Men are treated fairly when trying to get access to their children in family courts, and are ‘overwhelmingly successful’ in getting contact applications approved, a study of 200 cases since 2011 has found.
The joint report by the University of Warwick and the University of Reading counters the widespread perception that family courts in England and Wales discriminate against fathers because of a gender bias.
Earlier this year Cordell & Cordell, a US family law firm targeting men, announced it would launch in the UK, with co-founder Joseph Cordell stating the firm's goal was to ‘bridge the gender gap’ in family law.
‘Men are still unfairly represented in family courts in the UK. We recognised the need for this service back in 1990, so it’s great to expand the business and help more fathers, dads and husbands in need of advice and representation,’ Cordell said at the time of the launch.
Yet the study found that men and women have similar success rates when applying for orders to have their children live with them in family courts.
And transfers of sole residence, although rare, were ‘disproportionately’ likely to be transfers from the mother to the father.
Dr Maebh Harding, from the University of Warwick and the co-author of the report, said: ‘Whilst it’s true that mothers were usually the primary care giver in contact applications, this was simply a reflection of the social reality that women are more likely to take on the role after a relationship breakdown.
‘But there was actually no indication of any bias towards mothers over fathers by the courts.’
The report, funded by Nuffield Foundation, did, however, raise concerns that the pursuit of equal or near equal care was decided to ensure fairness to adults, rather on the need of the child.
The researchers also warned that cuts to legal aid are threatening the public’s access to the court system.
‘We have concerns that the wholesale diversion of the cases from court through cuts to legal aid will mean that parents will agree to unsafe arrangements were risk factors are not appropriately managed or will be unable to reach agreement about having contact with their children,’ Dr Harding said.