Fathers and grandparents will not be given any legal right to see children after a break-up, under the biggest changes to family law in a generation.
In what was immediately denounced as a ‘betrayal’ of the family, a major report today rules against giving men shared or equal time with their children when a relationship ends.
It suggests fathers will even be denied the legal right to maintain a ‘meaningful relationship’ with their families, as this ‘would do more harm than good’.
The review also overturns Coalition pledges to make it easier to maintain contact with grandchildren when parents separate, a problem that usually affects those on the father’s side.
The long-awaited Family Justice Review was branded a ‘monstrous sham’ that undermines David Cameron’s pledge to lead the most family-friendly government in history.
The independent report was commissioned by ministers to examine the case for reform of a family law system repeatedly accused of putting rights of mothers over those of fathers and grandparents.
But its proposals – likely to form the basis of future government family policy – sparked an immediate Cabinet revolt.
Allies of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he would fight to ensure the Government’s response – due to be published in January – will do more for fathers and grandparents.
A source close to the Cabinet minister said that the findings were ‘absurd’, warning that they undermined attempts to tackle the generation of fatherless youths blamed for the summer’s riots.
The review comes against a backdrop of soaring divorce rates and increasing numbers of children being born out of wedlock, often to co-habitees who are more likely to break up than married couples.
Last year there were almost three million children aged under 16 living in a lone-parent household – or 24 per cent of the total.
The final report flatly rejected claims by fathers’ rights groups that the current system is biased – despite figures showing that 93 per cent of custody battles are won by the mother.
The report also contradicts pledges by senior officials earlier this year that grandparents would be given far greater rights. Instead, they will still have to apply to court twice to see their grandchildren: once for the right to begin a case and then to seek access to their loved ones.