‘Best Interests Of Children Still The Priority’ As Shared Parenting Changes Come Into Force

Family Law Specialists React As New Legislation Is Introduced


New laws on parental involvement which have come into force today (October 22nd) are an important step forward in ensuring that all parents going through the difficulties of separation maintain a focus on the best interests of their children, according to specialist family lawyers.

Section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 has been introduced and requires the Family Courts to presume, in all cases where it is safe to do so, that the involvement of each parent in the life of a child will be a positive step and further their welfare.

The legislation makes no declaration in terms of parents needing to have equal access to a child and also allows courts the chance to still make a decision on whether the involvement of the other parent would be in the child’s best interests.

Irwin Mitchell’s dedicated team of family law specialists have welcomed the change, but urged that as much as possible be done to ensure parents fully understand the implications of what it means.

Expert Opinion
This is an important change which enshrines in law the basic fact that courts will always aim to ensure that upon separation both parents remain involved in the lives of their children provided it is in the children’s interests.

"This should provide reassurance to many parents, but it they should be clear about exactly what this means as they approach the issue of divorce and separation – most importantly, it does not mean that parents should assume they should have as much access to their children as their partner.

"As before, the best interests of children will always come first. The court will consider each individual child’s needs and characteristics as well as the practical situations of everyone involved – working hours, schooling etc. - and try to put in place arrangements that promote the child’s well-being.

"There will be instances when parents want more involvement with their child than they are currently able to have, while on the flipside there will be times when parents do not want to or are not in a position to look after their children for a longer amount of time. Practically it is often simply not workable for there to be an equal division of a child’s time.

"Ultimately, while the law now formally recognises the importance of two parents being involved in their children’s lives, it is clear that there is still much for the courts to weigh up in terms of how the needs of both children and parents are met.

"It is vital that any parents going through separation recognise the importance of a sensible and sensitive approach and make the needs and wellbeing of their children the top priority."
Zoe Round, Partner