Thursday, 29 November 2012

Government advice for separating parents - the legal equivalent of Spot the Dog

If you saw me on twitter today, you'd have caught a degree of irritation about the fanfare concerning the Government's new app to help separating parents.

Consider the backdrop. Next year, 45,000 cases are to lose legal aid (according to the Government's own impact assessment). The President of the Family Courts is warning of a system in meltdown. Others are panicking over thousands of litigants in person approaching the courts with no knowledge of a legal system which is undoubtedly overly complex. Others are warning of many more non-resident parents losing contact as they simply don't know what to do.

We're now 5 months from legal aid being all but withdrawn (except for cases where domestic violence is alleged, which brings its own risks in terms of an increase in false allegations). The Government gives us an app for separating parents... little more than a useful links page.

Let's look at some of their sage and considered advice. The sum of their advice on being prevented from having a relationship with your child is shown below:

That's it! Lovely ideas... but what happens if you can't afford a solicitor (forget legal aid). What happens if your ex-partner says "no" or something more rude. The advice is little more than meaningless platitudes from people with no understanding of the complexity of separation, or human nature. What about leave to remove, international child abduction... given that over half of births in London are to foreign born mothers? What do you do if the other parent disappears with the children?

Don't you get it... 45,000 cases are to lose legal aid next year. The parents don't have the money for a solicitor. They and their children are stuffed if the other parent is unreasonable, and if they can't find the information they need to access the courts for themselves.

It's not so much what this app is, but what it should have been that is the issue.We started building our own two years ago because we feared the Government would put insufficient thought into providing sufficiently detailed family law information.

What parents need is detailed advice. What they've been given is the legal equivalent of Spot the Dog.