Published: 22 October 2014
The presumption of parental involvement outlined in the Children and Families Act 2014 will come into force on 22nd October 2014 and will apply to cases started on or after that date.
When the provisions were first drafted, it involved a presumption of shared parenting and made the headlines. However, during its process through the House of Lords this was changed as there was a concern that there should not be a parental ‘right’ to a particular amount of time with a child but that the child’s welfare should remain as the court’s paramount consideration. Instead, it now introduces a presumption of continued parental involvement into the welfare checklist (s 1 of the Children Act 1989).
The section states that, when making an order concerning a child, the courts must presume, unless the contrary is shown, that the involvement of both parents will further the child’s welfare. Involvement is defined as "involvement of some kind, either direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child's time".
To many observers, this is not a drastic change to the current practice in private law proceedings where the starting point has always been that it is in the best interests of a child to have a relationship with both parents – provided it is safe. Many, in particular father’s groups, will see it as a missed opportunity to enshrine in law a presumption of shared parenting or even worse, the government paying lip service to their concerns whilst trying to gain popularity.
Whilst it is no doubt a step in the right direction – it is only a small one. It appears to be more an attempt by the government to effect a culture change rather than a change in the law. As Justice Minister Simon Hughes said: "This change in the law is not about giving parents new 'rights' but makes clear to parents and everybody else that the family courts will presume that each parent will play a role in the future life of their child."
The change is likely to have little effect on the court’s decision making process. The main concern has to be whether it will have the desired cultural change on separated parents. One can’t help but feel that a change that was once shouted has turned into a whisper - let's just hope parents are still listening.
K J Smith Solicitors have many years of experience in dealing with issues relating to child law and residency. To discuss your circumstances, contact us today to arrange your free consultation on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 020 7070 0330 (Central London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke).