President of the Family Division Says Courts Are Not Best Suited To Resolving Conflicts Over Child Contact

October 1, 2010
  • President of the Family Division says that the traditional adversarial system in British courts compels separated parents to argue against each other when trying to arrange contact with their children. Children are often used as ‘the battlefield and the ammunition’ after separation

The President of the Family Division says that children are often used as ‘the battlefield and the ammunition’ after divorce or separation by parents wishing to punish each other for the breakdown of their relationship.

Lord Justice Wall, the senior judge in the family courts, was speaking at the annual gathering of Families Need Fathers which has branches all over the UK. He stated “often, the parties are fighting over again the battles of the relationship, and the children are both the battlefield the ammunition.”

Against this background the adversarial system of the courts doesn’t help. “One party wants a divorce, or residence or contact: the other opposes it. One party makes an application, the other resists. The adversarial system is engrained.”

Lord Justice Wall described break-ups as ‘a serious failure in parenting’ that requires an extremely responsible and child-centred approach to prevent harm to the children. “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.  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.”
With 136,000 couples divorcing annually and, each year, up to 20,000 parents going to court to determine disputes over seeing their children, this issue affects a large proportion of the population and its effects will be felt among generations of children who have suffered following separation.

Many children lose touch with one of their parents in these circumstances and are, consequently, likely to suffer in many respects over the course of their lives. Families Need Fathers is chiefly concerned with the problems of maintaining a child’s relationship with both parents during and after family breakdown. They offer information, advice and support services for parents who could otherwise spend years without achieving a positive outcome for the children. One of their key resources of is a 50 strong network of local branch meetings where anyone can get free help and support from separated parents who have themselves struggled to see their children.

To learn more about the charity’s other services, such as a helpline and a website, call 0300 0300 110 or visit www.fnf.org.uk.


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