The Nuffield Foundation has funded research, undertaken by Exeter University, which looks at family law dispute resolution and, in particular, how the courts act to resolve situations where parental contact with a child has broken down following a divorce or separation.
Several reasons can be behind this, ranging from hostility on the part of the resident parent, to an inability to agree on how to make the existing contact order work, and can even include older children who request to have no further contact from the non-resident parent.
In the majority of cases, the father is the non-resident parent, having moved out of the family home following the separation, but only a very small minority of cases involve a hostile resident mother, the researchers found.
They also discovered that, although concerns have been expressed in the past that the courts do not make full use of the sanctions available to them under UK family law, that is because many of those sanctions would be unnecessarily punitive, meaning they are typically only used in incidents where the resident mother has become very hostile towards the father.
Instead, an adequate approach to dispute resolution is used in most cases – often simply requiring a revised contact order to be issued – showing that the courts are able to take a sensitive approach towards protecting the needs of both parents, and of the child or children involved.