Guidance Notes

We have published a series of Guidance Notes on topics which people seem to struggle with. We hope they make things a little clearer.

Media Guide

We have produced a short guide for journalists and bloggers, explaining what the rules are around reporting family court proceedings. See Media Page.

Other Resources

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.

GUIDE FOR FAMILIES ABOUT THE PUBLICATION OF FAMILY COURT JUDGMENTS

We’re very pleased to publish a new guide to help parties caught up in the family justice system navigate the complicated issue of publishing judgments about private family matters. Our guide aims to help those dealing with cases involving privacy issues affecting children and adults :

Publication of Family Court Judgments – A guidance note for families & professionals

The guide is directed at families and the professionals working with them, to help them think through the possible pros and cons, and the potential practical consequences of publication. Rather than focusing just on issues of anonymisation and jigsaw identification, we hope to involve families in the decision making process about publication, and with the process of anonymising judgments so that privacy protection is robust and effective.

We produced this guide because we realised that there were no materials for families involved in family court cases to help them understand when, why and how judgments in their case might be published, and we wanted to fill that gap. It isn’t practical or appropriate for every judgment in every family court case to be published, but we hope that it will both help make sure judgments are reliably anonymised before publication, and help families and professionals to support publication where that can be achieved without jeopardising the family’s privacy or welfare. We hope that our guide will be used by lawyers, social workers and children’s guardians to talk through questions of publication of judgments with the children and parents they are working with, so that safe transparency can be facilitated where possible, and unnecessary anxiety avoided.

The guide can be used as a tool to assist parents and their lawyers to discuss and think through whether publication is likely or appropriate in their case, and if so how it should be done, and can be used by social workers or children’s guardians to work through similar issues with older children, depending on their understanding and maturity.

Publication of this guide has been made possible by a grant from the Legal Education Foundation.

The guide is not judicially approved guidance.

Download press release relating to the launch of the guide.

Read our other guidance notes.

Young Parents Advice

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

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

Reporting restrictions in the criminal courts

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.

Mckenzie Friends Consultation – The response of The Transparency Project

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.

Our Response

The consultation itself

Survey of other responses

Media Wise – for better journalism

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

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.

Child Protection Resource

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.

Visit www.childprotectionresource.online

Full Fact

Full Fact is an independent fact checking organisation : www.fullfact.org, @fullfact.

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.

Read more.

The Family Courts : Media Access & Reporting

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.

Full Fact

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.

Full Fact have published fact checks on family law related matters. See all their childcare and adoption posts here. Find them on twitter : @fullfact

Transparency Toolkit

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.

Download Toolkit

You are free to use, copy and circulate it, but it does not contain legal advice and it may not be regularly updated.

Family Court Info

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).

Family Court Info website – licensing project

Earlier this year a team of lawyers in Bristol (including our trustees Sarah and Lucy) developed and launched the www.familycourtinfo.org.uk website, an information resource for families involved with the family court in the Bristol, Gloucester, Bath and Somerset area.

The Transparency project is working with the familycourtinfo team in Bristol to enable other areas to use the site developed in Bristol to help families in those localities.

The Transparency Project is pleased to facilitate this rollout of the site, which will help families to understand the law and the process they are involved with, and to source the help they need in their local area.

Under the scheme, a local version of the site, populated with locally specific information can be made available to other areas for a fixed fee of £750. The fee covers development, set up, administration, hosting, maintenance, support and training – and includes a modest allowance to the Transparency Project and the originating site organisers, which will help to maintain the original site.

The licensing project documentation can be downloaded here. Enquiries to info@transparencyproject.org.uk.

Research

Family_Policy_Briefing_5

Here is a link to a policy briefing written in 2009 by Julia Brophy and Ceridwen Roberts (University of Oxford) which compares the law relating to access to family courts in a number of jurisdictions (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Scotland). The law is not all up to date, of course, but it may still be helpful as a starting point in looking at what happens elsewhere. (Copy also uploaded with this post.)

(Amended to include a link to the Nuffield page. You can also read a briefing on the proposed reforms in 2010 there)

(Amended 11 January to add this link to the Child Court law reporting project in Ireland which includes a detailed report written November 2014 on its Interim Reports page.)