Read this article in French


50:50 child care and the rise of the “doesband”

My wife tells me that a husband who pulls their weight around the house and with childcare is a “doesband”. I won’t say whether I was awarded that title!

This short article looks at whether English law supports the “doesband”, and in fact all separated fathers, including those from cohabiting relationships, where they seek 50:50 child care arrangements.

Family law professionals I speak to say two conflicting things about children law court practice. First there has been a huge rise in the last 10 years, and especially the last five or so, of fathers seeking and obtaining arrangements through court orders which are at or very close to 50:50 child care. At the same time, and perhaps increasingly out of step with these times, many judges can be reluctant to order equal shared care. They may order something short of that, like a 5 nights, 9 nights arrangement over a two week period, or 4 nights and 10 nights.

I recently asked a children barrister at the top of their game why we didn’t have a 50:50 arrangement on a case we were doing. I was told research could be done into this in comparative practice of different countries, and academic literature. The reply seemed rather circular to me. Unless clients push for greater contact arrangements in a given case, the status quo will remain. England is increasingly out of step with neighbouring jurisdictions particulary for example France. 50:50 child care arrangements are routinely ordered between separated parents once a child reaches the age of about six.

The other difficulty I have with the current situation is the inconsistency of court orders. Different judges are doing different things. My perception is that some older judges are happy with the status quo, and younger judges including younger magistrates are more willing to order 50:50 or something very close to that. This may not be surprising when all the Children Act 1989 guides judges to do on child care is (a) take into account the welfare interests of the child above all else and (b) remember the principle that the involvement of a parent in a child’s life will be good for the child’s welfare.

That second principle was introduced in 2014. We can all agree with the statement but it doesn’t tell you very much. It does not meet the modern social context.

The other issue is that for fathers who wish to be properly involved, fully shared child care is a leveller for career opportunity for mothers. Too often the debate is framed as the negative “meal ticket for life” argument against wives who assume they can live off wealthier husbands. I fail to see how that is the massive demographic issue that “must be stopped” which its crusaders make it to be. How can it be since there are only so many footballer and banker families and so on. Aren’t the bigger issues around things like paying for child care (at the moment the most expensive in Europe), and also the courts supporting joint or even 50:50 child care arrangements? Isn’t it time to move on regarding the question of 50:50 child care?