Children’s Commissioner on Shared Parenting

Margaret Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England

Margaret Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England

The position of the Children’s Commissioner on the Children & Families Bill and Shared Parenting can be found here:…

Notable extracts from this report include:

“The UK Government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1991. This is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, setting out what all children and young people need to be happy and healthy… it has the status of a binding international treaty. By agreeing to the UNCRC the Government has committed itself to promoting and protecting children’s rights by all means available to it.”

– and –

“The legislation governing the operation of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner requires us to have regard to the Convention in all our activities.”

– and –

“The most important of children’s UNCRC rights engaged by these proposals are:
Article 3: the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration
Article 7: the child’s right to know and be cared for by their parents
Article 9: the right of a child not to be separated from their parents except where such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child”

– and –

“Article 8 of ECHR provides for the rights of children [and] birth parents… to respect for their… family life.”

Given the Commissioner’s plain duty to abide by these International Articles, one might reasonably assume that she would be in agreement with the Government’s proposed legislation to uphold the meaningful involvement of both natural parents in the life of a child (subject, of course, to the absence of harm).

Not so!

Instead, the Commissioner states that…

“If the provisions are widely (mis)interpreted as a presumption of equally ‘shared time’, there is a risk of greater conflict and litigation focused on parents’ wishes rather than the child’s needs and interests. A number of stakeholders have suggested that a belief that there is a presumption of shared time would lead parents (largely women) to believe that it was pointless to report domestic violence or child abuse. Careful monitoring would be required to ensure the meaning of ‘involvement’ has been effectively communicated to the public and understood, and that neither of these unintended, but very serious consequences resulted from the provision.”

The Children’s Commissioner seems oblivious to the fact that, in Britain today, millions of children suffer significantly due to the absence of a meaningful relationship with their non-resident parents.

Surely, any legislation which makes it easier for a good parent to remain in contact with their children is desirable?

Her stance is of little surprise.

The Children’s Commissioner was petitioned repeatedly in 2009/2010/2011 by campaigners calling for a reform of relocation law. They asked her to intervene because relocation law, in the form of Payne v Payne, relegated a child’s UN and ECHR rights.…

It appears that the Children’s Commissioner opted to ignore the welfare of thousands of children who were benefiting from a ‘shared care arrangement’ with both of their parents, but who were, nevertheless, removed overseas by one parent. As a consequence, the children lost their meaningful relationship with the left-behind parent.

It should be well noted that, despite the refusal of the Commissioner to involve herself, the Court of Appeal eventually accepted the campaigners’ arguments and ‘reviewed’ relocation law in 2011.

In conclusion, the Children’s Commissioner fails to recognise the tremendous importance for children of maintaining meaningful relationships with two good and caring parents.

She fails in her duty to defend and uphold the UN and ECHR Rights of children, specifically:

UN Article 7: the child’s right to know and be cared for by THEIR parents

UN Article 9: the right of a child not to be separated from THEIR parents except where such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child

ECHR Article 8: the rights of children [and] birth parents… to respect for THEIR… family life.

Bruno D’Itri

Son Riding on Father's Shoulders


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