Family Solutions Group Report – PUBLISHED!
The Family Solutions Group led by Mr Justice Cobb has today (12th November 2020) published its report “What About Me? – Reframing Support for Families following Parental Separation.” FLiP Director Elizabeth Fletcher looks at the key recommendations.
In 2018, The President of the Family Division invited Mr Justice Cobb to convene a Private Law Working Group to review the approach taken to private disputes between parents with respect to their children following a separation.
There have already been two reports published by this group. Today, a subgroup of that Group have published a third report entitled “What about me? – Reframing Support for Families following Parental Separation”. Its aim was to give attention to improving the experiences of and opportunities for separating families AWAY from the Family Court.
So what does it recommend?
The Report makes a whole host of recommendations. I have highlighted some of its most important proposals:-
- Public Education – An education campaign to reframe family breakdown away from “justice” language and towards an understanding of child welfare. This must promote the rights of children to enjoy a relationship with both parents if there are no safety concerns.
- It recommends an authoritative website of information for parents, children and those working with families.
- Widespread information and training for those working with families – GPs, schools, health visitors, CABs and Family Hubs so that they can signpost appropriately.
- An online framework of support services for children and young people. The current system is focused on the needs and wishes of parents. This Report recommends that there is a trusted online information service set up for young people whose parents separate.
- The Report recommends that the voice of the child becomes louder in all processes for resolving issues between parents.
- The establishment of a framework of direct support services for information, consultation, support and representation for children and young people whose parents separate.
- A presumption that all children and young people aged 10 and above be offered the opportunity to have their voices heard in all processes for resolving issues between parents, including mediation and solicitor-led processes.
- Two separate pathways being established for separated parents: 1. the safety pathway for those needing safety in cases of domestic abuse; and 2. the cooperative parenting pathway for parents to be supported in understanding the long-term needs of the child and offered options for resolving issues with the other parent.
- A holistic approach – bundled support services which include legal services, mediation and counselling to be recognised as best practice.
- Parenting programmes. The establishment of parenting programmes that become the norm following separation.
- Language and Process. The current adversarial system can add fuel to the fire of the conflict between the parents. The Report recommends a shift in language away from legal disputes towards a language that supports parents to resolve issues together.
- The establishment of local networks of family professionals to promote an integrated approach to problem-solving issues between parents, with therapists, parenting specialists, mediators and legal services.
- The introduction of accountability to comply with the Law Society’s Family Law Protocol to safeguard children (in cases with no safety concerns) from acrimonious legal representation on behalf of parents.
- Robust enforcement of the MIAM rules (requirement to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting) by Family Judges.
- Proper case management by all family judges in compliance with their duty to consider out of court options.
- Consideration of a cost order against a parent who refuses to engage in out of court processes.
- The Report suggests making parenting agreements reached in mediation open so that in the event that a parent reneges on the agreement then it could be enforced by the court.
- The Report suggests a definable welfare threshold in cases suitable for cooperative parenting. Where safe to do so, the Report recommends adopting a threshold of parents making positive eye contact with each other at handovers of the children as a good working test.
The Report is very detailed and makes many other proposals and recommendations. It is hoped that this Report will be given real consideration by the judiciary, practitioners and the government and that real societal change will take place enabling children and parents in separated families to enjoy a happier and less conflicted future.
Many of the recommendations made in the Report reflect the way in which we already work with our clients at Family Law in Partnership. For example, we offer long standing expertise across the full range of process options from solicitor led negotiation, mediation and arbitration to collaborative practice and private FDRs. We also offer:
Counselling can cover any topic and it can take place at any time. Our counsellors Jo Harrison, Ruth Smallacombe and Dominic Raeside have a wealth of experience in helping families to cope with the emotional questions raised by family breakdown.
- Parenting Courses
These courses are offered on a one to one basis or as a couple with our Head of Mediation, Dominic Raeside.
- Family Consultancy Services
Family consultancy services are offered by Jo Harrison, Ruth Smallacombe and Dominic Raeside, each of whom has a background in psychotherapy and counselling. Together they offer consultancy sessions on an individual, couple or family basis and can liaise between you and your legal advisers, if required. As family consultants they cover the child related, emotional and psychological aspects of divorce and separation. The privacy and discretion of these sessions can be ideal for exploring sensitive and delicate family matters.
- Divorce Diaries Website
Our Divorce Diaries website captures the real life experiences of a number of our former clients who have been through divorce and separation. Their divorce diary stories can be hugely supportive for others going through family breakdown.
Supporting Professional Wellbeing
- In-house supervision programme
We run an in-house supervision programme for our professional staff. By equipping our family lawyers with the tools to combat stress and by giving them time to reflect on the challenges they face in their day to day job, we firmly believe that they are better able to support our clients.
- FLiP Faculty
FLiP Faculty offers specialist training to help family practitioners better understand the emotional and psychological impact for both clients and for themselves of working in the field of family breakdown.
Elizabeth Fletcher is a Director at Family Law in Partnership. She advises on all aspects of family law, but has a specific interest in managing arrangements for children both locally and internationally and in all forums – in negotiations as a solicitor, in court and as a mediator. She also focuses on resolving financial disputes arising from the breakdown of a marriage and has particular experience in dealing with assets including private companies following a divorce. Elizabeth was named as a Next Generation Lawyer and is recommended for family law by the leading legal directory, Legal 500 UK 2021, 2020 and 2019.