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'Shared parenting' amendment puts child welfare before presumption of equal access

Clause 11 amendment approved by Lords

A consortium of children's charities has successfully campaigned for an amendment to the Children and Families Bill which it feared could endanger the welfare of children whose parents are separating.

The Shared Parenting Consortium, led by Coram Children's Legal Centre (CCLC) was concerned that the adoption of clause 11, which states that courts should 'presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of that parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child's welfare' could lead to separating parents assuming they are legally bound to equally share access to their children.

The consortium, which includes NSPCC, wanted to ensure the best interests of the child remain the paramount concern when reaching decisions on their upbringing.

Following their campaign over the last year, an amendment to clause 11 has now been made which clarifies that "involvement" means involvement of some kind, either direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child's time.
CCLC's Director of International Programmes and Research, Professor Carolyn Hamilton said:

"The message to separating parents is that neither mothers nor fathers are entitled to a legally binding presumption of shared access.

"Decision-making instead should rightly focus on determining the needs and best interests of each individual child, rather than focusing on the expectations of parents.

"90% of contact cases are settled out of court, so this amendment is crucial.  It will make it clear on the face of the Bill that the welfare of children is paramount."

The Bill now moves from the Third reading in the Lords on 5th February and is then sent back to the Commons for consideration of the Lords' amendments.