A new JUSTICE report shows children in the family justice system feel ‘unsupported and unheard, like the object of an adult dispute’.
Separating families struggle to access the justice they need. Confusing advice and uncoordinated support face families in breakdown who can’t afford lawyers. Domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health issues compound difficulties. Courts aren’t equipped to deal with these complex problems.
‘Ambitious but realistic’, 43 recommendations are made in the report.
There should be a single authoritative information website and publicly-funded legal advice for child arrangement issues. A network should be created to coordinate legal and non-legal services.
A neutral and legally-trained ‘case progression officer’ role should be a standard in every case. With power to conduct investigations, a multidisciplinary court team can consult children. There should be funding for expert evidence for parties that cannot afford it, including lawyer representation in fact-finding hearings into alleged harm to the child. Reviewing officers should routinely follow up cases.
‘Individuals must be able to understand what the law says, navigate their options safely, and participate effectively in any dispute resolution process’, JUSTICE’s Chief Executive Fiona Rutherford said.