Is shared custody becoming a reality?
September 10, 2009
“After divorce fathers do not get help in caring for their children, as if they only have to care for themselves and have no relation with their children as caring parents”. Those were the words of unemployed Eugen Hockenjos after a ruling by the Court of Appeal that awarded Mr. Hockenjos, who shares the care of two daughters, five years of backdated childcare benefits.
Mr. Hockenjos was presented as a victim of a Child Benefit system which creates an “all or nothing” situation, where the “reality of shared care arrangements was not recognised”
Five years on from the ruling, it would be premature to imagine that shared parenting is about to gain a substantial foothold in the UK. In Sweden 35% of the children of divorced families live equally with both parents. This is affected through generous statutory leave entitlements to fathers and a requirement for parents to discuss shared care of children.
For Jack O’Sullivan of Fathers Direct who, following the trial, stated: “the ruling could open the door to fathers struggling financially to look after their children”, change could be on the way with the creation of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. The commission will assume the monitoring powers of the Child Support Agency in 2010. The aim of the new body is to “ensure parents take responsibility for providing financial support for their children” and opens the way for parents to opt out of the CSA and make voluntary arrangements.