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Courts to presume parental involvement in the life of a child

20th October 2014

From 22nd October, a Court will now presume that both parents should be involved in the life of a child. This new provision amends the Children Act and was previously viewed with some concern by many professionals. What it does not mean is that a parent has a “right” to a 50/50 division of a child’s time, but instead the Ministry of Justice states that the new law is about “achieving a culture change by making clearer the Court’s approach to these issues”.

It is not entirely clear how this will take place because the new provision does not say how this will be done and in some sense this reflects what was happening in many cases already. In the vast majority of cases, parents can agree a regime for the child arrangements post separation. What this law does not do is provide any clear definition of how the culture change is to be made.

The Children Act makes no distinction between mother and father for the majority of cases in which the arrangements are disputed. Courts have always looked to promote contact, provided that it is appropriate and the changes continue this approach. The Ministry of Justice Simon Hughes suggested that the new law would ensure that “no parent should be excluded from their child’s life for no good reason”.

This assumes that the Court system and the Judges have in some sense taken this approach. That is a fairly controversial starting point and certainly not one that the author has experienced. Children’s arrangements always require a balancing act between what a parent wants and what is right for a child.

Many parents lose their way in this, now more than ever, given that most are not represented by Solicitors and so have little idea as to the approach a Court will take. While some people can adapt to this, many cannot, resulting in the widespread perception that the family Courts are at breaking point.

It remains to be seen whether this relatively simple change has any effect whatsoever on the way in which child arrangements are administered.

If you are having difficulties making satisfactory arrangements in relation to your children, please contact Jim Richards at this office to discuss these further.

George Ide
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