A new law will come into effect on 22 April – the Children and Families Act 2014.
A number of changes have been made to the laws involving applications to Court relating to children and the Children Act 1989 has been amended.
The Government is still trying to encourage people to attend mediation prior to applying to Court. This is for applications involving children and dealing with financial disputes as part of a divorce. Couples do not have to attend mediation prior to divorce itself.
The position has not changed in that an initial session of mediation is compulsory, but there are still circumstances when this is not required. My recommendation has not changed in that it is essential to seek legal advice early and certainly prior to making any application to the Court.
Contact Orders (access to children) and Residence Orders (custody of children – where they live) are to be replaced by a Child Arrangement Order, which deals with which parent a child lives with and arrangements for contact with the other parent or any other person.
The Children Act 1989 has been amended to include a presumption of shared parenting. What does this mean?
When the Court is deciding upon matters relating to the involvement of parents in the life of a child, it is presumed (unless the Court is persuaded otherwise) that the involvement of both parents in the life a child will further the child’s welfare. The Act goes on to say that ‘involvement’ means ‘involvement of some kind, either direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child’s time’.
The Government is trying to “encourage separated parents to adopt less rigid and confrontational positions with regard to arrangements for their children”. Whether this will be the case, or whether it leads to confusion and more confrontation remains to be seen.