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New Guidance Published by Families Need Fathers for Separated Parents

Press Release – for immediate release 20th April 2020

FNF have just published guidance on shared parenting and separately, on child maintenance under the Covid-19 lockdown.

The pandemic requires separated parents to co-operate as never before.

Parents need respite when looking after children 24/7.

Children, often already cut-off completely from grandparents need to know that both their parents are there for them whenever possible.

Daily we continue to hear of family conflict - parents must avoid the temptation to settle old scores and feelings of hurt. They must actively promote and not undermine child-parent/grandparent relationships.

Meanwhile as over 1.2 million people sign-up to Universal Credit – the Government must urgently act on the recommendations of its own investigative body and ensure that under Universal Credit neither parent is pushed below the poverty line. Government must ensure that UC assessments take into account statutory Child Maintenance Payments.

Families Need Fathers are delighted to make available guidance for child-focused shared parenting after separation under the coronavirus lockdown as well as on dealing with Child Maintenance difficulties.

It is always better to separate amicably or at least to make child arrangements for shared parenting that serve the best interests of the children. Daily we continue to be told of parents who are finding that their ex is exploiting the situation. In one case a dad was told that his daughter could not go to his house because she was being held in self-isolation, only for him to find out that she was still attending school.

Approximately 1,000 parents a week, who fail to agree arrangements for themselves, seek the support of Family Court in England and Wales. During the Covid-19 lockdown courts are only able to offer a limited service with remote hearings. The strain is telling. The more difficult cases are being shelved. Last week parents waited all day for a hearing that was cancelled without even a telephone call to inform parties. A judgement and orders from an earlier date were then only sent by email to one parent. The distress caused is unacceptable.

Our guidance promotes collaboration and gives guidance on what to do if that fails to result in progress. The risk to the parent who denies child-parent time without adequate justification is made clear in the guidance from The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane.

Sir Andrew’s guidance states: If, after the event, the actions of a parent acting on their own in this way are questioned by the other parent in the Family Court, the court is likely to look to see whether each parent acted reasonably and sensibly in the light of the official advice and the Stay at Home Rules in place at that time, together with any specific evidence relating to the child or family” Government also states“Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents' homes.”

Jerry Karlin, Managing Trustee of Families Need Fathers says “We are pleased to be able to offer up-to-date guidance at this difficult time. Family separation is stressful for children at the best of times. Covid-19 has inflicted new challenges and pressures on them, their parents, grandparents and wider families. Everyone must pull together in the interests of the children. Family Courts, even under strain, must be robust to prevent the gaming of the system. Court cases prior to Covid-19 on average 28 weeks to complete. By being more robust at an early stage, it would be more likely that many could be closed earlier. Delays are never in the interests of children. The Judiciary and Ministry of Justice must see to it that resources are put in place so decisions and support are offered in child-appropriate timeframes. Meanwhile FNF guidance is available to anyone who is unsure of what to do and our Helpline (0300 0300 363) and volunteers continue to provide support remotely.”

Support is also needed in relation to resolving conflict over Child Maintenance as hundreds of thousands of parents lose jobs and income. The initial response by the Department of Work and Pensions is welcome, but does not go anywhere near far enough. As over 1.2 million new applications are processed for Universal Credit, the Government must urgently take heed of the recommendations3 last year of their own statutory advisory body, the Social Security Advisory Council (SSAC), and ensure that it takes into account Child Maintenance payments.

Jerry Karlin continues, “As well as taking urgent actions recommended by SSAC, the Government must tackle the hostile environment that CMS projects. The 20% surcharges on parents on benefits who struggle to pay their assessed child maintenance must stop immediately. So must the aggressive pursuit of parents on low incomes and state benefits for historic and unaffordable CM arrears. The refusal to review CM assessments for those whose incomes don’t drop by 25% must end. Finally, parents who do not comply with Family Court orders must stop being rewarded with extra maintenance for denying parenting time of their children by expartners. Meanwhile we hope parents find our guidance on Child Maintenance helpful.”

 

Notes for editors:

Families Need Fathers - because both parents matter

FNF is a registered UK charity providing information and support on shared parenting issues arising from family breakdown, and support to divorced and separated parents, irrespective of gender or marital status. FNF is NOT a fathers' rights group - we support the best interests of children - namely mature and collaborative parenting by both parents - an objective which is inadequately promoted in the family court system and associated services.

FNF receive approximately 30,000 calls a year to our Helpline and thousands more rely on our local branch network and online support.

Our primary concern is the maintenance of the child’s meaningful relationship with both parents. Founded in 1974, FNF helps thousands of parents every year.

Further information please contact us by email at media@fnf.org.uk or leave a message on 0300 0300 110.

 

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FNF HSSF Kite Mark Award

Families Need Fathers has been awarded the Help and Support for Separated Families Kite Mark which is a new UK government accreditation scheme for organisations offering help to separated families.

Families Need Fathers work with a range of family law professionals, including Family Law Panel

 

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