In February 2012, the Government published its response to the Family Justice Review (FJR). Many interested parties, including Healys’ family lawyers in Brighton and London, were anxious to determine what impact the FJR, led by David Norgrove, would eventually have on family law in England and Wales and which aspects the Government would move to enact.
Perhaps most notably, the Government’s considerations on shared parenting differed from the FJR panel’s recommendation in that it saw enforcement options as a means to ensure that children whose parents separate or divorce would be able to have a “full and continuing relationship” with both parents whether they lived with them or not.
The review panel had advised against legislating for the fulfilment of “meaningful relationships” as evidence from countries which had already done so revealed that it was problematic. In certain cases it had left vulnerable members of a family at a greater risk of harm as family law practitioners sought to implement the law on shared parenting at the expense of protection.
The Secretaries of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke, and for Education, Michael Gove, penned the joint Ministerial forward which said:
“We believe that where there are no significant welfare issues, we should reinforce the principle through law, that it is in the best interests of the child to have a full and continuing relationship with both parents.
“We are aware of the debate on this issue, and the arguments are finely balanced. However, if we are to improve the effectiveness of private family law, we firmly believe that families’ confidence in its fairness must be strengthened.”
Nicholas Cusworth QC, Chairman of the Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) said that there were elements of the Government’s response to the FJR that the Bar Council and FLBA welcomed, in particular the strengthening of the Court’s enforcement rules in family law cases.
However, the Bar Council and FBLA remained tentative on a number of elements contained in the response – particularly on shared parenting, where they agreed with the FJR panel’s findings that, having taken into account the lessons learned in Australia, legislating on the issue risks “creating the perception that there is a right to substantially shared or equal time, for both parents”.
“It is already widely understood and applied by the courts that children benefit from having a relationship with both parents and legislation would be unnecessary and may do more harm than good. The Government must consider this with the greatest of care.”
Children arrangements on divorce and separation
Healys family lawyers in Brighton and London have many years’ experience in helping clients to negotiate fulfilling arrangements for children on divorce or relationship breakdown.
As members of Resolution, we believe in approaching each situation with an amicable, constructive and conciliatory attitude, ensuring that your interests and those of your family come first.
However, if this method is not appropriate or proves unsuccessful we will take robust action to ensure that your interests and those of your dependants are properly protected.
To talk to a member of Healys family law team, please call either our Brighton office on 01273 685 888 or our London office on 020 7822 4000. We are here to help.