Divorced parents will have right to see their children under new law

  • Those who refuse to accept ruling could risk jail
  • Coalition hopes to succeed where Labour failed when it mooted curfews and electronic tagging in 2005


Ministers are drawing up new rules to put courts under a legal duty to ensure divorced parents are guaranteed access to their children. 

Parents who refuse to accept the orders will be in contempt of court and risk serious penalties or even jail. 

The move will delight fathers’ rights campaigners who believe dads are penalised under the present system which usually grants mothers custody.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Tory work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith have apparently agreed a different approach which they hope will be more successful.

Around 3.8million children - one in three - live without their father.

Last night children’s minister Tim Loughton said: ‘Our vision is to establish that, under normal circumstances, a child will have a relationship with both his or her parents, regardless of their relationship with each other.

'We must do everything we can to improve the system so that it gives children the best chance of growing up under the guidance of two loving parents.

New families: Nick Clegg believes the Coalition's efforts will give more children the chance to grow up with two parents

New families: Nick Clegg believes the Coalition's efforts will give more children the chance to grow up with two parents

'All the evidence tells us that children genuinely benefit from a relationship with both parents, with the potential to make different contributions to their child’s development.

'The culture has shifted away from the traditional view that mothers are primarily responsible for the care of children. Increasingly society recognises the valuable and distinct role of both parents.

'We are looking closely at all the options for promoting shared parenting through possible legislative and non-legislative means.'

Mr Loughton’s comments indicate that ministers have gone against a key finding of November’s family justice review, which rejected equal access for mothers and fathers, saying it would put too much pressure on judges.

It is believed that the law could be changed by amending the 1989 Children’s Act to include presumption of shared parenting.

Another option would be for the Government to support a backbench bill by Tory MP Charlie Elphicke, which will be debated later this month.

The bill requires courts and councils which are enforcing contact orders for children ‘to operate under the presumption that the rights of a child include growing up knowing and having access to and contact with both parents involved’.

Nadine O’Connor, campaign director for Fathers4Justice, said a Government move would be a ‘massive step forward’.

'It is saying that dads have as many rights as mums,' she said. 'I will believe it when I see it, but the reform has to apply across the family justice system.'




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