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Law Articles

The Children and Families Act 2014 – what are the changes? 11/05/2014

Shared Parenting
The Family Justice Review was commissioned by the last Labour Government to review the family justice system as a whole. One of the most controversial issues addressed by the Family Justice Review was shared parenting. The Family Justice Review's final report concluded that there should not be any legislation that "might risk creating an impression of a parental 'right' to any particular amount of time with a child". In its response to the Family Justice Review, the Government made clear that it did not want to introduce a presumption of shared parenting but it did suggest that there should be "a legislative statement of the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both their parents after family separation, where that is safe, and is in the child's best interest. A meaningful relationship is not about equal division of time, but the quality of parenting received by the child".

There has been a lot of discussion about shared parenting in the media but the new Act does not introduce a presumption of shared parenting. Instead, s 11 of the Act, entitled "Welfare of the child: parental involvement", introduces a presumption of continued parental involvement.

Section 11 means that whenever the court is considering one of the following applications it will need to have regard to the presumption of continued parental involvement:

  • An application for a section 8 order or a special guardianship order, and for variation or discharge of such orders;
  • An unmarried father's application to the court for parental responsibility;
  • An application for removal of parental responsibility granted by the court previously;
  • An application by an unmarried second female parent for parental responsibility (these types of case arise out of lesbian couples undergoing IVF); and

The practical impact of this change is likely to be minimal. The court’s approach already takes this issue into account when considering such applications however, by making the necessary change in law, it is likely the public will be more informed about this issue and that the change will send an important message to parents about the valuable role which they both play in their child's life. Section 11 makes it clear that continued parental involvement does not require a particular division of a child's time.

Child Arrangements Order
The effect of s 12 of the Act is that "Contact" and "Residence" orders are no more. Instead, there will be a single order, a "Child Arrangements Order", which deals with the arrangements as to "with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact" and "when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person."

Section 1(1) of the Child Abduction Act 1984 ("CAA") makes it a criminal offence to take a child under 16 out of the UK without appropriate consent. However, s 1(4) of that Act provides that a person who has a Residence Order in respect of a child may take that child out of the UK for a period of up to one month. The new Act amends that so that it refers to a person "named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom the child is to live".

For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.

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Manor Law Ltd, trading as Manor Law Family Solicitors, is a registered company in England and Wales - number 07977350, and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority - Hertford office SRA number 567506 and City of London office SRA number 568637. Copyright © Manor Law, 2016. All rights reserved.

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