Rules of Engagement

The government is to pilot integrated domestic violence courts
where one judge can deal with both the criminal and family aspects
of domestic violence. The first integrated court is expected to be
up and running this year.

The announcement forms part of a package of reforms on child
custody and contact after parental separation outlined in a new
White Paper. It includes compulsory parenting classes for some
parents before a contact order is made, and new legislation to
prevent one parent from obstructing the enforcement of a contact

“Gateway” forms will mean courts will be told about any
allegations of abuse or domestic violence at the start of a case,
but there will be not be a blanket presumption that no contact
should take place if harm has been alleged.

The government has also rejected calls for a presumption of
equal contact after separation, and only one in five respondents to
last year’s Green Paper supported the principle. The child’s
welfare should always be the court’s paramount consideration, says
the White Paper. “The problem is how to shift the attitudes of some
parents better to focus on the needs of the child”.

Where a parent – usually a mother – breaches a contact order,
she could be subject to a curfew, or a community service order, or
be ordered to make financial compensation to the other parent. As a
last resort, mothers could be fined or imprisoned for breaching
contact orders.

New templates – called Parenting Plans – showing examples of
contact arrangements that work well for children at different ages
and in different circumstances are to be published by the
government and distributed to parents and their advisors.

Parental separation: children’s needs and parents’
responsibilities: next steps.  From

Risky start to life.

Nearly half of very premature babies have a disability by age 6
according to latest research.

Children born extremely prematurely run a high risk of
disability, with only one in five having no problems at age 6,
according to the latest results of a long term study.

The EPICure study has followed a group of babies born in the UK
in 1995 at 25 weeks gestation or less, and assessed them at age 2
and a half, and six.

When the children were age 2 and a half the assessment found
that 50% had no disabilities, one in four had severe disability and
one in four had mild or moderate disability.

When they were six very detailed medical and psychological
testing took place, comparing 241 of the children with 160
classmates who were born at full term.

Only 20 per cent had no problems. Twenty-two per cent had severe
disability, 24 per cent had moderate disability and 34 per cent had
milder problems such as poor eyesight or below average cognitive
The study also showed the boys had a greater risk of severe
disability than girls, and lower scores generally for cognitive

Bliss, the charity for premature babies, was a major funder of
the study. Its chief executive Rob Williams said, “The results will
give parents some guidance as to the possible outcome for this
small group of babies. They may well affect difficult decisions
that have to be made about continuing treatment.”


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