Focusing on the needs of UKs
A story published today by the Guardian reports that in Great Britain, 40% of the
children of separated parents eventually lose touch with the non-resident parent within
two years of separation.
Finding ways to ensure that both mother and father can continue to play a full part in
their children's lives after divorce is one of the biggest challenges facing the family
justice system. Yet parents get surprisingly little help in coping with the upheaval
divorce brings, and the services that do exist are not widely known about.
Sir Nicholas Wall, who chairs a group advising the lord chancellor on the workings of
the Children Act, wants to change that. The group's just-published report, Making Contact
Work, is the first attempt to look comprehensively at ways of remedying a system which is
acknowledged to be failing parents and children.
The act, which came into force just over 10 years ago, was supposed to take the heat
out of post-divorce battles by getting rid of the idea of children as prizes to be fought
over. "Custody" and "access", with their connotation of winning and
losing, were abolished. They were replaced by orders for "residence" and
"contact", but judges were told to make no order at all unless it was really
necessary. Parents were expected as far as possible to sort out their own arrangements for
their children. But it takes more than a change in the law to stop warring spouses from
battling on in the embers of their dead relationship. Too often, children become both
weapons and prizes.
"The law tries to apply a structure and a rationality which is not always capable
of realization because post-separation parenting is a fiendishly difficult activity,
particularly if the parent who's left behind or the parent who has the children is then
faced with a whole series of decisions - housing, money, finance generally, support. In
that context, with all those anxieties and worries, to try rationally to make contact
arrangements with the person you probably think has just betrayed you or who has been
violent to you is enormously difficult." said Wall
The group began with the aim of finding new ways to enforce contact orders against
parents determined to flout them, but quickly realized that they needed to focus on the
point when parents first contemplate separation. The system first needs to educate parents
and provide a range of services - such as mediation and parenting classes - to help them
sort out contact arrangements. Only if those fail should the court need to get involved.
"What we've lit on as our first step is a widespread information campaign to try
to inform people about the likely difficulties they're going to face if and when they
separate, how their children will be affected by it and what they can do to limit or
mitigate the effects of their separation on their children."
The beleaguered new agency Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support
Service) would play a key role in providing information and help, and the report
recommends a big increase in its budget. Money spent at that stage would produce savings
overall, Wall argues, because there would be fewer expensive trips to court.
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
British forty-something women cast caution aside when it comes to sex
A story released today by Ananova.com reports that according to a survey conducted by
Dateline and Schering Health Care, British female forty-somethings are quicker to jump
into bed with a new partner than women in their twenties.
The survey revealed that 46% of women in their forties have sex with a new partner
within five dates, compared with 34% of women in their twenties.
As British women get older, they think less and less about contraception. More than a
fifth of women over 40 admit to never thinking about contraception.
But it is at the forefront of the mind of those under 40 with more than 80% considering
it, according to the poll.
A quarter of the women surveyed in their forties claimed that they would have a
termination if they fell pregnant, but only 7% of those under 40 and 10% of those over 50
said they would definitely opt for a termination.
"These results clearly show that older women, who are re-entering the dating game
perhaps after a divorce, separation or bereavement, need to be more aware of all of the
contraceptive options available to them." said Dr. Rosemary Leonard.
The survey was conducted from more than 1,000 female members of Dateline online in the
UK aged from 20 through to the late 60s.
Monday, February 11, 2002
Survey reveals divorce gaining
acceptance in China
A story published today by the China Daily reports that according to a new survey
conducted by Beijing-based Horizon Research, more and more Chinese residents have
experienced divorce and are becoming more understanding and sympathetic with people who
have divorced. The same survey revealed that more and more people regard divorce as a
The research indicates that nearly 80 percent of respondents believe divorce will
become more common in China. Nearly 78 percent believe more and more people will choose to
remain single all their lives.
The survey included 2,719 urban residents aged between 18 and 60 living in the six
large cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Dalian, Chengdu and Xi'an.
