From 22nd October 2014, the court must presume that the involvement of the parent (of whom a child does not primarily live) will further the child's welfare.
The new piece of legislation (Section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014) creates the parental involvement provision which allows for both parents to be involved in their child's upbringing, unless there are exceptional circumstances where this would not be possible.
Whilst the legislation is now in force, many would assume this to mean that they are now able to share 0% of their child's time. Unfortunately, there isn't a strictly equal division of time enshrined into statute.
Many may also assume that this will allow a parent, with no questions asked, to spend time with their child. Again, this is not necessarily the case as an additional piece of legislation (Section 1(6)(a)) has been inserted into the Children Act 1989 which states that a parent of the child concerned would only be involved in the child's life in a way that does not put the child at risk of suffering harm. So, if there isn't any risk of harm, the above assumption does not apply.
Explanatory notes in conjunction with the legislation highlight that the purpose of the amendments is to reinforce the importance of children having an on-going relationship with both parents after family separation, where it is safe, and in the child's best interests.
Whilst the new legislation reinforces the message of keeping children's interests at the forefront of any case, Section 1, Part 1 of the Children Act 1989 (The Welfare Principle) also states that:
"When a court determines any question with respect to... the upbringing of a child... the child's welfare shall be the court paramount consideration" making it difficult to see the difference between the old procedure and the new one.
In all cases that our solicitors have dealt with regarding child contact issues prior to the new legislation coming into force - contact would take place between the on-resident parent and the child, unless there are some allegations of harm or safeguarding that need to be investigated which doesn't sound all too different from the new legislation.
Whilst it is not clear yet whether the legal processes for separated parents will in fact change, it can only be a positive thing that recognition of both parents in a child's life is being enshrined into statute. The difficult part will be trying to explain the new legislation to a parent who is being marginalised in their child's upbringing.
If you would like to speak to one of our solicitors about this topic or relates issues, please give us a call today on 0113 201 4900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have written a number of blogs on this topic in 2012, at the time when the legislation bills were going through the various stages.
You can read them here:Back to Blog