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Family Justice System Reform

Volume 715: debated on Tuesday 24 May 2022

We are committed to reforming family law to reduce conflict and protect children and victims of domestic abuse. We are reducing demand in the private family courts. In 2021, we invested £3.3 million in the mediation voucher scheme, and over 8,000 vouchers have been issued to separating couples. In February, we launched pilots to test the less adversarial way of hearing private family law cases, and we aim to reduce the retraumatisation of domestic abuse survivors.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his answer. Our family courts, of course, remain under significant pressure. It is welcome that there is additional funding for the likes of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and that the prioritisation protocols are being used for the time being. During my time as chair of CAFCASS, we established that about one in four cases going into private law children’s courts could have been avoided had pre-proceedings work been done. Is the Department also looking at that?

There are domestic abuse or safeguarding concerns in half of private family cases; those cases, of course, need to be heard in court. But when it comes to cases that do not involve those concerns, the Government will support parents to resolve their issues earlier and outside court. We are considering making mediation compulsory for those cases.

As a former distinguished Children’s Minister, and given his former role at CAFCASS and his professional experience, my hon. Friend brings an awful lot of experience to these matters. Let us have a meeting to discuss his ideas in more detail.