Government opts for shared parenting presumptions

Family Law|November 7th 2012

In news which should be welcomed by family lawyers across the country, the government has announced that it plans to legislate for a legal presumption in favour of shared parenting. That would mean, in layman’s terms, that the involvement of both parents in a child’s upbringing would become the courts’ default position and they would need a specific and clear reason to exclude one of them, such as potential harm to the child.

Of course, involvement does not mean children will  automatically spend equal time with both parents, a very different arrangement which has been demanded by some fathers’ rights groups.

In its official response to the results of a consultation run earlier this year, the Department for Education sets out the nature of the planned changes. It proposes to insert a clear reference to the importance of shared parenting into the Children Act 1989.

There will be a new addition to – section1 (2A) – reading:
(2A) A court, in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (4)(a) or (7), is as respects each parent within subsection (6)(a) to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of that parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare.
Restrictions on this presumption will then be set in two additional new sub-sections, reading:
(6) In subsection (2A) “parent” means parent of the child concerned; and, for the purposes of that subsection, a parent of the child concerned –
(a) is within this paragraph if that parent can be involved in the child’s life in a way that does not put the child at risk of suffering harm; and 
(b) is to be treated as being within paragraph (a) unless there is some evidence before the court in the particular proceedings to suggest that involvement of that parent in the child’s life would put the child at risk of suffering harm whatever the form of the involvement.
(7) The circumstances referred to are that the court is considering whether to make an order under section 4(1)(c) or (2A) or 4ZA(1)(c) or (5) (parental responsibility of parent other than mother).

An explanatory note accompanying the draft new clauses is pretty clear about their function of this additional text:

“The purpose of this amendment is to reinforce the importance of children  having an ongoing relationship with both parents after family separation, where that is safe, and in the child’s best interests.”

It explains that:

“The effect of this amendment is to require the court….to presume that a child’s welfare will be furthered by the involvement of each of the child’s parents in his or her life, unless it can be shown that such involvement would not in fact further the child’s welfare.”

Hooray for that. Regular readers of this blog may recall that back in June, when the government launched a consultation on possible changes to the law, I welcomed the plans, unlike many others! And these proposed amendments are all I have called for and long overdue. Here we have, finally, black and white legal recognition of the importance of both parents in a child’s life.

I still believe that the following extract from the consultation paper sums up the entire nature of this thorny issue in a very effective – and indeed – unarguable way:

“The decisions made by family courts about the upbringing of a child are based on the principle that the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration. The benefit of ongoing involvement with both parents is already factored into these decisions, but it is not explicitly stated in the legislation that guides this process (the Children Act 1989). This has contributed to a perception that the law does not fully recognise the important role that both parents can play in a child’s life.”

As I read those words again, I find myself thinking of the many clients I have worked with over the years who have been involved in child disputes with their former partners. Ninety nine per cent of them are not extreme and will welcome this legal recognition that both parents have an important role to play in their children’s lives, provided there is no risk of harm.

Yes, some parents are more difficult and more prone to such extreme behaviour trying to prevent former partners from having any access to their children at all . But I think these proposals could benefit even them. At the moment, English and Welsh law has absolutely nothing to say about the rights of non-resident parents and I believe it is this very void which encourages some difficult parents to go to their extremes. Provided these amendments are carried through, in the future family lawyers will be able to show the new clauses to those stubborn parents and say ‘look at the law’. The balance will be positively affected. Now the parent opposing contact will have the burden of proof to explain ‘why not’  rather than ‘why’ I believe this is fair and would encourage at least some to take a more sensible and moderate approach to parenting issues.

By contrast, Scottish law – which in many respects is far more modern, with its cohabitation law for example – already contains, in section two of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, an explicit declaration of parental rights.

The government appears determined to push forward with the proposed changes in the face of formidable opposition from many of the great and the good within the legal establishment. Good for them.

I cannot help but wonder how the Law Society will respond to this new announcement. They have been firmly opposed to the proposals from the start, saying, when the public consultation closed in September, that:

‘The welfare of children must always come before the rights of parents and no legislation should create or point to a perception that there is an assumed parental right to substantially shared or equal time for both parents.”

That is not what I believe is intended.

I too have never believed in a strict concept of fifty-fifty shared parenting. It is impractical and can be hugely disruptive to the lives of the children involved. But these changes do not make any such declaration. Nor, I think, are they likely to promote such a perception. The wording of the new clauses is careful and unambiguous. It is very clear the welfare principle will still apply and final decisions on appropriate parenting will remain with the courts. As they should do. But both parents will at long last receive legal recognition – as they should do.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. JamesB says:

    Don’t think this means anything.

