I have just finished watching the lovely Christopher Eccleston on BBC iPlayer’s Come Home (#spoileralert in case you haven’t seen it yet). It’s about a family where, rather unusually, the mother leaves the marriage, her home and most shockingly, her children. Over the three episodes, you come to realise the truth is less clear-cut. Having squarely taken the father’s side at the outset, I watched the facts unfold. There are overtones of coercive control, domestic violence and just plain unfulfilled dreams. The father tricked the mother into having a third child by failing to attend the agreed vasectomy appointment.

After she leaves, they both make some understandable but, as it turns out, unwise decisions. With the benefit of hindsight, they weren’t to know that the very detail of their lives would be played out in family court when they fight for ‘custody’ of the children. A few drinks and a smoke of one spliff makes her a drunken drug addict for the father’s counsel. A too hasty introduction by the father of his younger model girlfriend puts them at risk and makes him a poor protector for the mother’s lawyer.

By the time it comes to court they are miles apart, full of anger and regret. But they still flashback to the happier times, wondering where it all went wrong. The mother ‘wins’, and she is awarded care of the children. It’s a binary decision that’s devastating for the father. His shoulders sag, and he goes to walk away. But the mother asks to talk to him. She says ‘we don’t have to do what the judge says’. With the wisdom of Solomon, she offers to share care equally. In these circumstances, best for all concerned, particularly the children whom they fiercely love in equal measure. The family move on and leave the lawyers behind.

We’ll never know if there was a happy ever after. We certainly hope so. It made me reflect on the day job. Issues of child custody and access (called ‘child arrangements’ these days) are better determined out of court by the parents who know them best. Of course, relationship breakdown and divorce can make us all behave badly, but the ultimate wellbeing of our children means we should wrestle to decide these things together.

At Anthony Collins Solicitors we strive for a non-combative and conciliatory approach to child arrangements on family breakdown. We have the largest team of lawyer mediators in the West Midlands, and all our lawyers are trained to put children first. If you would like to discuss this article or seek advice on your own situation, please contact Elizabeth Wyatt, Chris Lloyd-Smith, Maria RamonElisabeth Howe or Kadie Bennett. You can also find out more about the work we do here

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