The Family Solutions Group (a sub-group of the Private Law Working Group) recently published its report on "Reframing Support for Families following Parental Separation". The report deals with private law children cases and expresses the view that the current system focusses too much on parental dispute, rather than the child. It makes many wide-ranging suggestions, from changing the language we use around family issues through to creating a form of “track” system for private law cases. Suggestions include:
- A presumption that all children and young people aged 10 and above be heard in all issue-resolution processes, including mediation and solicitor-led negotiation;
- An authoritative website (they suggest ‘The Separated Families Hub’) providing clear and accurate information to separating parents;
- The establishment of two pathways:
- The safety pathway - those needing safety to be immediately signposted to appropriate legal and other support.
- The cooperative parenting pathway – parents to be supported in understanding the long-term needs of the child and offered options for resolving issues with the other parent. They recommend triaging the family circumstances and needs at an early ‘Information and Assessment Meeting’ (IAM) as soon as possible after separation;
- Bundled support packages of legal services, mediation and counselling to be recognised as best practice;
- Training for all legal professionals on the emotional journey for separating parents, and the impact on their ability to make child focussed decisions;
- That continuing inter-parental conflict be formally recognised as an ‘adverse childhood experience’;
- To enforce the Law Society Protocol for all solicitors who practise in Family Law.
Antonia Felix says:
"This is an incredibly important development for families which will hopefully encourage co-parenting between separated parents. More often than not the way the separation of parents is handled and the ongoing conflict between them, can impact children more than the divorce/separation itself. There can be failings in the system at all stages and the report has made suggestions to address them, whilst putting the child[ren] first. The suggestions made, if embraced by practitioners, parents and the court, will allow children over 10 years of age to feel their voice is being listened to and for parents to have more support during their separation and beyond."