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The Children and Families Bill

The Bill is vast and complex. There are intended changes to the current legislation in relation to adoption and children looked after by the Local Authority, the family justice system relating to private law family cases, special educational needs, child minder agencies and other childcare provision, statutory rights for employees relating to leave, pay, flexible working hours and time off work and changes to the role of the children’s commissioner.
What does it mean for children and families in family law disputes?Regarding public law issues the Government has ambitiously created provisions to speed up the placement of vulnerable children with permanent families. Local Authorities will soon be able to place children for whom adoption is an option with “adoptive foster carers” (carers who intend to become their permanent carers).There are proposed changes in relation the Local Authority’s current obligation to consider a child’s ethnicity when placing a child with a permanent family. The Bill seeks to remove that obligation so that children in ethnic minority groups will be placed in permanent homes much sooner.In addition it is the intention of the Bill to apply a 26 week statutory time limit in which applications by the Local Authority for Care Orders need to be concluded with only exceptional cases being allowed to run over that time frame. Local Family Courts have however been implementing this procedure under a pilot scheme issued last year but it looks set to become a statutory obligation.Other changes include greater support services to adopters and a reform of the current provisions in respect of how prospective adopters can search and be matched with children.Parents facing care proceeding should be reassured that the courts approach to making final orders placing children for adoption will remain a last resort when all other options have been ruled out.
Private Law
In private law the Bill proposes a mandatory attendance of parties at a mediation information and assessment meeting before any application to court for non-urgent orders concerning a child. The aim of the proposals are to assist parties in dispute achieve cooperative arrangements for their children. Instead of Residence or Contact Orders the courts will make Child Arrangements Orders and there will be a strong message in any proceedings that both parents should be involved in the arrangements for a child unless it can be evidenced that this would be detrimental to a child’s welfare.The intention is to prevent the use of terminology that creates the impression of a winner or a loser in family proceedings and help the parties to achieve mutually acceptable arrangements for their children.Need help?
If you need advice on any family or child law issue please contact Atherton Godfrey’s experienced family department. We have lawyers specialising in all areas of family law issues who can help you – call 01302 320621

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