The Children’s Minister has announced the Government’s intention to amend Section 1 of the Children Act 1989.
It is proposed that the Act will be amended in order to introduce a “shared parenting presumption” to “send a clear signal” to recognise the important role that both parents play to a child’s overall welfare.
The Government has concluded, after much consultation and strong views from both sides, that such a presumption should be introduced, but only where it is safe and in the child’s best interests.
One should therefore ask the question as to whether this will have a significant impact on the current approach.
It should be very clearly noted that the presumption that both parents should be involved in their child’s life does not assume that there be an arrangement for equal time between the parents. Ultimately, the welfare of the child must still be considered before the perceived “rights” of the parents to have equal time.
This, I think, is where the confusion is likely to arise between parents. In a situation where a mother and father are unable to agree the parenting arrangements for their child, it is ultimately left to the courts to make a decision. I imagine that such disagreement between parents will be fuelled by this latest announcement, with one parent stating that the child’s time should be shared equally between them.
It is very clear that both parents should work together to develop a shared care arrangement which is in the best interests of their child, assuming that they will both be involved in the child’s life, unless it is not safe or would be detrimental to the child.
In practice, I imagine there will be little difference to the way in which the courts deal with such disputes. The welfare of the child must always come first, regardless of any presumptions which are introduced at this time.
Sue Mason is an experienced Family Law Solicitor at Clarion and is able to offer advice and assistance regarding all matters concerning family breakdown. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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