Practitioners and families are watching to see how the family law changes will play out in practice now that we are just a week away from the “go live” date of reforms.
How will it be for families who are separating where parents are not agreeing about arrangements?
The Minister for Justice, Hon Judith Collins, has reiterated this week that these reforms must have children as the priority.
Rather than going into a court process, parents will now be required to meet with a family dispute resolution provider to help them to find agreements they can cooperate on about the children they both love.
There can be nothing closer to the heart of family law than the children – and for the children to feel alright we also need their parents feel alright.
So the aim of this process is to find a way through the dispute so that life becomes easier for everyone in the rearranged family.
If you think about it, the family is a bit like a spider’s web. Next time you have a chance, stop and have a look at a web. It is so intricate and it looks so delicate – a little bit like beautiful old lace. Every part of the web is connected with every other part. It is powerful and complex. But if one part is weakened or disconnected then the whole web becomes weak. This illustrates why if we have ‘winners’ and’ losers’ in disputes about children no one can in fact win. The web becomes weakened. And children don’t do well in weakened webs.
Children need an opportunity for their input too, and the research tells us that children feel far better when they can be heard about how they are feeling and what they are needing. Child inclusive practice is beneficial to the whole family and you can get specialist help with this. And when the child feels better, so do the parents. The web analogy again. No legal solution can come near the positive results for children of one parent recognising and respecting the position of the other parent and their child. (We are not talking about at risk environments here)
As parents we have to find a way to be braver, stronger and wiser than our children. We need do that for our children by finding a way to reach agreement with their other parent – rather than staying in dispute. Expert assistance is available to seek the cooperative co parenting your child so urgently needs. You will see your child’s resilience kick in.
Anthony Douglas, CEO of Cafcass (Children and Family Advisory and Support Service, will be in NZ next week, from April 2nd, as a guest of Family Matters Centre. We look forward to his expert evidence about how his organisation in Britain helps 150,000 children and families through the process of separation each year in the current UK law reform environment.