The Government has now launched its proposal to make it clearer in law that the children of parents who split up, should still have both parents actively involved in their lives so long as it is safe for this to happen.
Currently there is a consultation taking place until 5th September 2012, asking for comments on 4 different possible changes to the law:-
- The “presumption” approach - This is the Government’s preferred option and would mean a change in law so that Family Courts have to presume that both parents should be involved in their child’s upbringing. Exactly how this happens would still be for the parents to agree or for a Family Court Judge to decide.
- The “principle” approach - Rather than creating a legal presumption, this option would create a general principle that both parents should have the fullest possible involvement in their child’s life. This would still mean if both parents could not agree what should happen, then a Family Court Judge could decide. However, a legal “principle” would mean that the Family Court Judge would have more choice about whether or not both parents should be involved in their child’s life. Therefore a legal “principle” is not as strict as a legal “presumption”.
- The “starting point” approach - Rather than there being a “presumption” or a “principle”, this option would mean that the Family Court Judge should start off by thinking that both parents should be involved in their child’s upbringing, but the Judge could then have more discretion on how much involvement each parent actually has in their child’s life in the future.
- The “welfare checklist” approach - This would mean that the involvement of the parents in their child’s life would be one of a number of factors which a Family Court Judge would have to take into account when making a decision for a child’s future welfare.
“Studies show that following a divorce, 90% of children reside mainly with one of their parents, with just 12% of these children living with their father”, comments Emma Hamilton Cole specialist Family Lawyer and Partner at Coles Miller. “The Government is seeking to introduce new law to redress the balance; so that more children have their fathers involved in their lives after the breakdown of the parent’s relationship. However, leading professionals involved with children, including the NSPCC, do not agree that new law is what is needed to help the children. Perhaps what is needed is funding for support and information programmes so that parents who split up better understand how important it is to try and work together for their children’s future benefit”.The result of the Government’s consultation should be published by October 2012. It is then expected that new legislation should pass through Parliament in 2013, to come into effect in 2014.
Whatever happens with the law concerning children, all members of Coles Miller’s Family Law Team remain committed to helping parents resolve their family problems in a constructive and non-confrontational manner. This includes keeping the welfare of any children as the paramount consideration.
If you would like legal advice on a family issue then please contact Emma Hamilton Cole on 01202 673011 or one of her colleagues within the Family Team.