Clause 11 of the Act, which came into force recently, requires courts making child arrangement orders to presume, unless otherwise shown, that the involvement of both separating parents in the life of a child will further its welfare.
However, legal advisers have campaigned to ensure this clause did not undermine section 1 of the Children Act 1989, which requires the child's welfare to be the court's paramount consideration when reaching decisions on their upbringing.
The campaign was successful and an amendment was inserted to make clear that 'parental involvement' does not mean 'shared parenting', and there is no presumption parents will 'share' their children on a 50/50 basis.
The amendment makes clear that 'parental involvement' is defined as 'involvement of some kind, either direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child's time'.
Coram Children’s Legal Centre's director of international programmes and research, Professor Carolyn Hamilton, commented: "It is essential that the best interests of the child remain paramount in all decisions affecting children. Decisions about where a child should live and how much the child should see each parent should be made in accordance with the child's best interests and not on the basis of parental rights."
Professor Hamilton continued: "We campaigned hard for a definition of 'parental involvement' to be included in the Act so that it was clear to separating parents that neither mothers nor fathers are entitled to a legally binding presumption of shared parenting. Ninety per cent of cases relating to contact are settled out of court, so this amendment is crucial. It will make it clear on the face of the Act that the welfare of children remains paramount."