We have published a series of Guidance Notes on topics which people seem to struggle with. We hope they make things a little clearer.
We have produced a guidance note about the myth of common law marriage and the rights of people who live together as a couple, but who aren't married or in civil partnerships. You can view or download the guidance note here. This is v2 (March 2019).
We have produced a guidance note to explain how family courts deal with cases where there are allegations of domestic abuse. You can view or download the guidance note here. This is v2 (December 2018) which is very slightly modified since v1 in November 2018.
We have written this guide for families and those working with and supporting them. You can view the online version or download a pdf (version 2 Jan 2019).
Parents recording meetings with social workers, version 3 Mar 2018. NB In May 2018 the Data Protection Act 1998 was repealed and replaced with a new Data Protection Act 2018, which sits alongside the GDPR. This guidance note has not been updated to reflect those...
We have written this guide for families and those working with and supporting them. You can view the online version or download a pdf.
We have produced a short guide for journalists and bloggers, explaining what the rules are around reporting family court proceedings. See Media Page.
Version 3 of this guidance note (Mar 2019) can be found here.
Included in this list are sites that we think are generally reliable and balanced sources of information about family law in England & Wales. We can’t guarantee they will get everything right all of the time but we think they may be useful to people looking for more information.
Some readers may remember the ‘research-led family justice system’ envisaged in the Norgrove Family Justice Review in 2011. However, we’re still waiting and, as Sir James Munby explained in this interview, family court professionals can sometimes feel that they are ‘operating in the dark’.
Recognising the ongoing concerns about the lack of a reliable evidence base for the courts on the consequences of their decisions, the Nuffield Foundation began quite a lengthy programme looking at the potential scope of a Family Justice Observatory, which has now been established, with Sir James as its Chair.
The aims of the Nuffield FJO are to:
- support analysis of national data that is already available and linking data from different sources, to better understand the experiences of children and families in the family justice system
- research issues facing children and families, and collaborate with others to bring about change in practice
- enable decision makers to access the latest data and research evidence.
The Observatory has recently published a Review of Special Guardianship in England and Wales and a report on the removal of newborn babies in Wales. The value of publications such as these is that they are easily accessible and can be relied on by legal and social work practitioners in presenting evidence.
A Stakeholder Advisory Council has been established which The Transparency Project was invited to join. I attended the first meeting of this group, held on 23 September. The minutes of the meeting have been promptly posted on the Observatory site and can be downloaded here. One item of the meeting was a discussion of an impressive draft infographic setting out what we do and don’t know (from existing data) about children and their families when they enter the system, during that process, and then afterwards. This infographic will be available shortly. The minutes of the meeting are succinct. so we recommend taking a look at these, along with the News page on the site. You can also subscribe for regular email alerts about the Nuffield FJO’s work.
(This post was amended on 8 November to correct the name of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory.)
Now that the legal blogging pilot has been extended in duration we thought it would be helpful to produce a short information leaflet that can be provided to people whose cases a legal blogger wants to observe. We hope that the information will give both litigants and professionals them some basic information about what the scheme involves so that they feel better informed and reassured about things – without oveloading them when they are trying to deal with the main issues in the case. We hope that legal bloggers will find it a useful item to take to court with them, as a non-intrusive way to reassure litigants or to help answer basic queries.
We have provided a space on the leaflet for those bloggers who wish to do so to identify themselves and to say where they are likely to publish their blog, as we have found that these are pieces of information we’ve been asked for before when attending.
As with all our materials the leaflet is freely available to download and print, and feedback is welcomed.
Do visit our legal bloggers page for further information about the scheme – and let us know if how you get on if you attend.
Since you’re here…
We have a small favour to ask!
The Transparency Project is a registered charity in England and Wales run largely by volunteers who also have full-time jobs. We’re working hard to secure extra funding so that we can keep making family justice clearer for all who use the court and work within it. We’d be really grateful if you were able to help us by making a small one-off (or regular!) donation through our Just Giving page. You can find our page, and further information here.
