|Illusions About Child Stability after Separation|
|by Ilan L Cohen
For some time the debate has raged about the childs’ needs after separation and proponents on both sides have referred to research to back up their claims. Lobbyists for both parent sexes often refer to the research stating that the child needs stability and stability means residing with a particular parent. Attachment theory has been used and abused by both sides. It is time to remove the bias and put common sense back into determining the best outcome for the child and the parents themselves.
The fact is that every child is equally attached to both parents. As long as the parent loves the child and is bonded to the child, the child will be equally attached to respective parents. Bonding develops through simple everyday interaction, such as reading stories, bathing and feeding the child, playing footy. The notion that because a mother has breastfed for 12 months means that the child is primarily attached to her is as ridiculous as men claiming that because they have attended pre natal classes that this means they should be the major caregiver. Both are noxious arguments that parents use in affidavits because family lawyers allow them to.
Many separated parents seek to minimise their former spouses parental involvement and use this as an argument against shared custody. This is an abuse of the former partner and the child. If mothers or fathers are working, clearly they have spent less time with the child, but does this mean they should not see their child regularly and consistently? Of course not.
Family law needs to take a common sense approach to these matters. The law already recognises that the child needs both parents. Where the law falters is that it does not provide regulation about what separated parents say about the other parent as they seek to lay claim to the child and the battle for custody begins.
The sooner family law regulates the behaviour of separated parents the sooner genuine stability for the child will emerge. Separated parents are too angry, too distressed and too confused to realistically see that the child needs both parents. Separated parents are blinded by their anger and depression, anxiety and fear of losing their children. Hence they begin a campaign of control often stopping or reducing the other parent from being with the child. Separated parents abuse the childs’ rights and treat the child as an object. Mothers and fathers who think that by having the child just in their own care creates stability are wrong. Stability is more likely to emerge when the child has equal or close to equal parenting time with each parent. Separated parents do an injustice to their child and potentially cause psychological damage to the child by restricting contact. They risk disrupting the attachment to a parent which can lead to emotional and behavioural problems in the child. No one parent should be in a position of controlling the child’s time with a parent.
A Role for Family Law
Family law needs to regulate the behaviour of separated parents just as the law regulates other aspects of human behaviour such as driving and public decency. Here are some suggestions for family law to regulate
Family lawyers need to take a zero tolerance approach to clientele seeking to ostracise and criticise another parents’ character and parental role. Family lawyers need to strongly guide their clientele and explain that a derogatory approach is contrary to the child’s interests. This approach should be a requirement of practicing in family law and entrenched in the education of family lawyers. Family law needs to stop parents from character assassinating and instead encourage co-operation. Family lawyers need to discourage aggressiveness in parents and help them to see that denigrating their former partners’ parenting role is damaging to the child.