Posted by Ruby Morris on 26th February 2024
Supporting Earlier Resolution

At the Family Law Company we have always believed that children should be at the heart of every decision, in this blog post Children Lawyer Ruby Morris explains recent Government reforms.

This reform arrived on the 26th January 2024, when the Government published a response to the Private Family Law Early Resolution Consultation: “Supporting earlier resolution of private family law arrangements”. The government are seeking to place children’s wellbeing at the heart of Family Court reforms, and this has been welcomed by the industry.

The most important justification for the reforms being that long-term conflict between separating parents can have a devastating impact on children’s wellbeing. The trauma has been linked to increased rates of anxiety, aggression, and depression and can lead to anti-social behaviour, academic struggles and substance misuse.

Although there is (rightfully) a consensus to prioritise the wellbeing of children, the Government additionally site the other costs of contested Children cases as further justification for the reforms. More than 60,000 private law and contested finance cases through the Family Court in 2022. Early resolution will allow family Courts to prioritise and provide protection for the most serious cases. It is therefore hope that this response will be wide reaching in terms of impact on children and families, avoiding the need to enter the Family Courts where possible.

The response is clear in answer to the question “why”, and it also explains “how”. There will be early legal advice, greater use of mediation, continued rollout of innovative pilot which better supports domestic abuse victims and children. The Government have abandoned the proposal to make mediation mandatory, after controversy.

The increased use of mediation will be executed through improved domestic abuse screening, and DBS checks. Meaning they can support children earlier in the process. This is alongside the existing voucher scheme. This has been prioritised with the view to resolving family issues outside of the Court room where possible.

One of the most interesting innovations is that mediators will also be able to create an online portal for sign posting to support services. This is a move towards incorporating technology into a pragmatic approach to resolution as efficiently as possible. It is hoped that there will be more connected information for families, through development of the online tool. The impact will (of course) need to be assessed, but the response can be summarised as pragmatic steps towards worthy aims in private family law.

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Ruby Morris is a Solicitor at The Family Law Company. She has experience in all areas of family law but specialises in Children Law. She prides herself on her client care skills.

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