Tory MP introduces shared parenting bill

family law

Conservative MP Suella Fernandes has introduced a bill in the House of Commons which aims to reform the way child contact is decided following a divorce.

This legislation, called the Family Justice Bill 2016-17, would establish a presumption of shared parenting in child arrangement orders. Fernandes believes that the current system is failing non-resident parents and often leaving them with no option but to “spend huge amounts of money in the courts with little guarantee of a fair outcome”.

Writing in The Times, the MP for Fareham, Hampshire, claimed the law “needs urgent reform to prevent parents from acting with impunity”. Those who have their children for the majority of the time can unlawfully prevent the other parent from having contact with them without fear of punishment, Fernandes insisted.

“The criminal threshold for contempt is rarely met and judges are failing to assert their authority swiftly under the 1989 Children Act.”

She called the current family law system an “antiquated system [which] reflects norms of the 1950s and 1960s rather than relationships of today”. Her proposed bill was just one of a number of reforms the MP believed were necessary. These included the introduction of no fault divorce. This was “long overdue” she wrote, citing a recent controversial Court of Appeal decision to deny a woman’s divorce petition.

Fernandes called for spousal maintenance payments to be limited as they are in Scotland and North America. She also said cohabiting couples should have legal rights when they separate, prenuptial agreements should be made enforceable and the way ‘public law’ cases are dealt with should be examined. These involve children who are taken into care by local authorities.

The bill’s second reading is expected to take place on May 12.

For more information on the Family Justice Bill 2016-17, click here.

Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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8 comments

Andrew - March 30, 2017 at 11:35am

The House is not sitting on 12 May. That is a nominal date for all the remaining Private Members’ Bills which are going nowhere.

Ben - March 30, 2017 at 11:37am

This is an excellent bill. Any idea Marilyn how to support it?

spinner - March 30, 2017 at 2:05pm

Write to your own MP and ask them to consider supporting it. http://www.writetothem.com seems to be the easiest way. If you could take a look at Baroness Deetch’s Financial Provision Bill also it maybe of interest.

spinner - March 30, 2017 at 12:32pm

This will likely go nowhere beyond a first reading along with Baroness Deech’s financial provisions bill but at least there are people in both houses raising these issue’s and opening the door for other less brave people to start talking about them as well. Maybe even a few male MP’s will get their ball’s back from their wife’s purse and start raising them.

Andy - March 30, 2017 at 5:08pm

As my prior colleague makes comment.
At least areas of equality are shifting may be it a small one..
Still, at least the MP’s are giving thought to it..must be about the same thought as there expenses form filling in..whilst sitting in chambers…
We can only hope for change…

Mary Prayne - March 31, 2017 at 1:03pm

Children deserve to be able to freely love and spend equal time with both parents and sides of their family, without fear of repercussions! It has long been a Global issue that Children have been denied this Right!

Anne - April 12, 2017 at 8:24am

Hi, I know very little about Parliament or the law so could you please tell me why you think Suella Fernandez will get no further than the first reading of her bill concerning family justice? I am writing to my MP to support her, is there anything else I can do? This bill is so important.

Dan - April 30, 2017 at 12:02am

My Children have been taken away from me without my knowledge just last week. According to the social services and police and family law she is allowed to do this with no consequences for her actions.
There is no way to prove my children are safe and in school or living well.
As i write this right now i have no idea where my children are and their mother isn’t forthcoming with any information.
The only information i was able to get was that she is having problems with her ex partner.

I am happy to support this bill and hopefully see it come back to the house after the elections.

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