Family courts have been told to adopt a new approach to separation, and to assume that both parents will continue to play a role in their child’s life following a break up. However, the change to the policy is not expected to make any major changes in welfare or separation cases, because it does not mean that courts will rule parents should spend equal time with their children, or even that both parents should be allowed any form of access.
The new rules make the provision that both parents will play a role in the welfare of the child, either directly or indirectly. Critics have said that there is really no change, and have pointed to the fact that the removal of legal aid means that many separating families simply cannot afford to take their case to court, anyway.
It is becoming increasingly common practice in other countries, including the US, to give equal time to both parents, so that the Mother and Father have a role to play in the welfare and upbringing of their children. While this system is occasionally used in the UK, it is much less common, and typically requires the consent of both parents first. There have been calls, especially by Fathers’ rights groups to introduce new laws that mean greater powers for Dads.
Of the changes, Justice Minister Simon Hughes has said that the welfare of the child is at the heart of all decisions made by the family court, and that this will continue to be the case. He also said that both parents play a very important role in the life of the child, and that family law courts must now presume both parents to have parental involvement is a means of ensuring that courts, and those that use them, are clear on what is expected from all parties.
Where there is any danger of a child suffering abuse, or mistreatment, the courts will still have the power to prevent one or both parents from spending time with the child, but this does not mean that that parent will not be expected to assist in the financial welfare of the child.