  2. JamesB says:

    Spin maybe.

  3. Nick Langford says:

    “The wording of the new clauses is careful and unambiguous.”
    But then there is that peculiar word “suggest”, which is obviously careful and placed there with intent, but hardly unambiguous. What do you make of that?

  4. Observer says:

    “I too have never believed in a strict concept of fifty-fifty shared parenting. It is impractical and can be hugely disruptive to the lives of the children involved. ”
    I don’t know anyone who believes this either. What they believe is that fifty-fifty should be a presumed starting point in intractable cases. A starting point is not the same as a solution. It’s just important to have that starting point presumed so as to take away the perception that one parent has more power, and to communicate that the court will not tolerated controlling parents.
    The tinkering with language did not go far enough, and will only lead to more false allegations, which will in all likelihood clog up the courts more than already is the case.

  5. John says:

    Whilst this development should be welcomed for all the reasons you give, I fear that it may be near meaningless unless accompanied by a number of other measures if it is to offer any prospect of ensuring that children are allowed to benefit from a meaningful relationship with both parents.
    In particular I cannot see that much will be different without changes in the following areas.:
    1. The principle of a “meaningful relationship with both parents” is going to need some definition and accompanying guidance for the judiciary. Without that it may be near meaningless. There has always been a presumption that a child should have a relationship with both parents – if not enshrined in primary legislation – but there has been no consistency across family courts as to how that presumption is implemented when it is. The norm all too often has been alternate weekends, 2 days in 14, no basis on which a child can benefit from a Father’s parental input.
    2. There needs to be an urgent review of leave to remove and internal relocation given current precedents fail to support the shared parenting principle. Current case law allows one parent to remove a child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales and there is nothing the other parent can do about it. Internal relocation can cause many of the same problems and needs to be similarly reviewed.
    3. Improved enforcement mechanisms will need to be not only available but robustly used to combat the current unacceptable level of non-compliance with court orders, including move away from frequently expressed judicial view that it cannot be in a child’s best interests for his mother to be ‘punished’, a view which disregards the long term interests of the child in being allowed to benefit from a relationship with both parents.
    4. There needs to be a move away from the damaging ‘wishes and feelings’ approach, an approach developed purely to address Cafacss resource pressures and one that disregards wider welfare interests, burdens a child with taking decisions that they are too young to take and understand the long term implications of, empowers the mother to alienate and harmfully divides a child’s loyalties.
    5. There needs to be greater recognition of research and authoritive studies into parental alienation and it needs to be taken into account by Cafcass, particularly when producing reports applying the Welfare Checklist given the emotional harm it can inflict and way it influences children’s wishes and feelings. Judicial decisions also need to reflect a better understanding of this, including more consistent application of case law around the subject.
    6. There needs to be imposition of sanctions to deal with false allegations, particularly given new incentive to make them created by confining qualification for legal aid to cases where there is domestic violence and the “when it is safe to do so” caveat.
    Without these accompanying measures, mothers who already have residence, which they do in 90% of case in the current discriminatory system, will have no incentive to agree to anything in mediation. And many don’t, knowing that a judge will find in in favour of their idea of what “meaningful contact” amounts to. This is why so many children end up losing contact with their fathers.

  6. JamesB says:

    I agree with John. Spin went out with Tony Blair and Iraq. That the Government honestly values the roles of fathers and mothers and that they are both extreamly valuable to society means precisely Diddley Squat to me and every other father who has been and will continue to be shafted upon divorce and separation with contact and money. G.

  7. u6c00 says:

    To me , the wording is entirely ambiguous. There are at least 3 terms that are open to argument.
    1. “involvement of that parent in the life of the child.” What is involvement? Is indirect contact involvement? What about no contact but invitations to parents evening where the child will not be present? It seems to me that involvement does not equate to direct contact, and therefore does not go far enough.
    2. “a way that does not put the child at risk of suffering harm.” This one is ridiculously vague. My child is at risk of suffering harm when he crosses the road holding my hand. Does that mean that I ought not to have any ‘involvement’ with my child? It is non-specific about the type of harm, the degree of harm, the cause of the harm etc. What about if my child is witness to abuse at handovers that is limited entirely to the resident parent? That’s harm certainly, but does that justify a lack of involvement (whatever that is defined to mean)? The court needs to balance risk of harm against proven benefit in making orders. Something which it doesn’t always do successfully now, without a specific emphasis on the child suffering harm as implied by these changes.
    3. “Suggest” as has been stated above. Extremely open to interpretation there.

  8. JamesB says:

    What I would value would be the abolishion of the CSA and the moving back of child support to the courts. I do also agree that an assumed starting point in negotiations on contact of 50:50 would be best.
    I will also add, as an NRP, that the more contact with me my children have, the happier and better they are.
    I also add that a lot of these so called experts don’t know their a%^& from their elbow, and I’m talking about the Judges, CSA, CAFCASS, Gingerbread, Politicians (including Cameron). I do think that Ian Duncan Smith at the DWP is good though and I would like to see him continue in this role for many years to come, makes a good change as the rest of the DWP ministers of the last 10 years lasted 6 months each, he is going on 3 years now and that is good. I value his integrity on staying there and that cameron tried to move him shows how senior politicians have really valued families in recent decades. I hope and think that is changing with IDS. Actions would be better than words though.

  9. JamesB says:

    Valid pre-nups for all also would be good please.

  10. Peter Johnston says:

    My daughter is a beneficiary of shared parenting. In a relationship children often only receive the views of the dominant parent – they do what they dictate etc.
    In a split relationship they get the benefit of both parents individually – their take on life, their way of working at things…
    They also get the benefit of two partners.
    And learn to decide for themselves which route to follow from the two (or four) offered.
    That’s a much richer environment for a child to grow up in.

  11. Peter Johnston says:

    Regardless of how lawyers dilute or subvert the message in the courts, the concept that a child deserves a healthy chunk of time with both parents is important and will, I believe cross the divide from minority to majority view.
    Too many mums believe the child is theirs alone and they are supported in these beliefs by government agencies, charities and a host of women’s groups.
    Too many children are damaged by these outdated and dangerous views.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      I couldnt agree more that it is important not to get bogged down in the words but more understanding of the overall approach. That is what I believe is required. It is important that in advising clients, or simply reading the law online or in a book, the message gets out that parenting includes two parties.
      This message should help couples resolve their disputes more easily.

  12. Paul says:

    Some good points have been made about the use and interpretation of a child being put at risk of harm. Its interesting to note, it is the same language used in Public Law except with the removal of the word SIGNIFICANT which I would say is very significant !! Almost anything we do in our day to day lives presents a risk of harm but very little that you would term as a significant risk so we just get on with it. I am therefore very suspicious why this word has been removed for father involvement in a childs life. This could legally give to much power of discretion and opportunity for judges to place undue weight on the grounds of potential risk to a child from involvement with father and we would be back to square one. At the very least, there needs to be clear guidelines on the definition of risk.

  13. Peter Johnston says:

    One thing which must be addressed is that courts may recognise two parents but public services don’t.
    They only allow for the fifties notion that a child lives at one location and Mum is the carer.
    We need schools, medical practices, councils and social services to recognise children have two parents.
    I’ve been fighting this for a while – I don’t get to see homework, medical records or any other government data because I’m not the resident parent.

  14. Observer says:

    The reaction to the so-called ‘shared parenting clause’ in trashy newspapers like the Guardian (surely worse than the Sun or Daily Mail now) is also quite interesting to consider.
    The suggestion that children having a dad would put “women and children” (invariably referred to together like this, as if they occupied some bubble together) at risk is not only absurd and misogynist, but outrageously hypocritical in that it conveniently leaves out all manner of emotional abuse suffered by children whose dads have been bullied out of the picture.
    John’s points above are excellent ones, as are Peter’s about the various other services that collude in refusing to see separated dads as human beings.

  15. Flash Jack from Gundagai says:

    This is good news, but I have some questions…
    A. In reading the documents on the education web site, I could not find the governments responses to how it enforce breached court orders ( did I miss something?)
    B. how will these change affect leave to remove and Payne vs Payne ?
    Will these changes make it more difficult to remove a child to another country, and put the onus on the departing parent to prove how such a removal from the other parent is beneficial to the child best interests?
    C. How will these changes affects mothers wish to move away with the children [internal relocation], and the impact that move will have on the child having their father fully involved in the child’s that was the case prior to the proposed move by the mother ( where such a move may mean a change of school for the child)
    Will these changes now make it more difficult for a parent [usually the mother] to move a child away from their father, especially when that change may also involve a change of schools?

