On 9 November, the Government announced a review into how family courts apply the presumption of parental involvement, particularly where there are concerns for the safety of the child.
The review has been brought about as a result of the new measures to better protect victims of domestic abuse involved in the family justice system.
What Is the Presumption?
Section 1 of the Childrens Act 1989 dictates that the child's welfare is paramount when determining any question concerning the upbringing of a child. A court will presume, unless anything to the contrary is shown, that the involvement of the absent parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child's welfare. The difficult decision for the judge is how they strike the balance between the child's welfare and the protection from harm as against the right to have a relationship with their parents.
An advisory group of members of the family justice system have been selected to conduct the review. During the review they will seek input from those working in the family court, and will also consider real cases to determine the court's approach and the outcomes of the cases. It is hoped that from this they can carefully consider how the presumption of parental involvement is currently applied and its impact on child safety. It is anticipated that they will make recommendations to improve the current system.
Over the years, we have advised hundreds of clients on their child arrangements. In some cases, parents identify that the reason that they have stopped contact is because of the conduct of the another parent. This may be conduct towards the child, the other parent or both.
We have found that only in cases where there is very serious conduct, which directly impacts the welfare of the child, will the court prohibit contact altogether. However, if there are concerns, the court may order that contact be limited. Such measures include contact taking place under the supervision of a contact centre or indirect contact, for example only by letter.
Where difficulties in the relationship have arisen, these measures can help the child have a safe relationship with their parent. In time, these measures may be relaxed once the risk of harm is reduced and the child has developed a better relationship with the parent.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.