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What are your views on the family justice system?

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Children and young people are being asked for their views on the proposed changes to the family justice system by completing an online survey at: Family justice review.

It’s all part of the government’s plans to implement changes to the way families and children are dealt with by the courts in cases such as divorce,child contact, access and so on. Some changes have already been implemented and it’s clear that the government wants to move away from court battles wherever possible. For example, parties now need to demonstrate that they have considered attending mediation before they are able to issue an application to the court.

Of course, this infers that the family court system is only about fights, arguments and battles and that no constructive work or agreements ever takes place.

This could not be further from the truth; family lawyers are often members of Resolution and sign up to a code to conduct to approach cases is a non-adversarial manner.

It is widely acknowledged and accepted that parents need to try to work together and keep their children at the forefront of their minds during the painful and difficult time that often surrounds a separation. All too often children are caught in the middle and children and money can be used by parents to try to ‘score points’ over each other. Suddenly cases turn into being about ‘winning’ and not about the children.

The courts now show a powerful DVD to separating parents before the first hearing and often refer parents to an independently provided ‘Separated Parents Information Programme’.

However, whilst we go to court and try to encourage parents to come to an agreement or ask the court to make a decision where this is not possible, perhaps this is not the best approach. Perhaps the government has a point that more can be done before the courts are used as a last resort in a bid to try to make parents argue less.

Presently a Cafcass officer or social worker may visit a child to seek their views on the court proceedings in relation to them but by asking their views via the online survey, children and young people are now being given a voice into the system as a whole. Arguably, a system that affects them the most.