For years there have been arguments from different points of view; from individuals, parents groups, the judiciary and, not least, the Government. Not that the Government has one single view.
Last week it was reported that ministers cannot agree on whether a law should be introduced to make shared care arrangements the norm when parents separate. Word is that the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke opposes the move. Having said that, the Government says it fully supports the Family Justice Review's position that the vast majority of children benefit from a continuing relationship with both parents after separation. We are looking closely at their proposals for encouraging this, and will issue a full response shortly.
Is it right for the Government to generalise and impose a one size fits all solution?
All families are different. In my experience, the best solution is a tailored solution, one which is carefully designed to meet the needs of the children in each family.
If a court is asked to make orders concerning children, it must do so based upon what is thought to be in the child's best interests. Everyone can, or should, agree on this. However, it very much depends on what is defined as a child's best interests and this is where agreement is often lacking.
Shared care is not necessarily equal time with each parent. Equal time with each parent undoubtedly may be the best solution for some families. It might be completely different for other families.
And would equal time with each parent almost imply that the children are commodities to be divided up like the house contents? Possibly. As the Minister for Children Tim Loughton says, we cannot carve up a child's existence on the basis of some spurious 50:50 split in terms of time. I would add that quantity is not always the same as quality.
There aren't any right or wrong answers, which is probably why the Government can't decide on what to do. Watch this space.
For more information on the above issues, contact our Family Law team on 0113 201 4900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.