PROPOSALS TO REDUCE DELAY ARE WELCOME, BUT IT IS NOT CLEAR HOW EFFECTIVE THEY WILL BE IN HIGH-CONFLICT CASES
The Government has today (5 February 2013) published their response to the proposals on enforcing court-ordered child arrangements contained in the Co-operative parenting following family separation consultation, which ran from 13 June – 5 September 2012.
The Government has decided not to legislate for any further enforcement powers, but to instead address breaches of court orders by ensuring that cases can be returned to court more promptly. They propose that orders breached within the first year will be returned to court with 14 days notice (to the judge who made the original order wherever possible), and breaches more than 12 months after an order is made will be returned to Court within 4-6 weeks for a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment.
Families Need Fathers welcomes the Government’s desire to reduce the delays in returning a case to court which can prove incredibly damaging for the children and parents affected, but we maintain concerns that the reluctance of courts to utilise their current enforcement powers will mean that the proposals will not be enough to address persistent breaches intended to exclude a parent from their child’s life.
Ken Sanderson, CEO of Families Need Fathers, commented, “Whilst swift resolution of breached orders is crucial, returning cases to court quicker will only be effective if courts are willing to take appropriate action to enforce their orders. These are currently rarely used, and there is little in the Government’s proposals to suggest that courts will be able to ensure compliance with orders in intractable cases.”
Government plans also include the development of a new ‘enforcement parenting information programme’ to address the behaviour and underlying causes of non-compliance, and to consider whether greater use of Cafcass monitoring in appropriate cases for a limited time after an order is made might help to reduce minor breaches developing into problematic contact patterns. All judges in the family courts would have the power to commit a party to prison for contempt of court rather than the current process whereby a District Judge must refer the case to a Circuit judge, creating delays and disrupting judicial continuity.
Ken Sanderson, CEO of Families Need Fathers, commented, “Whilst the focus of enforcement should be on the best interests of the children rather than punitive measures against parents breaching orders, extending committal powers that are already rarely used to District Judges will not help the majority of parents who find themselves in the family courts attempting to have court-ordered child arrangements enforced. The proposed ‘enforcement parenting information programme’ will require very careful development and testing to ensure it can operate as an effective remedy to breaches of court orders.”
The Government’s full response to the consultation can be accessed on the following link:Co-operative Parenting Following Family Separation Proposals On Enforcing Court-Ordered Child Arrangements.
For comment, case studies or information please contact:
Ross Jones, Policy & Communications Manager 0300 0300 110
Note for editors: Families Need Fathers (FNF) is a registered charity providing information and support on shared parenting issues arising from family breakdown, and support to divorced and separated parents, irrespective of gender or marital status.
Our primary concern is the maintenance of the child’s relationship with both parents.
Founded in 1974, FNF helps thousands of parents every year.
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