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Presumption of Parental Involvement Set to Come into Force

View profile for Julie Bailey
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As the result of a new law coming into force tomorrow family courts will be required to presume that both parents should continue to play a role in their child’s life after they have separated, as long as that does not pose any risk to the child’s welfare.

The Government’s stated intention was to introduce a presumption of shared care, but that has not come to fruition. Instead the President of the Family Division announced last week that the presumption of parental involvement will come into force on 22nd October 2014.

It is significant that the notion of ‘shared care’ has been watered down to ‘involvement’ which is simply defined in section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 as ‘involvement of some kind, whether direct or indirect’.

Also much of The Children and Families Act 2014, introducing child arrangement orders to replace the existing residence and contact orders which the courts have been making since 1989, came into force on 22nd April 2014. Only now, however, is section 11 being introduced and although it does not go as far as was originally intended or proposed, I think it is a step in the right direction.

The presumption of continued involvement by both parents which, while always applied by the local court, was not previously a statutory requirement. Now that it is, it can be made clear to parents who are in conflict what their statutory rights and obligations are which will hopefully help more parents to resolve the arrangements for their children.

And while many parents may understandably struggle to accept that the law does not yet acknowledge that shared care is to be assumed after separation, my experience is that for truly shared care to work it has to be logistically possible. For example, the parents ideally need to live close by and certainly close to the child’s school if they are of school age. They also need to be on reasonably friendly terms so that they can discuss and agree the practical arrangements. Unfortunately, however, this is often not the case.

That being said, while not presuming it, the change that will come into force on the 22nd will allow or encourage shared care where it is feasible and this can only be a good thing for all parties involved.