Standing temporary orders: a new force for good?

family law

In 2016:

  • 48,244 private family law applications were made – up by 11 per cent on 2015.
  • 165,000 children were involved in private law orders.
  • £112 million was still being spent on legal aid in private law.
  • One million children have no real contact with their fathers.
  • 37 per cent of women claim they’ve been assaulted in the Family Court.
  • In 33 per cent of private law cases neither side had a lawyer.

But there is a better way. A new family law manifesto from the charities Families Need Fathers and FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru opens its discussion of family law issues with this seemingly bold claim. It seeks to reach candidates in all constituencies as they glad hand their way around the country seeking votes on 8 June.

There are four key themes in this short three page document:

  • The reduction and resolution of conflict.
  • The promotion of responsible shared parenting.
  • The encouragement of best outcomes for children and families.
  • Reducing the financial burden on both the taxpayer and the families themselves.

I doubt there are many who would disagree with those aspirations. But how can they be achieved in a private law system that is becoming ‘a lawyer free zone’,  to quote the President of the Family Division when he spoke at the FNF Annual Conference in March?

The centre piece of our proposals is the concept of standing temporary orders.

This simple idea borrowed from some states in the USA. It would fit right in with the introduction of the new online family court.

Individuals would seek an order – granted on application – to establish a ‘status quo’ of shared parenting for children when they divorce or separate. The standing temporary order should be sufficiently flexible to provide a schedule of care across a spectrum, from the familiar ‘every other weekend and half the holidays’ to a full 50/50 division. In addition neither parent would be allowed to ‘relocate’ further than a distance of around ten miles from the existing home area for the child. This would prevent the frequently seen ‘pre-emptive strike’ when one parent moves across the country to thwart the child’s right to an ongoing relationship with the other parent. That prohibition would be variable by subsequent court Order or the written agreement of the parties.

The system would need to be sufficiently flexible to allow for challenge to the standing temporary order if the parent who did not apply for it was unhappy with the terms. The first step would need to be mediation – much favoured by the government – in an attempt to find a resolution to any conflict over arrangements for the children. Allegations of domestic violence are always possible from one side or the other, or indeed both! In those cases a court hearing would need to be factored in and findings of fact made in relation to any specific allegations relevant to arrangements for the care of the children. However, the standing temporary order would unambiguously ‘stand’ unless or until varied (changed) by a court.

The manifesto also calls for improved, readily understood education aimed at both parents and children on the the thorny topics of parental responsibility and  the ‘paramountcy principle’ (i.e. the principle that the best interests of the child rather than the parents will take precedence in the family court). Such education could help discourage separated couples from making unnecessary applications.

Other proposals include compulsory joint birth registration – i.e. the automatic inclusion of the biological father. Legislation to do this actually passed in 2009 but has never been enacted. In addtion we call for the incorporation into UK law of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child  To a limited extent the latter has already happened in Wales.

Read the manifesto here.

Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Paul Apreda

Paul Apreda is the National Manager of the Welsh charity FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru. He is also Secretary of the cross party Group in the Welsh Assembly on fathers and fatherhood.

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15 comments

Adam Orriss - May 15, 2017 at 6:38am

This is so much better than the situation at present! Hopefully it will be taken as a far fairer solution. No wonder over a million Fathers have no involvement under the current biased system, I’m actually pleased & impressed it’s not more! The system is disgraceful in the way it favours the Mother! I speak from experience & evidence I have seen with my own eyes! Mothers must be made to attend Mediation.

Marie - May 15, 2017 at 6:41am

The law should be made were mothers and fathers must both be able to register a child . My sons ex done it behind his back and put father in knowen .also claimed DVD to get court representatives paid for yet didn’t have any evidence to back this up her 2 family members worked in the courts at the time so strings must have been pulled . 1 of them even worked on the case along side the judge it was all 1 sided from day 1 . Cost my son thousands to get no contact through a dodgy case . We didn’t find out about the family connections until after he withdrew his application. He carnt aford to pay again so it’s over 2 years since he seen his little boy . The system is all wrong in fact it’s a joke!

Addy - May 18, 2017 at 10:46am

Hi Marie. I’ve been through similar. It is a bias system and works of no factual evidence even when hearsay is disputed, such as allegations of DV. The law and child welfare is never considered in proceedings only what the the parents have said and their conflict. Which is then drawn out further by malicious solicitors who only want to retain legal aid clients £££. Children need both parents.

Marie - May 18, 2017 at 11:04am

Thanks for your comment it is so right.the case was all about the mother and her lies . Not 1 scrap of evidence only alligations her family worked on the case and to me everyone used there power of office for her to commit perjury and get away with it . My son also has an 11 year old who he has all the time .it was never mentioned that he had another child once . We put references in of ppl we have know for many years and my sons 11 year old written a letter to the judge for the Cafcass officer to say it was ill advised for the child to do this . So much for the voice of a child

Tim - May 15, 2017 at 9:50am

How many times when I’ve been helping out in the family court, I’ve have seen the uneven power struggle where the resident parent will not allow the development of contact as a barging chip for either child support or finacial stettlement or both.
Lawyer pray on the conflict, to cause substantial fee’s to the parties or legal aid bill.
The principle should start with equality of equal parenting and only on proved evidence of risk should it move from it.
The issue is not only the courts by the supporting authorities, CAFCASS AND Social Services. Interviewing children and accepting there view without check and balance assesment about their contact with the non resident parent, if negative leading to limited or no contact recommendations. “E.g. A 5 year and old, “I don’t want t see Dad until I am 21” recomondation NO CONTACT.
The current system is distroying family now and a time bomb for the future of society.

