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Presumption of Parental Involvement: What Does It Mean?

A new law will come into effect as of today (22nd October 2014) stating that divorced or separated parents should both be involved in the upbringing of their children. The rule will protect “families from harmful and stressful battles in the courtroom,” according to children and families minister Edward Timpson.

Back in April 2014, when the majority of the Children and Families Act came into effect, section 11 was quietly redlined, as the issue in question had caused a raucous in the media and much debate in parliament. This section introduces the presumption that ‘unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of that parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare’.

Although under this new law, both parents will be presumed to play some part in their child's upbringing, it does not necessarily mean that children will need to spend equal time with each parent. The only exception to a parent being able to spend time with a child is if there has been evidence which has been presented before the courts to suggest that involvement of that parent in the child’s life would put the child at risk of suffering harm.

It is likely that the new legislation will be welcomed, particularly for parents who do not live with their children. What remains a little unclear however, is what the impact will be on any future court decision as ‘the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration’ just as it was before.

Keystone’s Family and Divorce expert Claudie Farndon observed, “One expects children disputes to be about increasing access. However, more often than not, the resident parent is left to shoulder too great a responsibility without the necessary support required. We hope that this change to legislation will encourage a more balanced approach and look forward to shared care in the true sense, perhaps reflecting a Scandinavian model.”

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.

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