The Government has decided to go against advice and make it a legal requirement that both parents' share the legal responsibility for their children post separation. What does this mean in practise? I have read the attached article in The Guardian five times now and I cannot work out what the practical effect will be. There is to be no presumption of 50/50 shared care. The child's welfare remains the priority.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said:
"Both parents have a responsibility and a role to play in their children's upbringing and we want to make sure that, when parents separate, the law recognises that. Children should have the benefit of contact with both of their parents through an ongoing relationship with them.
"This is why we are publishing proposals today setting out that, where it is safe and in the child's best interest, the law is clear that both parents share responsibility in their upbringing."
I cannot work out what they have changed.
Is it all just words?
Access and custody was replaced by Contact and Residence to remove the perception that one parent had superiority. That has not worked so now it will be replaced by, in the Government's own words:
By introducing a new child’s arrangement order, children’s needs will better determine the practical arrangements made for their upbringing. There will similarly be no link between contact and maintenance in enforcing court orders. These cannot be seen by parents as commodities to be traded. 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.
The new form of order should help parents to focus on their children’s needs. However, the making of the order needs to be underpinned by swift and effective mechanisms to ensure that any difficulties that may subsequently arise are resolved swiftly. At present, delays in getting cases back to court when contact orders are breached, and lack of effective enforcement measures, have seriously undermined the credibility of the court process.
What I don't understand is why changing the label will help parents focus on the children's needs. It didn't work last time they changed it. If anything there is more of a focus on the parents rights.
It will be interesting to see if any change comes of this new terminology.