Recent changes to the law relating to children
There have been major changes to the laws relating to children under the Children and Families Act 2014 which came into force in April 2014. There is now a single family Court and a review has been carried out as to how children proceedings are dealt with. The changes relate to public law (care) as well and private law (arrangements between parents when they have separated).
A major change relates to the labelling of orders made for children. Residence and Contact orders have been replaced by Child Arrangements orders to try and avoid situations where one parent feels that they, or indeed the other parent, has won. This sort of adversarial approach is very much frowned upon in children matters where parents are going to have to continue to jointly parent children for a long time to come! Child arrangements orders regulate arrangements as to who the child lives with, spend time with or otherwise have contact with and when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person and replace the old residence and contact orders. The point is to try to get parents to resolve issues relating to the care of the children, rather than labelling matters as residence and contact.
Whilst the main changes relate to specific applications about the care of the children, there are other ancillary matters which impact. There is also the issue of children’s names and the ability of parents to take the children out of the country on holiday. If a Child arrangement order is in place no person may cause the child to be known by a new surname or remove that child from the UK unless they have either the written consent of all people with Parental responsibility for the child or the permission of the Court. The rule that the person with whom the child lives can take the child on holiday for up to 28 days has not been changed.
The Court’s approach has always been to try to find the best way forward for the child and felt that unless shown otherwise, the best interest of the child is served by the child being able to have a relationship with both parents. There is obviously the issue of keeping the child safe but otherwise it should be remembered that a meaningful relationship is not about an equal division of time, but the quality of the parenting received by the child.
If we can help you with issues relating to children, please contact Alison Rolf on 01676 533755.