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Here you can find information about our work on issues affecting children. This includes child contact, relationship breakdown, and delays in the Family Proceedings Courts under the Children Act 1989.

Children and the courts

The Children and Adoption Bill, led by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) was introduced into Parliament in June 2005 and it currently undergoing legislative passage. You can follow the progress of the Bill on the UK Parliament website.

The Bill would provide the courts with additional powers. These would include a power to direct parties to undertake a 'contact activity' such as attending information sessions, meetings with a counsellor, parenting programmes or classes, or other activities designed to deal with contact disputes. The Bill would also reform family assistance orders and make provision on inter-country adoption.

Relationship breakdown

We are implementing the Government's programme of reform on parental relationship breakdown to address the needs of people who are engaged in the divorce or separation process and better support them in resolving future contact issues.

A range of measures are being implemented including:

Information provision

Improving the information available to parents and greater use of alternative dispute resolutions such as mediation and in-court conciliation. These methods are being promoted as better ways to reach agreement than through contested court hearings Research has shown that couples that come to an agreement about contact are happier with the outcome and more likely to stick to the arrangements.

We commissioned a report ' Making contact happen or making contact work?
The process and outcomes of in-court conciliation
' to examine this.

Revised Parenting Plans

These were published in March 2006 and provide guidance on issues parents may need to consider when making contact arrangements.

The documents are available to order from the DfES website.

New court forms

New forms were introduced in January 2005 which will allow courts to be informed about allegations of domestic violence at the beginning of a case. Evaluation of the impact of these forms is currently under way.

Legal aid payments

Changes to the way family legal aid is paid to solicitors are currently being piloted to promote earlier and non-court-based resolutions. An evaluation is expected in the autumn.

Accreditation of solicitors

The current system for accreditation for solicitors is under review to help the public recognise solicitors who are trained in family matters. Solicitors who are committed to resolving disputes in the interest of the child can help settle some problems without going to court.

Family Resolutions Pilot Project

This was an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, which encouraged parents to resolve contact disputes themselves, without the full court process. The pilot tested new handling arrangements for the most intractable cases. It concluded in September 2005 A report on the findings was published in March 2006.

Public, Social and Health Education curriculum in schools

This has been expanded to educate children about issues surrounding relationship breakdown and parental separation.

Child contact

These documents detail some of our work in improving outcomes for children caught up in private law disputes between parents in the family courts.

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