Parents should get divorce advice at birth of their child

Parents should be given a leaflet at the birth of their child detailing their responsibilities in case of divorce, according to new proposals.

The leaflet would be given to parents when they register a new birth, and they would be asked to consider “seriously from the start” what would be best for their child if they split up.

The proposal is one of a series of recommendations included in the interim report published by an independent panel set up to review the family justice system.

Mediation

The Family Justice Review panel will make its final recommendations to governments in England and Wales this autumn.

David Norgrove, chairman of the panel, said: “One idea would be that parents, when they register the birth, are given a short leaflet which explains the nature of parental responsibility – which is a legal term – and then what that means for them, and if they were eventually to separate, how that would work and what they would need to think about, so that they take it seriously from the start.”

In February the Government announced that couples considering divorce will have to undergo a mediation assessment before going to the courts.

Divorce

Mediation is not a reconciliation programme, rather it helps couples to divide their assets. Critics say it greases the tracks to divorce.

Large numbers of couples who begin a divorce don’t complete proceedings. Pushing couples into mediation may reduce the number of couples who pull out of the divorce process.

The plans were announced by Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly and came into effect on 6 April in England and Wales.

Problems

Two major reports published in 2008 highlighted the damaging impact of divorce on children.

The National Child Development Study concluded that divorce has “repercussions that reverberate through childhood and into adulthood”, and a report by the Good Childhood Inquiry warned that family breakdown was a major cause of harm to children’s mental health.

Another 2008 study revealed that most under 10-year-olds would make divorce illegal if they ruled the world.

Research from Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice shows that children who don’t grow up in a two-parent family are “75 per cent more likely to fail educationally, 70 per cent more likely to be addicted to drugs and 50 per cent more likely to have alcohol problems”.

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