Family courts will presume that each parent will play a role in the life of their child as a result of the parental involvement provision which came into effect on 22 October 2014.
The importance of children having relationships with each parent following family breakdown will be reinforced by a new law that took effect on 22 October 2014, when the parental involvement provision in section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 came into force. It will apply to cases started on or after that date. It will not apply to ongoing proceedings commenced before 22 October 2014.
The Ministry of Justice emphasises that the parental involvement provision is not about giving parents new 'rights' but about 'achieving a culture change by making clearer the court's approach to these issues'. It does not extend to a presumption that a child should spend equal amounts of time with both parents, or even that both parents should directly spend time with the child. The presumption of involvement is simply referred to as '... involvement of some kind, whether direct or indirect ...'. That presumption will not, of course, stop the court finding that based on the particular facts the child's welfare dictates that a parent should not be involved in their life.
The change is intended to encourage parents to be more focused on children's needs following separation and the role they each play in the child's life. The new law will require family courts to presume that each parent's involvement in the child's life will further their welfare, where it is safe. However, the needs of the child will always remain the paramount priority of the courts.
Justice Minister, Simon Hughes, said, "We have made bold reforms so that the welfare of children is at the heart of the family justice system, and there can be no doubt that parents play a very important role in every child's life. Following break up of relationships we are encouraging all parents to focus on the needs of the child rather than what they want for themselves.”
"No parent should be excluded from their child's life for no good reason. 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."
For more information, help or advice, please contact our Family team.