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Explore ways to improve the family justice system

Finally, we shall explore ways to improve the family justice system. The family courts need to do more to support families, valuing the roles of mothers and fathers, while ensuring parents face up to their responsibilities.

Our Verdict

The “family justice system” describes the legal processes and institutions which regulate disputes within families, or between members of a family and the state. It encompasses “private family law”, dealing with matters such as separation or divorce, as well as “public family law”, when the state intervenes to protect vulnerable family members. This policy is a promise to “explore” improvements to the system. As such, we are simply looking for evidence of relevant research activity in this area.

The national Family Justice Board (FJB) is the main “forum for setting direction for the family justice system and overseeing performance” – it functions as the oversight body for a network of 46 Local Family Justice Boards. The FJB is scheduled to meet quarterly. At the meetings, government representatives and various stakeholders discuss trends, identify problems and debate potential solutions. The meeting minutes are available online since 6 June 2018 (following a Freedom of Information request in 2017).

In June 2018 the Family Rights Group charity published the Care Crisis Review, which looked at reasons for rising numbers of care proceedings and children in care. The review was debated in the House of Commons in September 2018. It proposed 20 “options for change”, which the government has promised to consider carefully. The FJB meeting minutes from September 2018 noted that those recommendations were being used in policy reform work by both the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

In May 2019, the MOJ announced a three-month review of the workings of family courts.

The meetings of the FJB, along with the recently announced review by the MOJ, are evidence of ongoing exploration of ways to improve the family justice system, so we’re giving this a status of ‘done’. We’ll be checking on the outcome of the MOJ review, so follow this policy for updates.

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