The Government plans to enshrine in law the right of both parents to have access to their children in divorce settlements.
According to the Office for National Statistics one in three children lives without their father and campaign groups have for a long time pressed for a change in the law, so that courts would be forced to give access rights to fathers as well as mothers in divorce settlements.
Tim Loughton, the children’s minister, said ‘Our vision is to establish that, under normal circumstances, a child will have relationship with both his or her parents, regardless of their relationship with each other’.
This decision would go against the advice of a major family justice review headed by David Norgrove which reported last November, where a plan to enshrine equal access rights in law was dropped from his final 220-page report. Mr Norgrove said it would put too much pressure on judges to set out the exact length of time that each divorced parent should spend with their children.
However ministers are likely to disappoint fathers’ rights groups by ruling out a legal guarantee of equal access.
The government is also expected to pledge an extra £10m for mediation services in a bid to reduce the number of cases going to law. When disputes are settled in court the aim is that no parent is excluded unless they pose a safety or welfare risk.
A working group will examine potential changes to the Children’s Act 1989 to embed the rights.
In January Justice Secretary Ken Clarke urged separating couples to consider mediation when they separate or divorce, instead of turning to the courts. He said ‘In the vast majority of cases mediation is a much more sensible way for couples to conduct their separation – it is quicker, cheaper, less confrontational and it encourages people to resolve their issues rather than turning to judges and lawyers’.
Article from the Telegraph online