Written evidence submitted by Resolution, April 2022
Resolution is an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other family justice professionals in England and Wales, who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational and collaborative approach to family law matters, especially if there are children involved. Resolution also campaigns for better laws and better support for families and children undergoing family change.
- The introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014 has made little difference to the family justice system and the children involved.
- The presumption of the involvement of both parents in the life of the child after family separation has not had any impact on proceedings or made a significant difference to judicial decisions, but it can be helpful in giving early professional advice to parents.
- Future reforms need to ensure the centrality of the voice of the child and address the narrow scope of private family legal aid.
- Applicants and children need to move through the family justice system more quickly, perhaps involving the introduction of a statutory time limit on child arrangements proceedings.
- Resolution recommends replacing statutory Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings to give people access to a broader Advice and Information Meeting on all types of dispute resolution, or at least introducing a requirement for a respondent to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. In practice that meeting is used primarily as a route into mediation which is not suitable for all cases, or as a stepping-stone to court.
- There should be access to earlier and statutory Separated Parents Information Programmes.
- We believe the 26 week time limit on care and placement proceedings strikes the right balance, but the time limit frequently needs to be extended to meet the best interests of the child.
- The family justice system cannot be considered and changed in isolation. Providing more resources and a joined up government approach to help families access early family support and to steer more cases, where appropriate and safe, away from the family justice system are needed.