In Europe, there have been striking changes in the ways in
which responsibilities are shared between women and men within families,
and notably a shift towards a more even balance. However, laws,
practices and gender stereotypes about the roles of women and men
can sometimes cause fathers to be deprived of sustained relationships
with their children. For a parent and child, the ability to be together
is an essential part of family life, which is protected by the European
Convention on Human Rights. Parent–child separation should only
be ordered by a court and only in exceptional circumstances entailing
grave risks to the interest of the child.
Child residence and access rights can prove particularly sensitive
and may become a source of conflict when parents separate. States
are called upon to introduce or, as appropriate, to make greater
use of shared residence arrangements, which are often the best way
to preserve contact between children and their parents. However,
shared residence must be used discerningly, and always bearing in
mind the interests of the child. Enforcement of residence and access
decisions must also be better ensured by the States.
Greater use should be made of family mediation and equal rights
of parents should be ensured, regardless of their marital status.
Lastly, it is recalled that while parents certainly have rights,
they first and foremost have duties and responsibilities towards