Parents in England and Wales could be ordered to take part in a
range of “contact activities” including counselling and parenting
classes under new measures included in the Children and Adoption
Bill published last month.
The new “contact activity directions” are intended to give courts
more flexible powers to facilitate contact between separated
parents and their children, and can be used at any stage in
proceedings prior to a final decision on contact being made.
The bill, which will help implement proposals set out in last
year’s parental separation green paper, will also give courts new
powers to impose community-based “enforcement orders” or award
financial compensation from one party to another where contact
orders are breached.
Under an enforcement order, parents who breach a contact activity
condition will be required to do up to 200 hours of unpaid work.
Compensation payments will be ordered where one party’s failure to
take part in an agreed contact activity costs the other party
money, for example where the cost of a holiday is lost.
However, earlier plans to electronically tag parents to monitor
compliance of contact arrangements have been removed. Family policy
minister Maria Eagle told the House of Commons that the Department
for Education and Skills had decided the use of electronic tagging
would be “disproportionate”.
The use of family assistance orders, under which families
experiencing difficulties after separation or divorce are provided
with social work support, will also be extended by the bill. The
maximum duration of FAOs will become 12 months instead of six, and
their use will no longer be limited to “exceptional
The bill will also give the education secretary the power to
suspend intercountry adoptions from a country where there are
concerns about its adoption practices. It will also allow the
education secretary to charge a fee to adopters or prospective
adopters for services provided in relation to intercountry