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Overhaul Family Courts

1 Comment 6th July 2010

The Family courts remain one area where the "innocent until proven guilty" principle does not apply. The pressure of protecting children's privacy can be used against a child's best interests and to prevent parents from seeking representation and justice.

The UK is possibly the only country in the EU to still permit forced adoption – a practice which appears to be in conflict with the Human Rights Act and has been shown at times to breach children's as well as parents rights.

Forced adoption should be a measure of last resort. Rather than being dealt with in Family Court it should be dealt with in the High Court due to its severity and permanence. Children should be given anonimity, but trial by jury should be permitted as should court reporting, to ensure justice is done and seen to be done. Both parents and children should be able to seek justice and help, through their MPs, charities or the press without fear of imprisonment. Any matters that could result in imprisonment should be dealt with by High Court, not Family Court.

The burden of proof i.e. of danger to the child should be as high as in any other high court cases, i.e. based on evidence, not hearsay or unsupported opinion.

A child's opinion should be taken into account in all cases, i.e. divorce or care proceedings and particularly in adoption cases, and should carry a great weight.

Where a parent has serious concerns about physical or mental wellbeing of their child if the child is put in contact with another adult (partner, grandparent, relative etc) they should be able to put their point across. A parent fleeing a violent or abusive situation should not be forced by threats of fines or imprisonment to grant the perpetrator of abuse access to their children. A child should also not be forced into access with any adult against their will.

To prevent malicious and vindictive cases for contact there should be a limit on a number of times a case can be repeatedly brought to Family Court. The court should be able to make a final decision and to deny permission to reapply.

Why does this matter?

Time and time again the Family Courts appear to serve up miscarriages of justice. Many of these only come to light decades after the event as the victims have been gagged by anonimity laws.

In particular this happens in forced adoption cases, which are sometimes decided on the basis of unsupported hearsay or biased opinion, with no redress, no attention to a child's wishes, and with parents unable to speak publicly about their grievances and fight miscarriages of justice. This is completely at odds with the rest of the UK legal system, and needs fixing urgently.

At the same time, every year numerous children are abused or killed by an absent parent that has been granted access by court despite the resident parent's (and sometimes children's own) fears of that adult. The resident parent, who is trying to protect the children from violence, is threatened with fines or imprisonment if they do not comply . So they are forced to deliver the children into the hands of an abuser.

Again, a child's safety and a child's wishes are not taken into account.

The Children Act gives relatives other than parents (grandparents, uncles etc) the right to seek access to a child against  parents' wishes – and regardless of the wishes of a child. Parents protecting their children from abusive family members can be dragged though courts repeatedly and with malice by individuals whom they rightly want to keep away from their children. Again there is no provision to make a court's decision final or at least long-term, and to prevent incessant litigation.

All in all, there are too many failings in the Family Court system to treat families with care, compassion and respect and to treat children humanely and make their welfare a priority.

The whole system is just crying out for reform. It needs to be brought in line with numan rights and with the rest of the legal system.

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One Response to Overhaul Family Courts

  1. Andrea Porter says:

    I totally agree with everything noted on this site. I am currently going through a child contact case and am appalled by the system to date. Parents are being forced to give the seperated parent access and are advised they could in fact by investigated by social services if they do not do so. Courts do not protect our children and keep them safe. I have been told I have to make my child see her father despite my daughter making 6 disclosures against her Dad where he has put her at risk. I thought to force a child was in fact abuse my daughter has been interviewed by cafcass and told them three times she does not want to see her Dad.

    Please change our system children are being abused and put at risk and the parent trying to protect them threatened with all sorts of things

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