Government launches review into child protection and family courts

The review will examine how courts balance child safety and the right to family life.

The review will consider how the current approach to decisions on parental access are made in the family courts is impacting child safety.

It is said to be the next step in the government’s wider plans to reform family courts and bring in greater protections for domestic abuse victims.

The review seeks to assess whether the right balance is being struck in private law cases between the risk of harm to a child and their right to have a relationship with both parents.

Currently, the presumption of ‘parental involvement’ which the courts are required to follow in their judgements encourages a child’s relationship with both parents, unless the involvement would put the child at risk of harm.

A review into harm in the family courts system, released in June of this year, found this presumption ‘detracted from the focus on a child’s welfare and safety – causing harm to children in some cases’.

The review will be guided by an Advisory Group, made up of diverse representatives from organisations – such as Cafcass, Resolution, and Families Need Fathers – who will be able to draw upon their expertise of working across the family justice system with victims, children and charities.

In particular, the Review will examine how courts are applying sections 1(2A), (2B) and (6) of the Children Act 1989.

Together, these require courts to presume, in child arrangements and certain other private law children proceedings, that involvement of a parent in the child’s life will further the child’s welfare, unless there is evidence to suggest that involvement of that parent would put the child at risk of suffering harm.

The review is expected to report back next year.

Justice Minister Alex Chalk said: “This is a complex area and any action we take following this review must be rooted in solid evidence. That is why it’s so important we take the time to look at this thoroughly.”

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