Joint Parenting Proposals – Claiming Rights Or Taking Responsibility?
Recently the government launched proposals to amend the Children Act 1989 so that society’s expectations are “that both parents are jointly responsible for their children’s upbringing.”
The intention is sound. However, the Children Act already sets out the key principle that ‘the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration’ in decisions made by family courts. This principle provides the crucial flexibility and fairness needed in a law applied to a very wide range of children in any number of circumstances. Diluting that key message with a presumption of ‘joint responsibility’ will surely cause confusion amongst the public and a straight jacket for judges when they seek to find the right and just decision to fit each family?
Presently, most separated parents make their own agreements for the future care of their children, without court involvement. Surely it would be dangerous to make ‘joint responsibility’ law? The message some parents may hear is that it is then their right to ‘joint ownership’ of children rather than their responsibility to share in their care. As presently worded, the message is clearly child centred and there can be no confusion that court decisions are made with that focus.