As a blogger, I’ve tended to stray away from politics so far. I’m not especially knowledge about matters of law or politics, and when it comes to the “rights” of fathers in situations like divorce, I don’t pretend to have a solution or an especially strong opinion either way…
However, what I DO firmly believe is that children benefit from having both parents present in their lives – at least assuming both parents are sensible human beings, of course. But defining whether any parents is “fit” to have children is a different issue entirely, so I won’t stray there for now.
As with most people nowadays, I know plenty of people who are either the product of parents who are no longer together, or divorced parents themselves. Luckily, most of them seem to either have coped fine with the childhood experience or are parents who seem to be dealing with the situation reasonably maturely.
I should also point out that I know a few people who grew up without a father for one reason or another, and they’re all VERY well-rounded individuals – one so much so in fact that it almost makes me question whether my belief that fathers are essential in a child’s development. But I think that even they would agree that having a father around when they were growing up would have been nice, even if their own father might not have been the best choice!
All of which serves as a very rambling introduction to a story I’ve been following closely lately, about the proposals the government have made about changing the rights of divorced dads. Here’s the basics, courtesy of the Guardian:
Fathers and mothers should be entitled to a legally binding “presumption of shared parenting” after separation, the government has announced, rejecting advice by an independent review on family justice.
While the interests of the child are to remain paramount, a ministerial group will report back in two months on what form of words will be inserted into legislation ensuring that children maintain a “meaningful relationship” with both parents.
Reading in to it further, it seems that the current recommendation stops short of doing what a similar law-change did in Australia, namely granting both parents the right to “equal parenting time” – a move which apparently led to massive delays in custody cases and wide-spread confusion amongst the legal profession.
What the recommendation DOES do is assert that children should have the right to a “Meaningful relationship” with both parents – in other words, if a child feels they do not have a fair amount of access to one parent, there will be grounds for this to be changed by law.
As most groups commenting on the recommendations have rightly pointed out, the wording proposed seems very wishy-washy – who defines what a “meaningful relationship” is, and how do you measure it? Groups like Fathers4Justice have “cautiously” welcomed the move, expressing reservations that the move is only a tiny step in the right direction – something I can’t help but agree with.
One interesting stat I came across while reading-up on this came from the ONS: According to them, one in three children, equivalent to 3.8million, lives without their father.
Though my amazement at that fact was quickly overturned by the confusion at the next stat The Telegraph threw at me: Eight per cent of single parents in Britain are fathers. Can that be true, or is it a mis-print by the Torygraph?! Does that mean 92% of single parents are mums? My mind is exploding at the possible explanations for that disparity, as I’m sure yours is too.
Anyway, as I stated at the start of this post, I’m still not entirely sure where I stand on the whole issue – and I hope that I never have to find out first-hand. But I’m very interested to know what other parents think about both the recommendations and the current laws – let me know in the comments.