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Queen's Speech: Fathers To Get Greater Rights To See Children After Break-Ups

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Fathers will get greater rights with the Children and Families Bill
Fathers will get greater rights with the Children and Families Bill

Fathers look set to be given additional rights to see their children after family break-up or divorce, as long as it is in the child's best interests, under reforms set out in the Queen's Speech.

Last year's family justice review warned against introducing a legal presumption of shared parenting, warning it could create an "unacceptable risk of damage to children".

But today's speech announced a consultation on legal options to strengthen the law in England and Wales to ensure that, "where it is safe and in the child's best interests", both parents are able to have a relationship with their sons and daughters after they split up.

Children's minister Tim Loughton said ministers want to "clarify and restore public confidence that the courts properly recognise the joint nature of parenting".

Mr Loughton said: "We intend to legislate to stress the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both their parents after separation, where that is safe and in the child's best interests. We will consulting on legal options shortly."

The Children and Families Bill also sets out plans to speed up adoption and care proceedings and give more support to disabled children.

The Bill will create a six-month time limit for family courts in England and Wales to reach decisions on whether children should be taken into care and will require the court to take into account the impact of delays on the child.

Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said the reform of family justice and child protection was "a critical priority for Government".

The Bill also aims to give families more choice and control over support for children with special educational needs (SEN).

The system of SEN statements for children with disabilities and learning difficulties will be replaced in England from 2014 by a simpler assessment process providing statutory protection up to the age of 25 for those who go into further education, rather than it being cut off at 16.

Labour equalities spokeswoman Yvette Cooper said: "David Cameron and Nick Clegg are still making life harder not easier for families across the country, and the Queen's Speech doesn't change that.

"The Government cannot claim to be family-friendly when it is cutting childcare support, cutting tax credits for part-time working parents, and taking more from children than the banks. Over 30,000 women have left work in the last year because they can't afford childcare and are struggling to make work pay."

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