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Proposed Children Act amendment is misguided

A recent report has described the Government’s plans to amend the 1989 Children Act by introducing a presumption of shared parenting as well-intentioned but misguided.

The research, a joint project between the Universities of Sussex and Oxford and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is the first major study in the UK to ask young adults who experienced parental separation in their youth what they thought about the contact they had with their non-resident parent.

The report found that:

  • Key ingredients in successful contact include the absence of parental conflict; a good pre-separation relationship between the child and the (future) non-resident parent; the non-resident parent demonstrating his/her commitment to the child and the child being consulted about the arrangements.
  • The child’s pre-separation relationship with the non-resident parent predicts both the quality of contact and the child’s relationship with the non-resident parent through childhood and into adulthood.
  • Children of separating parents develop a mature insight into their own needs and should be consulted far more routinely over arrangements for their future. Coercing them into arrangements they dislike is unlikely to be in their short or long-term best interests.

The Justice Select Committee is currently considering a new draft clause that would promote a change in the way the family courts currently deal with cases of disputed contact arrangements by introducing a presumption of shared parenting.

Critics consider that this would undermine a fundamental principle of the Act: decision-making based on the needs of the individual child.

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