children.”

Family Support Group Core Recommendations

Family lawyer, Charlotte Bradley referred to the imminent launch in England and Wales of “no fault divorce” (6 April 2022). Reported in Todays Family Lawyer she said: “Whilst the new no fault divorce regime is a positive step, it’s only one part of the jigsaw when parents are divorcing. The potential for battles over children remains.”

No fault and not a boxing ring

The message is that prompt skilful safe support is in every child’s best interests. Not the “boxing ring” of adversarial family courts. In due course, we will see that this principle applies just as much for families who are more troubled, disturbed or unsafe.

Frontline services in the community are designated particularly for all those children and families. They provide the earliest possible prompt structured effective assessment and support. Where family law is needed, its competence and role is always in the background. It cannot be at the frontline of safeguarding and support.

Parents separating is so common but they don’t talk about it, you never get that in PSHE

What about me? video

PSHE are classes in Personal Social Health and Economic in the UK

Some family courts are more effective already. For example in Israel, in Belgium or in the UK’s Family Drug and Alcohol Courts. They’re effective because they emulate and work with skilled proactive teamed-up community-based child and family support and safety services.

Most families need a safe space to talk rather than the boxing ring.

Helen Adams, Family Support Group

Some families are not able to use the kinds of “safe space to talk” that family mediators and others offer. All the support agencies may need to grow their skill, range and resourcing. But supportive approaches are more effective than a direct “conveyor belt” to the adversarial “boxing ring” of the courts.

I want them to enjoy the time they have with us before we grow up

What about me? video

We stand at the dawn of a new age. For our children’s sake, all separating families need support, not a boxing ring.