There has been a lot in the press in recent weeks about children being given a legal right to have a proper relationship with both parents after a divorce.
It is reported that Ministers intend to review the law to assist fathers in having a meaningful relationship with their children. According to the Office for National Statistic 3.8 million children are growing up without their father (that is the same as 1 in 3 children).
This news comes shortly after the release of the Norgrove family justice report late last year which concluded that there was no necessity to change the law to give fathers any different position than they have now.
Very many parents are able to sort out the arrangements for the children following the breakdown of their relationship without the necessity of having to have legal involvement and of course, this is the preferred route.
For those who have to refer their case to the court, the current position is that the child has a right to have a relationship with both parents and this has always been the case. In making any decisions about a child, whether it is to do with the time they spend with each parent or any other issues, the best interests of the child are paramount and it is for the court to consider the facts and make a decision which benefits the child.
As a family lawyer who has practised family law for over 25 years, my observation on this whole issue is not that we need more or less legal rights, but that the courts have to adopt a consistent and fair approach. Five different judges would provide five different answers to the same case; some in favour of a father and some not, no matter what the law says. Some accept the concept of shared care and some don’t.
It seems to me that it is the right of both parents and the children for the Ministers to deal with such a situation as this where there is tremendous judicial inconsistency in the courts’ approach to these difficult cases.
If the Ministers are minded to spend yet more time and money examining this situation then it may be also beneficial for all parties involved for them to consider what can be done by way of enforcement of orders when things go very badly wrong. In most cases where a parent is unjustly prevented from having contact with a child it is due to one parent not following an agreement or abiding by a decision. I work with parents to sort out arrangements which are not working, or where there is an absence of such arrangements or indeed to try to enforce orders which are not being complied with.
It is sadly often the case that if a parent is very clear on what they believe to be the right of their child then sometimes they will have to fight for it if it is not a view shared by the other parent!
For independent legal advice on issues relating to children, and the financial consequences upon the breakdown of a relationship/marriage contact Angela for a free initial meeting.
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