The Children and Families Act was given Royal Assent today after a just over a year of discussion and amends through parliament.
The Act will be introduced as part of the re-launched family justice system being implemented on 22 April 2013 and family lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say that the Act is to be welcomed as it will put the interests of children at the heart of any family law processes.
Louise Halford, a specialist family and divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell which has offices across the country, said:
'The major impact of the Children and Families Act is that it places shared parenting and collaboration at the heart of family law in England. The intention is to put children's interests first by the letter of the law.
During divorces, couples will be expected to consider some form of mediation before taking their spouse to court about finance or matters involving children. This is intended to encourage a more amicable approach to divorce to minimise the impact on the rest of the family and try to cut costs for couples.
In disputes over contact with children, the court will take the starting point that any child is better off by having both parents in its life - as long as this doesn't impact on the child's safety and welfare. But amends made to the act at the last minute ensured that this should not be interpreted as meaning both parents should have equal 50/50 time with children as in reality it is rare that this is possible with other commitments such as people's working hours and availability.
In our experience the courts are already effectively using the principle of shared parenting as being in the best interests of the child and most parents are sensible about their approach to sharing contact - but the Act will enshrine this in law.'
The Government also intends to speed up the process and they are imposing time limits of 26 weeks for cases involving children to be resolved.