By Janaki Mahadevan
Children & Young People Now
8 October 2009
Couples who break up should by default have shared parenting responsibility, according to the shadow children's minister.
Speaking at a fringe meeting hosted by charity consortium Kids in the Middle, Tim Loughton said his party preferred a system which presumed shared parenting following family break down.
He also suggested that couples who cannot agree on joint arrangements should be made to go through a mediation process.
He said: "At the moment we have got an incredibly adversarial system when parents split up. It is crazy we have so many acrimonious cases.
"From the start of the process there should be a default mechanism for shared responsibility unless there is a welfare reason not to."
His comments answered concerns set out by the 26 charities that make up Kids in the Middle, over the adverse impact of conflict between parents on children.
Duncan Fisher, chief executive of the Fatherhood institute who is managing the campaign, said he wanted to see a more committed approach to relationship education in schools. He added that both parents needed to be engaged through health visitors and the midwifery process.
Answering a question from Shireen Ritchie, the chair of the Local Government Authority's children and young people board, about how local authorities can logistically involve both parents, Fisher said the process should start before the child is born.
"There are difficulties with working with two parents rather than one. But 95 per cent of couples are together during pregnancy. If we get them then, get their names, addresses get them registered then you are not chasing after them once the baby is born."