Ken Clarke, Secretary of State for Justice, has commented on the Family Justice Review. Carried out by David Norgrove, the Family Justice review unveils a host of proposed new legislation and measures designed to try to minimise the rise in bitter and acrimonious divorce cases.
Central to the plans put forward by the Family Justice review is the importance of both parents having contact with their children. Mr Clarke said the plans which are intended to ensure that children have a “meaningful relationship” with both parents after divorce was “not about the equal division of time” but rather that the relationship needed to be defined as the “quality of parenting received by the child.”
However Ken Clarke has also urged caution, warning that when similar changes were made to the Australian justice system it led to delays in resolving custody issues. Under the proposed plans, the government is considering giving children the legal right to have a relationship with both parents after divorce. This would be the first time this has happened under UK law but these changes do stop short of the equal access that has been demanded by some groups campaigning for the rights of fathers.
Another significant part of the plans is the government’s intention to force by law separating parents to attend mediation sessions to try to limit the number of divorce cases that end up going through the courts. New ‘parenting agreements’ are also suggested; these agreements will mean that couples can agree and set out the amount of access time that grandparents will be able to have once the divorce has been finalised. We’ve recently commented on this often overlooked aspect of divorce on one of our posts; sadly many grandparents are denied access to their grandchildren after divorce and can end up losing contact for years. Many family solicitors in Leeds report that when contact with grandparents ceases, this often increases childrens’ stress levels at what is already a very upsetting time for them. The government is also developing a new website which is intended to help couples manage a divorce together.
The government’s proposed changes do contradict one of the main findings of the Family Justice Review which concluded that the law should not be changed.