Effective co-parenting in the modern age is the key to keeping children out of the courts

It is predicted that 50% of children born today are likely to live to be over 100[1], and the result of toxic parenting during childhood could have a severe impact on the rest of their lives, causing up to 100 years of pain warns Cafcass Chief Executive, Anthony Douglas.

Traditionally, adults imagine themselves to remain in one relationship after having children, but with one in four children experiencing the breakdown of their parents’ relationship[2], this is no longer the case. Cafcass analysis suggests that a third of separating families use the courts to resolve disputes about what should happen with their children, and the Family Court is seeing the number of these ‘private law’ cases increase each year[3]. In this challenging environment, Cafcass says that effective co-parenting could be the answer.

Today (21 March), a co-parenting[4] conference is being held by Cafcass and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) in London. Over 100 professionals from family justice and health and social care backgrounds have come together, to discuss best practice in co-parenting and how it can be used to support children in the modern age. Now, more than ever, as traditional civic institutions are collapsing, there is an increasing reliance on the institution of the family. The state needs to re-examine its relationship with families in all shapes and forms, so that it’s fit for purpose in the uncertain times we live in.

It is well known that there is immense pressure on the Family Court, with more cases to process than there is resource. This is why Cafcass has today suggested that agencies from across the sector need to place a greater emphasis on co-parenting and find ways to effectively support parents so that they can prioritise the interests of their child, despite the stress they may be suffering during and after separation.

In addition, Cafcass has suggested that a public health approach to the problem[5] would help to prevent cases from reaching crisis point, with health and social care professionals working together in a more integrated way, to refer families to tailored evidence-based support in order to resolve difficulties at an earlier stage. To take this idea forward, the conference will consider how the current embryonic array of co-parenting services which tend to be ‘too little for too long, and then too much too late’ could be better coordinated and commissioned to ensure a more coherent early offer. One option is the development of a co-parenting alliance to encourage professionals to share their expertise and develop a co-parenting strategy to drive change. This idea is being taken forward by several organisations present at the conference, including Cafcass.

Cafcass Chief Executive, Anthony Douglas said: “Toxic parenting is as much a social problem as domestic abuse and knife crime.

Today’s conference will allow us to confront and examine this issue and discuss some of the best ways to support effective co-parenting, so that children have the best upbringing possible as well as being kept out of the court system.”

AFCC Executive Director, Peter Salem said: “AFCC is pleased to partner with Cafcass on this issue, which is of critical importance to children and families.”


[1] Professor Kaare Christensen, ‘More than half of babies born today in wealthy nations will live to 100 years if current life expectancy trends continue’, (October 2009), Lancet

[2] ‘The way we are now’ (2014), Relate

[3] Cafcass data available on request

[4] Co-parenting is defined by Cafcass as a situation where two or more adults who do not live together work cooperatively to raise a child

[5] Teresa Williams. ‘What could a public health approach to family justice look like?’ (January 2019), Nuffield Foundation


It’s hopeful research is being done, but how does the average parent, who’s children are victims of toxic parenting and alienation, access help. It is not obvious.

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