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New law reinforces focus on children’s needs

The importance of children maintaining relationships with both their parents following a family breakdown has been reinforced with new legislation.

The change, which came into force on 22 October, encourages parents to be more focused on their children’s needs following separation and the role they each play in the child’s life.

The new law will require family courts to presume that each parent’s involvement in the child’s life will further their welfare, but with the needs of the child always remaining the paramount priority.

Justice Minister Simon Hughes said: “Following [the] 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.”

Parental involvement is the last part of the Children and Families Act 2014 to be implemented. Its reforms include:

  • introducing the new Family Court in England and Wales with a simpler single system and a network of single application points
  • new child arrangements orders that encourage parents to focus on the child’s needs rather than what they see as their own ‘rights’
  • compulsory family mediation information meetings to help separating couples consider alternatives to court when resolving financial matters and arrangements for children.