HC Deb 08 March 2004 vol 418 c1344W
Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if the Secretary of State will bring forward legislation to provide for a presumption at court that both parents have the right to spend time with their children following divorce; and if he will make a statement. [158911]

Margaret Hodge

[holding answer 5 March 2004]: There are no current plans to establish a legal presumption of contact, following separation or divorce, between children and both of their parents. The Government support the view that, in general, children benefit from a continuing relationship with both parents following parental separation where it is in the best interests of the child and safe for all family members. The fundamental principle of the Children Act 1989 is that any court decision must be based on what is best for the child. There is no automatic "right" to contact for either fathers or mothers, but in practice the courts have taken the view that in most cases the child's welfare is best served by contact with both parents. This was stated by the Court of Appeal in Re: O (Contact: Imposition of Conditions) [1995] 2 FLR 124 in the following terms: Where parents of a child are separated and the child is in the day-to-day care of one of them, it is almost always in the interests of the child that he or she should have contact with the other parent.

The Government will be publishing its response to the Children Act Sub-Committee Report, "Making Contact Work", which dealt with the issue of the facilitation and enforcement of contact orders in March.