A group campaigning for shared parental rights has called for changes in the law that would allow for the presumption that children will spend equal time with each of their parents following divorce or separation. The campaign was prompted by a YouGov survey which indicates the majority of the public support such a presumption.
The survey was commissioned by FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru and asked around 2,000 people to what extent they agreed with the proposed presumption. They were asked to exclude cases where there is a proven risk to the child. Eight in ten of respondents were in agreement with the proposal.
The campaign group highlighted that the survey supports the call for a change in the law to make it more apparent what ‘normal’ should look like when parents decide to divorce or separate.
Vice-chair of trustees for the group, Anne O’Regan, said:
‘It’s a living bereavement for the parents and grandparents we see at our support meetings, broken by the selfish actions of controlling parents who simply grab the children, pull up the drawbridge and say “Take me to court” knowing that this will be impossible for many to afford.’
Most private family law proceedings were removed from the scope of legal aid by the The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. While family mediation is still eligible for legal aid, the number of mediation information and assessment meetings fell significantly after the act was introduced.
Conservative MP Suella Braverman introduced a family justice bill in 2017 was prompted by the survey to call for a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting in the law.
‘Every child has a right to a meaningful relationship with both parents, but at present, the law does not make this clear. In the worst cases, “parental involvement” from divorce settlements can amount to little more than a birthday card, effectively airbrushing a non-resident parent from a child’s life.’
She went on to discuss how the court’s assessment of child contact in relation to a non-resident parent is often based on outdated views about family life.
‘It is time the government exercises its potential to address the problem of children growing up in broken families and rectifies some of the serious injustices inherent in England’s current divorce law.’
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