It has been recently announced that there are plans to shake-up the family justice system to ensure that Fathers get improved access to their children after the breakdown of a marriage.
The Government is planning to draw up plans to amend The Children Act 1989 to address legal rights for children and their parents to allow for more equal access following the breakdown of a marriage. The plans include placing a legal duty on Courts to ensure that both parents are given access to their children in divorce settlements.
This of course is not a new development. A review led by former civil servant David Norgorve last year rejected the need for any legal statement of rights and it appears that this new plan will also face opposition despite the apparent support by the deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and Iain Duncan Smith, the Welfare Secretary.
The Department of Education has said that the new rules will be “much clearer that it is vital for children to have an on-going relationship with both parents.” However, there is concern that the new rules will disappoint Fathers and Father’s rights campaigners as it is doubtful that the rules will give any legal guarantee of equal access. It is understood that there are concerns about promoting automatic shared care following a change of law in Australia which was designed to promote shared parenting and resulted in delays in proceedings as parents often viewed shared parenting to mean a 50:50 division of the time that the child spent with each parent. There therefore seems to be concerns that this would occur in the UK Courts when the Courts are specifically trying to reduce the amount of time that children are involved in proceedings.
There are concerns about providing a “blanket” of rights when every case is different and therefore should be determined on the individual facts. However, there is a counter argument in that legal rights of access can be brought in with the provision of allowing the Court to use its discretion in appropriate cases.
Parents and legal practitioners will therefore have to wait until the proposed reforms are published to see whether there is any substance to these proposals and whether a reform will actually take place to give parents equal access to children upon divorce. An update will follow as soon as new information is released.
Maguire Family Law is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this (including pensions), linked business issues, international aspects and any relevant issues concerning the children.