Strengthening shared parenting after divorce and speeding up care and adoption cases are among ‘ambitious and system-wide’ reforms outlined by the government recently to improve the family justice system.
Responding to the Norgrove Family Justice Review, justice secretary Kenneth Clarke said the government would implement many of its recommendations, including introducing a six-month time limit to resolve care and adoption cases and creating a single family court across England and Wales, with a single point of contact.
But, contrary to the recommendation in the review, Kenneth Clarke said the government will legislate to emphasise the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both their parents after divorce or separation, where that is safe and in the child’s best interests.
The government’s response says: ‘Children are entitled both to receive financial support from both parents and to maintain contact with both parents, where this is safe. It is difficult to conceive how withholding either of these things meets the welfare needs of the child.’
A new ‘child’s arrangement order’ will be introduced to make practical arrangements for childrens’ upbringing.
The Norgrove Review rejected legislating for shared parenting, saying it risked creating a presumption of a parental right to shared time and could cause problems in custody cases.
In light of this, the government has said it will ‘consider very carefully’ how legislation can be framed to ensure that a meaningful relationship is not about equal division of time, but the quality of parenting received by the child.
Clarke said: ‘The reform of family justice and child protection is a critical priority for government. Our reforms are ambitious and system-wide and particularly tackle the crucial problem of delay.’
Children’s minister Tim Loughton said: ‘The introduction of a new six-month time limit on care cases sends a clear signal to everyone involved in the process that we want to see radical improvement.
‘Speeding up the court system, and getting earlier decisions about a child’s future, will help ensure that more children are found loving homes more quickly,’ he said.
Whilst current cases will not be affected until the Government have finalised the detail and a reform timetable has been set, Carr & Co will of course continue to keep you updated.