A parent’s right to a “meaningful relationship” with children became law in 2006 in Australia to try to make the rules fairer.
However a review by David Norgrove found that the Australian experience damaged children because courts had tended to apply the law by setting out how long children could spend with their parents.
This meant courts imposed impractical and unreasonable quotas of access time for individual parents on children, dictating how much they had to spend with each parent.
Mr Norgrove’s review found that the right came to be measured “in terms of the quantity of time spent with each parent, rather than the quality of the relationship for the child”.
Australia has since amended this right to stress that protection from harm for children must take priority, above any shared time with parents.
The Norgrove review eventually recommended: “No legislation should be introduced that creates or risks creating the perception that there is a parental right to substantially shared or equal time for both parents.”
However Children’s minister Tim Loughton, who questioned the usefulness of the Australian example, and said judges made the mistake of seeing shared parenting “as being about equality of time”.
He said: “There were concerns about the Australian experience because too often the focus was interpreted as being about equality of time. As we know, we cannot carve up a child’s existence on the basis of some spurious 50:50 split in terms of time”.
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