Thanks for reading!
How far should family law reflect modern family life? The case of cohabitation, equal civil partnerships and the common law marriage myth
This is a Guest Post by Anne Barlow FAcSS; Professor of Family Law and Policy and Associate Dean for Research, College of Social Sciences & International Studies at the University of Exeter. This was originally posted in the ESRC Society Now magazine as a feature and we are grateful to republish it here.
Further reading and guidance on common law marriage can be found on our Resources page by clicking here.
There is no longer just one way of ‘doing’ family in modern Britain. With much greater gender equality and social acceptance of different family forms, how we organise family life and our personal relationships has changed considerably in recent times. In some ways, the law in England and Wales has kept pace with change – same-sex civil partnerships in 2004 and same-sex marriage in 2013 are shining examples of progressive legislative landmarks. Yet we have witnessed clear policy reluctance to offer legal protection to opposite-sex couples who reject marriage, despite Law Commission recommendations in 2007 and despite many other countries including Scotland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand having reformed their cohabitation law.
Cohabiting couples are now the fastest growing type of family in the UK, more than doubling from 1.5 million families in 1996 to 3.3 million families in 2017, with 15% of dependent children living in cohabiting couple families. Successive governments have refused to legislate to recognise opposite-sex cohabitants as deserving of cohesive family law remedies when relationships break down or a partner dies.
However, recent research undertaken by the University of Exeter (funded through the University of Exeter ESRC Impact Accelerator Account) in conjunction with the National Centre for Social Research in 2018 has been used to inform Parliamentary debates in two separate Private Member’s Bills – one advocating extending civil partnerships as an option for opposite-sex (rather than exclusively for same-sex) couples and the other seeking remedies for cohabitants on relationship breakdown or death of partner. However, these offer quite different types of solutions to unmarried cohabiting couples – one involves opting into a civil partnership whilst the other offers qualifying cohabitants automatic legal rights and remedies unless they opt out. Which approach is most fitting for modern society has divided opinion in Parliament, yet do we really have to make a choice? Does the research evidence show that one option necessarily precludes the other?
Equal Civil Partnerships
On 15th March 2019, the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill 2017-2019 passed and will become law by the end of 2019. This will allow opposite-sex couples (not only same-sex couples) to enter into civil partnerships. Even though the Supreme Court had ruled in June 2018 that to preclude opposite-sex couples from registering civil partnerships was discriminatory, the government initially wanted to delay legislating to undertake a survey to gauge public opinion.
‘I can help the Minister on that score, thanks to Professor Anne Barlow… at the University of Exeter… She has surveyed extensively using the NatCen panel survey technique, which is a probability-based online and telephone survey that robustly selects its panel to ensure that it is as nationally representative as possible…
[It] had a sample of more than 2,000, which I gather is double the amount the Government intended to survey, and which they were to take at least 10 months to do…Her survey posed the question, “How much do you agree or disagree that a man and woman should be able to form a civil partnership as an alternative to getting married?” … More than 70%—even better than the Brexit referendum—of those 2,000 people absolutely thought that civil partnerships should be made available to all.’
Whilst the introduction of civil partnerships for heterosexual couples is very welcome and will offer an alternative to couples who wish to form a legal union without entering a traditional marriage, this will only assist couples who are aware that they lack legal status.
Cohabitation and the Common Law Marriage Myth
In England and Wales, cohabitants currently have no legal status and, therefore, no automatic rights in most circumstances – especially if the relationship comes to an end. For example, if one partner dies there is no right for the other to inherit part of their estate – regardless of how long they have lived together and even if they had children together. Equally, there is no legal duty to support the partner financially should the relationship break down, even if family life had been organised so that one partner was the main earner and the other the main carer of their children.
