Bulletin 3 – June 2013



Welcome to the third bulletin from the Family Justice Knowledge Hub

What is the aim of Knowledge Hub?


A number of recommendations in the Family Justice Review related to the need to better disseminate relevant research and good practice throughout the Family Justice System. The Government Response to the review accepted these recommendations and committed to work with the Family Justice Board to facilitate the provision of social research evidence to family justice practitioners and wider stakeholders.


Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Analytical Services are supporting this through developing the Family Justice Knowledge Hub. One aspect of this is to collate and disseminate the latest research news, whether conducted on behalf of government departments, local authorities, research bodies or other organisations.  Recipients of this bulletin are welcome to forward to others to help facilitate the dissemination of knowledge across the Family Justice System.


What can you expect from the Knowledge Hub Research Bulletin?


The Knowledge Hub Research Bulletin aims to provide a summary of the findings of recent research relevant to family justice, and an update on the progress of noteworthy ongoing and forthcoming projects. Where available links to fuller information are provided.


This third bulletin includes recently published public law studies and ongoing studies both in private and public law in England and Wales.


How can you get in touch?


We would appreciate your feedback on this bulletin. Additionally, if you would like to suggest any research for inclusion in future bulletins or to add a recipient on to the mailing list please get in touch at knowledgehub@justice.gsi.gov.uk


NB. While MoJ Analytical Services will apply discretion in assessing the relevance of material included, inclusion in the Knowledge Hub Research Bulletin does not mean the research is endorsed by the MoJ. The information included is not intended as an official view of the MoJ or a reflection of MoJ policy. Note that where research included here has been through an independent peer review process this is indicated in the Bulletin.











The contribution of experts



Update on ongoing or forthcoming research projects


The contribution of experts















Update on ongoing or forthcoming research projects

Litigants in person


Divorce and finance












News Update



































Masson, J. and Dickens, J., with Bader, K. and Young, J. (2013) The pre-proceedings process for families on the edge of care proceedings. University of Bristol and University of East Anglia

Funder(s):  Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Report:  ESRC
Peer Review Status: peer-reviewed

Related Journal Articles: Dickens, J., Masson, J., Young, J. and Bader, K. (2013) ‘The paradox of parental participation and legal representation in ‘edge of care’ meetings’, Child and Family Social Work, early view.


The study examined the operation and impact of the pre-proceeding process introduced in 2008 as part of the Public Law Outline (PLO) reforms to care proceedings. The pre-proceedings process requires local authorities to write a ‘letter before proceedings’ to parents explaining their concerns and invite them to a ‘pre-proceedings meeting’ to discuss how proceedings could be avoided. The pre-proceedings process aimed to divert cases of abuse and neglect from the courts, to ensure local authorities were better prepared and to reduce the time courts took to decide cases.


The study included:

  • Examination of 207 local authority case and court proceedings files;
  • 16 interviews with social work managers, 19 with social workers, 16 with local authority lawyers, 19 with lawyers who represent parents;
  • 36 observations of pre-proceedings meetings for 33 cases; 24 interviews with parents who attended them; and follow up interviews with social workers in these 33 cases.
  • A focus group with judges.


The study was conducted in 6 local authorities in England and Wales. It aimed to explore:

  • The relationship between the use and timing of pre-proceedings process and application for care proceedings;
  • The characteristics of cases which result in care proceedings;
  • How pre-proceedings meetings are arranged and whether they provide an opportunity for parents to engage in constructive negotiations about their child’s protection;
  • How different parties perceive and perform their role in pre-proceedings meetings;
  • Parents’ views of pre-proceedings meetings;
  • The success of pre-proceedings meetings in identifying and achieving alternatives to care proceedings or uncontested proceedings.

Key findings include:

  • Use of the pre-proceedings process varies between local authorities. The local authorities in the study use it for almost all cases where there was sufficient time to do so.  The pre-proceedings process had been used in half the cases where care proceedings were eventually started;
  • A third of pre-proceedings cases related to unborn babies;
  • The pre-proceedings process succeeded in diverting cases that had met the threshold for court: a quarter of cases did not enter care proceedings either thanks to kin or foster care or improvements in care at home;
  • Courts did not seem to take particular account of this work at this time so  care proceedings were not shorter where the pre-proceedings process had been used; ;
  • The pre-proceedings process delayed decisions for children who entered care proceedings;
  • Both social workers and their managers viewed the pre-proceedings process favourably, especially as a fair way of working with parents;
  • Parents felt supported by having their lawyer at pre-proceedings meetings and for some this facilitated greater co-operation with children’s services.






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Jelicic, H., Gibb, J., La Valle, I and Payne, L. (2013) The Voice of the Child in the Child Protection Conferences. National Children’s Bureau.

