Record rise in child custody cases before legal aid cuts
Emily Dugan is Social Affais Editor for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards. Emily is on sabbatical until March 2015
Tuesday 11 June 2013
A record number of child-custody cases were fought in court last month, in what experts believe may be a rush before cuts to legal aid start to bite.
Figures released yesterday by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) show that a record 9,398 new private law cases were heard in May, around nine out of 10 of which related to parental-custody battles. The figure is up 27 per cent on the same month last year, when 7,388 were heard.
The figures are a source of worry to child-welfare experts who say mediation, rather than legal disputes, is better for children. Cafcass believes changes to legal-aid funding may be to blame.
Chief executive Anthony Douglas said: “This record increase suggests that courts remain the go-to solution for parents locked in some of the most bitter and sometimes violent disputes after separation and divorce. Imposing decisions on adults in this way is never as good as mediation or a negotiated agreement, where it is safe to do so, and children usually end up suffering even more.
"All of us in the family justice system are working hard to steer families towards more constructive alternatives to court applications.
"Cafcass will also continue to discuss the reasons behind any changes to application levels with solicitors and other family-justice agencies over the coming months."
An NSPCC spokesman said: "Currently only a minority of divorcing couples resort to the courts to solve contact disputes, showing that most find better ways, so we'd be concerned if this began to rise long term.
“We feel that mediation sessions are effective for parents who need help to understand how to place the needs of their child, rather than their own feelings, at the forefront of any decisions about contact arrangements.
As long as sufficient safeguards are in place to ensure that the sessions are not used with families where domestic violence and other forms of abuse are present, this has to be the best option for children.”
Life & Style blogs
Who is Teresa Fidalgo? Debunking the fake ghost story that's got Instagram spooked
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Ukip's official health spokesperson: 'Honestly, I have no experience in health whatsoever'
Deliberately urinating before sex can increase risk of urinary tract infections
Doctors to trial 29-point checklist for elderly patients facing 'unavoidable' death
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...