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Mothers Apart From Their Children


Family law in the United Kingdom encompasses and varies across different jurisdictions of the country. A number of authorities, different groups and agencies in the UK help change UK family law and their influences on the final decisions of family disputes and the inherent thoughts of family laws in society. Read on to discover the structure of family law in the UK and to find out more about how family law is created in the UK.

Segments of UK family law
England’s family law covers family matters such as divorce, domestic violence, child abduction, adoptions, family maintenance, parental responsibility, and child abuses. Either public or private lawmakers can resolve settlements of disputes and disagreements. The Magistrates’ Court and Country Courts hear cases that fall under family law in accordance with the Family Procedure Rules. The UK has a High Court of Justice division of specialists for Family Law cases as well.

The ‘Act’
Royal assent has now been given to the new Children and Families Act 2014, which came into effect on April 22, 2014. This law brings in many changes that practitioners of private law regarding children must know about, such as Section 10 of the Compulsory MIAMS, Section 11 Continued Parental Involvement, and Child Arrangements orders in Section 12. Section 10 (1) of the Act explicitly shows, that persons who need separation should attend the Family Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAMS) before they go to court.

Background of the ‘Act’
The former Labour Government in 2011 passed the Family Justice Review to accelerate hearings of delayed family disputes and to review Family Law as a whole. Its final report asserted the futility of bringing in any rule to confine parental rights concerning the duration that they must be with their child in case separation. However, the government in response states that there should be a law to provide enough time for both parents to spend with their children.
It further states that it is not the amount of time that divorced parents spend with their children, but the quality of the relationship that matter the most. Upon this discussion, it was agreed to receive a public assessment on ‘Co-operative Parenting after a Divorce: Proposed legislation on the Involvement of Both Parents in a Child’s Life.’ As a result, the Children and Families Act (Section 11) came to exist.

The amendment of the Act in 2014, emphasizes a court must consider the welfare of the child as paramount when there are concerns for the upbringing of a child, or the management of a child’s property, and using whatever income from the said property. However, many argue that the new legislation regarding Family Law in the UK has not brought significant changes to the existing family laws that may change the approach of the courts.

Public Family Court Delays
Despite amendments and new laws, the systems of family courts in the UK are on the brink of collapsing. Increasing litigation and delays in courts cause unprecedented frustration among concerned parties. Due to ever increasing divorce cases in public courts, many opt for private courts. The near abolition of the system of providing legal aid spurns divorcing couples from obtaining legal advice. They find their own ways to settle grave issues such as the custody of their children and the division of family assets, which needs an immediate solution.

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Domestic violence can be anything from a physical assault to verbal abuse…

When thinking about domestic abuse, the first image that unfortunately comes to mind is often that of a bruised and bloody woman. A woman with a black eye. A woman who has unexplained marks on her body. Or perhaps it’s a man who has been physically hurt – although less common, it certainly does happen, and both men and women can be the culprit too.

But what is often forgotten in the shock and horror of an injury that can be seen and that will eventually heal (even if it does sometimes leave a scar) is the mental trauma that goes along with it. Or even the emotional and psychological harm that can be done by a partner without them using violence at all. These are also a form of domestic violence, and a new law could be introduced to include them in the criminal aspect of the problem as well.

The government have carried out an investigation to ascertain whether the law on domestic violence needs to be strengthened to include controlling behaviour, emotional abuse, and coercion (persuading someone to do something against their will – perhaps with a threat of violence, but not necessarily). Controlling behaviour could be anything from threatening to cut someone off from their family and friends, to telling them what to wear, to limiting the money they are allowed to spend.

The potential new law has come about because it was felt that the police force only responded to physical violence when it came to domestic abuse cases.
Emotional hardships are harder to prove, and don’t leave any physical evidence, although the mental evidence is clear.

Another reason to go ahead with this was to show women (and men) that the behavior of their spouse is not right, that it is indeed a crime and should be
reported. The people who are suffering from emotional abuse may not even realize that it is happening, as they have become so used to it – they are
conditioned to believe that this is how ‘normal’ couples behave. It’s terrifying, but most domestic abuse cases go unreported due to fear or lack of

The crime survey for England and Wales suggest that 30% of women will experience some form of domestic abuse in their lives. The figure for men is
just over half, at 16%.

If you have been affected by any of the situations mentioned above, and feel that you need to speak with someone regarding your legal and domestic
situation, please don’t hesitate to contact the Family Law Advice Centre.

An abusive relationship is a bad relationship. It needs to end.

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Lifting our hearts as mothers apart...

