UK Family Law Reform

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The Department of Education has just published their response to the recent public consultation on ‘Cooperative parenting following family separation: proposed legislation on the involvement of parents in a child’s life’

see e-mail from the Ministry of Justice below.

To access this consultation response click on highlighted text above.

In essence this consultation sought views on the possible introduction of a legislative change to the Children Act 1989 to more clearly support the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both of their parents following family separation, when it is in the child's interests. Four possible options were provided for consideration during the consultation process.

Option 1 as defined below was the most popular option with 52% of responders expressing a preference for it to be introduced.

Option 1 - the Presumption approach

This option would insert the following text as a new subsection after section 1(2) of the
Children Act 1989 and before the ‘welfare checklist': "In the circumstances mentioned in subsection (4)(a) or (4A) the court is to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that the welfare of the child concerned will be furthered by involvement in the child's upbringing of each parent of the child who can be involved in a way not adverse to the child's safety"

As a result of feedback gathered during this public consultation the Government “....will be seeking to amend the Children Act 1989 to achieve this.”

“However, the Government acknowledges the need, highlighted by many respondents, to ensure that proper safeguards are in place to protect children and vulnerable parents. The Children Act 1989 already makes clear that the welfare of the child must be the court’s paramount consideration in making decisions about the child’s upbringing; this will remain the case. But following consideration of consultation responses, the Government intends to amend its proposed approach to include stronger wording around safety, with the aim of addressing the concerns raised by respondents.

The Government plans to include the amendment in forthcoming legislation, at the earliest opportunity.”
This proposed legislative change has also been outlined in the following additional documents produced by the MoJ.

Letter to Sir Alan Beith from Edward Timpson MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families

Shared parenting clause to be included in the amended Children Act 1989

Explanatory notes and process diagram

----- Original Message -----
Sent: 05 November 2012 15:36
Subject: Family Justice Reform - shared parenting consultation response

The Family Justice System protects children from harm and helps to resolve disputes between parents who cannot agree on how to look after their children after family separation. Following an independent review of the Family Justice System in 2010-11, the Government is making a number of changes across the system, in relation both to public and private law. These are described in detail in the Government's response to the review, which was published in February 2012 and which accepted the majority of the review's recommendations. More information about the Family Justice Review and the Government's response is available on the family justice review page

In its response to the review, the Government committed to introduce new legislation which emphasises the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both of their parents following family separation, when it is in the child's interests. While most parents are able to make arrangements between themselves for their children when they separate, some parents turn to the courts to resolve disputes.In some cases, the dispute between parents is so deep-rooted that they lose sight of their child's needs. In these cases, the Government wants to send a clear signal that both parents remain responsible for the care of their children when families separate.The Government plans to legislate on this areas were set out in the Queen's speech.

Letter to Sir Alan Beith
Shared parenting clause
Explanatory notes and process diagram

Consultation on shared parenting and enforcement

A public consultation on the proposed shared parenting provisions, and provisions relating to the enforcement of court orders in the family courts, ran from 13 June to 5 September 2012. The consultation attracted 214 responses from a wide range of interested parties.The Government considered all responses which it received and has concluded that a clear 'presumption' that both parents should be involved in a child's life is the most appropriate way to achieve the Government's aims in this area.The Government's full response to the consultation which includes an analysis of the responses received, is now available on the Department for Education's website.

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