Are family courts biased in favour of mothers when deciding arrangements for children?
Research has just been published which puts pay to some myths and perceptions about family law.
The researchers looked at a sample of cases from 2011. We have seen many changes in family law since then
- At that time orders were known as ‘contact’ and ‘residence’, they are now ‘child arrangements’ orders
- The court was then the county court, it is now the family court.
- Back in 2011 it was not compulsory to explore mediation before making a court application. Now it is.
- Since 2011 the presumption of parental involvement has been introduced.
- The procedural rules in place back then have now been replaced by the Child Arrangements Programme
- Legal aid is now only available in these cases for people who can prove they have been victims of domestic violence or the child is at risk of abuse.
The study was carried out at a time when some expressed concern that the courts were biased against fathers and there was support in some quarters for a presumption of shared care for separated parents. The legal aid cuts were coming into force and there was a wholesale review of the family justice system which led to the law changing last year. The government was very clear that family disputes should be kept out of court
So what does the research say?
- Courts play a necessary role in adjudicating private child law disputes and should remain available as a viable option for parents.
- Courts showed no indications of gender bias in contested cases about where the child should live.
- Courts actively promoted as much contact as possible even in cases of proven domestic violence, welfare concerns or strong opposition from older children
- A sizable minority of private child care disputes involve non-parents such as grandparents or other relatives who were caring for the children
This calls into question whether the changes to the law were necessary and will have had the intended impact. The study also finds that the legal aid cuts mean that many victims of domestic abuse in the cases studied would not have been able to get the evidence together to qualify for legal aid.
Here at David Gray Solicitors, our award winning team of family solicitors advise and represent parents and other family members in the full range of cases concerning children’s arrangements, and we also provide child custody mediation and family mediation. If you think you may be eligible for Legal Aid we will assess this free of charge and help you to obtain the necessary information to enable us to make an application on your behalf.