Recent publicity of the government’s proposals to enshrine in law the importance of children having a relationship with both parents post separation has resulted in controversy. This controversy has, in my view, deflected from a debate which is fundamentally important in relation to children’s welfare after a divorce.
Up and down the country there are many cases where fathers win a court order allowing them contact with their children however they often find it is still impossible as courts do little to ensure that the other parent complies. The new proposals are supposed to make it clear that both parents are equally important in a child’s life.
Despite the change in legislation, it is hugely difficult for a judge to say that a mother thwarting a court order should spend a few days in prison or be fined. No-one wants to send mothers to prison or impose more financial constraints on a family. Nor do courts want to take children away from their mothers and place them with their fathers as an antidote to alienation. By the time children are alienated from their fathers, it may be more emotionally abusive to uproot them from their primary home.
Where children are lucky enough to have two parents, they should not be stopped from loving and seeing them. That has to be their inalienable right, with the exception of abusive or violent parents.
Most people recognise that an on-going relationship with both parents is fundamental to the healthy development of a child. It is the few who don’t that cause untold problems.
Will a law change this? I don’t think so. We need to change attitudes and the way the courts deal with non-compliance. Something needs to be done to ensure that spending proper time with each parent is what actually happens
Well, we have certainly moved a few light years away from our Victorian relations in terms of how we behave now as a society. Infidelity has taken a new turn. Of course, infidelity is well documented and has always lurked uncomfortably in the corner of many a relationship and there have been a multitude of colourful characters in history famous for their mistresses. I think it was Sir James Goldsmith who once said ‘ If a man marries his mistress, he leaves a vacancy.’ What is new though, is the way this is now pursued. Forget the meeting someone in a bar, or at work. Now, people positively pursue a partner outside the relationship by logging on to websites specifically set up, not so much for match making but to provide someone with an adulterous liaison. Whether it is the recession keeping people together or whether people just want to have their cake and eat it, it seems the way to go for some, is to stay in their marriage and have an adulterous relationship outside it. There are websites entirely dedicated to helping people do that. People who want an ‘honest, discreet, adulterous affair.’ I’m not sure how ‘honest’ sits happily with the words adulterous affair but that is how some people ‘advertise’ themselves. It seems that we as a society are doing a good job at copying the French mid 18th century attitude to marriage. Stay in your marriage, but have another relationship at the same time, just to keep you amused, happy or stimulated. Hmmm. Not sure how that will go down with the person who’s playing to a whole different set of rules. Are these websites cashing in or reflecting a need in our current society? In a world where divorce and separation is often played out in the public eye, it seems that adultery is too now – just log on and take your pick.
There was an article this week about children causing more rows between couples than money or any other worries. I don’t think it is right to say they cause rows, but more that it is the stress and exhaustion associated with bringing up children that exacerbates tension in a relationship. That tension is then amplified by not really being able to speak entirely freely whilst the kids are around for fear it might escalate into a full blown war, which as well as being not very edifying to be a witness to, is positively damaging for children. Biting one’s tongue though serves to relegate feelings to the back burner where they simmer and darken ready to explode into a Technicolor show down at the drop of a hat. Either that, or silence descends as there seems to be no outlet for what needs to be communicated. Silence generates more silence until the power to communicate is lost and there seems to be no connection between the couple. So, how can couples avoid that slow build up? One way, is to recognise what is happening and make some time for each other. Put the children to bed if they are young and have dinner together, no TV and talk. Bring each other up to date and say what is on your mind. If the children are older and you don’t need to stay in, then go out, even if it’s for a walk. Remember how you felt about each other before the children came along and try to be a couple again. Children are great at getting between a couple, either by playing one off against the other or by just being demanding of all your time. It takes a super human effort to make time for each other as adults. Put the toys away, turn the lights down and however tired you are, get in touch with the romantic spirit that once compelled you to commit to each other.