Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Queen's Speech: As anticipated


Considering that it was heralded as having a family-friendly agenda, the Queen did not say that much about families in her Speech to Parliament today. This is what she said:
"My Government will strive to improve the lives of children and families.

My Government will propose measures to improve provision for disabled children and children with special educational needs. New arrangements will be proposed to support children involved in family law cases, reform court processes for children in care and strengthen the role of the Children’s Commissioner.

Measures will be proposed to make parental leave more flexible so both parents may share parenting responsibilities and balance work and family commitments."
I understand, however, that these measures will be contained in a new Children and Families Bill. I also understand that the following matters of note (but no surprise) to family lawyers are on the agenda:

  • A speeding-up of the adoption process, particularly for ethnic minority children;
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  • Reforms to the family justice system to speed up care proceedings so no cases take more than six months; and
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  • A consultation on legal options to strengthen the law to ensure that, "where it is safe and in the child's best interests", both parents are able to have a relationship with their children after they separate.

As anticipated, the Queen's Speech did not include a Bill to introduce gay marriage.

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UPDATE: You can find details of the Bill in this DfE press notice.

4 comments:

  1. At last, those of us who have campaigned for a legal presumption of shared parenting have something to cheer!
    It is highly regrettable that, in attempting to enact the primary objective of the Children Act - to serve the best interests of the child - our learned judiciary has failed to understand and/or give sufficient weight to the importance of the role of a father (a.k.a non-resident 'contact' parental unit) in the life of a child. This has been very evident in relocation cases, in which 'leave to remove' has been granted far too freely. In the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, Sir Nicholas Wall was presented with a plethora of scientific research which demonstrated, beyond all reasonable doubt, that children fare significantly better, on a wide range of developmental indices, when they are permitted to enjoy a close, meaningful, shared-parenting relationship with both parents. He may have opted to ignore that research and evidence, but the Government - to whom it was also sent - has not.
    Bruno D'Itri

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As to relocation (which is not strictly the subject of this post), see the comment of Northern Lights on the previous post.

      Delete
  2. No doubt Mavis McClean et all will do their level best to keep shared parenting by law to the absolute minimum.

    ReplyDelete
  3. With the announcement in the Queen’s Speech recently, Mr Cameron and his Government finally appear to have got the message.
    They plan to strengthen the legal right of a father to have meaningful access to his children, post separation/divorce.
    They finally recognise that family law, as it stands, fails to serve children’s best interests in this extremely important respect.
    Let us hope that any resulting modification to the Children Act (1989) will be robust enough to effectively safeguard children’s rights to be parented by both parents.
    Shared Parenting does NOT, as many critics would have us believe, necessitate an exact split of parenting time. This would be highly impractical in most cases. Rather, it is expected to range upwards from 20%. Another objection from the critics is that it will endanger children. Plainly, Shared Parenting will ONLY be available to parents who are NOT a proven risk to their children (mere allegation from disgruntled ex-partners should not be enough!).
    My personal interest concerns Relocation law, which, despite some slight improvement last July (Re K), still far too easily acts to separate children from one of their parents (in practice, usually their father) by thousands of miles.
    Plainly, a father cannot hope to enact any semblance of a Shared Parenting Plan when his children are residing on the other side of the planet!
    I, and many others, have campaigned vigorously on the issue. A significant turning-point was achieved in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50 in 2010. In this particular case, the President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, publicly conceded there was a significant risk that Relocation law – in the form of Payne v Payne (2001) – relegated the harm done to children by significantly and irrevocably damaging the child’s meaningful relationship with the left-behind parent. The case was widely reported in legal circles.
    Despite this concession, however, Sir Nicholas did nothing to rectify the problem, and, sadly, later resiled from his own criticism of Payne v Payne. We had expected more from the President. When there existed a significant risk of harm to hundreds of children, the Precautionary Principle appeared to mean nothing to him.
    My current hope is that, with the expected introduction of a legal presumption of shared parenting, Payne v Payne will finally be overturned.
    I have already made my views known to Mr Loughton, the Children’s Minister. Perhaps others will join in!
    Best wishes
    Bruno D’Itri

    ReplyDelete

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