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US remedies to children when non-resident parents abandon them after separation or divorce

Date:16 JUL 2007

Marjory D Fields, Attorney at Law, New York, USA, International Family Law Chambers, London. The harm to children caused when their non-resident parent abandons them demands recognition, argues Marjory D Fields. There is a general focus on mothers who violate agreements and court orders for contact by non-resident fathers as opposed to on fathers who fail to maintain contact with their children after separation or divorce. This article puts forward the proposition that lack of contact with a non-resident parent, despite agreements or court orders, is extremely damaging to children. There is no provision in UK law requiring compliance by the non-resident parent with contact orders, nor is there any remedy available to left-behind children or the resident parent for emotional distress and financial losses caused by the non-resident parent's failure to maintain contact. It does not look likely that proposed reforms to the law in the UK will include such remedies. The author argues for equal treatment of resident and non-resident parents under the law, so that the duties and restrictions are shared, and contact with the non-resident parent is encouraged. Drawing on US parenting plan models and recent reform in Australia the author proposes a series of changes to the law to ensure that contact is encouraged, and where court orders for contact are breached, adequate compensation is available. For the full article see June [2007] International Family Law.