The head of one of the region’s largest family law teams who warned in June 2020 of a spike in cases relating to care proceedings, has said this month’s launch of a review to examine how parental access decisions are made could not have come at a more appropriate time.
Nathan Wright, a partner with Shropshire and North Wales law firm GHP Legal, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought serious difficulties for families who have been trying to cope with separation, financial starvation and in some cases months of isolation.
“During the lockdown emotions have been running at an all-time high and lawyers’ concerns about whether decisions on parental access made in the family courts could be impacting child safety have increased.”
A package of reforms to overhaul how family courts deal with domestic abuse cases was announced at the beginning of the summer. The aim is to provide victims of domestic abuse with additional protections in the courtroom and assess whether children are being considered in the best way to keep them from harm.
“Currently courts are required to follow the presumption of ‘parental involvement’ when making their judgments,” says Nathan Wright, whose firm is among the top 500 law firms in England and Wales. “In other words, they encourage a child to maintain a relationship with both parents, unless involvement with one or both parents would put them at risk of harm.
“In some cases, however, this edict could be detracting from the more important focus of what is best for both an individual child’s welfare and its safety. It is therefore essential that the right balance is struck between keeping children safe and ensuring that they have the best possible family life, given their particular circumstances. Hopefully, this will be the outcome of the review and legislative changes will subsequently be made where necessary.”