Yet almost half of us (46%) living in England and Wales are unaware that this is the case and think that an unmarried cohabiting couple have a “common law marriage” with the same legal rights as a married couple, according to the latest British Social Attitudes Survey. This figure is largely unchanged since 2005, despite public awareness campaigns , showing how difficult it is to shift this myth.
The data also show that people living in households with children are significantly more likely to think that common law marriage exists than those in households with no children (55% vs 41%) and singles (39%). Worryingly, cohabitants (48%) are no more clued up than married people (49%).
Misperceptions like this can have very real negative implications for people’s lives and the decisions they take. Cohabitants may face financial hardship and even losing their home if the relationship breaks down. Additionally, we know that the lack of legal rights for cohabitants affects particular groups disproportionately, particularly women and children, as women remain more likely to put careers on hold while raising children and become financially dependent on their partners.
One possibility would be granting them automatic rights as put forward in Lord Marks’ Cohabitation Rights Bill, the second Private Members’ Bill debated on the 15th March, this time in the House of Lords. Its proposals are similar to those introduced in Scotland in 2006, providing a set of limited rights for cohabitants who separate, or in cases where one partner dies. Yet the Lords’ debate revealed that there are concerns that this would be inappropriate for those deliberately choosing to cohabit to avoid such legal constraints. Lord Marks, in countering these arguments, was able to use the widespread nature of the common law marriage myth to question whether this was indeed the typical rationale for such a choice. The Bill passed its second reading and now goes into committee stage.
Whilst the public as a whole need to have a better understanding of their legal status, empowering each of them to take informed decisions that suit their family’s circumstances, family law should also be able to provide a range of options for those who are ‘doing family’ in the way that suits them best, including something of an automatic safety-net which avoids one partner being able to exploit the other financially if things go wrong or one inadvertently leaving their surviving partner destitute, should they die.
Equal civil partnerships are only a partial solution for those ideologically opposed to marriage, and given the growing numbers of cohabiting couples and the widespread persistent belief in the common law marriage myth, reform should certainly not stop there.
For a discussion of the earlier research conducted in 2006-2008 see Barlow A, Burgoyne C, Clery E, Smithson J (2008). Cohabitation and the law: myths, money and the media. In Park, A, Curtice, J, Thomson, K, Phillips, M, Johnson, M (Eds.) British Social Attitudes: the 24th report, London: Sage, 29-52; Barlow A and Smithson J (2010). Legal assumptions, cohabitants’ talk and the rocky road to reform. Child and Family Law Quarterly, 22(3), 328-350.
CAFCASS and Women’s Aid have collaborated on research about allegations of domestic abuse in child contact cases. We published a guest post by psychologist Sue Whitcombe on this here : Looking beyond the headlines: domestic abuse allegations in family proceedings.
We also thought it would be helpful to look further at what this research does and doesn’t cover. Before we do, it is fair to point out that our Chair, Lucy Reed, has in the past been critical of some of the work of Women’s Aid : broadly speaking as to the evidence base for aspects of their campaigns (See here and here and associated links for examples). That said, she also recently ran a workshop at the Women’s Aid conference on behalf of The Transparency Project, to help those working with survivors of domestic abuse to support their clients through the court process (including helping them to understand the forensic process and to come to terms with the fact that allegations are just that – allegations – until tested and proved). The Transparency Project is an educational charity and our main objective is the provision of balanced and accurate information. We don’t have an agenda beyond that, but we are not afraid to disagree with either side of the argument. We try to present things in a neutral way.
What is the Cafcass-Women’s Aid research about?
It ISN’T about rates of domestic abuse. It’s about the prevalence of ALLEGATIONS of domestic abuse and the responses to them. That is to say – if those allegations were true, do the system’s responses to those allegations look safe and appropriate?
It ISN’T a study about parental alienation. It may be (as Sue Whitcombe suggests) that some unproven allegations of domestic abuse are false or exaggerated to further an agenda of alienation, but that isn’t something the Cafcass study sets out to consider. It might be a topic ripe for some further research – but it isn’t something this study aims to tackle.
