UK Fathers are to be given better access rights to their children in the event of family break-ups, under new proposals from the Government.
New “parenting plans” for custody arrangements will be drawn up with the help of counsellors. The plans will assume that fathers should have reasonable access. Mothers could be ordered to attend counselling if they refuse to comply.
The proposals, contained in the Government’s Green Paper on parental separation, are being seen as an olive branch to fathers who believe the family courts system is biased against them. Although they do not go as far as assuming a strict 50/50 split in contact, as demanded by groups such as Fathers 4 Justice, the reforms would give fathers far better access rights than at present.
Lord Filkin, the Children and Families minister, said the reforms were designed to keep cases out of the courts and to encourage mothers to allow former partners access.
He told The Independent: “The obvious thing is that the courts are not the place forsorting out these disputes. It is about getting people to shift their behaviour and to accept that both parents play a part in bringing up their children. They may hate each other and think each other is a swine, but this is about the needs of the child, not the rights of the parent.”
The proposals have been welcomed by moderate fathers’ groups who believe the reforms will give them far better rights to access over their children.
Jack O’Sullivan, of the lobby group Fathers Direct, said: “Parenting plans offer a great opportunity for both parents to be properly involved and to have a say in the way their children are brought up.”