Fathers’ hopes of securing equal rights over their children will be dashed tomorrow when a review of family law is published.
Plans to give parents equal rights to share custody of their children in the event of a split have been rejected by the Family Justice Review, led by former civil servant and businessman David Norgrove.
In a further blow to fathers’ rights campaigners, the Norgrove Report will also reject calls to enshrine in law the principle that children should have a ‘meaningful relationship’ with both their mother and father.
Instead, it will simply say the courts should keep the idea of a meaningful relationship with an absentee father in mind when they make decisions about a child’s future.
The report was rejected as a ‘slap in the face for fathers’ last night and will undermine David Cameron’s claims that he would speak up for a strong family life.
Sources familiar with the report said Mr Norgrove had rejected statutory protection for men because it was likely to lead to lengthy legal battles to define a meaningful relationship.
In his interim report earlier this year, Mr Norgrove concluded the state of the family courts was ‘shocking’ and that disputes take ‘far too long’ to resolve.
He also rejected plans for parents to share custody 50-50 after seeing evidence that the system does not work in countries where it has operated such as Australia.
A senior government source said: ‘The panel found that shared custody on an equal footing led to lengthy delays in the courts which are not in the interests of the child.
‘They have also rejected the halfway house of statutory recognition for the need to maintain a meaningful relationship on the basis that the courts would spend ages deciding how to define a meaningful relationship.’
Nadine O’Connor, campaign co-ordinator for Fathers 4 Justice, said: ‘This whole exercise has been designed to appease women’s groups, not fathers.
‘The Tories promised a fundamental review of family law and said that Norgrove was not good enough. But they’ve made a complete U-turn.’