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Shared parenting – the way forward?

Lately, there have been a lot of talks in the news and on the radio about shared parenting.
The Justice secretary Ken Clarke has told BBC Radio 4 in his recent interview: ‘We are stating what I think is the view of most people which is that both parents have responsibilities and rights towards their children and the children are entitled to try and maintain contact with both parents if it’s at all possible’.
He went on to say: ‘We want to put back confidence, the courts will have proper regard to the position of fathers and the right of the child to have contact with the father, but of course in the end the interest of the child must be uppermost and it isn’t always possible’.
Traditionally, on separation one parent would become a ‘primary carer’ of the child (having residence of that child) and the other parent would have contact. The contact arrangements can be agreed between the parties, and quite often they are – if not at the time of the separation between the parties themselves, then through meditation or with assistance of family solicitors. Unfortunately this is not always possible and parents end up at Court.
Shared parenting gives both parents an equal role to play in their children’s live. However, the ‘meaningful relationship’ the Government wants separated parents and their children to have is not about equal division of time the child spends with each of the parents but the quality of the parenting received by the child.
But what does that mean?
There is no guidance as to how much time and how much involvement parents should have in their children’s lives for this shared parenting to exist. What’s more, the current legislation and family law practitioners already recognise the importance of children having meaningful relationship with both parents as this is in their [children] best interest (in most cases). Is new legislation therefore really necessary?
Perhaps the Government should focus on how to deal with breaches of Contact Orders by parents rather than mending something that’s not broken? Surely the bigger issue relates to parents who use their children against their ex-partners by preventing contact from taking place (which will still probably be taking place even with shared parenting in force)?
If you have any concerns about the issue or have any questions about family law or the children matters generally, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team  who would be happy to assist you.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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