13 June 2018
Marital breakdown affects more than just the divorcing spouses. It has a ripple effect over the whole life of the couple, and most importantly on any children of the family. Just because a spouse becomes an ex that does not mean that they become any less of a parent. However, we are all human and this distinction may be difficult to make when going through the emotional quagmire of a divorce. In August 2015, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service reported a 23% increase in the demand for private law cases (i.e. cases where parents are unable to agree between them what is in the best interests of their children and ask for the court's assistance) in the month of July (comparing statistics from July 2014 and July 2015). However, the court is a last resort and the focus is very much on trying to find ways for parents to agree rather than leaving the decision in the hands of a judge. Communication is a key ingredient of co-parenting but during the divorce process it is common for communication channels to shut down, and it can be difficult to find a way of opening them up again. Looking to our friends across the pond, in America, there is a tool available known as 'Our Family Wizard'. It encourages parties to communicate by providing a platform with a shared calendar and message board so that there is a centralised forum for all of the children arrangements. Both parents have access (they can also give access to their lawyers) and ultimately if there is a dispute, a judge can have access to the account to see the communications passing between the parties. A definite incentive for good behaviour. For spouses who are struggling to keep their emotions separate, this one-stop shop can help to remove the temptation for discussions to go off-piste. It provides a concentrated area for dialogue in relation to the children rather than the blank space of an e-mail or a telephone call where other issues can start to creep in and cloud judgment. For some time now, the Family Division has been promoting mediation over litigation but perhaps we should be trying communication first. Our Family Wizard may not be the magic answer but with modern advances in technology, maybe for some families, the solution does lie in online platforms such as this.