HC Deb 24 May 2004 vol 421 cc1317-8W
Mr. Amess

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many separated parents have joint custody of their children; and if he will make a statement. [173556]

Margaret Hodge

Since the Children Act 1989 was implemented in 1991, "custody" of a child has ceased to be a concept in the law of England and Wales. Under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 a court has the power to make a residence order, beingan order settling the arrangements to be made as to the person with whom a child is to live".

Section 1(5) of the Children Act provides that a court cannot make an order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all ("the no order principle"). It follows that, if parents are agreed on the arrangements for their child, then it may be that the matter never comes before a court, or that, if it is before a court, the court considers that it is better for the child that no order be made. In other cases, such as those where there is no agreement between the parents, it is open to the court to make a residence order, if it considers that it is in the best interests of the child to do so. Such an order might be a "shared residence" order (so that the child lives with both parents, at different times, usually spending around half his time with each). The following table shows the latest available judicial statistics (2002). During 2002 a total of 103,191 section 8 orders were made in private law.

The tables show the outcome of cases prosecuted, both in numerical terms and as a proportion of completed cases. The number and percentage of cases discontinued in the magistrates courts, and the number and percentage resulting in a judge ordered acquittal in the Crown court, are included for each year.

Disposal of selected applicants in private law in all tiers of court, 2002
Nature of application Applications withdrawn Orders refused Orders of no order Orders made
Parental responsibility 773 290 132 8,240
Section 8
Residence 1,536 158 431 30,006
Contact 2,373 518 945 61,356
Prohibited steps 300 40 77 8,889
Specific issue 207 33 67 2,940

Forward to