Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Family justice review 'a betrayal'

Groups such as Fathers 4 Justice have condemned an official review over family custody issues

An official review into family justice which rejects plans to give parents equal rights to share custody of their children in the event of a split is "a betrayal of children and their families", campaigners say.

The final report by former mandarin David Norgrove into the family justice system, which processes care and adoption orders, said "orders should be made only on areas in which parents are unable to make agreements independently".

However, campaigners said that by not specifying that parents should have equal rights, any changes would simply be "merely superficial adjustments to a fundamentally broken system".

Ken Sanderson, chief executive of Families Need Fathers, said the review's failure to recommend shared parenting legislation or a statement on the importance of both parents in law represents "an abdication of their responsibilities to children and their families".

"The core failing of the current family justice system is that the rights of children to maintain meaningful relationships with both parents, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, are not adequately supported or enforced," he said.

"By choosing not to address this issue, any other proposals to reform the system will be merely superficial adjustments to a fundamentally broken system."

Nadine O'Connor, campaign director of Fathers 4 Justice, added that the review was "a monstrous sham and a bureaucratic exercise in improving the efficiency of injustice".

"This report condemns children to a life without fathers with catastrophic social consequences," she said.

The review called for parents to be encouraged to develop a parenting agreement "to set out arrangements for the care of their children post-separation" to help eliminate disputes over contact and where the child should live.

Courts should only be used as a last resort to settle disputes, with divorcing parents encouraged to use mediation first and to refer to a new "divorce information hub", it said.

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