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Government proposes overhaul to family justice system

06 Feb 2012

The Government has announced that children and families in England and Wales may benefit from major reforms to the family justice system which it is proposing will tackle delays, streamline processes and rebuild trust.

The Government has today published its response to the recommendations made by the independent family justice review panel to reform the family justice system to help strengthen parenting and reduce the time it takes cases to progress through the courts.

The planned changes include:

  • changes in education and the introduction of parenting agreements which the review recommended will help ensure better recognition of the joint role of parents within wider society;
  • clarifying and restoring public confidence that the courts recognise the joint nature of parenting – including a legislative statement emphasising the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both their parents after family separation, where that is safe, and in the child’s best interests;
  • speeding up care and adoption cases by reforming the public law system and increasing transparency, including introducing legislation at the earliest opportunity to enable a six month time limit to be set;
  • simplifying the family justice system to help separating couples reach lasting agreement speedily, if possible without going to court. This may include making it mandatory to resolve a dispute about children and to have an initial assessment to see if mediation is something which would be a suitable means for achieving agreement on the arrangements for their child;
  • driving culture change and better cross-system working through the establishment of a new family justice board, accountable to ministers, made up of senior figures representing the key organisations who play a role within the system and who will have a clear remit to improve performance.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said:

‘The reform of family justice and child protection is a critical priority for Government. Our reforms are ambitious and system-wide and particularly tackle the crucial problem of delay.

‘More use of mediation, more effective court processes and more efficient provision of advice will help to create a family justice system which can better resolve these difficult emotional problems in the best interests of children and families.’

Full details of the Government’s response can be found at www.justice.gov.uk/publications/policy/moj/family-justice-review-response.htm

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