Two Wishes aims to transform our view of family separation and divorce, by 2040, from being thought of as a legal issue that routinely involves family courts, to being recognised as a major health and wellbeing issue that requires much earlier education and support for all children and their families.
Today, we accept that divorce and family separation is a legal issue. We accept, in Australia and other countries, that divorces are processed by family courts. We allow many vulnerable, separating families to be on their own, without reliable, accessible support networks and having to rely on the advice of friends more likely to tell them to “go get a lawyer” than to get the emotional support, coaching and information they most urgently need. We turn divorce and family separation – a major social issue – into a legal, almost-criminal matter. And children, and many other family members, are deeply harmed as a result.
There remains a stigma attached to divorce and family separation; it’s something we don’t readily discuss in an open, constructive way. This needs to change if children, in future, are to be protected from harm.
Our vision for 2040
Family breakdown should be considered first and foremost a child health and welfare issue, not a legal issue. The latest scientific and medical evidence, not legal advocacy, should play the key role in determining what’s best for children’s long-term welfare. Family separation and divorce are a major social issue best suited to a Health, Family, or Children’s portfolio.
We need to recognise that family breakdown is a time of high risk for children and vulnerability for parents. It requires a health-focused, pro-active approach – as with other social issues – rather than a passive approach that too readily allows children and families to drift towards, or be affected by, harmful court interventions.
We recommend that this major social issue be addressed holistically and pro-actively, at Government level, not by Justice or Legal Departments, but by institutions and agencies responsible for the wellbeing of children and families. Continuing to view family separation primarily as a legal issue managed in the UK by the Ministry of Justice will result in ongoing, serious and avoidable harm to our children and future generations.