§ 21. Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford)
What plans he has to make further reforms in the field of family law. 
§ The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Jane Kennedy)
The Government are pursuing a number of initiatives to reform and improve family law. In particular, we are further considering the issues surrounding the court process for contact proceedings where domestic violence is an issue and the extent to which we can improve compliance with child contact orders.
§ Mr. Burns
I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. With the advancement of equal rights for women in all walks of life, is it not an anomaly that, following the breakdown of a relationship, the law tends to discriminate against men by usually insisting on the children residing with the mother and time-limiting the father's access to them? Should not the law be changed to give fathers equal rights and equal time throughout the year to be with their children, in an era when we are seeking to enhance the equality of the sexes and their rights?
§ Jane Kennedy
I believe that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the situation. The law does not prescribe that children should live with their mothers rather than their fathers after the breakdown of a marriage. Most divorced or separated couples make their own arrangements for their children. In some cases, it may be possible, and appropriate, for children to divide their time, exactly half and half, between their parents after a divorce. The courts can make joint residence orders if that is in the children's best interests. However, that is often not practical—it might, for example, disrupt the children's education and their social life. It would not be appropriate to require the courts to impose such an arrangement in every case.
§ Mr. David Kidney (Stafford)
Am I right in thinking that those parts of the Family Law Act 1996 that have not been brought into force will now not be brought into force? If so, is it intended that new legislation will be put in place in due course to state the Government's support for marriage, and that it will include such measures as marriage preparation and marriage support?
§ Jane Kennedy
My hon. Friend is not accurate. Before implementing part II of the Family Law Act 1996, which is the main area of family law that has not been implemented, the Government must be satisfied that the new arrangements for divorce will work. The interim results of extensive pilots, testing information meetings, have been disappointing, particularly with regard to the number of people being encouraged to attend mediation. The final results of the research from the pilots will not be ready until summer of this year, when the Government will consider how to proceed.