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Children (Paternal Access)

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the powers of the courts to enforce paternal access to children following relationship breakdown; and if he will make a statement. [125801]

I have been asked to reply.The courts already have powers under the Children Act 1998 to respond to any refusal to obey the court order for contact. The High Court and county court may impose a fixed prison sentence, not exceeding two years (two months in the magistrates court). A fine not exceeding £2,500 may also be imposed. The court may also change the residence of the child from one parent to the other. In considering any penalty, the courts take into account its likely impact on the child's welfare. The Government acknowledges that it is unsatisfactory for contact orders to be flouted with impunity and for children to be denied contact with one of their parents, when the court has found this to be in their interests.In response to the "Making Contact Work" report of the Children Act Sub-Committee (CASC) of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Board on Family Law, the Government have been reviewing current enforcement mechanisms. A final response to this report will be published later in the summer.