On Friday I attended a Kent Resolution seminar on child law. The speakers were Sara Staite and Ashley Thain, of the family law team at 1 King's Bench Walk. One of the topics was the recent movement towards the making of shared residence orders, something that I have mentioned here previously.
The former position was that such orders would only be practicable if there was a high level of cooperation between the parents. Now it is clear from the case law that such cooperation is not a prerequisite of a shared residence order (on the contrary, a harmonious relationship between the parents makes it more likely that the court will consider that no order is required). Further, it appears that where the children spend approximately 50% of their time with each parent, good reasons are now required if a shared residence order is not to be made.
Now, I'm not for one moment going to say that this move towards shared orders is a bad thing, but both the case law and my own experiences with my clients does give me one concern about shared residence: parents, particularly fathers, are prepared to go to great lengths to obtain such orders, including fully contested applications, when the practical effect of the order will not necessarily make an awful lot of difference to the children concerned. Are such parents more concerned at achieving equality with the other parent than achieving the best for their children?