|Guardian Lord Justice Wall|
Children 'used as ammunition' in separations
Parents who split up are damaging children's welfare by using them as 'ammunition', according to a senior court judge
Children are being used as ammunition in separations say a senior judge. Photograph: Getty/John Wilkes
Parents who split up are damaging their children's welfare by using them as "ammunition" in the separation process, according to England's most senior family court judge.
Sir Nicholas Wall said separating parents "rarely behave reasonably" and in his experience "the more intelligent the parent, the more intractable the dispute".
The president of the family division said separating couples were usually oblivious to the damage their rows inflicted on their children when conducted in front of them. "Separating parents rarely behave reasonably, although they always believe that they are doing so, and that the other party is behaving unreasonably," Wall said in a speech to the Families Need Fathers charity, reported by the Times.
"People think that post-separation parenting is easy. In fact it is exceedingly difficult, and as a rule of thumb my experience is that the more intelligent the parent, the more intractable the dispute."
He said parents need to work out how to minimise the damage when separating and, where there is a custody battle, he proposed compulsory mediation before cases come before the family court.
He added that the disputes between the parties were rarely about the children concerned but rather parents "fighting over the battles of the relationship, and the children are both the battlefield, [and] the ammunition".
Wall was speaking in the context of possible changes to the law that would give fathers more rights.