Tory MP introduces shared parenting bill

Family Law|March 30th 2017

Conservative MP Suella Fernandes has introduced a bill in the House of Commons which aims to reform the way child contact is decided following a divorce.

This legislation, called the Family Justice Bill 2016-17, would establish a presumption of shared parenting in child arrangement orders. Fernandes believes that the current system is failing non-resident parents and often leaving them with no option but to “spend huge amounts of money in the courts with little guarantee of a fair outcome”.

Writing in The Times, the MP for Fareham, Hampshire, claimed the law “needs urgent reform to prevent parents from acting with impunity”. Those who have their children for the majority of the time can unlawfully prevent the other parent from having contact with them without fear of punishment, Fernandes insisted.

“The criminal threshold for contempt is rarely met and judges are failing to assert their authority swiftly under the 1989 Children Act.”

She called the current family law system an “antiquated system [which] reflects norms of the 1950s and 1960s rather than relationships of today”. Her proposed bill was just one of a number of reforms the MP believed were necessary. These included the introduction of no fault divorce. This was “long overdue” she wrote, citing a recent controversial Court of Appeal decision to deny a woman’s divorce petition.

Fernandes called for spousal maintenance payments to be limited as they are in Scotland and North America. She also said cohabiting couples should have legal rights when they separate, prenuptial agreements should be made enforceable and the way ‘public law’ cases are dealt with should be examined. These involve children who are taken into care by local authorities.

The bill’s second reading is expected to take place on May 12.

For more information on the Family Justice Bill 2016-17, click here.

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  1. Andrew says:

    The House is not sitting on 12 May. That is a nominal date for all the remaining Private Members’ Bills which are going nowhere.

  2. Ben says:

    This is an excellent bill. Any idea Marilyn how to support it?

  3. spinner says:

    This will likely go nowhere beyond a first reading along with Baroness Deech’s financial provisions bill but at least there are people in both houses raising these issue’s and opening the door for other less brave people to start talking about them as well. Maybe even a few male MP’s will get their ball’s back from their wife’s purse and start raising them.

  4. Andy says:

    As my prior colleague makes comment.
    At least areas of equality are shifting may be it a small one..
    Still, at least the MP’s are giving thought to it..must be about the same thought as there expenses form filling in..whilst sitting in chambers…
    We can only hope for change…

  5. Mary Prayne says:

    Children deserve to be able to freely love and spend equal time with both parents and sides of their family, without fear of repercussions! It has long been a Global issue that Children have been denied this Right!

  6. Anne says:

    Hi, I know very little about Parliament or the law so could you please tell me why you think Suella Fernandez will get no further than the first reading of her bill concerning family justice? I am writing to my MP to support her, is there anything else I can do? This bill is so important.

  7. Dan says:

    My Children have been taken away from me without my knowledge just last week. According to the social services and police and family law she is allowed to do this with no consequences for her actions.
    There is no way to prove my children are safe and in school or living well.
    As i write this right now i have no idea where my children are and their mother isn’t forthcoming with any information.
    The only information i was able to get was that she is having problems with her ex partner.

    I am happy to support this bill and hopefully see it come back to the house after the elections.

  8. Lynda thomson says:

    Parental alientation should be a criminal offence and recognised in family law. So should breaching a contact order be made a criminal offence.

  9. Paul says:

    Sadly the Judge at the Family Court in London would not punish an extremely selfish Mother who insisted prior to the first Child Contact Hearing that the baby should not see his Father and British family?
    After about 20 Child Contact hearings during the first 3 years of the babies life, at huge expense to the Father and family whilst the Mother continually acted with impunity and was wrongly on Legal Aid for the entire period, the Judge decided to not punish the Mother but the child and Father by making an Order for a series of child Contact Centre sessions. Totally wrong and not in the interests of the child.
    The same Judge later went ahead with a hearing in which I notified all parties that I would not attend as I was away from the UK, besides this particular Judge could not apply the law fairly and in a correct manner. The same Judge amazingly now decided that the child no longer be able to see a perfectly good Father?? Central London Family Court Judge absolutely mad. My Son was llast seen over 4 years ago happily shouting “Dad Dad” when handed back after a contact at a cafe.

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