UK Family Law Reform

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10. This issue has been increasingly prominent in the media and in political debate in recent months and years. As the Secretary of State's Foreword to the draft Bill points out, around a quarter of the 12 million children in the United Kingdom have parents who have separated or have never lived together. In the vast majority of cases, contact with the "non-resident parent" is maintained through informal arrangements between the parents. However, in about 10 per cent of cases, agreement between the parents over the non-resident parent's contact with a child or children cannot be achieved by negotiation, and an application is made to the family courts for an order against the resident parent specifying the contact which he or she must allow the non-resident parent to have. In 2003-04 there were 40,000 applications to court connected with contact, an estimated 7000 of which were the result of alleged breaches of contact orders.[12] At present, if a contact order is breached, the only recourse available to the courts for enforcement is a finding of contempt of court (which may be punished by a fine or imprisonment), or the transference of the child's place of residence to the other parent. The draft Bill seeks to provide other mechanisms for facilitation and enforcement of contact orders.

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