Clarke to firm up father's rights

Fathers' rights: Clarke's plan will frame an 'ongoing relationship with both parents' in law.
Fathers' rights: Clarke's plan will frame an 'ongoing relationship with both parents' in law.

By Ian Dunt

Campaigners for father's rights celebrated today after the justice secretary unveiled plans to bolster their role following divorce proceedings.

Ken Clarke said divorced and separated dads would have stronger rights to see their children as long as they did not pose a safety or welfare risk to the child.

"We are stating what I think is the view of most people, which is that both parents have responsibilities and rights towards their children and the children are entitled to try and maintain contact with both parents if it's at all possible," he told the Today programme.

"But what we are doing is going to state that principle in the law, because there are far too many people who think it's not being applied - although I do think the courts do apply it and try to apply it in most cases."

The change will relieve fathers' rights campaign groups, such as Fathers4Justice, who grabbed front page headlines with their high-profile stunts, usually involving superhero outfits and tall buildings.

The key change being imposed by Mr Clarke is the introduction of rules to make clear that an "ongoing relationship with both parents" is vital to the child.

The change will stop short of offering equal access to the child, however – a key demand of many fathers' groups.

The justice secretary believes most courts already take that into account but that by enshrining it in law it will eradicate some of the confusion around the policy.

The move actually contradicts a central aspect of David Norgrove's review into policy, which the rest of the policy package is derived from.

Mr Norgrove argued there was unwise to give fathers new rights, because it would create "confusion, misinterpretation and false expectations".

Grandparents will see an increase in their role as new 'parenting agreements' come into force, approaching child welfare with the view that close relations are maintained with a range of close family members.

An extra £10 million is being aimed at mediation services to prevent many custody cases reaching the courts in the first place.
The new rights are expected to be put into law through a change to the Children's Act 1989.


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