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Who needs fathers?

BBC2

March 31 2010

Twenty years ago, the Children Act was hailed as enlightened legislation. In a major documentary series for BBC2, Films of Record examines whether the law is actually reducing the anguish for separating couples and their children. Following families as they put their access agreements to the test, After The Break explores the impact of the family courts on people’s lives. For many, the judge’s decision is only the beginning.

Within three years of a divorce, somewhere between a third and a half of fathers completely lose touch with their children. In most cases, this is the last thing these fathers ever wanted. For their children it is a tragedy. Children who don't see their dads are more likely to underachieve at school, get into trouble with the police, suffer from mental health problems, and have difficulty forming meaningful relationships in adult life.

Many fathers feel that the family courts, indeed the whole system, is biased against them. In a system designed to put the interests of the child first, the mother is usually regarded as the resident parent. The experience of all too many fathers is that in practice this makes it difficult to maintain contact with their children. What is the experience for absent mothers? Do all non-resident parents get equal treatment? Does the adversarial nature of the British court system make things worse?

This series takes a timely look at how the law is working in practice. Following painful family stories, ‘After The Break’ shows the impact that court judgments have on already troubled relationships and the damaging consequences for children caught in the middle.