Family Law Update Puts Emphasis on Children’s Best Interests

A new bill of law has been announced in the Queen’s Speech at the state opening of Parliament regarding children and families. The bill will see plans implemented in order to allow parental leave to now be shared between a child’s parents, make the process for adopting international families easier and also provide a greater number of choices for children with special educational needs. Finally, it will improve the access given to children by their fathers in the wake of a divorce. Ministers are now planning to introduce more flexibility following an independent report being published in May 2011, recommending that the right to request such flexibility be extended to people with parental responsibilities to children below the age of 16. Changes to the law surrounding adoption will now prevent local authorities from delaying the process in order to find a perfect match if a suitable one is currently available. Compensation will be available to families who suffer as a result of the new procedures not being followed.

Ethnicity of the child’s prospective adopters and a child will now take second place in the majority of cases in order to speed up the process of finding a child a permanent family. Furthermore, the government plans an introduction of a number of further recommendations which are contained in a final report of the Family Justice Review published at the end of last year. These include adjustments such as a limit of six months by which care cases must be completed, making it explicit that case management decisions can only be made after the interests of the child have been taken into full consideration. It’s hope that this will focus courts on issues which are essential to deciding whether or not to implement care, and get rid of any unnecessary procedures in family court proceedings by removing the requirement for interim care and supervision orders.

To further bolster the positive improvements being made in legislation, the government will also introduce changes to ensure that a child maintains a relationship with both parents following a family separation, but only in circumstances where it is both safe and in the best interests of the child. Professionals working in the legal field have met the adjustments in law with varying opinions. Some state that the proposals do not to work in the best interests of the parents, while others say that the law could’ve taken the best interests of the child even further. Further reading on the children & families feature in the Queen’s Speech 2012 is recommended.