A new study has found that one in three children in Britain permanently loses touch with a parent, usually the father, because of their parents failure to divorce amicably.
The study also found that one in five parents said that their primary objective during separation was to make the experience "as unpleasant as possible" for their former spouse.
As a result, a fifth of children involved said that they "felt used" by their parents with a third feeling isolated and lonely.
Half of parents involved said that they had sought a day in court to haggle over residency arrangements despite knowing it made matters worse for their children.
The study, commissioned by family lawyers at Mishcon de Reya to mark the 20th anniversary of the Children Act, is the biggest of its kind and involved interviews with 4,000 parents and children who had been through divorce, reports The Times.
The Act was supposed to improve the welfare of youngsters caught up in parental separation by placing their needs first. But lawyers at the firm say it has clearly not worked and a new approach is now required.Between 15,000 and 20,000 couples go to court to resolve child access disputes each year.
Sandra Davis, head of the family division at Mishcon de Reya, was quoted as saying: "The adversarial, blame-focused system is polarising parents and prevents them thinking forward about the long-term interests of their children."
With divorce cases rarely going to court, there was nowhere for parents who felt bitter and angry to "let blood" other than in residency disputes over access, which are heard in the family court, she added.
The law firm has now set up a panel to work to improve the system for children. They plan to create a "contract" for children to give their parents on how they ought to be treated during a divorce.
The research was carried out by independent analysts this year. The 2,000 parents and 2,000 children were all involved in divorce proceedings since the Children Act came into force in 1989.