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'Whilst it’s true that mothers were usually the primary care giver in contact applications, this was simply a reflection of the social reality that women are more likely to take on the role after a relationship breakdown.The report concludes that family courts were only being used by parents as a last resort and the vast majority of cases were resolved without the need for a contested final hearing. Contrary to popular belief, proceedings did not result in any amplified or entrenched conflict between the parties involved.
But 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.
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.
Transfers of sole residence were rare as the courts sought to preserve the status quo and where they were ordered they were disproportionately likely to be transfers from mum to dad and to feature welfare concerns and children’s services involvement.'
'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,' added Dr Harding.A number of cases were found during the study where the use of equal or near equal care patterns alarmed the authors.
'We have concerns that the wholesale diversion of these cases from court through cuts to legal aid will mean that parents will agree to unsafe arrangements where risk factors are not appropriately managed or will be unable to reach agreement about having contact with their children.'
"A large and important book that should be on the shelf of every family lawyer." Sir James Munby