The survey suggests that traditional ideas about everlasting and blissful marriage are
facing unprecedented challenges and that the concept of marriage is becoming increasingly
fragile in modern society.
People have learned to anticipate the uncertainty of marriage, which in turn
intensifies such uncertainty.
More than 80 percent of the respondents held that more people will choose cohabitation
rather than marriage, while 80 percent of the same respondents held that more and more
people will experience extramarital affairs.
More than 82 percent of those surveyed admitted that the quality of the sex life plays
an important part when considering the value of their marriages.
Seventy percent also held that the number of "double income, no kids"
families will increase and that the number of women who want to be a housewife would
Social problems linked to single
parenthood says British study
A story released today by CNSNews.com reports that a study released by a British think
tank found a link between family instability and social problems that probably won't be
broken by giving legal rights to cohabiting couples.
Report author Jill Kirby said legislation recently introduced in the U.K. parliament to
give legal recognition to unmarried partners would do little to prevent the breakdown of
the British family.
Kirby's report, "Broken Hearts: Family Decline and the Consequence for
Society," was commissioned by the Center for Policy Studies and examined a wide range
of statistics from government sources and charity groups.
The study found correlations between family break-ups and "child homelessness,
drug abuse among the young, the physical abuse and neglect of babies and children, high
rates of teenage pregnancy and a continuing cycle of broken relationships."
"We can see a sharp rise in children born out of wedlock in the U.K.," said
Kirby. "The report also identifies that children born outside of marriage experience
the break up of their parents at a much faster rate than those born to married
Last month, Britain's upper legislative chamber debated a bill that would have
established "civil partnerships" to give gay and unmarried heterosexual couples
the same legal rights as married people.
The legislation will most likely never come to a vote, but some high-ranking members of
both the Conservative and Labour parties have expressed support for legal sanctioning of
Kirby attacked the proposals, saying they would do nothing to solve deeper social
problems. "Marriage is not just a question of a piece of paper, it's a foundation for
a more stable relationship," she said. "Children are at risk of greater
involvement in crime, greater mental illness and other problems if they are in
The report identifies several areas where the British government could promote stable
families, and suggests removing disincentives to marriage in the welfare and tax systems
and educational programs about the value of matrimony.
Kirby said the British government officials could learn from their American and
European counterparts about formulating public policy to promote stable families.
"In the U.K., we are realizing that problems such as crime and social breakdown
are rapidly increasing, but we haven't yet got to the part where we realize that family
stability is at the heart of it all - there's a reluctance to talk about families in such
a way," she said.
"The United States, on the other hand, has confronted the problem and the results
are beginning to show," Kirby added. "We've also seen that there are more stable
families in Europe, so there may be lessons to be learned there."
Thursday, February 7, 2002
Irelands out of wedlock
births on the rise
A story published today by the Irish Examiner reports that according to research
figures released today by the Economic and Social Research Institute found that one in
three children born in 2000 were born outside of marriage.
The same report found that one in eight children under the age of 15 is being raised by
a single parent.
However, the study also revealed that the number of children under 15 in single parent
families had doubled to 12% since the early 1980s. ESRI researchers found the breakdown of
marriages and non-marital births were the main causes of lone parenthood.
"A surge in new family formation has occurred in Ireland since the onset of
economic boom in 1994. Between 1994 and 2000, the number of first births increased by 29%.
The increase was such that the number of first births in 2000 was the highest on
record," the study said.
"Rising birth numbers are largely accounted for by increases in the number of
women of child-bearing age." However, the ESRI could not elaborate on the question of
why the number of births to women outside marriage was so high.
"Patterns elsewhere, along with limited evidence for Ireland, would suggest that
large proportions are in cohabiting unions, that many enter marriage after the birth of
the child, and that solo parenthood may be relatively uncommon among them," the study
The great majority of lone parents were women and many had a poorer level of education
and were less likely to be employed than their married counterparts, it concluded.