The new enforcement powers are as follows:
The Act containing the changes can be found here, and the statutory instrument creating changes to the Family Procedure Rules together with the new forms can be found here. They all come into force on 25th November 2008.
Reaction to the new provisions has been mixed. A survey by the University of Kent found that less than half of family law professionals thought the new provisions would be sufficient to deter parties from breaching orders, although a majority agreed that the existing means of enforcement were also inadequate. The Ministry of Justice states that its consultation produced largely positive results. It also remains to be seen what effect the greater involvement of CAFCASS officers will have, given how woefully underfunded the service is at present.
The recent case of Re C v XYX County Council concerned a 19 year old mother who had become pregnant after a one night stand. She had only discovered the pregnancy at a late stage and did not believe she could care for the child. She therefore left the child at hospital following its birth, indicating that she wished for it to be adopted.
In many cases the father or the mother's extended family would be the first point of call to care for the child. Here, the mother would not identify the father to social services or the court, nor would she disclose the pregnancy and birth to her family or allow them to be contacted. She identified reasons why she felt that her family would not provide suitable care.
At first instance it was held that social services were under an obligation to inform themselves of as much information about the background of the family and father as they were able.
On appeal it was held that such enquiries were only to be undertaken where they were in the best interests of the child, and this would only be so where they genuinely further the prospect of finding a long-term carer for the child without delay. In this case it was more important to look at the effect of delay in placing the child with a long term carer. There was therefore no requirement for social services or the court to inform the mother's family or indeed the actual father of the child, who remains unaware that he has a child at all.
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