Channel 4 Dispatches - Torn Apart: Family Courts Uncovered 10pm tonight (20th July 2021)
FNF Members and registered Newsletter Subscribers will remember that in March 2021 we copied you on a survey that Channel 4 were carrying out. This survey invited people who had been through family courts to share their experiences for a documentary they were making. That documentary will be broadcast tonight at 10pm. Our offer to the production company to contribute to the issues raised was not taken up by their producer, though we did have some concerns about the framing of the programme.
We encourage you to watch it and make up your own mind. Whether the documentary makers adequately reflect your experience you can decide for yourselves. Whether we or you like it or not, it is an important programme and is likely to generate much discussion on national and local radio and other media - an opportunity for you to express your point of view. If you do decide to get involved in relevant discussions, take care to protect your identity and particularly that of your children.
The Channel 4 news release promoting this Dispatches documentary tells us that their (self-selected) survey received responses from 4,000 people - 2,776 mothers and 1,147 fathers. The responses suggested that:-
- 70% of mums and dads were unhappy with the outcome
- Half of parents considered the judge to be hostile to them
- Court proceedings averaged 18 months and in 10% of cases over 5 years
- The average cost of proceedings was £13,000 with 5% saying they spent over £100,000
[Please note that these simple averages conceal that many will have been litigants in person or qualified for legal aid (due to income levels and alleged domestic abuse), so in reality those who had to pay for themselves spent far more. We carried out a survey a few years ago and the average figure for those using lawyers was almost double the figure of the Dispatches respondents.]
What this tells us is that court is the wrong place to resolve private family disputes when people separate. Most separations are not because of a history of frightful abuse. In most cases family court merely escalates conflict. Instead we need better education and support for separating parents and early interventions to keep them out of court whenever possible. Where court is unavoidable, the current system must be adapted to be on a child-appropriate timescale - weeks not months and years, and again to consider referring parents back to appropriate support services.
If you miss the screening tonight, it should be available afterwards here.
Whether you are pleased or disappointed with the overall coverage of the issues do share your views and comments with:
- Us at firstname.lastname@example.org with 'C4 Dispatches' in the subject heading
- Candour Productions at email@example.com
- Channel 4
- Talk Radio
- BBC Radio 2 - Jeremy Vine
- GB News
- Your local radio station
- The communications regulator Ofcom whose job is help to make sure people across the UK are satisfied with what they see and hear on TV and radio, and that programmes reflect the audiences they serve - if you feel that this has not happened.
If you do end up contributing to any show, please forward any relevant links so we can consider sharing them more widely - again please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think?
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