The weakened following the termination of a marriage. Recent

The purpose of this assignment is to explore how the Children
Act 1989 operates to ensure that the bond between parent and child is not
weakened following the termination of a marriage. Recent changes to the law in
this area which could pose an impact on the bond between parent and child will
also be discussed. In doing so, different sections of the Children Act will be
applied whilst drawing upon other sources of material to demonstrate further
learning. 

Divorce can have effects on a child’s attachment as well as
on their development which in turn can affect the child’s well-being (Ongider,
2013). However in ensuring that the bond between the parent and child is not
weakened there are various sections of the Children’s Act which reinforces
this. Firstly, the Children Act 1989 forms a part of the private law,
amendments were made in relations to this sector of the law. The idea behind
this was to highlight the importance of contact between parent and child
following relationship breakdown (Bainham and Gilmore, 2013). Section 1 (1) of
the Children Act 1989 indicates that the child’s welfare must always be the
courts paramount consideration (Children Act, 1989).

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The different sections of the Children Act 1989 formulates
how parents should concentrate decisions on the child. When looking at what
parental responsibility is, it can be found under section 3 of the Children Act
1989. Despite no definite definition, parental responsibility establishes the
link between the child and person(s) who have the authority to care for the
child or take decisions in regards to their upbringing (Bainham and Gilmore,
2013). Parental responsibility does not permit any interference from either
parents when the child is in the care of either parent, this was reinforced in
the case of A v A (Shared Residence) 2004 EWHC142, whereby it was stated that
parents should not interfere in matters which occur when not in care of the
child.  

Changes in the law have resulted in legal aid no longer
being available however there are exemptions to this where cases of domestic
violence are present. This then results into litigants in person, however
evidence has shown in some family cases whereby there were no representatives,
they were unlikely to settle thus increasing the duration (Williams, 2011).
This can pose an impact on the bond between the parent and child. An example of
this can include the child not being able to see one of their parents as the
other may be withholding access to the child.  A new development in the law has been
introduced in which requires separated couples to attend a mediation
information assessment meeting prior to issuing an application to court
(Morris, 2013). In doing this, it is a way in which the separated couples can
resolve their legal issues without the need of court as court should always be
a last resort. This helps reinforce the bond between parent and child as the
child would be unaware that the parents are ‘fighting’ over them and therefore
there is a reluctance in the child feeling any disregard towards either parent.

Within section 8(1) of the Children Act 1989, the concept of
residence and contact orders have now been replaced with Child Arrangement
Orders. Child Arrangements Order involves where and with whom a child should
live with and have contact with (Burton, 2015). The idea behind the change in
terminology is to prevent a winner and loser mentality which has come to be
attached with custody (White, 2008). In theory this should symbolise to the
child no better parent has won reassuring that the bond between parent and
child is not weakened as both parents will still be involved in the child’s
life. However in regards to shared residence orders they can potentially lack
practicability in achieving a sense of equableness for the parent and child; it
can rarely work for the child’s benefit (Hale et al, 2009). This shows that in
order for the shared residence order to work effectively the parents must have
a shared agreement and understanding. This can pose an impact on the bond
between parent and child as it could potentially result in the child seeing one
of their parents less than what they had previously.

Prohibited steps order which is contained under section 8 of
the Children Act 1989, is an order which prevents anyone from undertaking a
particular step with a child without the court’s consent (Maclean et al, 2002).
Prohibited steps order is a way in which the child’s protection and welfare is
ensured (Norgrove, 2011). Furthermore, this is also another way in how the
Children Act 1989 promotes the bond between parent and child. For example in a
scenario whereby a parent is planning on moving abroad with the child the other
parent can apply for an order to prohibit the parent from taking the child
abroad, this was highlighted in the case of Payne v Payne. Specific issue
orders is also contained under the Children Act 1989, this is defined as an
order which is made giving directions in regards to deciding a specific
question which may and has arisen in terms of any aspect of parental
responsibility (Children Act, 1989). Examples of this may include what religion
a child should be brought in, the school they attend and so on.

Before any application is made to the court there must be
evidence which shows that the separated couple have attempted mediation. As
stated previously when the court is making a decision in regards to a child,
the child’s welfare must be its paramount consideration. Section 1(3) of the
Children Act 1989 provides the welfare checklist of factors which ought to be
taken into consideration when making a decision. These factors are as follows: the
ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child, the physical, emotional and educational
needs of the child, the likely effect on him as a result of any change in his
circumstances, his age, sex, background and characteristics of the child which
the court considers relevant, any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of
suffering, the capability of each of the child’s parents as well as any other
person in which the court consider the question to be relevant to in meeting
the child’s needs and finally the range of powers available to the court under
the Children Act 1989 in the proceedings in question (Children Act, 1989). The
principle of this is for the courts to consider each factor in regards to the
child’s best interest.  

In conclusion it can be seen that the Children Act 1989 have
operated to ensure that the bond between the parent and child is not weakened.
Recent changes in the law can be seen working in favour of not weakening the
bond between parent and child. In contrast to this, new developments in the
Children Act 1989 can be seen as posing a negative impact in regard to the
parent and child’s bond. Ultimately, the idea behind the Children Act 1989 is
to ensure that both parents are involved in the child’s life.   

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