EvidenceFamily CourtUK

Courts leave children in limbo

The decision-making system for families and children slows right down when courts are involved. An overview of recent raw* UK data confirms how badly courts leave children in limbo.

Prolonged care proceedings and parental separation cases in the family court system means leaving “thousands of children in limbo”.

Marieta Marinova, reporter, paraphrasing The Law Society

The complex process around family courts lies in the hands of a large diverse group of adults. They cannot be expected to be an effective engaged flexible team. Parents find themselves on the sidelines. Children most of all.

Hitting targets still hits kids

Six months – the target time for decisions ideally – is still enough on its own to harm children’s development, health and relationships.

Children in the London area had to wait for 54 weeks to get a final decision on their living arrangements … the Government recommended target is 26 weeks.

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service

The call to avoid adversarial courts if at all possible is as compelling as the call to improve them. Avoiding court where possible would improve things for the cases that do need the courts.

I worry about the effect on children, some of whom have not seen their primary carer parent for more than three years.

Cris McCurley, Member of the Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee

Any change of culture requires careful review of training and resourcing the new system.

The children are suffering the very real consequences of months and sometimes years of uncertainty about their future, preventing them from having the stability they need to thrive.

Lubna Shuja, Law Society President

The greatest motivator for change is how – even at their best – the family courts leave children in limbo.

* “Raw data” … eg for the period covered, the COVID lockdown slowed everything down.

Photo: Family Solutions Group