The Government has unveiled a consultation on its proposals to amend family law on parental contact after divorces and separations involving children. The proposals are aimed to enhance provision for equal parenting, allowing both parents rights to maintain contact with their children.
The proposed new rules will impose a presumption on courts dealing with contact cases that a child's welfare is best served by maintaining contact with both parents, except in cases where this may put the child or children at risk.
The plans appear to stop short, however, of a presumption of equal parenting which has been advocated by some.
Children's minister Tim Loughton said that the Government were not in support of equal parenting in all cases.
"We must improve the system where court cannot be avoided - where disputes are intractable or complex or children's welfare is at risk," he said.
"We need to clarify and restore public confidence that the courts fully recognise the joint nature of parenting," he added.
The changes are perhaps more in keeping with the findings of the Norgrove Report into the matter, which was strongly against equal-parenting presumptions. Mr Loughton stressed that judges would not be under any pressure to ascribe a particular division of time, simply that both parents should be given contact with their children.
The legal changes will also see parents facing tougher penalties if court orders on care are breached.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has backed the proposals.
"Both parents have a responsibility and a role to play in their children's upbringing and we want to make sure that, when parents separate, the law recognises that," he said.
"Children should have the benefit of contact with both of their parents through an ongoing relationship with them. This is why we are publishing proposals today setting out that, where it is safe and in the child's best interest, the law is clear that both parents share responsibility in their upbringing," he added.
The proposed new laws will now go to consultation, allowing interested parties a chance to air their views on the subject.
Plans for parental contact unveiled (Google, Press Association)
Care orders (FindLaw)