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Entries in England (4)


Shared care legislation for England and Wales 

On 4 February 2013, the long awaited Children and Families Bill was introduced to the Westminster Parliament.

Section 11 of the Children and Families Bill sets out a presumption of shared parenting for consideration by Parliament as proposed legislation. It states that family courts are to "to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of that parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child's welfare." This change will not apply to Scotland.

The Bill contains a number of other reforms including providing for shared parental leave for both parents which will apply throughout the UK. 


Court order seeks to overcome resistance to contact

In a recent English court case, a mother who repeatedly resisted a contact order has been threatened with reversal of residence. 

The father's contact with the two sons (10 and 8) had ceased in August 2010.  Although some successful court-ordered contact was observed in 2011, the mother disengaged with the court.

The Judge found that the mother did not believe that the children needed a relationship with their father or the wider family and was not supporting contact. Furthermore, he was "convinced" that the children loved their father and wanted to be able to see him, but were being prevented from showing their feelings or acting on them.

On balance it was concluded that the children's welfare would be better served by living with the father, unless contact could take place successfully. The Judge took into account that it would be contrary to the children's interests to learn that the sort of manipulation they had been caught up in might succeed.

The mother will be given one more opportunity to facilitate contact. An order for two periods of residential contact has been made, but if this contact does not take place the children will live with the father.


Shared parenting is the key to children’s futures

Maria Miller MPIn the week that the Scottish independence debate wound up a notch, we make no apologies for highlighting another positive move from England - we understand that this scheme will also apply in Scotland and are awaiting further details of how it will work.

The UK Government is taking radical steps to promote collaborative parenting in separated families. A fund, worth up to £14 million over two years, is being established to develop effective and innovative support services for separated and separating families. This fund will provide divorcing couples with web-based applications to help deal amicably with acrimonious separations.

The Department for Work and Pensions says that new services will help parents to foster collaborative relationships with each other after separation, including agreeing child maintenance.

Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller said:  "Shared parenting is the key to children's futures.  The fund will be for interventions that can help parents work together, including intensive counselling, emotional support and mediation, as well as online and telephone advice."

"If separation is unavoidable then having both parents actively involved in their lives is the best way for children to develop. So this is a challenge for organisations and individuals to suggest how we can make this important investment in families really count.”

The announcement follows the Government's commitment to shared parenting which also includes changes to the family justice system and an overhaul of the child maintenance system which is intended to to encourage parents to make their own child maintenance arrangements whenever possible.


English Children's Minister defends shared parenting plans

Tim LoughtonFollowing some letters to the Times newspaper criticising the Westminster Government's plans for shared parenting, Children's Minister Tim Loughton wrote in defence of the forthcoming English legislation:

Sir, Our proposals for shared parenting categorically do not create any right of artificial equality of time with children post-divorce (letter, June 13). The paramount principle that children’s interests and safety must always come first will remain firmly in place. But there is no avoiding the fact that all the evidence is that children do better with both parents as fully involved in their lives as possible.

 The state cannot create happy families, so where disputes end up in court the law must be clearer that children should have an ongoing relationship with both parents after separation wherever possible. Current legislation is not explicit on this point which means that intractable arguments end up in court, with too many children used as pawns in a “winner takes all” game — creating a perception that the courts are biased against one parent, usually the father.

Our proposals will send a clear message that both parents have a joint responsibility to bring up their children, unless there is a welfare reason not to. We are toughening up enforcement of any breaches of court orders, with clear consequences for trying to “play the system” to freeze the non-resident parent out of their children’s lives. This will mean more parents will resolve their disputes out of court, instead of getting dragged into protracted litigation, where the only losers are their own sons and daughters.

Tim Loughton
Children’s Minister