The reforms being introduced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are intended to strengthen parenting and reduce the time cases take to get through the courts.

The Children’s Minister, Tim Loughton, said: “On the issue of shared parenting, we accept the need to clarify and restore public confidence that the courts properly recognise the joint nature of parenting.

“We will be legislating to emphasise the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both their parents after separation, where that is safe and in the child’s best interests”.

The MoJ has also pledged to speed up care and adoption cases and will introduce legislation to enable a six-month time limit to be set. Wherever possible, it expects cases to be completed in far less than six months.

Mr Loughton s
aid: “It is unacceptable for vulnerable children, who come into the court system through no fault of their own, to be waiting an average of 55 weeks for a decision about their future.

“The introduction of a new six month time limit on care cases sends a clear signal to everyone involved in the process that we want to see radical improvement. Speeding up the court system, and getting earlier decisions about a child’s future, will help ensure that more children are found loving homes more quickly.”

There will also be measures to encourage separating couples
to use mediation to help resolve disputes over children.

An MoJ statement says: “We will make it mandatory for separating parents who propose court action to resolve a dispute about their child to have an initial assessment to see if mediation is something which would be suitable instead, to help them agree on the arrangements for their child.

“We will also examine how to give the cour
ts more robust enforcement tools to combat failure to comply with judgments.”

The proposed reforms are part of the Government’s response to the review of the family justice system carried out by David Norgrove.

We shall keep clients informed of developments.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.

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