The Shared Parenting Bill received its first formal reading on 13 July 2011. It will not be debated until September of this year.

Brian Binley, conservative MP for Northampton South who has presented the Bill to Parliament states that the aim of the Bill is to ensure “neither parent is shut out from the child’s life when sadly a relationship breaks down. I don’t need to underline the importance of both parents in the child’s life. A significant proportion of the social problems in today’s society are a result of when a child doesn’t have the love and support of both parents…”.

Shared parenting legislation is used elsewhere in the world, such as Australia, France and Belgium.

A shared parenting order is defined in the Bill as “an order settling that both parents have a full involvement in the upbringing of a child, particularly in respect of major long term issues, and requiring that the child must spend a substantial and significant amount of time with both parents”.

The Bill makes it clear that the Court must presume (subject to certain provisions) that it is in the best interests of the child for both of their parents to have a full involvement in the upbringing of the child.

The Bill outlines that in considering whether to make a shared parenting order the Court should have regard to the need to protect children from physical or psychological harm, from being subjected to abuse, neglect or domestic violence and ensuring that children receive adequate and proper parenting to help them achieve their full potential. It may well be therefore that the Courts are more likely to make orders for parents where relevant to attend Parenting After Parting classes (separate article to follow).

The Bill also states that the Courts should have regard to underlying principles which include:

(a) the child’s right to know and be cared for by both their parents regardless of whether those parents have ever married or lived together; and

(b) the child’s right to spend time with and communicate with on a regular basis both parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development including grandparents as well as other relatives.

The Courts should also bear in mind that each parent should be involved in the child’s daily routine and occasions and events that are of particular significance to the child.

The Courts when making a shared parenting order are also directed to the presumption that the child should spend a significant and substantial amount of time with both parents.

By Melanie Townsend

If you have a family matter you wish to discuss with Melanie, please do not hesitate to telephone Townsend Family Law on 01992 892214 for more information about our reduced rate first appointment. We service all local areas including Epping, Harlow, Hertford, Romford and so on, but we also offer video and telephone conferencing if it is inconvenient for you to attend our offices. 

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