Don’t Panic! The HUB is HERE!!!

Stand down everyone. The impending crisis has been averted by a little purple super hero of a website. No – Not Fathers 4 Justice, something with a rather broader appeal. Ladies and gentlemen, mothers and fathers, batmen and wonderwomen, I offer you the much promised, much trumpeted….* drum roll *…Sorting out Separation Hub. * deflating trumpet sound *.

I’ve been a bit rich on the snark in the last few posts, and I don’t think its entirely healthy to dedicate another evening to deconstructing and criticising something. So I’m going to hit and run and then go and do other stuff (there’s a bottle of Bailey’s in the Kitchen). Here’s the hit list :

Too many damn scrolly things

Guidance on when you may need a solicitor woefully deficient. No mention at all of :

  • when you really really need legal advice e.g. abduction
  • the sorts of things you may be able to get legal aid for (brief mention of d.v.)
  • the fact that you could instruct a barrister through direct access
  • the fact that a little bit of advice may go a long way – solicitors are only described as “very expensive”
  • the sorts of help that a parent may need to seek from the court (in particular non molestation orders)
  • the fact that a litigant is entitled to go to court without a lawyer
  • the distinction between mediator, friend and legal adviser is completely blurred “You don’t have to spend money on a solicitor. Talk to someone you trust or a mediator to get some neutral help”

You begin by being asked a lot of quite personal sensitive issues designed no doubt to risk assess for domestic violence or abuse. If you are foolish enough to select any of the risk indicators you get diverted to messages telling you to call the police or other organisation and asking if you feel your life is at risk. All other matters fall by the wayside.

There isn’t really any legal information at all apart from the most basic of summaries of s25 MCA and some quite incongruous stuff about void and voidable marriages (not REALLY the hottest or most commonly relevant matter for most separating couples) and a bit about PR. The websites that the hub signposts to are all, from what I can see pretty reliable websites, but who selects them and who monitors them for accuracy? [Postscript, thanks @littlemscounsel for pointing out that the resources section links to some NFM legal factsheets, which are helpful.]

Stuff about children doesn’t seem to fall under the category of “legal” according to the hub (clearly there can be no association between children matters and law because that might imply lawyers were required and this is clearly not compatible with the LASPO line). On “parenting time arrangements” (which of course is not a thing really known to law as yet) it says :

Separation is a difficult time for everyone. It’s important for both parents to share parenting time. Do everything you can to make sure you both stay involved in your child’s life.

Most children benefit from having a good relationship with both parents as long as it is the safe thing to do.

Research shows children do better at school, tend to stay out of trouble and develop better relationships as adults when they have a good relationship with both parents.

  • Some parents share care on a 50/50 basis, so your child lives with both parents exactly half the time.
  • You may decide that you split weekends and school holidays.
  • Its helpful to make arrangements to suit the age of your child, you do what’s best for them as well as you.

To me that is in danger of putting 50 50 care first on the list, at any rate I think that may be how it is read. Without making comment on the merits of exact 50:50 arrangements, I think that drafting is a little unfortunate since it does not reflect any of government policy, the law or the future law.

There are also some quite bold and over simplistic assertions about “what works best” for children, such as “Try to make sure your toddler sees each parent at least every three days with some overnight stays.”  I’m not sure that all recent research or parental experience would necessarily agree with that, although it may be right for many children. Again, although it doesn’t say so I suspect this is easily misread as supporting midweek overnight contact for children of nursery age which has potential to be quite disruptive.

This is ALL it says about cases where a parent is being prevented from having contact with a child:

Being prevented from having a relationship

Not being allowed to see your child can be a very painful experience, not only for yourself but also your child.

Help for the future

  • Try to get your ex-partner to focus on what’s best for your child.
  • Put your own differences aside, try to see things from both sides.
  • Find out if there’s a legal answer, get advice from a solicitor or another qualified professional.
  • If you’re not allowed to have contact with your child, send letters or emails if possible.

If you’re not allowed to have contact with your child now, write letters and cards and keep them safe in a box to show them in the future.

This hub does signpost to some useful resources, but really… The idea that this hub is some kind of sticking plaster to cover the slashing of legal aid, or that in combination with some telephone gateway system (where no doubt callers will be repeatedly asked if they are “living in fear? worried about your own or your child’s safety?” and little else) – is just bonkers. The idea that parents can be meaningfully assisted by platitudes like “Try to get your ex-partner to focus on what’s best for your child” is really just fatuous, patronising and minimises the emotional and legal complexity of some (many) contact disputes. 

Best bit of the hub? It’s an ironic F4J purple. They may be miffy.

Right. Run away!

17 thoughts on “Don’t Panic! The HUB is HERE!!!

  1. I hope this ‘sorting out separation hub’ site helps a great deal of people who are facing being pushed into a still greatly adversarial family law system.

    It’s good to see something up and running that is not just a signpost to lawyers (as if they are really the answer) and an ensuing fruitless and highly damaging adversarial battle.

    It’s time to take the legal adversarial and demeaning language out of the family law system and concentrate on what is best for children, which is shared parenting and that sometimes will be 50/50 (why this would be a worry is baffling).

    This initiative and the like are far better than pumping hundreds of millions of taxpayers monies into legal aid which simply fans the flames of discontent after a relationship breakdown.

    Educate people there is a better way than the family courts and they are expected to put their children first and find a reasonable solution.

