Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill

Written evidence submitted by James Brien (DDSB05)

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill

Overall the changes proposed are a positive step forward, however they fall short when it comes to reducing conflict between separating married couples.

The greatest source of conflict between married couples is the contact arrangements of the children. In 90% of the cases, the mother remains the resident parent. Often, the resident parent frustrates the non-resident parents’ access to their children. Parents often become so embittered that they forget that their children are at the centre of their war. This can have a devastating effect on the child's mental health.

Legislation in this area is weak. Contact is the right of the child, not of the parent or any other person. There is an expectation in UK law that the resident parent allows a reasonable amount of contact with the non-resident parent. However, there is no legal definition of what would amount to reasonable contact.

When parents can't agree on the amount of contact, the courts insist that they seek help from family mediation first. If this doesn't work, the last resort is a court order, but this is not desirable. Not only does the court process take a long time, but it can also cost a lot of money. Even worse the order can be breached with virtually no repercussions.

The only remedy the court can use for breach of a contact order is a prison term. There has never been a single case where a breach has led to the incarceration of a resident parent, probably because of the impact on the children. Clearly, the current law is ineffective.

In addition to the changes being proposed, thought needs to be given to the rights of non-resident parents to reduce parents and children’s suffering during disputes.

July 2019


Prepared 3rd July 2019