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For years they said 10% of separations went to court - that was wrong!

FNF Action Results in Fundamental Re-interpretation of Family Court Data

Our Article 'Not 1 in 10' (but 38%) is Published in The Stowe Family Law Blog 

Until recently the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) and others, periodically stated that just 10% of family separations resulted in court applications for Child Arrangements. A Government minister said the same thing just a few weeks ago, implying that is broadly ok as it is. Except that the information that they relied on for years was wrong. It was not a little wrong, it was a lot wrong.

In fact Cafcass have now re-calculated this to be 38%, almost four times as high as previous wisdom suggested. The Stowe Family Law Blog has published our article setting out how we came to realise the magnitude of this error, that had been allowed to define the narrative since a report, not designed to measure this, suggested it in 2003. 

The new figures shuld ring alarms with policy makers. The President of the Family Division, the chief family judge for England and Wales, delivered a speech on 5th April 2019 to The Resolution Foundation. In it he said this is

"a far cry from the previous comfortable urban myth based on a figure of 10%. It indicates a major societal problem..."

The debate about what to do about this can now be re-framed. You should contact your MP and tell them that this puts a fresh urgency on the need to review how family justice works in the UK. Use your own experiences of the failings of the system and ask them to contact the relevant minister to priorities this. Ask them also to include a reform of family justice in their party manifestos.

It's worth reading the whole passage of what Sir Andrew McFarlane said about this.

"For very many years I have heard it said that “only 1 in 10 couples” apply to court to determine the welfare arrangements for their children and that only 1 in 10 of those (i.e. 1% of the whole population of separating parents) get as far as a fully contested hearing. I have never accepted either limbs of this assertion. During the Norgrove Family Justice Review I repeatedly asked for data on this topic, but none was forthcoming. Recently all this has changed, largely as a result of work done by Teresa Williams, the Director of Strategy at CAFCASS. Drawing on other available data, Teresa has identified the following broad cohorts:


- There are around 8 million families with dependant children in England and Wales;

- Some 130,000 couples with dependent children separate each year;

- Of these, 50,000 end up in private law court proceedings.

These figures, which indicate that around 38% of couples need to go to court to resolve disagreements over how they should care for their child post-separation, are a far cry from the previous comfortable urban myth based on a figure of 10%. It indicates a major societal problem, with nearly 40% of parents unable to sort out the arrangements for their own child without the need apply for a court order."

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  • Over the last couple of days we shared charts showing the impact on children's mental health and psychosomatic symptoms in different family arrangements. The last chart in this series focuses on physical, psychological and social quality of life and wellbeing measures. As with the first two charts, it points to outcomes for children being best in nuclear families, however, joint care is by far the best option when parents separate, whenever that is possible. Please support us by sharing our posts, liking them, following us, registering for free, becoming a member or making a donation.
  • This second chart looks at children's experience of psychosomatic symptoms based on their living arrangements once their parents separate. These are physical symptoms that manifest themselves following a psychological trauma - in this case reduced or eliminated relationships with one of their parents. You can support us by sharing and liking our posts, following us, registering for free, joining us or making a donation.
  • Some parents have no choice but to bring up their children alone. Sometimes it is because a parent is irresponsible or poses a genuine risk. We have great respect for them. However, for the vast majority of the thousands who come to us it is because their ex refuses them access because of jealousy, hurt or selfishness and a belief that single parenting does no harm - except it does. For us, shared parenting is not only right in principle, but supported by evidence as this graph from a huge Swedish study shows in relation to mental health. You can support us by sharing and liking our posts, following us, registering for free, joining us or making a donation.
  • Families Need Fathers contributed to yesterday's live Victoria Derbyshire Show debate on domestic abuse and the notion that Family Courts arranged 'contact at all costs'. Amongst the panel were deniers of parental alienation and people who had the strange notion that getting a contact order for unsupervised direct contact was a doddle and the norm. Do send your views on this and men's experience of abuse Victoria@bbc.co.uk.It looks like the debate will continue on the show for the next couple of days. The terms of reference for any inquiry into this will be critical - early indicators of pre-determination are worrying. Support us by liking and sharing our posts, following us, registering for free, joining or making a donation. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00052qc/victoria-derbyshire-15052019
  • We will be present on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme today at 10 when issues in the article are discussed further. This is yet another article making strong suggestions - including that dads (not mums) who have been accused of abuse, shouldn't even have the right to even ask the courts for permission to see their own children. Or that dads (not mums) who have what they call the "toxic trio" of addiction, mental illness and a history of violence, represent an overwhelming risk to children - after separation. Why single out dads? Could mums all be perfect? Let's face it, the kind of battles which go on between separating parents - partly thanks to our adversarial family law system - are rife, alienating parents and children through lack of early collaborative actions and blighting their futures. Men and women need to collaborate from the outset. Our children deserve and need it. Also, whilst deaths of children in family violence are always a tragedy, they are thankfully extremely rare. This kind of exceptionalism is rife in the media today - taking a relatively rare tragedy as justification for major decisions which might dangerously impact a far larger part of society. Just because some people are allergic to nuts is not a reason to ban nuts. It's a reason to take sensible precautions and educate people on the dangers. However we do agree that more transparency is urgently needed in the Family Court and would help the public to understand the terrible problems that are experienced by children and parents as a result of the ineffectual way the system works - in practice. It is not so much that the law needs changing, but rather its practice. More transparency is a must. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48230618
  • Yesterday, BBC Radio 4 broadcast 'When Parents Split' an intelligent discussion on Parental Alienation. The programme was presented by psychotherapist Philippa Perry and featured contributions from Francesca Wiley QC, PA experts Dr Amy J Baker and Karen Woodall, Sarah Parsons from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) as well as powerful testimony from parents talking about their horrendous experiences and a young man who had been alienated. All separating parents and those affected should listen to this and share it widely to help raise awareness of this shockingly common phenomenon. Please support our work by liking and sharing our posts, following us, registering for free, becoming a member or making a donation. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00051dz

FNF HSSF Kite Mark Award

Families Need Fathers has been awarded the Help and Support for Separated Families Kite Mark which is a new UK government accreditation scheme for organisations offering help to separated families.

Families Need Fathers work with a range of family law professionals, including Family Law Panel

 

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