Marie - May 15, 2017 at 10:11am

Re Cafcass : I am in possession of a section 7 report prepared 2016. 2 males in 1 report referred to as father of the child and mothers new partner . Father no contact through mothers alligations no evidence to back up these alligations . New partner no risk yet police report 26 domestic violence against his ex partner. How can a Cafcass officer come to this desision

Addy - May 18, 2017 at 10:53am

RE CAFCASS…
JULY 2015 CAFCASS: “the child should not have access to his cultural heritage”
SEPT 2015 FATHER: Logged complaint about racial segregation, not upheld
MAY 2016 CAFCASS: “if you pursue this complaint we will recommend no contact”
MAY 2016 COURT: NO CONTACT ORDERED
FINAL HEARING DEC 2016 DISTRICT JUDGE: ““may even be the case that the child loses out in the future in gaining a full understanding of his paternal family background”.
CONCLUSION: Racial segregation

Stitchedup - May 18, 2017 at 11:13am

“MAY 2016 CAFCASS: “if you pursue this complaint we will recommend no contact””
Wtf!!!….., they threaten you if you pursue a complaint!!!???
They’re meant to act in the interest of the child not they’re own interests!!

Marie - May 18, 2017 at 1:58pm

The Cafcass report in our case was shocking not about the child all about the mother . Her new partner was mentioned as no risk yet the police report had 24 Dv on this wasn’t disclosed but I know his ex partner guess they didn’t read it or just brushed it under the carpet

Vincent McGovern - May 15, 2017 at 10:06am

So lovely and yet so seldom do I see practical low cost child centred solutions in family law. This is probably as good an example as there is. Problem of course is that the myriad vested interests and well funded DV lobby will sabotage any improvement that does not meet their criteria. Overcoming those vested interests is where the real battle is.

Jim - May 15, 2017 at 1:24pm

A vast improvement on the current situation, but still falls drastically short of dealing with the current situation. I am in the process of drafting proposals I intend to discuss with a very senior Government MP after the election. The laws regarding children and families, specifically the Children’s Act 1989, and the Children and Families Act 2014, need very serious amendments as a minimum to address the situation. There is much that needs to be done, but mediation, whilst ideal, needs to be with an agency with real legal teeth, because some former partners are very beligerant when it comes to access to the children, regardless of which side of the fence they happen to sit upon.

Paul Apreda - May 15, 2017 at 4:17pm

Thanks for your interesting comments Jim. I would be interested to see the proposals that you are drafting. What we’ve tried to do with the manifesto is to understand the problems – from the perspectives of the litigants (fathers overwhelmingly as applicants and mothers overwhelmingly as respondents) but also from the ‘direction of travel’ of the Government – ie online Courts, reducing the financial burden on the taxpayer and improving outcomes for children and families. I’m sorry that you feel that we’ve fallen far short on this.
One of the misconceptions that we often see is that around mediation. The Family Mediation Council defines this :
‘Family mediation is where an independent, professionally trained mediator helps you and your ex to work out an agreement about issues’ (familymediationcouncil.org.uk/family-mediation/)
In that context I’m unclear as to how mediation would be done by ‘an agency with real legal teeth’. The only agency that meets that description is the Family Court – and yet when applications are made to enforce existing Orders just 1% are successful – making the Court itself entirely toothless.
Do please get in touch through our website here and share your draft proposals https://www.fnf-bpm.org.uk/info/Contact.htm

Jim - May 15, 2017 at 8:17pm

Paul, thanks for the reply, and I hope my comments were not taken as a critique of the efforts made by yourselves and several other groups. I have been in a legal battle with my ex for a very short time, but how she is behaving is deplorable, sadly, from talking to my lawyer, when I am able to afford it, and from reading about 6 acts, there is very little that can be done, even with a court order.

The draft proposals I am putting together I would happily work with yourselves, or other groups to ensure are implemented. Yes I have started this because I do not want children and fathers going through what I am, it really is stressful and heartbreaking, but I have realised that even the current legislation fails to account for other changes to family life that have enabled same sex marriage, same sex adoptions and same sex couples to have surrogate children. The courts have, as far as I have been able to find in the UK, not had to face this hurdle yet, although there is an ongoing one in Europe where a same sex couple have a child by a surrogate and an adopted one.

However, first and foremost, we have do right by the children, they need to be protected from manipulation, psychological abuse by one or more responsible adults, or siblings, because research after research shows that children from broken homes where this has or does occur are at greater risk from mental health problems later in life, drug misuse, alcohol abuse and also falling foul of the Criminal Justice system.

Parents, or responsible adults, need to be aware there will be consequences to this type of abuse, which is largely ignored for children, although recognised in domestic violence legislation now. Alienation of a parent should be a very specific offence in law that carries harsh penalties, it is not different to physical or sexual assault in it’s impact.

Lynne Blore - May 15, 2017 at 4:38pm

The standing temporary orders pending application for a change by either party, would go some way to preventing parental alienation at outset, which is absolutely essential. It is time for change; one that recognises the manipulation of the present system by many, to the detriment of the children involved.

Yvie - May 15, 2017 at 6:38pm

I entirely agree with you Lynne. Parental alienation is the elephant in the room. Even with a shared residence this can covertly be taking place. My two grandchildren love their mum but even so are very wary of upsetting her in any way. The youngest grandson if he is expected to pass a message on changing to his dad in order to change an arrangement, usually stammers and stutters until he gets the information out. Its just not right to use a child to pass on messages.

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