‘Watered down’ reforms don’t do the Children and Families Act justice
A leading York based family lawyer has welcomed the Children and Families Act, which will be implemented on April 22 2014, offering greater Government support to children in care, prospective adopters and young carers.
However, Mark Day of Langleys Solicitors has said he is disappointed with lack of focus on shared parenting and enforcement of Residence and Contact Orders.
Mark Day, head of Langleys Solicitors’ family unit in York, said that in most respects the Act is ‘significantly improved’ but expressed disappointment that the issue of shared parenting or parental involvement has been “watered down”, and that the difficulties associated with enforcing Residence and Contact Orders are not addressed at all.
“It had been suggested that parents who undermine the rights of their children to see the other parent should face some sort of penalty, for example retention of a driving licence or passport, or even implementation of a curfew;” said Mark Day.
“Unfortunately the Act is silent on the issue, so courts are likely to continue to struggle with deliberate breaches of orders.
“Similarly there has been a long-running debate as to whether there should be some form of statutory presumption on law of shared parenting or parental involvement. The Act has watered this down and there is no mention of children spending equal time with each parent.”
The reforms to the family justice system aim to offer more support to parents and reduce delays. The legislation includes a number of new measures designed to protect the welfare of the children.
Some of the significant changes include giving children in care the choice to stay with foster families until they turn 21 and reforms to children’s residential care designed to make homes safer and improve the quality of the care provided.
For separated parents, the Act suggests that there be a change of terminology from the existing Residence and Contact Orders to Child Arrangement Orders. The aim is to avoid labels and the notion of one party exerting power over a child’s upbringing.