Government to give both parents a right to contact?
|Tim Loughton, cropped à la Legalweek|
The Daily Telegraph appears to have obtained advance information regarding the Government's forthcoming response to the Family Justice Review.
In an article published last night the paper informs us that the Government has apparently rejected Norgrove's recommendation that no legislation should be introduced that creates or risks creating the perception that there is a parental right to substantially shared or equal time for both parents. On the contrary, the Government is intending to introduce legislation under which "courts will be put under a legal duty to ensure that both fathers and mothers are given access to children in divorce settlements". We are also told that: "Parents who refuse to accept the orders will be in contempt of court and risk serious penalties or even jail", as if that were something new and far stricter than the enforcement powers that the courts already have.
The paper quotes Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families Tim Loughton as saying:
"Our vision is to establish that, under normal circumstances, a child will have relationship with both his or her parents, regardless of their relationship with each other.The news will no doubt bring much joy amongst the ragged ranks of fathers' rights campaigners. However, I'll let them and Mr Loughton into a secret: the courts already try to ensure that children have contact with both parents, so don't expect such a change in the law to have a huge effect.
"We must do everything we can to improve the system so that it gives children the best chance of growing up under the guidance of two loving parents."
Otherwise, the article tells us that the Government apparently does agree with Norgrove's recommendations to encourage parenting agreements and for the establishment of an online information hub.
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UPDATE: According to the Telegraph today (7th January), the issue of a 'right of contact' is far from resolved within the Cabinet, with Ken Clarke apparently opposed to any change.