The Children and Families Act 2014 – what’s changing?

With the Children and Families Act 2014 comes change to private law children proceedings, including a mandatory requirement for attendance at a family mediation and assessment meeting (MIAMS) for any person who wishes to make an application to the Court.

There will, of course, be cases whereby Mediation is not suitable such as in circumstances where there has been domestic abuse within a relationship.  Nevertheless, it is now clear that Mediation is no longer to be avoided. A MIAMS must be attended in the first instance and the Mediator will decide upon the suitability, or otherwise, for Mediation to proceed.

In the circumstances where an application involving a child does come before the Court in private law proceedings parents will no longer see references to “Residence” and “Contact” Orders, with these now being replaced by a singular “Child Arrangement Order”.

Statute provides that the new “Child Arrangement Order” determines arrangements as to “with and whom child should live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person and “when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with a person”.

When considering the endorsement of a “Child Arrangement Order” the Court will presume that parental involvement will further a child’s welfare.  A Court’s approach has long been to encourage child’s relationship with both parents, but the Children and Families Act 2014 provides statute with regards to such a presumption.

Involvement of a parent may be direct or indirect, thus is not dependant on a specific division of time.  The presumption of parental involvement in a child’s life will prevail unless the Court is provided with evidence to the contrary which demonstrates that such involvement will put the child at risk of suffering harm.

In practice the addition of the presumption within statute will do little to affect the approach of any given Court.  A child’s welfare will prevail and the Court will not endorse an Order affording a parent involvement in a child’s life whether directly or indirectly if they deem that it is not in the best interests of a child.

These changes take effect from 22nd April 2014. Should you wish to discuss matters relating to your child or children then contact us on 01743 285 888 to arrange a free half hour consultation with one of our specialists.

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