Funder(s):   Involved by Right – EU Daphne grant-funded programme

Report:  National Children’s Bureau (NCB)
Peer Review Status: peer-reviewed

Related Journal Articles: in preparation


In order to improve participation and advocacy in child protection conferences and achieve better outcomes for children at risk, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) introduced, on a pilot basis, an advocacy service for child protection conferences. The advocacy service provide support to children who were subject to child protection plans to ensure that their views and wishes are listened to when making decisions about their future during a child protection conference. The NCB Research Centre carried out an evaluation of the advocacy model to explore benefits and effectiveness of the service. The aims were to explore whether children, with the support from the advocate, were able to:

  • Attend the child protection conference;
  • Express their views at the conference;
  • Contribute to their child protection plan;
  • Understand the purpose of the conference and the plan.


The evaluation consisted of:

  • A review of anonymised child protection records for 26 family cases involving 38 children who received advocacy for at least one child protection conference and three children who did not receive advocacy but attended their child protection conference;
  • In-depth exploration with a sub-sample of four cases consisting of 20 interviews with children, their parent(s), the advocate, the social worker and the chair of the most recent conference; 7 more interviews with professionals who dealt with families whose cases were reviewed for the study but did not take part in the in-depth explorations;
  • Analysis of data gathered by RBKC from an anonymous feedback form completed by parents and professionals attending conferences.


Key findings included:


  • Parents were often found to be reluctant at first when asked to give permission for their children to use the service. Children were generally less reluctant, but for some it took time to be more open with the advocate and share more information;
  • Advocates successfully worked with social workers to fully understand any background information on the child and its family (including safeguarding issues) before meeting with the child; in this way, children were usually well prepared for the child protection conference;
  • Children felt supported and appreciated the advocate’s flexibility in helping them organise what they wanted to say and how;
  • The advocate enabled children’s views to be represented when formulating child protection plans and children recognised this;
  • Children and advocates’ contributions facilitated dialogue and helped professionals and parents to focus on the needs of the child.








The contribution of experts



Dr Brophy, J., Owen, C., Sidaway, J and Dr Johal, J.J. (2012) The Contribution of Experts in Care Proceedings: Evaluation of the Work of Independent Social Work Assessments. Findings from Stage 1. Confederation of Independent Social Work Agencies (CISWA) UK and University of Oxford

Funder(s): CISWA-UK

Report:  CISWA-UK Report
Peer Review Status: not known

Related Journal Articles: none


ISWs are asked to provide ad-hoc assessments to local authorities or courts across a wide range of specialities including child protection, fostering or adoption.  This may be when another opinion is needed or because a specialist assessment is required. Concerns about the use of independent social work (ISW) assessments emanated from submissions to the Family Justice Review (FJR). Concerns raised included that ISW caused delay, duplicated existing local authority assessments, and undermined confidence in social work assessments.  It was also said such reports result from human rights arguments by parents – to which courts too readily accede.


This two part study addresses a lack of robust empirical data in this field.  Stage one was based on a random sample of cases drawn from the records of three independent agencies providing ISW assessments for courts. It utilises qualitative and quantitative methods to examine letters of instruction and reports in England and Wales; reports concerned 121 children in 65 cases; the sample consisted of 82 reports and associated letters of instruction.


Stage I – sample profile

  • Children and parents in the sample cases demonstrated multiple problems.  Most children experienced multiple forms of ill-treatment, were aged six years or younger, were subject to an interim care order and were known to children’s services prior to proceedings;
  • Most parents were subject to multiple concerns/allegations contributing to failures of parenting.

Instructions to ISWs

  • Findings do not support a view that parents are solely responsible for the use of ISW assessments – or that applications are based solely on human rights applications;
  • All letters of instruction (LOIs) instructed ISWs as an expert witness for the court; overall, the median number of tasks or questions set was 13; a small number of LOI did not comply with the Practice Direction: questions being repetitive, lengthy, and in some instances, lacking a clear structure.


The context in which ISWs are instructed

  • Most cases (93%) indicated the local authority had filed at least one assessment relating to the care of a child(ren) in the case: 71% contained a core assessment;
  • The reasons why an ISW was instructed to assess a parent/others – where there was evidence of a previous local authority assessment – was because a previous assessment had not included the parent to be covered in the proposed ISW assessment, or a parent with a new partner/proposed carer;
    • In 19 cases an ISW was instructed within twelve months of a local authority core assessment.  These cases demonstrated some key features: a high level of conflict between the local authority social worker and a parent(s), changed circumstances, and/or information missing in the LA assessment.

Contesting existing LA assessments and human rights arguments

  • In 35% of cases a previous local authority assessment was contested by a parent(s) but in most of these cases, assessments were contested on grounds of content; in just 4 cases parents contested a local authority assessment on grounds of a lack of independence or human rights issues.


The Assessors: skills, experience and role

  • ISWs in this sample had substantial experience in child protection work; the median being 24 years;
  • The study demonstrates that while the core professional discipline of the LA social worker and the ISW is the same, as expert witnesses for the court operating under the Practice Direction, the ‘terms of reference’ and the tasks of the ISW are different to those of the local authority social worker and children’s guardians.

ISW reports for courts

  • Most reports were of high quality; they were evidence-based, transparent in analysis and forensic in method;
  • Some 25% of reports were poorly structured and lacked evidential ‘signposting’; key information was usually there but poor layout made reports time consuming to analyse.

