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Entries in England and Wales (2)


Will England and Wales shared parenting law influence Scottish courts?

The newly enacted Children and Families Act has no direct impact on Scottish family law, but even in its severely watered down final form it adds to the pressure for an updating of the Children (Scotland) Act. 

The welfare checklist in the 1989 Children Act now includes a statement about continuing parental involvement:

(2)     In any proceedings in which any question with respect to the upbringing of a child arises, the court shall have regard to the general principle that any delay in determining the question is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.

(2A) A court, in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (4)(a) or (7), is  ... 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.

(2B)     In subsection (2A) "involvement" means involvement of some kind, either direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child's time.

This amendment was diluted considerably as the bill progressed through the House of Commons to remove anything that might risk creating an impression of a parental 'right' to any particular amount of time with a child.  Nevertheless, it lays down a marker.

In the background information produced for the Bill, it was stated that "The Government remains of the view that a legislative amendment will send an important message to parents about the valuable role which they both play in their child's life. As well as helping to promote greater understanding about the way in which court decisions are made, we believe the amendment will, in time, encourage separated parents to adopt less rigid and confrontational positions with regard to arrangements for their children."

This may prompt the English and Welsh courts to be more willing to impose shared care arrangements and it may make parents negotiating in the shadow of the law more likely to agree such arrangements. 

The other change affecting post-separation arrangements is the ending of "contact" and "residence" orders.  Instead, there will be a single order, a "child arrangements order", which deals with the arrangements as to "with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact" and "when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person."

This may remove some of the competition to be the "resident" parent. 

A similar change in the Children (Scotland) Act might make some sheriffs more willing to make orders for shared arrangements.  At present there seems to be reluctance in some Scottish courts to make shared residence orders.  


Shared Parenting Bill published

The UK Government has announced that it intends to introduce a 'shared parenting clause' into the Children Act 1989, with the aim of the legislative change being "to ensure that children are able to benefit from a continuing relationship with both parents following family separation".

This change will have no direct effect in Scotland, but FNF Scotland will be suggesting that a similar amendment to the Children (Scotland) Act could be included in forthcoming Scottish Government legislation on Children's Rights.  This would follow the principles outlined in Article 9 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the hild..

This announcement comes in the Government response to the public consultation on co-operative parenting following family separation.