Domestic abuse or allegations of domestic abuse?
The data analysed is about how many allegations are MADE, not admitted nor proven. In most places the report is very careful to distinguish between allegations and abuse, though there are a few slips, and when the report is talking about the impact on children it talks as if a) abuse is established and b) abuse is the cause of any presenting distress / issue (as to which see Sue Whitcombe). It is fair to assume that a reasonable proportion of those allegations come from people who have actually experienced what they allege they experienced. Some may be wrong, exaggerated or false – but any argument about precisely how many would be sterile. Some of the people making allegations in this data set (and their children) needed protection. Some of the people accused in this data set (and their children) needed protection from false allegations. This study can’t tell us how well they were served, but we can extrapolate some points.
What does the data show?
About 2/3 of cases involve allegations of domestic abuse. That isn’t a new stat – it’s often said to be around that figure, so this confirms that trend. And, as we already know, dads are more likely to be the subject of allegations than mums.
The sample size is relatively small (216 cases, of which 40 were subjected to qualitative analysis) and the study is based on incomplete data, as it was drawn solely from Cafcass’ files, which are known not to be a complete record of everything (in particular orders are often not kept). For example, in about 1/3 of the cases covered, the final outcome (court order) was simply unknown. This has real potential to distort the stats. It is a shame that the study was not larger and more robust in its methodology, and whilst we appreciate CAFCASS are working on limited resources, we do think this is the sort of topic which deserves a rigorous treatment and the prioritisation of resource (see here an example of a larger study on a related topic for comparison). Sue Whitcombe has set out some of the limitations of this research in her post, so we’ll try not to repeat that.
However, some patterns emerge which seem likely to be replicated more widely :
- There were 126 female alleged victims and 40 male alleged victims. (The report does not state whether the cases included same-sex couples.)
- Where women made allegations, they made a higher proportion of allegations of coercive control type abuse (and sexual abuse) than men who made allegations – that is to say, almost all (84%) of allegations about women were of physical abuse, whereas only just over half of allegations against men were of physical abuse.
- Where domestic abuse was alleged, at first hearing stage the court was most likely to make ‘no order’ about contact (42%), with unsupervised contact ordered in 23% of cases. In cases without allegations, by contrast, the majority (55%) of orders were for unsupervised contact. (This finding differs from previous research by Hunter & Barnett in 2013, who found courts reluctant to make a ‘no contact’ order at interim stage.
- At first hearing where domestic abuse was alleged, about 1/3 of recommendations in ‘schedule 2 letters’ (brief initial safety reports) were for no contact, just under 1/3 were for supervised contact and just over 1/3 for unsupervised contact.
- Where there were allegations of abuse, it was less common for unsupervised contact to be ordered (39% in cases with allegations against; 48% without).
- Cases featuring allegations of abuse were more likely to conclude with an order for no direct contact (19%) than cases without (11%).
- Cases featuring allegations of abuse were more likely to conclude with conditions on contact.
- Cases featuring allegations of abuse were more likely to conclude with contact that was supervised or monitored in some way than with contact that wasn’t.
- Referral rates to Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes seem low. (They are often unavailable or a perpetrator is deemed unsuitable if he doesn’t accept findings; courses are less likely to be available to women).
- Nearly 20% of cases involving allegations ended up without an order for direct contact, in contrast to the wider picture of 88% of fathers succeeding in contact applications in the 2015 Harding & Newnham research. That was a more in-depth study of 174 cases in 2015, in half of which there were allegations of domestic abuse. Earlier research by Hunt and McLeod of a sample of 300 cases showed a success rate of 80% applicants having deirct contact order or agreed.
So, this report suggests that making allegations of abuse has an impact on the outcomes of contact applications. However, what these stats would look like if you break down proven or admitted allegations as against unproven allegations is simply known. In our view, this is a question that really needs to be answered, because the impression given is that the mere making of an allegation makes it more likely a parent will be able to restrict the other parent’s contact at the end of the case. That may or may not be shown to be the case if we had the proper detailed data.
