As we reach the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Children Act 1989, Solicitors Mischon de Reya will today publish research on the experience of children who are caught up in court proceedings when their parents separate. In many respects this study will perhaps tells us nothing surprising: Sandra Davis from Mischon's summarises the findings thus “This research demonstrates that the legal process does not work when parents use their children as emotional footballs. Not only are warring mothers and fathers damaging their children, they are costing the tax payer millions which could be spent so much more constructively". She proposes that greater use should be made of parenting classes, to educate parents about children's needs and how to co-parent after separation. Of course this was one of the intentions behind the contact activity directions enacted by the Children & Adoption Act 2006, but in practice the measures are little used because the courses are not available.
Some of the more striking figures contained in the research are:
- 19% of those surveyed felt they had been ‘used’ by their parents
- 17% of children have been involved in violent bust ups between divorcing parents
- 42% witnessed aggressive rows - 49% were forced to play parent and comfort a crying mother or father.
- A quarter (24%) admit they were forced by one parent to lie to the other
- A further 15% were asked to spy on their mother or father
- 21% of those surveyed said they had no faith in their future relationships and would never get married themselves.
The study is based on a survey of 2,000 individuals who'd experienced a divorce as a child in the last 20 years (and, one assumes, are now adults), so it's not clear how reliably this research can paint a picture of children's experience in, say, the last five years. But food for thought nonetheless...
At the time of writing the research has not been published, but readers may want to check on the Mischon De Reya website. I will post a specific link when available.
Past and future - *This week* I looked back to the problems of the past and forward to the challenges of the future for the family justice system in my posts on Marilyn St...
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