Family CourtOpinionUK

Judge calls for more problem-solving

A High Court judge has called for more problem-solving than a court provides for separating families. In her recent judgement Mrs Justice Lieven is frustrated with the legal system’s inherent backward-looking adversarial approach:

If the family justice system is to have the slightest chance of dealing with cases in a timely and productive manner and to assist families in decision making concerning their children, then we all have to focus on the real issues and try to adopt a problem solving approach rather than a largely adversarial one.

Mrs Justice Lieven, English HIgh Court Family Judge

In her judgement in the particular case of “The Father and The Mother” she uses “between … and” instead of the usual “versus”. But most of the adversarial terminology and legal context of a judge’s work remains in place.

She explains that: “The Court is not there to consider what went wrong in the parent’s relationship … in the past, save strictly to the degree it impacts on the decision concerning the child in the future. Equally, cross-examination about past failings (by both parents) is very unlikely to aid better future relations in the best interests of the child.”

Problem-solving courts

Only a few courts in the world have done the required groundwork to become effective problem-solving services. Cochem and Belgium, Israel and the Family Drug and Alcohol Courts in the UK are examples.

A judge who calls for more problem-solving takes a first step in the right direction. The next steps toward creating a seriously problem-solving system for separating families are much harder work. Read on for more about that: