Government ministers have given the go-ahead to controversial plans to introduce a presumption in favour of ‘shared parenting’. We have followed the progress of the plans in this blog, commenting both when the plans were first put forward as well as following the response from experts within the legal profession which roundly criticised the proposal.
As the law currently stands, the welfare of the child concerned is paramount in making any decision. The courts will consider a number of factors when deciding how much time a child should spend with each of its parents and whether there should be residence order recognising that there is a ‘primary carer’ or whether there should be a shared residence order acknowledging that both parents have an equal role in their child’s life. The outcome will depend on the circumstances of each individual case and there is no presumption that either option is better for a child.
The Government’s aim is to restore public confidence that the courts recognise the joint nature of parenting. In recent years high profile groups including Fathers for Justice have campaigned against a perceived unfairness in the legal system. Under the new legislation courts should ensure that fathers are given a legal right to time to develop a meaningful relationship with their child, providing this does not place the child’s wellbeing in danger. There will be a legal presumption that a child’s welfare is furthered by both parents being involved in their life.
The aim of the legislation is, in this writer’s opinion, a worthy one and should be applauded however the proposed mechanics of achieving the aim are flawed. Currently the law in relation to children contains no presumptions relating to parents and the welfare of the child is paramount in any decision. Introducing a presumption that focuses on parents, not the child, risks undermining that principle; in cases where separated parents are unable to agree arrangements for their child without the assistance of the court will this change in the law truly benefit the child?