Brighton and London family lawyers – Access and Custody just by another name

8th March 2015 by


In November 2011 a long-awaited report by the Family Justice Review Panel was published. The document put forward a number of recommendations for improvement of the family justice system in England and Wales. Brighton and London family lawyers at Healys, along with many family law solicitors nationwide, scrutinised the proposals.

Changing names won’t solve the problems

The Family Justice Review (FJR) recommends, amongst many other things, a “move away from loaded terms such as residence and contact” which, they believe, have become a source of contention between disputing parents. Instead the recommendation has been made that a “child arrangements order” should be determined by court when disputes relating to children cannot be settled.

The FJR report states: “Government should repeal the provision for residence and contact orders in the Children Act 1989.”

However, it was the Children Act which forced the dropping of the former, much-maligned terms of “custody” and “access” in 1991. Yet these terms still appear to be firmly in the public consciousness as they are regularly used in soap opera parlance and even, occasionally, in newspaper reporting.

So, how would parents who cannot agree who should live with the children of the relationship, or when, where and how often the parent who does not live with the children should be able to spend time with them, be placated by another change in the naming convention.

The FJR does not actually answer this question. However, it clearly suggests that “separating parents should be encouraged, in consultation with their children, to develop flexible [parenting] agreements to fit their circumstances” and the whole dispute would then be tied up with one overarching name, the child arrangements order, when judicial intervention is deemed necessary.

Parenting Agreements would be negotiated post-separation with a view to setting out arrangements and parameters for the care of children, but they appear to have the potential to be as tricky as pre-nuptial agreements to enforce. However, it would seem reasonable to suggest that parents should seek legal advice from a family law solicitor to guide them in suitable negotiations, as the FJR report states that the “government and judiciary should consider how a signed Parenting Agreement could have evidential weight in any subsequent parental dispute”.

Healys Brighton and London family lawyers are here to help

If you are interested in reading the full Family Justice Review Panel report please click here.

Alternatively, if you would like to speak to a family lawyer about any aspect of the law relating to relationship breakdown, divorce, civil-partnership dissolution or related financial claims, please contact Healys today.

We are here to help and can offer straightforward advice on how you can protect your best interests, and those of any dependants, in a divorce or separation. While we strive always to seek conciliatory and amicable resolution to family law disputes, we strongly believe in robust action on your behalf when the situation requires it.

For more information on the service we provide, please contact Catherine Taylor on 01273 669 124 or email for Brighton. For London please contact Jane Sanders on 020 7822 4107 or email