  16. JamesB says:

    Couple of things.
    1. Getting school reports and notifications as a NRP is impossible and that is an outrage. Should be 100 x easier then it is currently. That would help and be more than just words if the Government actually did something about that.
    2. Sharing the children in a positive way with them spending time with both ex partners does give both ex partners more breathing space and ability to get out, go to the cinema and other things and that is a worthwhile consideration as can help. I know primary carers with 100% looking after time find it very very hard. So, best not be stuborn for everyone’s sake. I do see a lot of women who just think they own their children and don’t let anyone else in and that is wrong. Co-operative parenting is best, better in a relationship, but when not, then is better than not seeing the other parent or fighting.

  17. JamesB says:

    Just so as to be non sexist, Dad’s can be and often are as bad also in this regard. Using children as weopons is bad.

  18. Peter Johnston says:

    This legal change will make things easier, James and may be the start of a raft of changes. When the law enshrines shared parenting, it will be easier to put pressure on schools, medical practices etc. to do so as well. This includes giving equal information to both parents – surely a given.
    More importantly it should also include getting approval from both for major decisions. For example, at the moment the local authority communicates with only the resident parent on choice of school. Only one parent is asked to consent to operations. Only one next of kin is stored in many databases.
    But I can see a reluctance for public bodies to get caught in the middle between warring parents and this may slow the pace of change.

  19. JamesB says:

    Yes Peter, these things could be done a lot better. It is tiring being regarded as a bad person when asking school Drs etc for such information, that sucks, government should change that and give assumed 50:50 starting point on contact and more contact, hopefully this will do so, but I won’t hold my breath.

  20. Arrbee says:

    “I too have never believed in a strict concept of fifty-fifty shared parenting. It is impractical and can be hugely disruptive to the lives of the children involved”
    While a strict adherence to fifty-fifty is obviously wrong, where it is practical – safely, financially, geographically and logistically – what then? Surely the onus is still on the (potentially) RP to demonstrate why the (potentially) NRP should not be allowed to provide equal love and care to their children. Why should they dictate to their children why they don’t see the NRP (and let’s face it, that’s usually Dad) so much, if he is able to offer it?

  21. Yvie says:

    Money talks Arrbee – that’s why. My son pays his ex. 25% of his salary at the moment, yet his eldest son is attending school with the backs of the shoes split down to the heel!

  22. Observer says:

    “Just so as to be non sexist, Dad’s can be and often are as bad also in this regard. Using children as weopons is bad.”
    James, you are absolutely right. If everything was set up in favor of dads, and if we had hundreds of women-hating men’s groups constantly lobbying the government and spreading lies in the press, the majority of the male buggers would surely abuse the system in the same way. The problem is that it is currently the obverse. Hence the need for the 50/50 presumption.

  23. JamesB says:

    Yes, ok. I agree with that.

  24. Yuri Joakimidis says:

    As changes to custody law go the UK government’s proposal is about as modest a proposal as can be imagined and if it were enacted, may well not achieve even the slightest change to the status quo. After all, what does a “meaningful relationship” mean? Shared parenting advocates in England have been fighting for the rights to of children to be truly cared by both parents for years and the announced proposal falls far short of ensuring the type of real relationships children need with their mothers and fathers. It may be better than nothing, but it’s nowhere near good enough.
    To paraphrase one family law observer “After years of consideration, the British coalition government of Conservative David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Nicholas Clegg has issued its proposed amendments to the Children Act of 1989. To anyone who believes that fathers and children should have meaningful relationships post-divorce or separation, the proposals are an insult. To anyone who believes that mothers should be freed of some of the obligation of caring for children following divorce or separation, the proposals are a disgrace. Put simply, after years of promises, after years of study, the proposals are a prescription for maintaining the dysfunctional status quo.”

  25. JamesB says:

    In defence of ‘the dysfunctional status quo’, at least by being dysfunctional that puts more of the responsability on the parents themselves and out of the hands of the lawyers and that’s a good thing.
    Yes, that’s where I stand on this whole subject and have written to my MP the same. Please do not change one thing with regards to either the family law MCA 1973 or the CSA. Then most people can ignore them and get on without disruptive dysfunctional government or lawyer intervention into their lives, except if they need to call the Police.
    Anytime the government intervene in the family it makes the matter worse. It is a matter for the religions or the families themselves, not Government. With the Obvious exception of honour killings and forced marriages., but they are matters for the police, so I am not contradicting myself. I’d happily see the feminist family law courts dwindle and die as fewer get married or go to them.

  26. JamesB says:

    I’d also happily see the CSA dwindle and die as fewer and fewer people use them and the hopefully become entirely discredited and dysfunctional, and unfit for their (entirely mis-guided, best I can call them) purpose.

