Who Decides about the Children?
Parents who separate without divorcing can make their own decisions about their children unless one of them (or another party) applies to the magistrates’ domestic court or to the High Court under wardship proceedings (Pearce, 1986). Informal separations are not recorded or controlled by the state and one hopes they never will be. But for reasons that may seem illogical today, the situation changes fundamentally once divorce or judicial separation is embarked on. The boundary of family privacy is then automatically breached wherever children under sixteen are involved, because English divorce law imposes a statutory responsibility on the courts to check whether ‘the arrangements proposed for the children are satisfactory or the best that can be devised in the circumstances, or that it is impractical for the parents to make any such arrangements (Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, Section 41). In uncontested cases this check is carried out by a judge at the Section 41 or children’s appointment, often in a brief and perfunctory interview lasting less than five minutes (Davis, MacLeod and Murch, 1983; Dodds, 1983).
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.