During October 2001 the Children Act 1989 was enacted and the Lord Chancellor at the time described the Act as, “the most comprehensive and far reaching reform of child law which has come before Parliament in living memory.” Swept away were phrases such as “custody, care and control” of children and “access” to children. These were replaced with “residence” and “contact” but perhaps, more importantly, “Parental Responsibility” (PR). A definition of PR is contained in the Act which is “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.” The intention of Parliament was to place the decision making process concerning children with the child’s parents.
The Children Act introduced several principles including:
- The child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.
- Delay in resolving matters is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.
- The court shall not make any order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all (no order principle) “Will it be better for the child to make the order than making no order at all?”
The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced a presumption that both parents being involved in the life of a child will further the child’s welfare unless the contrary is shown. Again, Parliament intends that both parents should be involved in their children’s lives (and involved in decision making) unless there is good reason for a parent to be excluded.
Parental separation is stressful and worrying for both parents. It is even more stressful and worrying for a child. It is the responsibility of parents to shield their children from parental conflict as we know that conflict is a cause for unhappiness and poor outcomes for children. Our children need reassurance that their parents love them and that the separation is not the fault of the child. A child will not want to take sides and parents must not make or expect them to take sides, children will in most circumstances benefit from keeping contact with both of their parents and should not be burdened with making decisions which belong to the adults.
Further information for parents can be found on the resolution website.
For further details, please contact Rosalyn Jacobs. Rosalyn is a Solicitor within the Family team, and specialises in all aspects of Family Law.