family law panel

On Monday evening I had the pleasure of being invited to The Family Law Panel Westminster Forum at The House of Commons organised by the very wonderful OnlyMums & OnlyDads Community  – they are the UKs foremost signposting service for single parents and those going through divorce / separation. The Family Law Panel, launched in June 2014 is their response to the daily plethora of family law related questions and requests for advice.

Part-forum, part-debate, this event provided an opportunity for experts to discuss and redefine divorce and separation, and their role in, and impact on, society. The emphasis was very much on putting children first, which is at the centre of all my work with separating and divorcing parents, and the approach is wholly positive: how can we – parents, government, non-profits, charities, lawyers and mediators and other agencies find ways to lessen the blow of divorce and change its image as well as its impact on wider society.

only mums

In the seven years of running OnlyMums & OnlyDads CIC they have received requests for support and direction of 30,000+ individuals. The level of desperation in some of this communication has to be a wake-up call. So too, the seeming lack of tangible support for those families at the time they need it most.

Family law, legal aid (or the lack of it), relationship education in schools, the role of mediation, support from employers and societies’ ad-hoc, sometimes shambolic, support for children and young people need to be addressed.

The Office for National Statistics talk of 13 divorces granted every single hour. Half of these divorces involve children so the impact is enormous for society and children’s well being as well as their success at school.

only dads logo

Endemic fatherlessness is constantly in the media. Police report they deal with a domestic violence incident at the rate of one every single minute. Young Minds say that between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 young people in the UK are self-harming.

Various Government reports highlight divorce as one of the key factors behind families sliding into poverty. Mental health problems and suicide (especially male suicide) are at an all time high.

The debate centred on “What needs to be done to turn this around?”

The speakers included:

Nigel Shepherd: Vice Chair of Resolution and Family Lawyer at National Firm Mills & Reeve

Susanna Abse: Chief Executive Officer, Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships

Norman Hartnell: Managing Director of The Family Law Company

Duncan Fisher: Founder, Kids in the Middle

Sam Challis, Information Manager, MIND

Sion Humphreys, Policy Advisor & former Head Teacher, National Association of Head Teachers.

The debate was fascinating looking at the lack of professional training for teachers in schools around what to say and how to professionally support children in class coping with divorce, to the effects of divorce on women over 50 also struggling with Empty Nest Syndrome ( I raised that bit!) The evening was only the tip of a very big iceberg but it is so encouraging to see like – minded professionals coming together to try and create a cohesive, collaborative force to support children, mums as well as dads through one the most traumatic event in their lives.

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I’d like to also introduce you to Kids in the Middle a registered charity backed by young people and by family law and mediation firms who also work closely with OnlyMums & OnlyDads.

1 in 3 kids are caught between separating parents…..but three helplines have recently closed & the Government has no money so Kids in the Middle exists to provide direct on-line help to children and young people whose parents are separating.

The proportion of 16 years olds who have experienced the separation of their parents is heading for nearly one in two. That’s over 250,000 children experiencing their parents’ separation each year. Three on-line services to help these young people have closed down in recent years. Children in the middle routinely get overlooked.

Kids in the Middle is the only place on-line where young people in separating families can hear the stories of their peers. It is for young people, by young people. By inviting young people to tell their stories and make videos, we want to give these children a voice they currently do not have.

Head over to this wonderful resource => here