Following completion of its public consultation on its response to the Family Justice Review, the Government has published its plans on shared parenting, which are contained in the Children and Families Bill 2013. This includes a clause, amending the Children Act 1989, so that a court will have to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of both parents in the life of the child will be in the interests of the child, provided that that involvement does not put the child at risk of suffering harm.
The Government have made clear that this change has been worded specifically to avoid any implication that the presumption of shared parenting means equal time. It has made clear that the welfare of the child will still be the most important consideration.
The Government wants couples to be encouraged to resolve their disputes without the need for going to court. To that end family mediation is supported and more funds are being put into promoting and supporting mediation, although at the same time the Government have abolished legal aid for most family disputes concerning money and children but legal aid is still available for family mediation.
However, where the parents are not able to resolve their differences and the court is involved, the Government believe that this presumption of shared parenting will help to improve the court system by giving more confidence to both parents that the court will consider that the involvement of both parents in the lives of their children after separation is of benefit to the children.