Children and Families Relationship Act – One Year On
Today, on the one year anniversary of the commencement of key provisions relating to guardianship of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, Barnardos welcomes various provisions such as unmarried fathers becoming automatic guardians and widening the scope of guardianship to include grandparents and same sex parents.
June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said “This act was lauded to bring much needed reform to family law and to ensure that the diversity and complexities of families would be supported and protected. A year on, we have noted a welcome increase in the number of judges seeking to have the views and best interests of the child heard in private law cases. Also, anecdotally, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of access orders being granted to grandparents, particularly in highly acrimonious cases. It is positive that there is now scope to do so in these instances.
“However, teething problems remain. These include a lack of consistent, clear direction from the court as to which specific aspects of a child’s life they want a position on and a vague definition of a ‘Child’s View Expert’. In our view, there is a need for best practice guidelines to be published to help assess the child’s best interests and to ascertain their views.”
Ms Tinsley continued, “Reform of family law was much needed and must now be accompanied by similar reform in our courts system, which can be adversarial and not child friendly. We are urging for the establishment of a dedicated family court structure with the necessary ancillary support services such as Child Contact Centres, mediation services etc. to guarantee appropriate settings and supports to hear family law cases. Such reforms within the court system would complement the work envisaged by the Children and Family Relationships Act.
“Finally, there are many provisions within this progressive Act that have yet to commence, particularly the provisions relating to parentage in instances of donor assisted human reproduction. This delay is affecting the legal protection and identity of children being raised in these families. We welcome that work is now under way at the Department of Health to commence these sections, and that there are dedicated resources in place. However, we would urge this work is completed as a matter of urgency, in the interests of the children affected and their families.”