Mothers living apart from their children know a lot about heartache. To a greater or lesser degree depending on our circumstances, we know how it feels to be grieving or regretting, or angry, guilty, lonely, broken and tired to the bone of painful, repetitive thoughts.

For sure, many of us have a lot to heartbroken about. But it’s helpful to remember that life can be heartbreaking for everyone. We can find balance and take inspiration from others who haven’t, as far as we know, experienced how it feels to live apart from a child.

Sitting in the morning sunshine with a cup of coffee, I was expecting to pick up a few gardening tips from Alys Fowler as I read her weekly column in The Guardian Weekend. Titled, ‘Heart and soil’, 29 June 2013, I was drawn into a very personal and poignant description of Alys’s own heartache and most hearteningly, her method for living with it. Sharing that her husband has cystic fibrosis, a long-term illness for which he is frequently in hospital, she described how time in her garden restores something in her. Alys says, “If you are feeling blue, have hit a wall you’re unable to climb, or it all just feels unfair, can I suggest you go pull some weeds?” She points out that there is evidence that a bacteria in the soil called Mycobacterium vaccae boosts the immune system and our serotonin levels. “Gardening is about the now, but is also a statement about the future. The best of gardening is never instant; it comes in the form of a packet of seed and has jeopardy, hazard and heartbreak built in, but wonderful rewards, too”, says Alys.

I think Alys’s description of gardening is an inspiring metaphor for our lives. Life isn’t instant, it’s an ever changing process. Like a packet of seeds, there is risk, danger and heartbreak. And yes, there are wonderful rewards too. Despite rejection, misunderstandings, alienation and antagonism, if we look for it and allow ourselves, we will also experience joy, serendipity, pleasure and contentment.

How can we as mothers apart receive lightness of heart?

Accept that life is a mixture of up and down. Can we hold an intention of turning towards all of our experiences with compassion, without forcing anything, especially when we are hurting or feel ugly about things or other people. We can lighten our load and our hearts by treating ourselves with kindness and non judgement. Not as something to strive for or achieve but as something to offer ourselves, to allow the possibility of that being there in the mix, even when we are broken hearted.

Cherish yourself. If you’ve been giving yourself a hard time lately, stop. There is no need. If you have done things you would rather not have, that’s alright, you were doing the best you could at the time. Apologise if an apology is due and then let go. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with us. We are ok. It’s wonderful to be who we are. Our feelings are appropriate. We are right where we’re supposed to be.

We don’t have to be controlled by what other people say, we don’t have to try to control them. We don’t have to be manipulated, guilted, coerced or forced into anything. We can learn to say, ‘I love you, but I love me too. This is what I need to take care of me.’

Set down the burden. Sometimes for the sake of your wellbeing and that of others, it is best to let go. Maybe just for a while to regain your strength, sometimes as time passes you might come to know it will be for a longer while, maybe even forever. When it comes to family relationships there are no guarantees, no ‘this is how things should be’. There are only people, sometimes cruel or misguided and often just doing all they know how to do right now. If holding on is causing you pain, give yourself a break. You don’t have to suffer for love.

If you have a heavy heart, why don’t you try a little gardening therapy? You don’t need a garden, even getting your hands into the soil as you sow a pot for your windowsill will do. I’ll let Alys guide us – she says, “When you’ve got enough soil on your skin to lift your heart a little, sow some seeds. If you are feeling truly broken, sow something for around the corner: a late sowing of basil, dill or nasturtium to eat in a month or two; flat leaved parsley to take you into autumn; honesty, foxgloves, viper’s bugloss and stocks so that wonderful crescendo happens again next year”.

I’m off to get some soil under my fingernails.

Until next time, take good care of yourself.

Sarah Hart
Counsellor, Dip IRC, MA, MBACP (Accred), UKRCP
© Sarah Hart 2012

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Litigant in Person (LIP) or supporting a LIP

For those considering acting as a Litigant in Person (LIP) or supporting a LIP, these freely available Resolution Guides published in Dec12 and distributed to all Resolution members, may be helpful.  These Guides take into account the Family Law Procedure Rules 2010.

This Guide is available to download via and covers the following areas:

  • Dealing with Client
  • Correspondence
  • Service of Documents
  • Discussing Dispute Resolution Options
  • Mediation
  • Dealing with Litigants in Person
  • Collaborative Law
  • Client Care Letters
  • The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
  • Dealing with Financial Dispute Resolution Appointments
  • Working with the Bar in Family Cases
  • Instructing Experts in Applications for a Financial Order
  • Instructing Experts in Proceedings Involving Children
  • Disclosure in Financial Order Applications
  • Referrals to Contact Centres
  • Preparing Pre- and Post-Marital Agreements

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