A new law taking effect today will reinforce the importance of children having relationships with each parent following family breakdown. Parental involvement is the last part of the Children and Families Act 2014 to be implemented and marks the end of a significant phase of reforms to the Family Justice system.
The change will encourage parents to be more focused on children’s needs following separation and the role they each play in the child’s life. It will require family courts to presume that each parent’s involvement in the child’s life will further their welfare – where it is safe. However the needs of the child will always remain the paramount priority of the courts.
In 2011 the Family Justice Review landmark report found that the family justice system was ‘no system at all’ and that children’s needs were not being met. Since then the Government has made bold reforms so that the needs of children are firmly at the heart of the family justice system from now on.
The reforms include:
- The introduction of the new Family Court in England and Wales with a simpler single system and a network of single application points making it much easier for the public.
- The introduction of a 26 week time limit for care proceedings to reduce further the excessive delays in these cases and give greater certainty to the children involved.
- New child arrangements orders which will encourage parents to focus on the child’s needs rather than what they see as their own ‘rights’.
- Compulsory family mediation information meetings so separating couples must consider alternatives to the harmful and stressful court battles when resolving financial matters and arrangements for children.
- The Government continues to monitor closely the family justice system, and has recently announced a single mediation session for both parties if one of them is already legally aided.