In an interview on 'The importance of empirical research in law', (14 October 2011) the Deputy Director, now Director, of the Nuffield Foundation, Sharon Witherspoon MBE, talked about how good research can influence the development of the law and legal policy with reference to the 'Australian experience' and stated,
Now, I think these are very complicated but one growing move has been to have a default 50 / 50 split, a bit like going back to Solomon's Judgment, and what we did is convene some academics, some very notable Australian academics who had looked at what happened when Australia passed a similar law, so had a lot of empirical information about what really happened to ordinary families, and brought them together with some UK academics to talk about that in the UK context at a time when we knew that some parliamentarians were very concerned about this, and were going to bring forward proposed legislation and what that research showed is that it may well be that in some cases, where it is usually mothers were obstructing access, that this 50 / 50 insured that kids saw their fathers.
But there were lots of other consequences that were not so positive. You had fathers using this as a way of saying, 'If you don't walk away with less money than you would otherwise get then I am going to go after my 50 / 50 rights'. You had cases where judges thought they had to do 50 / 50, so even though there were serious concerns over violence or safety things weren't dealt with as seriously as they might be and basically there were a lot of negative social consequences and we were able to fund work that pulled all of those findings from Australia together and looked at the context of the current UK law is and come out with a very clear message in the briefing paper that said this was a step that probably sic was not in the best interests of children, to have a blanket provision.
'You had fathers using this as a way of saying, 'If you don't walk away with less money than you would otherwise get then I am going to go after my 50 / 50 rights'.