A group of children’s charities have welcomed the government’s recent decision to change the wording of a clause setting out shared parenting in the forthcoming Children and Families Bill.
Clause 11 of the Children and Families Bill had set out a presumption in favour of shared parenting. This stated that the courts should “presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of that parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare”.
However, the Shared Parenting Consortium, whose members include the NSPCC, claimed the phrasing could lead to some parents assuming they were entitled to 50-50 access to their children. The clause has now been amended to define the term involvement as meaning either direct or indirect contact and not necessarily a specific division of time.
The Coram Children’s Charity was a leading member of the Consortium. Director of International Programmes and Research Professor Carolyn Hamilton said:
“The message to separating parents is that neither mothers nor fathers are entitled to a legally binding presumption of shared access. Decision-making instead should rightly focus on determining the needs and best interests of each individual child, rather than focusing on the expectations of parents.”
“Ninety per cent of contact cases are settled out of court, so this amendment is crucial. It will make it clear on the face of the Bill that the welfare of children is paramount.”
The Children and Families Bill completed its third reading in the House of Lords earlier this month and will now return to the House of Commons for further consideration.