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Custody: Parents

Volume 459: debated on Monday 16 April 2007

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what steps she is taking to ensure that parents are treated equitably in terms of access to their children following separation or divorce. (130604)

The Government believe that where it is safe and in the child's best interests, children benefit from a continuing relationship and regular contact with both parents, following separation or divorce.

The vast majority of people (90 per cent.) going through a relationship breakdown do not go to court over contact arrangements with their children. This shows that most people are willing and able to come to their own decisions about how best to manage their ongoing relationship with their children.

Where arrangements for contact with children cannot be agreed, any parent can apply to the court for a contact order under the Children Act 1989, enabling them to have contact with their children.

Approximately 10 per cent. of separating families turn to the courts for help in resolving arrangements for contact with their children. The paramount consideration for the court when making an order under the Children Act is the welfare of the child or children concerned. Both parents are equal before the law and the family courts start from that position.