I've not read the speech (I have not been able to find it online), but the reports I have read mention the following points that he made regarding battling parents:
- That mothers and fathers should accept separation was “itself a serious failure of parenting” and work out how to minimise the damage. Harsh, but probably true.
- That separating parents "rarely behave reasonably". I'm not sure about that. This quotation may have been taken out of context, but most separating parents do behave reasonably, and are able to agree arrangements for their children, usually without going to court. It is only when there are contested court proceedings that they 'rarely behave reasonably'.
- That separating parents always believe that they are behaving reasonably, and that the other party is behaving unreasonably. Yes, that is certainly true, subject to my proviso above.
- That in his experience "the more intelligent the parent, the more intractable the dispute". Yes, my experience indicated that there may be some truth in that.
- That disputes between the parties were rarely about the children concerned but rather parents "fighting over the battles of the relationship, and the children are both the battlefield, [and] the ammunition". Yep, been there, seen that.
- That: "Often the mother, who finds herself caring for the children, is able to use her power over them to deny the father contact." Check.
- That: "parents who spoke badly of their ex-partners in front of their children were only creating problems for themselves further down the line when they would eventually realise 'he or she is not the ogre which has been described'." I'm sure this is true too.
With regard to legal aid, Sir Nicholas warned that, as part of the Review, "legal aid for private law proceedings is likely to be further diminished if not abolished". If it is abolished entirely, then I can foresee serious problems down the line. He points out that in future "out of court mediation and conciliation will be encouraged", with mediation assessment possibly becoming a precondition for instituting proceedings, but what happens if one parent refuses to submit to mediation? If that parent is the one 'in control' of the children (like the mother referred to above) and the other parent doesn't have the means to take the matter to court without legal aid, then what is the other parent to do?
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UPDATE: The speech is now available online (or perhaps it already was, and I missed it!), on the Family Law website, here. My thanks to Marilyn Stowe for pointing this out.