Presumption of equal parenting time
Research shows that a majority of the public approve of a presumption of equal parenting time after a divorce or separation. FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru, which is an organisation promoting the rights of fathers recently commissioned a YouGov poll to look at whether there should be a presumption that the starting point for arrangements for children should be an equal split of time between their parents.
The results show that 8 out of 10 respondents agreed that there should be a legal presumption that children should spend ‘roughly equal’ time with each parent following separation or divorce. Whilst this presumption already exists in the law of a number of European and English-speaking states, there is no presumption under the law of England and Wales.
At the moment, the law of England and Wales does not provide any guidance to parents as to what is the right pattern of arrangements after separation, save that decisions should be made in the ‘best interests’ of the children. In most cases the parents have wildly differing views about what those best interests require, particularly in circumstances in which a relationship has broken down acrimoniously.
A presumption of equal parenting time would clearly assist in providing clarity but historically this has always been resisted for a number of reasons including the risk that it could be taken advantage of by an abusive ex-partner, the possibility of forcing a judge into decisions not necessarily best for the child and the risk of more cases being brought to court, as anyone faced with proposals that do not meet this standard will have more reason to try their luck.
Whilst there are no plans to change the current law, the results of this poll will only raise the voices of those who are seeking change.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.