  27. JamesB says:

    And I am not a woman hater, I have 2 daughters and a partner and love ’em to bits. I just prefer them to be ‘with’ their families and partners rather than in the (misguided) hands of Government and Lawyers. Think that sentament is apolitical and you can be a supporter of any political party and think like that, just sensible.

  28. JamesB says:

    And nice ;-).

  29. Truffle says:

    What happens when one parent refuses to adhere to an equal division of residential care made in a court order? My friend was taken to court by her ex-husband in 2011, He had continued to drag her to court year after year until he got what he wanted even though he was given extremely generous and flexible contact with their child since the split. Anyway, the final time the judge ordered that if my friend returned to live in the child’s hometown (she lived less than 20 miles away) the child would spend an equal division of time between his parents residences. Until that time the child would live predominately with his father. My friend duly moved back to the area but now the father is refusing to adhere to the equal division order and allows her no more contact than she had before she moved (i.e every other weekend and a weekday evening for 2 hours) She is absolutely distraught as she misses her child so much, he had been living mainly with her since his birth until the end of 2011 when the last court order was made, he was 6 at the time of the order. We have tried to find out what to do next as she simply cannot afford to go back to court to make her ex comply with what the judge ordered after he spent so long dragging her through the courts in the first place. There is plenty of advice for enforcing a contact order but not an equal division of residence, what should she do?

  30. Bruno D'Itri says:

    The ‘Children and Families Bill’ was debated in the House of Commons on 25 February 2013. A transcript of this Parliamentary debate can be found here:
    Tim Loughton spoke passionately and with much insight about the very real problems many non-resident parents (usually fathers) face in trying to maintain meaningful contact with their children. He was particularly scathing of resident parents who use the ‘system’ to exclude non-resident parents, and of the ‘system’ itself which fails to deter or prevent such abhorrent behaviour.
    In contrast, Sir Alan Beith appeared completely ignorant of these realities. He maintained that no shared parenting amendment was necessary.
    Beith suggested that the Paramountcy Principle would be undermined by the proposed shared parenting amendment.
    Loughton made it very clear to Beith that the proposed amendment plainly specifies that the paramountcy principle remains ‘paramount’ and that contact would not be ordered by the court if there was a verifiable risk of harm to the child. This plain explanation did not seem to satisfy Beith.
    Loughton recounted the fact that, of 3 million family breakdowns in one particular year, 1 million fathers lost all contact with their children. Plainly, this cannot be good for the welfare of those hapless children.
    Loughton explained that the shared parenting amendment was designed to serve the Right of a child to be parented by both its parents.
    In contract, Beith intimated that the amendment served the Rights of Parents rather than those of their children.
    Beith suggested that the amendment would cause non-resident parents to expect 50% parenting time with their children.
    Loughton made clear that the amendment was qualitative rather than quantitative in its design, and that it was plainly non-prescriptive regarding parenting time.
    Beith stated that the popular press was touting the idea of 50/50 time, and that non-resident parents would therefore arrive at the same understanding.
    Loughton stated that the misrepresentation of the amendment by the polular press would not prevent the Government from going ahead in the interests of child welfare.
    As the new legislation is enacted, the press and the general public will need to be educated as to exactly what it entails and what parenting arrangements can be expected by separating parents.
    Over all, I’d say Loughton won the argument.
    Beith’s position remains very closely wedded to that of the Law Society.
    It is no too difficult to speculate as to why the Law Society favours the current status quo and why it is against shared parenting legislation. Plainly, there are considerable vested financial interests in the continuation of non-resident parents going to court to re-establish or enforce contact with their children.
    Precisely why Sir Alan Beith follows the Law Society’s stance requires a little more fanciful speculation, perhaps concerning the methodology and efficacy of lobbying by special interest groups!
    Bruno D’Itri

