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A Stunning Family Betrayal: UK children to be denied right to see their divorced father PDF Print E-mail
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Written by f4e   

Fathers and grandparents will not be given any legal right to see children after a break-up, under the biggest changes to family law in the UK in a generation.

 In what was immediately denounced as a ‘betrayal’ of the family, a major report today rules against giving men shared or equal time with their children when a relationship ends. It suggests fathers will even be denied the legal right to maintain a ‘meaningful relationship’ with their families, as this ‘would do more harm than good’.

 The review also kicks into touch Coalition pledges to make it easier to maintain contact with grandchildren when parents separate, a problem that usually affects those on the father’s side.

The long-awaited Family Justice Review was branded a ‘monstrous sham’ that undermines David Cameron’s pledge to lead the most family-friendly government in history.

The independent report was commissioned by ministers to examine the case for reform of a family law system repeatedly accused of putting rights of mothers over those of fathers and grandparents. 

Allies of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he would fight to ensure the Government’s response – due to be published in January – will do more for fathers and grandparents.

A source close to the Cabinet minister said that the findings were ‘absurd’, warning that they undermined attempts to tackle the generation of fatherless youths blamed for the summer’s riots.

But Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is expected to back the review, chaired by former civil servant and Marks & Spencer executive David Norgrove.

His report was commissioned by Labour and dismissed by the Tories in Opposition as inadequate but will now form the basis of Coalition legislation.

The review comes against a backdrop of soaring divorce rates and increasing numbers of children  being born out of wedlock, often to co-habitees who are more likely to break up than married couples.

Last year there were almost three million children aged under 16 living in a lone-parent household – or  24 per cent of the total.

Mr Norgrove’s findings fly in the face of studies showing that it is best for a child to have extensive access to both its father and mother.

The report says: ‘No legislation should be introduced that creates or risks creating the perception that there is a parental right to substantially shared or equal time for both parents.’

Mr Norgrove has even watered down his own interim report, published in March, which said there should be a legal presumption that children should have a ‘meaningful relationship’ with both parents.

Mr Norgrove believes that enshrining such rights in law could slow down already lengthy and expensive custody cases.

Instead, the courts will simply have to consider the benefits of a meaningful relationship when they decide where children should live and how often they should see each parent.

The final report flatly rejected claims by fathers’ rights groups that the current system is biased – despite figures showing that 93 per cent of custody battles are won by the mother.

Nadine O’Connor, of the Fathers 4 Justice campaign group, said: ‘The review is a monstrous sham and a bureaucratic exercise in improving the efficiency of injustice. It will feed the epidemic of mass fatherlessness and lead to further social unrest.

‘This report condemns children to a life without fathers with catastrophic social consequences.’

The report also contradicts pledges by senior officials earlier this year that grandparents would be given far greater rights.

Instead, they will still have to apply to court twice to see their grandchildren: once for the right to begin a case and then to seek access to their loved ones.

The Norgrove panel merely issued a tepid recommendation that their role should be ‘emphasised’.

Instead of legal protections for fathers and grandparents, the Norgrove report laid out plans to encourage parents to settle disputes before they get to court.

All parents will be given advice on drawing up ‘parenting agreements’ to divide the care of their children.

James Deuchars, of Grandparents Apart UK, said: ‘The Tories said before the election that grandparents were going to have more rights. This is a betrayal of that promise. It was all a con and a gimmick.

‘This report is trying to do away with the traditional family. The result will be more bitter and disillusioned young boys who join gangs.’

A source close to Mr Cameron said the Government has ‘certainly not’ pledged to adopt all the report’s recommendations.

But a source close to Mr Clarke described it as ‘an authoritative account of the problems and a thoughtful look at the solutions’.

The report also said no childcare case should last more than six months and recommended the creation of a Family Justice Service to focus the work of all agencies for the 500,000 children and adults caught up in the family courts each year.

 



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