Separating Parents – How Will The Report Of The Family Justice Review Panel Affect You?
The Family Justice Review Panel has published an interim report and concluded that the Family Justice System needs significant reform. Whilst a package of proposals has been recommended a public consultation on these proposals will now take place. There will be no immediate change to the existing legislation in England and Wales with regard to divorce and more importantly with respect to the way in which the Courts presently deal with applications relating to children when parents separate.
Present media coverage of the report is misleading when stating that the review has rejected the idea of giving parents equal rights so that they share access to children. The impression which has been given by the media is that this will prejudice the rights of fathers.
If parents are married when a child is born then the parents have joint parental responsibility which means they have the same legal rights, duties and responsibilities in relation to that child. If parents are not married at the time that the child is born, a father can acquire joint parental responsibility if he is named as the father on the child’s birth certificate and the date of birth is registered after December 2003, and it is further possible for parental responsibility to be granted either by agreement or by a Court Order.
It always has been, and always will be, of paramount importance that when parents separate the children maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents.
As the law stands at present, separating parents are able to agree arrangements for their children and the Court will not intervene and make any Orders. If there is a dispute then it is possible to make an application to the Courts. It has been increasingly common for shared care arrangements to be agreed or for Shared Residence Orders to be made by the Court which enable both parents to actively share in the care of a child. When considering an application for a Shared Residence Order the welfare of the child concerned will be paramount.
Whilst the report further recommends the use of mediation where disputes relating to children arise, the use of mediation and more recently the Collaborative Law process to resolve family disputes away from the Court process has become increasingly common.
It is of vital importance when parents separate that specialist legal advice is taken to ensure that parents are fully informed as to their legal position and the options available to them with respect to their children. Please contact Martin Symonds or Julia Robson direct to discuss your individual circumstances immediately or to arrange a free initial consultation.