Published on 21 March, 2024 | Anna Davies

It is an unfortunate fact of family life that a large number of individuals who set up home together with the intention of staying together for some time end up going their separate ways.

The impact of such break-ups is often magnified and complicated by those involved having children.

Data published by the Department for Work and Pensions last year highlighted the scale of the issue (

In 2022, it revealed, there were some 2.5 million separated families and four million affected children.

Whilst some of the families featuring in those statistics succeed in managing their ongoing relationships without dispute, others find that exchanges descend into rancour once they’re no longer living under the same roof.

One high-profile example has featured on the pages of the national newspapers in the last few days.

The Times has reported an interview given by the award-winning actress and former singer Billie Piper which touched on the difficulties that she had experienced in co-parenting with her ex-husband, Laurence Fox (

Mr Fox is himself an actor but has achieved a different sort of renown in recent years for his comments on a number of topics, including racism and Covid vaccines.

The couple had two sons during a nine-year marriage which ended in 2016.

Ms Piper stressed the importance of providing her children with stability after a divorce in which Mr Fox had claimed she used their sons as “weapons” (

Although their celebrity interests media, their circumstances are really not that much different from many cases which myself and my colleagues deal with on a daily basis.

In fact, the most recent figures issued by the Ministry of Justice show that there are tens of thousands of parents who find it difficult to agree on how to raise children once their relationships come to an end (

There were more than 32,000 applications in 2022 for Child Arrangement Orders, documents which set out things such as whom a child lives with and the time spent with a non-resident parent – a rise of almost 10 per cent in five years.

The number of applications for Specific Issue Orders – resolving a detailed point of a child’s upbringing on which parents cannot agree – rose by just over 50 per cent during the same period.

Such statistics, however, have been published against a backdrop of intensifying efforts to take the potential for conflict out of family relations and divert those involved from what might be costly and long-drawn out court proceedings.

As well as a push for greater use of mediation by central Government, the judiciary and family lawyers, there is a growing appreciation that things such as family therapy can help parents on the right track too.

In fact, Sir Andrew McFarlane, the current President of the Famliy Division of the High Court, has given his support for what he described as such “multi-disciplinary professional services” (

There seems to be little doubt on his part and that of many other experts that children need a caring environment in which to grow up.

The legislation that governs proceedings in which their interests are at issue – the Children Act 1989 – made it clear that their welfare is the “paramount consideration” whenever parental disputes occur (

Bitter exchanges, whether in person, in print or via social media, serve no real positive purpose and can be counterproductive, even being used as evidence in proceedings.

No matter how challenging it may be or what provocation exists, we always remind parents of their obligation to view the big picture.

Even though their relationship may be history, their children have their lives ahead of them and they can best thrive without the noise of a rumbling parental dispute.

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