The refusal by a divorced mother to give her former husband access to their children could lead to her being banned from travelling abroad, driving or even leaving her home in the evening, under plans announced by the UK government.
The proposals are part of a series of changes to the law aimed at establishing a legal right for children to have a “meaningful relationship” with both parents after a marriage breakdown.
The consultation, published by the Government, proposes a series of steps to establish the notion of “shared parenting” after separation in law. Judges will be expected, where possible, to ensure that fathers are given time with their sons and daughters, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Defiance of court orders requiring mothers to give such access will be subject to a number of penalties including the removal of passports or driving licences and the imposition of home curfews.
Ministers believe that grandparents should also have access to their grandchildren but the law will not be changed to ensure this occurs.
This is despite reports last week that some grandparents have been legally warned not to contact their grandchildren by even sending birthday cards.
Courts are currently able to fine or jail mothers defying court instructions ordering them to allow fathers to spend set periods of time with their children.
Ministers will announce that mothers will in future be warned that they may lose custody of their children if they repeatedly defy court orders.
The consultation document states: “The Government believes that there should be a level playing field on enforcement so that denial of maintenance or refusal to facilitate contact both give rise to the same or very similar penalties.”
Tim Loughton, the children’s minister, said: “We want the law to be far more explicit about the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both their parents after separation, where that is safe and in the child’s best interests.”
A consultation suggesting four possible amendments to the 1989 Children Act will be published to ensure the presumption in favour of shared parenting.
Campaigners say that without a legal right to see their children, fathers can be excluded.
Separated and unmarried fathers in Ireland can also face serious obstacles to seeing their children.