'So many people have lost contact with their children through the courts, it was inevitable something like Fathers 4 Justice was going to emerge.' (Matt O'Connor, founder of F4J).
Are the courts' powers, and their decisions on ordering and enforcing child arrangements orders, adequate to ensure that children have contact with their parents whenever it promotes their welfare to do so?
Consider the powers to order activity directions and conditions - ss 11A-P Children Act 1989. Are these powers adequate? What other methods could be used to enforce child arrangements orders? For example, would it be sensible to link arrangements for children and maintenance?
- consider the Family Justice Review (available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/family-justice-review-final-report), which recommended that there should be no link of any kind between arrangements for children and maintenance. Do you agree?
What is your view about the approach of the courts towards enforcing child arrangements orders? Consider domestic violence cases as the question focuses on welfare.
- Re L, V, M & H (2001)
- Practice Direction: Residence and Contact Orders: Domestic Violence and Harm (2008)
Consider the introduction of s 11 Children and Families Act 2014 and the presumption of continued parental involvement. Consider the arguments that were made for and against the introduction of such a presumption. You may also find it useful to consider the case law on shared residence prior to the Children and Families Act which showed greater willingness of the courts to order shared residence - contrast A v A (Minors) (Shared Residence Order) (1994) and T v T  EWCA Civ 1366.
- Is the move towards shared residence a good or bad thing?
- Consider the family justice review which considered that any presumption would incur the risk of damage to children. Do you agree?
Conclude with your thoughts. For example, why is it important to promote a relationship between parents and children? Is it for the benefit of the parent, the child or both? How do the powers and approach of the courts sit with this? For example, if contact should be promoted for the child's sake, how does this fit with domestic violence cases?
Consider, for example, whether the powers of the courts are adequate and it is just that the decisions of the courts are too soft? Alternatively, are the decisions of the courts simply doing the best with the limited powers available?