A legitimate criticism might be the decision of CAFCASS to prioritise research which is only able to answer a very limited set of questions, and which is inevitably going to beg almost as many questions as it answers. There is a pressing need for more data about this – it is a shame that CAFCASS did not decide to commission or participate in some academically verified research project that incorporated both CAFCASS records and court files in order to produce more robust results.
Leaving aside these issues, the study doesn’t seem to entirely support the proposition by Women’s Aid in their Child First campaign last year that the family court operates on the basis of “contact at all costs” – where allegations are made the initial response and the outcome are likely to be more cautious than where no such allegations are raised – whether they are treated sufficiently seriously or not, these allegations seem not to be being ignored.
Useful insights from this research include :
- The apparent low frequency of fact-finding hearings compared to the frequency of allegations. This is difficult to interpret, but is likely in part to be as a result of the incomplete data – there may have been fact-finding hearings that did not show on a CAFCASS file, or allegations may have been admitted or proved via criminal conviction – or may have been rolled up with a family court hearing. It’s worrying if things haven’t improved since the Hunter & Barnett research.
- Unsupervised contact seems to have been ordered at about a quarter of First Hearing Direction Appointments where domestic abuse was raised. These are likely to be mainly cases where contact was agreed and / or where unsupervised contact had already been taking place (85% of the unsupervised contact cases had involved previous unsupervised contact)
- The report notes that “In discussions, Women’s Aid cautioned that this may not always equate to an ‘agreement’ about contact arrangements, and may be indicative of a context of coercion.” This is a fair point, and there is existing judicial guidance about ensuring that consent orders are truly consensual rather than coerced. However, we don’t actually know whether a significant proportion of these unsupervised contact arrangements were coerced – in some cases, parents do take the view that notwithstanding abusive behaviour a child’s best interests do require unsupervised contact. Perhaps in some cases they are yet to fully appreciate the impact of abuse on a child, perhaps in others they are making an informed decision and feel strong enough to manage handovers for the benefit of the child. But whilst this study incorporates a legitimate caution about potential coercion it doesn’t provide evidence about its incidence in ‘agreements’.
Responses to the research
We’ve not spotted much in the way of response to this research other than from fathers’ groups (and Sue Whitcombe as above).
For example, CYP Now report : Fathers group criticises domestic violence study. The father’s group in question is Families Need Fathers, who are reported as saying that “unfounded allegations were resulting in children being “denied time with their dads for many months”” and that “the findings promoted the belief that “fathers are too dangerous to be trusted with their own children””.
The question of how family courts can deal effectively with allegations that turn out to be false without damaging a child’s relationship with its father, whilst those allegations are considered, is difficult, and one which FNF are entitled to raise. But the complaint is not so much that this research has failed to tackle the problem – it plainly doesn’t, but rather that it isn’t an issue that seems a priority for research (or thought) for CAFCASS. We’re not sure that it is fair, however, to suggest that the research promotes the belief that fathers are too dangerous to be trusted with their own children. The report does consider the prevalence of allegations against parents of either sex, and makes clear that, in a majority of cases, contact does continue notwithstanding the allegations (albeit that it may be restricted in some way). The research gives us a limited insight into what happens when allegations are made, without telling us whether they are true and without telling us what ought to have happened in any individual case.
It is clear that CAFCASS’ priorities have been nudged in this direction by the impact of prominent campaigns like the Child First campaign and the Women’s Aid Homicides reports. Whilst the Transparency Project agrees that this is an entirely legitimate area for study it is a matter of concern if research priorities are driven by media campaigns that themselves are based on a flimsy evidence base. We think that the important topics of child homicides and family annihilation justify more robust research treatment than hitherto, and would welcome further research in this area that can help keep parents and children safe at and after separation.
