The government has published its response to the recommendations of the family justice review panel, in which it outlines proposed reforms to tackle delays, streamline processes and rebuild trust.
The government intends to simplify the family justice system to help separating couples reach lasting agreement speedily, if possible without going to court.
It will make it mandatory for separating parents who propose court action to resolve a dispute about their child to have an initial assessment to see if mediation is something which would be suitable instead, to help them agree on the arrangements for their child. It will also examine how to give the courts more robust enforcement tools to combat failure to comply with judgments.
The government proposes to drive culture change and better cross-system working through the establishment of a new family justice board, accountable to ministers, made up of senior figures representing the key organisations who play a role within the system and who will have a clear remit to improve performance.
Other government commitments include:
- to consider how parenting agreements could be used to emphasise the need for parents to consider how the child can maintain a relationship with other close family members, such as grandparents,
- to reduce the amount of time spent by judges and courts scrutinising care plans, focusing instead on the core or essential components when making care orders,
- to bring court social work closer to other court services by transferring Cafcass sponsorship to the Ministry of Justice, and
- to create a single family court across England and Wales, with a single point of entry, to simplify the system and make it more accessible for families using the system.