Lawyers in Wrexham have welcomed a change to the Children and Families Act which came into force yesterday, saying it should encourage more estranged parents to fight for the right to see their children.
The amendment, to Section 1 of the Act, underpins court guidance to presume that unless there is evidence to the contrary a child benefits from a relationship with both parents.
According to Nathan Wright, a partner with leading North Wales and Shropshire law firm GHP Legal, the amendment means that an obstructive parent with whom a child normally resides will stand less chance of preventing access to the absent parent.
“Basically the law has finally been amended to say each parent is as important as the other,” explains Mr Wright, “which should make it considerably easier for an absent parent to get access to their child.
“Whilst there is still no legal aid available to go straight to the courts there is a substantial pot of legal aid available for mediation. If mediation fails the absent parent can then make an application to the court for a child arrangements order and obtain an order.
"Both parties must attend the first appointment and there is usually a Court Welfare Officer available at Court who will interview both parties, jointly if possible, to ascertain whether an agreement can be reached without taking the matter further.
“If an agreement is not possible the District Judge will make directions as to the future conduct of the case, but the Court will try and reach a conclusion of the case at the first hearing.
“With both parents now legally being considered to play an equally important part in the their children’s lives it will undoubtedly give new hope to many absent parents. I would advise any parent who finds themselves the victim of obstructive behaviour from their former partner to seek legal advice regarding access to their children as soon as possible.”