    Far better this than going down the path (as most do presently) of focusing on their own narrow self interest and joining the winner takes all adversarial family law system which merely inflames, delays and robs the pockets of those unlucky enough to cross its path.

    On a wider point this hub helps to educate and inform parents that shared parenting is the best way for children after a breakdown of a relationship and this should be their first consideration after separation/divorce.

    • Chambers I share your aspirations. Of course it shouldn’t just be a signpost to lawyer or a steer to court. But its a pretty slender offering at present and totally dependent on third party providers to pick up the slack.

      Sadly I suspect that a large proportion of the kind of people this site might help could probably manage without, and a large proportion of those who really need help will be none the wiser for it. I’m not saying its a purposeless exercise, but I think it could be improved and fleshed out. There are presently a lot of other resources which do the same type of thing more fully.

  2. Ah… but we’ve been working on the solution…

    We suspected there’d be insufficient information for litigants, and have spent two years process mapping family law into a series of practical guides for the parent who can’t afford a solicitor… and the 45,000 who will lose legal aid next year (according to the Government’s own impact assessment).

  3. “Try to get your ex-partner to focus on what’s best for your child” is really just fatuous, patronising and minimises the emotional and legal complexity of many contact disputes.

    Exactly my thoughts Lucy..a great dissection of a fatuous Govt ‘tool’! Who are the people who produce this bland stuff? They clearly have NO idea of the pain/anguish and sheer hell of an acrimonious separation. If it’s so easy…why are we all here? Michael Robinson (Custody Minefield) dissected it about a month ago…on exactly the same lines as you…This is going round my list..they will have a laff! 🙂

  4. In any separation or divorce where both adults take this seriously there will be very little scope for conflict. Where they don’t there will. If there was a magic pill to make people behave sensibly it would be in the water supply by now!

  5. Northern Lights

    This is even more vapid and fatuous than the so called shared parenting clause.

    This bit would be risible if the context wasn’t so serious:
    “If you’re not allowed to have contact with your child, send letters or emails if possible.
    If you’re not allowed to have contact with your child now, write letters and cards and keep them safe in a box to show them in the future.”

    No; if you’re “not allowed to have contact with your child,” you lodge an application with the court.

    John Bolch recently posted some other new online information resource which had the backing of such legal heavyweights as mumsnet, families need fathers and gingerbread. Is this the Tories replacement for qualified legal advice?

    The future’s bright……..

  6. Anthony asks “Who are these people?”. Indeed, who are they? Why do I feel uneasy when a web page like this appears, but the author/s remain anonymous?

    • As far as I’m aware this is the hub referred to in the gov response to the shared parenting consultation (see end of intro which says: …”launch an online ‘hub’ which will contain improved advice and guidance for separated parents and others, and signposting to other relevant support services. The hub will include diagnosis and dynamic content to gain skills in conflict management and practical tools to help parents make collaborative arrangements for their children.”)
      It’s govt commissioned – and it looks like its their content, see T&Cs which say its all Copyright to the Crown and on Open Govt Licence.

  7. “To me that is in danger of putting 50 50 care first on the list.”

    This is indeed highly dangerous. The fact that parties are in court suggests – probably about 95% of the time – that there is implacable hostility and parental alienation of the kind that children need to be protected from, asap. Still, it’s a shame that moms shouldn’t be able to be involved as much as dads.

  8. Northern Lights

    “The hub will include diagnosis and dynamic content to gain skills in conflict management and practical tools to help parents make collaborative arrangements for their children.”

    What is that exactly, other than an insult to the English language?

  9. inflagrantedilecto

    Dear Lucy, governments have a blueprint for the introduction of telephone and internet services,in certain matters. You must first accept that all such devices have a money saving imperative….and this will be the only thing that is measured during the lifetime of the service. If it saves money it works.

  10. Northern Lights

    Lucy, it does put me in mind of a book I read as part of my English course at uni many years ago. It was called “Bad language” I think and went through a history of expletives, grammatical faux pas and the like.
    At the end of the book was an example of what the authors considered to be genuinely bad language (ie incomprehensible) It was a document produced by HM Tax and Revenue, if I remember correctly and the part of the blurb on “the hub” I’ve quoted wouldn’t have been out of place in it.

  11. It reminds me of Linda Smith’s comment about Dubya:

    “His problem is that language is not his first language”

    This stuff is not written in English or any language spoken and written by educated people. It’s written in Bollocks.

  12. inflagrantedilecto

    Andrew, how did you know that I am awaiting the Berlitz guide to speaking fluent bollocks for my Xmas treat…it is ever expanding and is bang up to date because it has “safe minimum” in it along with “resilience”….oooh that word gets everywhere…and “proportionate”, ( with an interesting section by Delia about how to share out a cake, fairly).

    There was talk that they would bring out a “for dummies”, edition but decided that normal people need it more.

    I know that I am just an amateur but when I get going I can hold my own….the trouble is that because my stuff is fueled by lethal amounts of alcohol I can never remember any of the great Bollocks that I have spouted….anyway I live in hope for a copy, failing that I’ll settle for the revised Viz Profanisaurus….it’s amazing how many eminent people you can see approaching the Billy Mill Roundabout….

    Merry Xmas everyone…this site is a tonic

  13. Think of the MoJ website as Teach Yourself Bollocks.

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