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Family law association Resolution publishes response to Children and Families Bill

Family law association Resolution has released an official response to the draft Children and Families Bill, which was published by the government earlier this month.

The response highlights various aspects of the bill, expressing concern about some elements and making recommendations regarding others.

Four issues are raised as ‘headline points’. The Association believes that pre-court action ‘Family Mediation and Assessment Meetings’(MIAM)s, are still a cause of confusion and uncertainty and suggests that they should be renamed simply ‘Assessment and Information Meetings’ to reflect the fact that “…the purpose is to provide information on all alternatives to courts, as mediation is not the only way to resolve family disputes.”

The association also expresses reservations about the much-discussed introduction of a legal presumption in favour of shared parenting. It is concerned, it says, about how separating parents will interpret the measure.

It hails the introduction of a 26 week timetable for the resolution of family law cases as ‘in the interests of most children’. However, the time limit should not overshadow a continuing need to focus on the needs of the child, states the response, and the government needs to ensure the legal system has the resources needed to meet the time limit.

In addition, the bill “presents some missed opportunities”, the association claims. Further legislation on the grounds for divorce is needed, say Resolution, or “conflict and distress will continue to be the default position for those going through the divorce process.”

Resolution, formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association, represents 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals across England and Wales focused on a non-confrontational approach to family law issues.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. David WB says:


    I’m not sure why they would have reservations about the presumption (such as it is) The current perception is that one parent is awarded control and a sense of ownership; the other has second class status conveyed upon him (or her).

    Who’d have thought that a perception (albeit misguided) that both parents would have an equal involvement, even in terms of time, would be a turn for the worse?

    As for the argument that it might be create a perception of 50/50 time sharing, let’s remember that countries with much higher standards of child welfare and well being (Denmark, to name one) have this as a default with obvious caveats, so it needs to be asked why such a perception should be regarded as a threat.

    Lastly, given that there is no definition of “involvement,” does this so called presumption add anything; will it make any real difference? I’m as sceptical about that (but happy to be corrected)as I’m intrigued by the level of opposition from some quarters.


  2. Bruno D'Itri says:

    The ‘Children and Families Bill’ was debated in the House of Commons on Monday 25 February 2013.

    A transcript of the 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.

    Bruno D’Itri

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