Family Courts (Equal Treatment)

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 2nd July 2015.

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Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight 9:30 am, 2nd July 2015

What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on equal treatment of men and women in the family courts.

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister for Equalities (Department for Education), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Family law does not discriminate between men and women, and the family courts apply the law to men and women equally. Judges know that they must not discriminate on any grounds, including gender.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

The recent case involving a woman who ran away with her son to frustrate an order of the court is the tip of an enormous iceberg. Many children lose contact with their fathers each year, due to women wilfully obstructing child arrangements orders. Will the Minister undertake research on the impact of that on the life chances of the children affected?

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister for Equalities (Department for Education), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

My hon. Friend speaks about an emotive subject, but the law changed last October and now requires the family court to presume that each parent’s involvement will further the child’s welfare unless there is evidence to the contrary. However, the child’s welfare remains a paramount consideration for the court. Where either parent breaches a child arrangements order without a reasonable excuse, the court has the power to deal with it, including by imposing community sentences or even by treating the breach as a contempt of court, punishable by imprisonment or a fine.