The shared parenting clause included in the Children and Families Bill is to be amended after a group of children’s charities pointed out that it could lead to confusion.
Clause 11 of the Children and Families Bill, states that courts should:
‘presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of that parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare’.
The Shared Parenting Consortium, led by Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC), raised concerns that the wording of clause 11 could lead parents to believe that they had a right of equal access to their children.
The CCLC wanted the clause to be re-worded to make clear that the child’s welfare is paramount when decisions are being made about their future upbringing.
Amendments have now been made to the clause, which clarifies that “involvement” means involvement of some kind, either direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child’s time.
CCLC’s Director of International Programmes and Research, Professor Carolyn Hamilton said:
“The message to separating parents is that neither mothers nor fathers are entitled to a legally binding presumption of shared access.”
“Decision-making instead should rightly focus on determining the needs and best interests of each individual child, rather than focusing on the expectations of parents.”
“90% of contact cases are settled out of court, so this amendment is crucial. It will make it clear on the face of the Bill that the welfare of children is paramount.”
The Children and Families Bill completed its third reading in the House of Lords earlier this month and will now return to the House of Commons for further consideration of the amendments. It is hoped that the bill will be passed and come into force in Spring 2014.