Posted by Patrick Hart, Partner
On 1 September 2016 Withy King LLP merged with Royds LLP. The trading name for the merged firm is Royds Withy King. All content produced prior to this date will remain in the name of the firms pre-merger.
Landmark Children and Families Act 2014 gains royal assent
The new Children and Families Act has now been given Royal Assent, with changes in the law affecting many areas, In particular, there are three significant fields which will see changes, these are:
- Compulsory Miams (Mediation information and assessment meetings)
- Child welfare (continued parental involvement)
- Child care arrangements orders
“Before making a relevant family application, a person must attend a family mediation information and assessment meeting.”
Under the new Children and Families Act, Miams are now compulsory. This means that all individuals will be expected to attend a meeting before making an application to the court.
Relevant family applications include all those relating to children and also proceedings for a financial remedy.
Mediation is being encouraged as an alternative to going directly to court which can be both stressful and costly for those involved.
Child welfare and parental involvement
Shared parenting and parental involvement have been controversial issues for some time, with the Family Justice Review reporting that there should not be any legislation which “might risk creating an impression of a parental ‘right’ to any particular amount of time with a child.”
It was agreed that there should be “a legislative statement of the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both their parents after family separation, where that is safe, and is in the child’s best interests…a meaningful relationship is not about equal division of time, but the quality of parenting received by the child.”
Section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 deals with this issue and has been amended specifically to address it. The Act does not introduce a presumption of shared parenting but rather it encourages continued parental involvement in regard to the welfare and upbringing of a child by separated parents. This involvement can be either direct or indirect but not specifically in relation to any particular division of the child’s time and must be such that it does not put the child at risk of suffering harm.
It is hoped that these changes will identify to separating parents the important role they both play in their child’s life.
Child care arrangements
Other amendments in the Children and Families Act 2014 have been introduced whereby ‘contact’ and ‘residence’ orders are now no more and instead a single order called a ‘child arrangements order’ will come into effect to deal with the arrangements in relation to “with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact” and “when a child is to live, spend time with or otherwise have contact with any person.”
The new arrangements order will have an effect on the rules surrounding child abduction – the Child Abduction Act 1989 will be amended so that where previously it stated that a person who has a residence order in respect of a child may take that child out of the UK for a period of up to one month, now the wording has been changed to a person “named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom the child is to live.”
The majority of the family justice provisions in the Children and Families Act came into force on 22 April, in line with the launch of the new single Family Court.
Our family law experts can advise on all aspects affected by the changes to the Children and Families Act, to ensure that children and families are protected when they need it most.
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