A study carried out by the Universities of Warwick and Reading, with the support of resources from the Nuffield Foundation, has found that fathers are not being discriminated against when it comes to divorce and separation as well as children orders.
The report, which was joint-authored by Dr Maebh Harding from the Warwick School of Law and Dr Annika Newnham from the University of Reading, found that, contrary to the claims of some fathers’ groups, fathers have a good rate of success with contact applications, with the vast majority of the 200 family law cases they studied resulting in positive outcomes for the fathers concerned.
“There was actually no indication of any bias towards mothers over fathers by the courts; in fact we established there was a similar success rate for mothers and fathers applying for orders to have their children live with them,” commented Dr Harding.
“And although the overall number of residence orders made for mothers was higher than those made for fathers, this was because a large number of such orders were made for mothers as respondents in cases where the father sought contact.
The report also looked into the issue of legal aid for cases of divorce and separation, and children orders under family law, with the authors concerned that cuts to legal aid is reducing opportunities for fairness.
“Going to court with legal advice to resolve disputes between parents about their children is now out of the financial reach of most parents, although funding is still available for mediated resolution,” said Dr Harding.
The study also found that “transfers of sole residence were rare” and that these were most frequently in cases that featured “welfare concerns and children’s services involvement”.
Encouragingly, the report also found that the family law courts were mostly used only as a last resort, with the overwhelming majority of cases settled at a relatively early stage.
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