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Family Justice Review

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Antony Ball Head of Family Law in our Doncaster office looks at some of the key points in the Family Justice Review panel’s interim report to the Government:

This deals with the very tangled and emotive question of access to children when families separate.
Antony commented this week:

“After a year spent speaking to children, parents and those who work in family justice, the Review panel found the current system was not working to the full benefit of the children it was designed to help.”

“A series of recommendations are now being proposed. These emphasise the importance of children being able to maintain relationships with those who are important to them - including grandparents as was much heralded - and other relatives and friends who the child values. It must be pointed out though that although grandparents are mentioned there is no reference to legal rights for grandparents in respect of access to their grandchildren.”

“The report also calls for a simpler service for families which are separating, aimed at helping them to focus on their children and to reach agreement, if possible without going to court.”

“It also recommends the use of Parenting Agreements, which would bring together arrangements for children's care after separation and focusing on where the child spends their time.”

Other recommendations include:

  • A new Family Justice Service led by a National Family Justice Board
  • A unified family court system, streamlining services to replace the current three-tier system
  • Less reliance on "unnecessary" expert reports which can cause delay
  • Assessment for mediation followed by access to separated parents information programmes and dispute resolution; to help separating parents understand the impact of conflict on the children and to reach agreement.

Antony concludes:

“The overall feel of these proposals is that they have the potential to continue the move towards a new era of family dispute resolution. Although whether the Review brings about any fundamental changes will only be known after the panel make their final recommendations to the Government in the autumn.”

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