New Legal Rights for Fathers after Divorce
In a recent consultation paper, the government is proposing amending the law to explicitly recognise the importance of both parents being involved in a child’s life following their parents’ separation or divorce.
However, the new law will make it clear that this does not mean parents have the automatic right to spend an equal amount of time with their children – this can adversely affect a child’s welfare and can cause many logistical problems.
Family Courts in England and Wales will however have a legal duty to ensure that parents have a continuing relationship with their children if a marriage breaks down – because ‘a child’s welfare is likely to be furthered’.
The consultation is extremely contentious and a number of children’s charities do not support the need for fresh legislation. The NSPCC has said,
‘the importance of children having a meaningful relationship with both parents is already fully recognised by the judiciary and all those working in the family justice system.’
There is concern that the focus will shift to being the rights of the parents and not the child. The primary focus must put the children best interests first – this principle has been clear in law for over two decades. What is right for one child may not be right for another. The ages of the children, where their parents live, their work commitments and the children’s wishes are all relevant factors to consider when advising in these disputes.
For separating / divorcing parents seeking advice, please contact Liz Hebden, 01756 700200 or email [email protected]