You will have to excuse me for not sharing the optimism of the Kingsley Napley partners about the Children and Families Bill in their article ‘Changing perceptions’. It was published a week after your magazine carried a front-page article: ‘Unpaid overtime costs lawyers £14k’. As Frances O’Grady said, the hours that we lawyers spend in the office detract from the quality of our family life and the social costs of this are serious.
Margaret O’Brien of the University of East Anglia suggests in the 2004 edition of The Role of the Father in Child Development that far more needs to be done in the UK in the realm of paid paternity leave rather than simply shared paternity and maternity leave. Curiously, the UK’s provisions have for years been in the same category as most of Europe’s failing economies. The key question for all politicians and concerned parents is: which current policies benefit fathers and families, and which instead lead some fathers to drift out of the lives of their children?
For example access to social housing, as any housing lawyer will tell you, depends upon persuading the relevant authority that your client remains the parent ‘with whom the children might reasonably be expected to reside’, and this is an adversarial right to the detriment of the other parent (usually the father). Also, where public funding will be removed for nearly all men in contact proceedings, the lack of representation will mean that ‘work/life balance’ remains just words with no real meaning. Neither the employed nor unemployed will be assisted by the law to meaningfully participate in family life. More needs to be done and a presumption of shared parenting would be a good start.
Alister Cryan, Williams & Co, Edgware, Middlesex