Shared Parenting Information Group (SPIG) UK
- promoting responsible shared parenting after separation and divorce -
Do's and Dont's
Try Conciliation / Mediation
Avoid litigation if at all possible - it is a quagmire and is loaded heavily against the non-residential parent.
Get contact going
- as soon as you can
Be wary of lawyers
Even sympathetic ones are in the grips of powerful professional vested interests which pressure them to advise you to give way. Don't be taken in by solicitors who say you have a good case - until they get hold of your legal aid. Fathers are bad news for lawyers - the courts want them to lose, so successfully defending a father may ruin a lawyer's career in court.
Consider acting in person.
You will need a lot of determination and stamina, but you are entitled to have a friend alongside you in court. Never forget that the system is stacked against you, but you may gain vital ground by showing your determined interest in your children's welfare.
- to all the advice you can get. But be very discriminating about following all of it - it may be damaging in your particular case.
Press your lawyer
You have a right to insist that they carry out your instructions. Make sure they act in good time. Don't let them pre-empt your case by advising what they think the judge will decide. Don't let them agree something at court without your permission.
Ask the judge to see the children
But don't give your spouse time to bribe or intimidate them.
Insist the welfare officer sees the children
- in your home as well as your (ex) partner's.
- for the judge to ignore favourable welfare reports.
Ask for shared residence
This is commonplace in USA and more and more people are doing it here. Basically your child will share time with both parents equally. This gives something to everyone - especially the child who has the advantage of knowing they have two homes and two loving parents.
- to keep in contact with your children. That relationship is vital for them.
Don't leave the matrimonial home
If there hasn't been any violence you cannot be thrown out. If you leave in order to "keep the peace" you will never get back in and it may be construed as desertion.
Don't agree to an undefended divorce
The allegations made by your spouse will be used against you at every stage - contact, residence, finance. You may not get legal aid to defend or cross-petition, but as the case will never get to court it will not cost you much (or you could act for yourself on this).
Don't put any trust in the courts
Judges often have weird ideas as to what is best for the children.
Don't agree to reasonable contact
Reasonable contact places you at the mercy of your spouse - and their ideas of reasonableness. Ask for defined contact and prepare a plan of exactly what you want. Ask for as much staying contact as you can manage.
Don't let your children down
Always keep to contact arrangements whatever happens - otherwise it will be used against you.
Don't agree to a period of no contact
Things won't settle down, and experience shows that it is very difficult to re-establish contact after a break. The courts will assume that you are not interested in the children.
Don't give up
However difficult it is, you must keep trying. Otherwise the children may think you have lost interest in them - this can damage them psychologically. They need you and it is their basic human right to continue their relationship with you.
Don't put your children in care
It may be very difficult to get them out again. They may be fostered out or put up for adoption. Try, if humanly possible to look after them yourself, or place them with your family. There are sources of help for lone parents.
Originally published - October 1992
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