The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is keen to emphasise that the parental involvement provision doesn’t give parents new 'rights' and doesn’t make a 50/50 division of children's time obligatory. It’s about 'achieving a culture change by making clearer the court's approach to these issues'.
Simon Hughes, the Justice Minister said:
"We have made bold reforms so that the welfare of children is at the heart of the family justice system, and there can be no doubt that parents play a very important role in every child's life. Following break up of relationships we are encouraging all parents to focus on the needs of the child rather than what they want for themselves.
"No parent should be excluded from their child's life for no good reason. This change in the law is not about giving parents new 'rights' but makes clear to parents and everybody else that the family courts will presume that each parent will play a role in the future life of their child."
What is the intention? That separating and separated parents become more child focused; that each parent recognises the role the other plays in a child’s life. There is a presumption that each parent's involvement in the child's life will further their welfare – where it is safe. But the needs of the child will always remain the paramount priority of the courts.
I believe the majority of family lawyers would say they already encourage their clients to be child focused rather than being self-interested. The steer towards alternative methods of resolving disputes, by mediation or the collaborative framework, is part of our usual dialogue with clients. Families do better if they can resolve their issues without resorting to stressful battles in the courtroom. The obvious exceptions would be where issues of safety, abuse or similar apply.