To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if she will take steps to introduce guidance for courts on providing both parents with 50-50 access to their children on divorce as a default unless specific circumstances demonstrate otherwise; and if she will make a statement.
The Government’s view is that when there is a dispute about child arrangements and a parent asks a court to determine those arrangements, the existing law provides a framework which best serves the interests of both children and parents. If the court determines that a shared residence arrangement is necessary to meet the child’s welfare needs it can make an order to that effect.
While the welfare of the child is the courts paramount consideration, the court must by law presume that the involvement of a parent in the life of the child concerned will further that child’s welfare, unless the contrary can be shown. The nature and extent of that involvement will then be determined by the court based on the facts in each case.
In determining the child’s welfare needs the court will apply the factors set out in the ‘welfare checklist’ in the Children Act 1989. These include the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned, the impact on the child of any change in circumstances, and how capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs. The court will also consider any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering, which could include any harm from witnessing domestic violence.