Ex Injuria writes that the collaboration of CAFCASS and Women’s Aid is An Error of Judgement. Their objection is not simply about the quality of the research but the decision to collaborate with Women’s Aid at all :
For them to be working cheek-by-jowl with an openly anti-male, feminist propaganda organisation such as Women’s Aid is a profoundly retrograde step and a regrettable error of judgement by their CEO, Anthony Douglas.
One might say that if this proposition were correct it would almost certainly also then be correct that CAFCASS ought not to engage with fathers’ rights groups. And we don’t think that can be right. We think it is unhelpful to refer to Women’s Aid in such derogatory terms. They are a campaigning organisation whose focus is on the needs of women, just as other organisations have their own client groups too. We don’t think that means they have nothing to offer or that it prevents CAFCASS from working with them. We do think that an organisation like CAFCASS ought however to be mindful of the perception created by working with particular interest groups in ways which may be perceived as being to the exclusion or detriment of others. It is important that CAFCASS should do all it can to be and to be perceived as unpartisan.
The rest of the Ex Injuria post makes some legitimate points about the inherent limitations of the research and also about the quality of CAFCASS recordings (these are interesting but no link to source is provided so we’re not quite sure where they come from),
We can understand why on one level some of those who hold concerns about the tendency to conflate allegations of violence with actual violence and the way that this can (at least in the interim) prejudice quite safe relationships between an innocent parent (usually a father) and their child, might perceive a bias here in CAFCAS’ decision to work with Women’s Aid, particularly given the lack of clarity about quite how they have worked together. Since writing her post Sue Whitcombe has asked @mycafcass for clarification about the extent to which Women’s Aid were directly involved in the research and whether or not they had access to confidential files. The answers, provided via twitter, should provide some reassurance – but they would have been better set out clearly in the report itself and the accompanying press material if CAFCASS wished to avoid creating an unecessary anxiety amongst some of its stakeholders.
1/3 All data collection and analysis was conducted by Cafcass. Women’s Aid at no point had access to case files
— Cafcass (@MyCafcass) August 4, 2017
Women’s Aid contributed advice on the methodology and gave comment on the final report.
— Cafcass (@MyCafcass) August 4, 2017
No funding was provided by @womensaid. If you have any further questions about the report please email firstname.lastname@example.org
— Cafcass (@MyCafcass) August 4, 2017
One other aspect of the safeguarding process now built into the Child Arrangements Programme which doesn’t seem to be covered in this report is the utilisation and responses to the C1A form where a party (usually but not always a respondent mother) sets out a summary of allegations of domestic abuse. Anecdotally, where completed by a respondent rather than an applicant, these are sometimes not received and considered by CAFCASS or the court in advance of or at the FHDRA, and we wonder whether this is an area of potential safeguarding risk that might also warrant consideration in any further research study.
Other areas for useful future research might be around the rates of admission / proof of allegations of domestic abuse where made in family proceedings, and the differential responses to allegations proven as against those where an allegation has been rejected, including those where a positive finding of fabrication has been made. It would be useful to understand how often intentional alienation is demonstrably a feature of a case, as compared with the prevalence of allegations (given that anecdotally allegations of alienation seem almost as commonplace as allegations of domestic abuse). The Hunter & Barnett research findings were disturbing, and it is unfortunate that no one is funding an update.
The Family Rights Group have developed a website to support young parents whose children are deemed ‘at risk’, in care or adopted. The site aims to share legal and practical information to help more young mothers and fathers and young parents-to-be to keep their children safely with them.
For more details visit Young Parents Advice.
Attachment is a technical psychological term with a specific meaning, but it is used an awful lot in care proceedings and other cases about children, including by people who are not psychologists. It doesn’t help that attachment has a meaning in everyday language, which is not the same as the technical meaning – this is a recipe for confusion. Here are some useful materials which help explain the difference :
Attachment theory – the basics, Child Protection Resource
Never use the word ‘attachment’ again, Community Care, August 2016
A quick guide to attachment theory, David Shemmings, Guardian Online, February 2016
Indicators of disorganised attachment in children, David Shemmings, Community Care, January 2011
What is attachment theory – why is it important?, Child Protection Resource
Andrew Pack, Transparency Project member, has written some really useful basic explanations of the law relating to family law (children) – primarily for social workers, but also helpful or any other non-lawyer wanting an accessible explanation.
