Retired President of the Family Division, Baroness Butler-Sloss has expressed her strong objections to Shared Parenting legislation:
The Baroness said: “I’ve heard one father who went into court saying, ‘Once this law is enforced, I will get half of the child’ ”.
Is she claiming to have heard this father in a case over which she was presiding? It seems so.
And yet the Baroness retired from the Bench many years ago, and well before the Shared Parenting Bill was aired.
How, then, was she actually able to hear this father’s comments concerning the Shared Parenting Bill?
In fairness, she may have intended to say that she had heard of the father’s comments from a third party, or perhaps that she had heard the father speak as he went into a courtroom whilst she was hanging around outside it.
Of greater interest is the Baroness’s undying personal belief that “a child has to live in one place”.
But is that really so?
Should we start worrying about middle-class children who spend months each year living in their parents’ second holiday home? And should we also be closing down their boarding schools?
Should we be removing all children from divorced parents who have happily agreed upon a Shared Parenting routine?
There are many children who benefit from having one bedroom at their mum’s home and a second bedroom at their dad’s, and who positively thrive from having a meaningful relationship with both of their parents. Here is just one such child:
Confusingly, in the same interview, the Baroness said that Shared Parenting is perfectly fine and acceptable when the parents are behaving “sensibly”.
How, though, does she reconcile this statement with her other statement that “a child has to live in one place”?
The Baroness comes across as a confused old lady with very old-fashioned, ill-conceived and plainly defunct ideas.
There are three major flaws in the views of the Baroness.
Firstly, she makes the erroneous and very misleading presumption that those who support Shared Parenting legislation are calling for a rigid 50/50 split of parenting time.
Most reasonable voices who have campaigned for Shared Parenting (such as Families Need Fathers and The Custody Minefield) have acknowledged for many years that a rigid 50/50 split of parenting time would be impractical in many cases.
Instead, these campaigners have called for the ‘significant’ and ‘meaningful’ involvement of both parents, in order that the child may benefit from being properly parented by both its parents. Theirs has always been a qualitative approach.
Of course, in order for a child to have a significant and meaningful relationship with both its parents, it will need to spend some minimum quantum of time with both parents, but this certainly need NOT be 50%.
Many who are vehemently against Shared Parenting legislation are finding it extremely difficult to counter the very widespread and powerful scientific evidence in favour of Shared Parenting.
They have commissioned a handful of academics (e.g. Mavis McClean) in an effort to discredit Shared Parenting, but the evidence in favour of Shared Parenting is overwhelming. There exists a general consensus amongst social scientists that Shared Parenting is beneficial to children.
There are obvious parallels with Oil Companies which commission selected academics in an effort to discredit the evidence for Global Warming!
Opponents of Shared Parenting are desperately (and rather mischievously) attempting to shift both the debate and their attack upon the notion of 50/50. Even the Baroness succeeded in getting the Express Newspaper to headline this 50/50 notion!
Secondly, whilst the Baroness concedes that children benefit from Shared Parenting when their parents are both behaving “sensibly”, she states that children whose parents who are not both behaving “sensibly” cannot benefit from Shared Parenting, as this would be harmful.
In the common scenario in which the court-appointed Resident Parent (usually mum) is upset and aggrieved with any aspect of the separation or divorce, does not behave “sensibly” and refuses to facilitate contact, the Baroness suggests that the Non-Resident Parent (usually dad) should NOT be involved in the parenting of his child. His involvement would cause friction by upsetting the Resident Parent.
The Baroness appears quite unable to perceive firstly, the plain injustice of her argument and, secondly, the long-term harm and disadvantage to the child in effectively losing one of its parents.
She gives paramountcy to the wishes and feelings of the Resident Parent, to the obvious detriment of the child.
Thirdly, the Baroness appears completely out of touch with the current Zeitgeist concerning 21st century parenting.
She remains firmly wedded to the ideology of the 1960′s and 70′s which strongly held that children needed the nurturing of their mothers and the financial support of their fathers.
In no other of the Baroness’s judgments is this out-of-date ideology so stark as in the judgment of Payne v Payne (2001).
As a consequence of this particular judge-made law, thousands of children have been removed overseas and have lost meaningful contact with the left-behind parent (usually their father).
Furthermore, when fathers lose meaningful contact with their children, the children’s paternal grandparents also inevitably lose contact.
Grandparents’ rights have been repeatedly ignored by the Government in this respect. The forthcoming Children and Families Bill will not legislate for grandparents.
The ‘Grandparents Association’ is very aware of the difficulties faced by its members:
One would imagine that the Grandparents Association has a dedicated President fighting fearlessly for the most important of all their rights: the right to be a grandparent to their grandchildren.
Not so! Their Patron is… Baroness Butler-Sloss!