Regular readers of our website articles will recall that a recent Family Justice Review, published by David Norgrove in November 2011 made a recommendation against enshrining in law a right of the child and of the absent parent, often the father, to have a “meaningful relationship”.
This attracted considerable criticism from various quarters. Fathers groups have long held the view that the role of the father, following separation or divorce is more often marginalised whilst the role of the mother is favoured. The Government has now announced that a ministerial working group will be set up to consider making radical changes to the Children Act, which was enacted over two decades ago. The Act sets out the principles which a Judge must apply to determine whether a child should continue to have contact with his or her absent parent and is based on the overriding principle of what is deemed to be in the child’s “best interests” If changes are brought in, the law will endorse the principle that the children of separated or divorced parents should have a full and continuing relationship with both their parents. Undoubtedly the principles which have been applied by the courts over many years, even before the introduction of the Children Act, will continue to apply wherever the issue of a child’s residence or contact is a matter of dispute. However, if the law is changed the courts may be required to begin at a different starting point giving recognition to the child’s right to have an ongoing relationship with both parents unless there are good reasons why this should not happen.
In recognition of this, it is proposed that the labels “Residence Orders” and “Contact Orders” should be abolished and instead be replaced by the term “Child Arrangements Order”.
Under the proposals an absent parent who chooses not to have any contact with his or her children either following their birth, separation or divorce will not be forced to do so. This echoes the present law.
The Government is also keen to promote mediation as a means of resolving any dispute relating to children in order to avoid potentially costly and acrimonious court proceedings. Our solicitors can help guide you as to the options available and assist in the resolution of matters relating to your family and advise you on the best way forward. If you are facing separation or divorce or indeed are separated or divorced and would like advice about matters relating to your children, contact us to arrange an initial FREE meeting with one of our specialist solicitors. Please telephone 01245 228106 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.