The Government is intending to push through new legislation that would impose a duty on courts to ensure that separated parents have access to any joint children. The idea is that this would ensure that non-residing parents will have more time with their children.
Whitehall says that enshrining this principle in law will weaken the bias in favour of mothers. Currently, the majority of children whose parents are not living together reside with their mothers.
It is not uncommon for these children to have little contact with their biological fathers. Research has established that a lack of contact with both parents increases the risk of a child getting involved in crime or substance abuse.
The Government’s decision to introduce legislation to this effect seems rather incoherent with their vision to not implement unnecessary new laws, as the judiciary’s primary consideration is always what is in the child’s best interest.
It will often be in the best interests of a child to have regular contact with both their mother and father. However, there are instances when this is not the case. As such, if the Government goes ahead with its planned legislative changes there is a risk that an abusive parent will use the appeal system to try to get further access to their child.
There is also a risk that such a law would clog up the courts as it risks putting the child’s best interests against a parent’s right to access. This might in turn lead to lengthy court proceedings as the two aspirations are not always compatible with one another. In fact, Government advisors have highlighted that this would be a likely and unfortunate consequence of such a law.