Children to be given right to see fathers after divorce


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The Independent Online

The Government is considering changing the law to ensure that fathers get improved access to their children after a marriage breaks down.

A working group, comprising education ministers Tim Loughton and Sarah Teather, and Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly, has been asked to come up with proposals on how legislation could increase the rights of fathers.

The move appears to overturn the main finding of an official review into family justice by David Norgrove, which reported in November. He concluded it would be too onerous for judges to ensure greater equality of access.

Mr Norgrove originally proposed a right to equal access in law for both parents last March and then dropped it.

He said it would put too much pressure on judges to set out the exact length of time that each divorced parent should spend with their children. Currently, family courts decide to leave children with their mothers in the majority of cases.

Campaigners have long complained that without a legal right to see their children, fathers can be excluded. By creating the new right for children, ministers hope judges ruling on custody disputes will ensure more equal access.

Mr Loughton said: "The state cannot create happy families, or broker amicable break-ups. But if children are having decent, loving parents pushed out of their lives, we owe it to them to change the system that lets this happen." Ministers are to announce a £10m fund to encourage more parents to use mediation.