AN MP has backed plans to strengthen the law ensuring children see both their parents if they divorce or separate.
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, backed the Government’s advice that, where it is safe and in the child’s best interest, the law should make it clear children benefit from having both parents actively involved in their lives.
While the majority of separating parents reach their own agreements, ministers said they were concerned, in the event of disputes, one of the first things overlooked was ensuring children had a strong relationship with both parents.
“Our starting point is we want most parents to resolve disputes out of court, wherever possible,” said Mr Loughton who is also children’s minister.
“That’s why we are investing in and promoting family mediation services and other support to help parents reach agreements.
“But we must improve the system where court cannot be avoided – where disputes are intractable or complex or children’s welfare is at risk.
“We need to clarify and restore public confidence that the courts fully recognise the joint nature of parenting.” Current legislation sets out the principle of a child’s welfare always being paramount.
However, the benefit of ongoing involvement with both parents is not explicitly stated.
The consultation, launched by the Government on June 13, sets out four options for amending the Children Act 1989 to enshrine shared parenting in law.
It also asks how to toughen sanctions to enforce breaches of court orders regarding care.
Existing sanctions of a fine or imprisonment are rarely used under the current system.
“Where parents are able and willing to play a positive role in their child’s care, they should have the chance to do so,” said Mr Loughton.
“This is categorically not about giving parents equal right to time with their children – it is about reinforcing society’s expectation that mothers and fathers should be jointly responsible for their children’s upbringing.”