Guidelines on Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts issued jointly by the Judiciary, the News Media Association, the Society of Editors and the Medial Lawyers Association have now been revised, as of May 2016.
You can download the full PDF here.
We have now published an updated summary of the key points by way of a Quick Reference Guide here on this blog.
We thought that The Transparency Project ought to produce a response to the recent consultation on fee-paid Mckenzie Friends. Now that we have finalised and submitted our response (just before the extended deadline – phew!) we are publishing it here for you to read. We hope it will prompt some discussion because we don’t think this is an easy topic or one that is very well understood.
The MediaWise Trust – formerly PressWise – exists to:
- provide free, confidential advice and assistance for members of the public affected by inaccurate, intrusive, or sensational media coverage;
- deliver use-of-the-media training for the voluntary sector and members of the public;
- devise and deliver training on ethical issues for media professionals;
- conduct research and publish material about media law, policy and practice;
- contribute to public debate about the role and impact of the mass media.
Their website : www.mediawise.org.uk
Transparency Project members Lucy Reed and Louise Tickle wrote an article on this topic for Family Law Journal in January. Jordans have kindly given permission for that article to be republished here.
If you would like to read the article please click here to download it : Press Reporting of Care Proceedings.
How do I make an application to the court to allow me to publish information about family proceedings?
Part of the aims of the Transparency Project is to gather resources to help others to promote openness and hence greater understanding about how the family court system works. I am attempting to start the ball rolling with my suggestions as to what could usefully be included in a skeleton argument or opening position when you are trying to persuade the court to let you publish information that you would normally not be able to release into the public domain. I hope this can be useful to both parents and journalists.
We will continue to refine and add to this post, so all comments welcome.
Read the post here.
The Child Protection Resource site is administered by Transparency Project member Sarah Phillimore.
It aims to provide information about the child protection system to anyone who is involved with or interested in the system and also hopes to spark discussion about how to improve current practice.
The site offers explanations of key legal and social work principles and signposts readers to many other useful resources and information.
In the past, Full Fact has been mainly associated with statistics: as relevant to family justice as to any other walk of life. We’ve checked topics including whether black children take twice as long to be adopted as white children; whether the length of care proceedings has fallen in recent years, even before the imposition of the 26-week limit; whether fewer children are being adopted; and, most recently, whether England and Wales is unusual in permitting non-consensual adoption.
In 2011 the President of the Family Division and the Society of Editors produced a report setting out the law in this area. It is a really useful starting point for understanding this difficult topic.
You can find it on the judiciary website here.
House of Commons Research Briefing : Confidentiality and openness in the family courts: current rules and history of their reform
This document was updated and republished in September 2015. It contains a useful summary of the history of reform and debate in this area. It can be found on the House of Commons website.
Full Fact is an independent, non-partisan, factchecking charity. They check claims made by politicians, the media and pressure groups, and stop misinformation spreading by pressing for corrections. They separate the facts from the spin and present our findings and sources so that you can judge the claim — and our factcheck — for yourself.
This toolkit was prepared by Alice Twaite and Lucy Reed in May 2015. It gives an overview of some transparency related issues in the Family Court.
You are free to use, copy and circulate it, but it does not contain legal advice and it may not be regularly updated.
www.familycourtinfo.org.uk is a site containing basic information and links to resources. It was developed for family court users in the Bristol, Gloucester, Bath and Weston Family Court area, so lots of the information is local to that, but you may still find it useful. The Transparency Project is currently working with the developers of the site to make similar sites available in other areas (See here).