  31. Bruno D'Itri says:
    I’ve just been fiddling with my SatNav. I zoomed right out and managed to get the whole of Western Europe on the screen, although this didn’t particularly help me with my one mile journey to the local shops!
    While I was fiddling, it made me think about the Children and Families Bill, and about the need to ‘zoom out’ for some useful perspective.
    There has always been a direct link between societal norms and legislation.
    Most significant shifts in societal norms have led to corresponding changes in legislation. Anti-discrimination legislation for people of different race, gender and sexual orientation all eventually followed in the wake of changes in society.
    However, in each case, resistance from what I shall call ‘the forces of conservatism’ was powerful. There were significant vested interests in the status quo, and those who stood to lose out were not going to accept change without a fight!
    In each case, honourable campaigners for justice and reform were discredited, undermined, attacked and even murdered.
    Martin Luther King Junior’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ touches my heart each time I read it. It is the quintessential cry of any person facing discrimination and demanding fairness and justice.
    Now, I perfectly accept that Matt O’Connor of ‘Fathers 4 Justice’ is NO Martin Luther King Jr!
    However, his demand for justice for children is Righteous. It is Good. It is Honourable.
    A child surely deserves to enjoy the love, care and guidance of both its natural parents.
    The ideology of parenthood of the 1960′s and 70′s saw the mother as the ‘natural’ carer and the father as the ‘natural’ financial provider. Family legislation reflected this ideology.
    Of course, societal norms have now changed. In 21st century Britain, BOTH genders are now viewed as natural carers and financial providers.
    Has family legislation fully caught up with this societal change? No.
    Do fathers face systematic gender discrimination? Yes.
    Is such discrimination perpetrated via the artificial legal constructs of “primary carer / resident parent” and “non-primary carer / non-resident parent”? Yes.
    I am a good, responsible and conscientious parent. I know I am because a judge found me to be so!
    And yet I was forced to endure two periods of separation from my beautiful children: firstly for 8 months and subsequently for 1.5 years.
    I now see my children once a month in a motel room in Eastern Europe.
    Any genuine ‘meaningful involvement’ in my children’s lives has been significantly undermined.
    I am not alone in my experience.
    There are thousands of perfectly good and caring “non-primary carer / non-resident parents” (mainly fathers) who face similar discrimination in Britain today.
    To the “discrimination deniers”, to those who seek to preserve their vested interests in the status quo, and to those who are simply unaware of the discrimination, I say, think of that child, think of what he is missing, think of what you might say to him if he asked you why he couldn’t see his dad.
    Let us open our hearts and minds.
    Let family legislation properly reflect the realities of modern parenthood.
    Let us support Tim Loughton MP and his ‘Shared Parenting’ legislation in the Children and Families Bill.
    Bruno D’Itri

  32. louise says:

    How will the new shared parenting affect international relocation of children under section 13 CA 89 and Payne v Payne [20001]? Thanks

  33. Bruno D'Itri says:

    A very good question, Louise.
    For my own view, see the comments section of:
    Best wishes
    Bruno D’Itri

  34. David W says:

    Now that the C & F Bill has received Royal Assent and this clause diluted to the level of worthless, I wonder if you have any thoughts of your own to offer on what many feel to have been an opportunity lost to the self interest of the lone parent lobby?
    Apologies if you have done so elsewhere?
    Kind regards
    David W

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear David,
      I haven’t and I’m sure you can guess that I do think its a wasted opportunity. I was fortunate to have two loving parents, who equally contributed in different ways to my upbringing and still did long afterwards because I was always their child. Similarly I think my son has had the same experience. Of course I believe two parents should be involved, and input in their own ways into their child. When a parent has had constant involvement and it’s suddenly denied then to my mind it’s wrong.
      But the law is child focused. In the vast majority of cases (let’s not forget that) this is recognised and disputes are relatively easily resolved by parents anxious to do the best for their child irrespective of their own feelings towards their former partners. But there are cases where the parents are so polarised the children’s interests fade into the background and these go to court.
      I think in court Judges do recognise the valuable contribution both parents can make and the benefit for a child of both their contributions and I think they rule accordingly. Again this often gets overlooked, but in reality the vast majority of cases do resolve before during or as a result of the judgement. But in the fewer, very difficult cases, I’m not sure any statutory wording would satisfy both parents and also given their intractable positions, ultimately be in the best interests of the child.
      Does this help to explain why Ive not commented earlier? More and more Im not sure there is any point?

      • David W says:

        Thanks for responding so promptly. I was interested in your views as I know you were one of a select few in the legal profession who supported the presumption. I was never sure that it would have made a huge difference in practice but thought it a principle worth stating in the legislation.
        I know that most parents co-operate in the best interests of the children but I don’t think they would have been much affected either way in any event and doubt the change was aimed at them anyway; any difference the clause would have made would have been to the difficult cases we have to battle out in the courts.
        And you are probably right that there is little point in saying much- I just find it hugely disappointing that a presumption so well supported by child centred research and one which functions so well in other countries was, in the end, cast aside with such seemingly cavalier disregard.
        Thanks again for replying.
        Best wishes
        David W

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