Monday, 14 January 2013

Shared Parenting - Are you too thick to understand it?

My apologies for the somewhat insulting question in the title, but the question is not mine.

Having seen their other arguments against a presumption of shared parenting dissolve, the opponents now seem to pin their hopes on an argument that the British public are too thick to understand what shared parenting means.

Dame Butler-Sloss features in an article in the Express today, and will appear on tonight's C4 Programme, Sharing Mum and Dad. Surprisingly, the Express refer to her as the top Judge? I hadn't realised she'd come out of retirement? Nor that the Family Division now looks down upon their lowly brethren in the civil and criminal courts in terms of seniority?1

The last time I remember Butler-Sloss in the media was when she raised grave concerns about women from ethnic minorities holding judicial office.
"It will be very important that women – particularly those from ethnic minorities – who may not be able to bear the strain of the judicial process are not placed in a position where they may find themselves failing because there has been too much enthusiasm for diversity and not enough for merit. This is very important. I have a vivid recollection of a woman judge many years ago who was a very fine pianist. She should have remained a pianist".2
Count that as a further opinion of hers which we view as a little antiquated. Ex Prime Ministers do best to quietly remove themselves from the back benches rather than muddying the waters for the next generation who have somewhat more progressive views... but akin to dear Maggie wading in to post retirement Conservative Conferences, it seems that dear Elizabeth is somewhat unwilling to let go of the reins. The question arises, is her opinion really relevant? Three successors have now filled her heels, and arguably, her misinterpretation of Parliament's intention within the Children Act 1989 (Parliament intended shared residence to be commonplace, which Butler-Sloss interpreted as only being made in exceptional circumstances) contributed to this societal mess in the first place...

In 2003, Butler-Sloss herself said 60% of fathers go on to lose meaningful contact within two years of separation (more than a decade since she took the role as President of the Family Courts) and according to MoJ research, overnight staying contact is only awarded in 60% of cases. Compare this to the fact (according to the Equalities Commission in 2007) that mothers and fathers share care equally in intact families (there is a small difference but only 15 minutes a day on average). The judiciary need much more closely defined law, which is less open to interpretation, as decisions in court need to reflect society today rather than that in the 1970s.

The law needs to change. We are entitled to a little democracy in this country... to have Parliament set our laws, and the judiciary see them upheld. Judges wish to retain independence, but the price for that is keeping out of politics. The law needs to change because the courts have been inadequate, which has harmed child welfare and caused damage to society as a whole. Read back through our previous blog posts where we provide ample evidence for this.

Her argument in the paper today seems that parents will misunderstand what 'shared' means, and believe it means an 'equal' division of a child's time. Clearly, women, ethnic minorities, and now parents all need Dame Elizabeth to protect them from their ignorance. 'It can't be explained to them, don'tcha know'.

Now prepare yourself... I will en-devour to resolve this weighty intellectual conundrum to all you half wits out there.

The word shared means a 'part', rather than one half

Was that really so difficult, Elizabeth dear?

Now, can we move on to protecting children's relationships, which the judiciary has manifestly failed to do, which is the reason why legislative change is necessary.

Blunt, but sometimes, a little bluntness is necessary.