Unpaid work plan for parents who ignore court orders

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The Independent Online

Separated parents who ignore child contact orders imposed by the courts will be forced to do unpaid community work under proposals published today.



Separated parents who ignore child contact orders imposed by the courts will be forced to do unpaid community work under proposals published today.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, said parents who fail to allow former partners to see their children could also be given curfews.

But he appeared to reject the idea of electronically tagging parents who fail to co-operate with family court orders.

Disclosing that a draft Bill strengthening the courts' powers will be published in the next fortnight, Lord Falconer said he would be "unhappy" about such a move, adding that it would be "inappropriate".

Ministers announced a package of measures which they insisted would improve the way the legal system deals with children whose parents have suffered a break-up.

More couples will be encouraged to reach agreements outside court and those who do begin legal action will be offered improved mediation services, possibly taking children's views into account.

Courts will also aim to improve management of child contact cases to minimise delays.Ministers remain firmly opposed to the idea of automatic 50-50 child contact for divorced or separated parents, as proposed by campaign groups such as Fathers 4 Justice.

Lord Falconer said: "We have considered this issue again as part of the consultation but we don't accept the argument for automatic 50-50 contact.

"This isn't about what's best for parents, it's about what's best for children."

Lord Falconer denies that the reforms had been driven by the Fathers 4 Justice group, which was responsible for throwing a purple flour bomb at Prime Minister Tony Blair in the House of Commons last year.

He said: "There needs to be change and there needs to be reform because the system is not working, not because of a campaign of civil disobedience."