A father’s 12 year fight to have contact. How can our Court system be improved? By Dominique Seale | | The Law House

A father’s 12 year fight to have contact. How can our Court system be improved? By Venisha Shah

By in All Blogs, Family Law Category on December 18th, 2013

Many separated parents believe that once proceedings are issued at Court they will be found to be the perfect parent and the Court will agree with what they are requesting.  There appears to be a lack of understanding of the Court’s role which is consider the child’s welfare and emotional needs and then make a decision in the best interest of the child.  The decision of what is in the child’s best interest is sometimes not apparent when two warring parents are in front of the Court making cross allegations against each other.  In these circumstances further investigations are necessary for the Court to establish what is in the child’s best interests and this does take time.

However, the poor father in this extreme example appears to have had an unusually bad experience of the Court system.  It is unusual to see a case that has been ongoing for 12 years, cost £100,000 and had 82 judgments delivered.  Although this is an extreme example it does highlight a common complaint about the Court system.

I strongly believe that the first step to improve the Court system is for family lawyers to only issue Court proceeding when it is necessary.  We are at an exciting stage of alternative dispute resolution where many more options have been opened for parents to explore as an alternative to issuing Court proceedings.  For example, if parents are able to engage with negotiations and mediation at the early stages there a high chance that the case will settle before Court proceedings are issued, or at least the issues can be narrowed prior to the Court becoming involved.  This saves costs, reduces animosity and is a better experience for all involved.

In doing this it will reduce the amount of cases before the Court and will allow judges time to dedicate to the cases that really need the Court’s assistance.  Due to the nature of family law there are no straightforward right or wrong decisions.  This combined with the Court’s relaxed attitude to enforcing Orders leads some people view Court Orders as more of a guidance rather than a definitive instruction.  It can be difficult to see where to draw a line – should the Court system penalise a parent who is 5 minutes later for contact handover due to being stuck in traffic?  However, it is the Court’s role to draw this line with the wide range of options available to enforce orders.  Unfortunately, in my experience there have been few Orders enforced in a satisfactory way.  The Court need to stop obstructive parties from abusing the system and ensure that Orders are being either adhered to or enforced.    I believe that if there is more available Court time and judicial continuity in cases Orders will begin to be enforced more rigorously and this will improve the Court system.

For more information, please contact Venisha Shah on 020 8899 6620 or email vshah@thelawhouse.com