Delay and duration

  • The timescale from enquiry to instructions averaged 33 days, the median being 22 days;
  • In most cases (68%, 43/63) reports arrived on time; of the remaining ones, most (85%) were delayed following substantive changes during proceedings, thus delay was constructive and purposeful;
  • Seven reports were lodged with solicitors after the due date with no identifiable case driven reason: in almost all of these cases (6/7) delay was no more than 3 days;
  • Overall, the mean duration of parenting assessments was 75 days (just under 11 weeks); the minimum being 27 days, the maximum 179 days;
  • Key findings regarding increased duration of parenting assessments were changes in circumstances post instruction and the number of children.










Thomas, C. (2013) The Adoption Research Initiative

Funder(s):   Department for Education

Report:  Adoption for looked after children: messages from research: an overview of the Adoption Research Initiative
Peer Review Status: peer-reviewed

Related Journal Articles: none


In 2001 the Government of the day began to plan an Adoption Research Initiative to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.  The overall aim of the research initiative was to examine the impact of the Government’s adoption project on the quality of services for children who are adopted or placed in other permanent placements. More specifically the initiative aimed to:


  • Examine how the objectives of the project were being translated into practice;
  • Evaluate some of the changes in policies, procedures and practice introduced in response to the changes;
  • Assess outcomes for children and their families in relation to their welfare and quality of life.


Seven large and complex studies were funded over an eight-year period between 2002 and 2010. Several of the studies reported in parts or stages, and in total generated 11 research reports. Details of all the studies, including summaries of each one and other related dissemination materials, are available on a dedicated website for the initiative http://www.adoptionresearchinitiative.org.uk/


The purpose of this Adoption for looked after children: messages from research is to synthesise into a single report these studies’ key findings together with their messages for policy and practice.


The important underlying common themes and messages from the studies converged on:

  • Permanence;
  • Finding a family;
  • Adoption support;
  • Contact.


The overview concluded that the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and the associated programme of adoption reform led to:

  • A greater focus on planning for looked after children’s permanence;
  • Increased the numbers of children permanently placed from care;
  • Reduced delays in the adoption process;
  • Improved support services.


The report, however, also identified significant problems that persisted:

  • There were children who had recommendations for adoption for whom adoptive placements were never found;
  • The adoption process could still take too long for children;
  • Inconsistencies remained in the provision and quality of adoption services;
  • There were still concerns that the process had too strong a focus on the rights and needs of the adults involved, despite birth parents’ extremely negative experiences of the adoption process.


The overview is available from the British Association for Adoption and Fostering: http://www.baaf.org.uk/bookshop/book_ARi_overview. The report is also available on the Adoption Research Initiative website: www.adoptionresearchinitaitive.org.uk



Luckock, B. and Broadhurst, K., (2013) Adoption Cases Reviewed: An Indicative study of process and Practice.

Funder(s): Department for Education

Report:  Department for Education

Peer Review Status: reviewed by expert advisory group

Related Journal Articles: none


The aim of this small-scale study was to evaluate the strengths of the current adoption process and establish what changes, if any, are required to ensure that the processes of local authorities and court case handling and decision making are consistent with the principles underpinning the Adoption and Children Act 2002.


Files for twelve closed adoption cases where care, placement and adoption decisions were actively contested and/or opposed by birth parents were subject to in-depth scrutiny. The twelve cases were selected by purposive sampling from five local authorities. An adoption journey timeline was constructed for each child from adoption to care order.


The study found that in the twelve cases reviewed:

  • There was wide variation in the timeliness of the local authority decision to apply for a care order. When local authorities applied to the court for interim care orders, sufficient evidence was filed. However, the standard of social work practice prior to application varied widely. Delayed court applications seriously compromised child development and well-being;
  • Children waited between thirteen and forty nine months to be placed, following care admission. Children waited between one and nineteen months to be placed once the placement order had been made;
  • Birth parents were enabled to oppose applications and orders at all stages of the adoption process;
  • Social work practice in making sense of child development and child experience and in communicating plans to children in care usually fell short of required professional standards. Accounts of children’s wishes and feelings and analysis of children’s developmental trajectories were consistently below required professional standards in regard to care planning;
  • Options for alternative permanent placements with relatives or friends were generally appropriately considered by the local authority; however, steps to enable parents to maintain care of children at home were rarely planned and sustained in a proactive way, once the case was in proceedings;
  • In all twelve cases, the evidence presented by the local authority was tested with reference to further assessments ordered by the court. This process, together with lack of judicial continuity, contributed to delay. The adequacy of the local authority evidence that parents lacked the capacity of commitment to change was the main focus of debate;
  • Experts were instructed in every case, often in large number. They were seen as crucial to the judicial determination of the capacity of parents and appropriateness of care plans;
  • The role of the Independent Review Officer seemed ineffective in averting drift for children in interim foster placements;
  • With regard to contestation, the Children’s Guardian appeared to play a critical role in reminding the court of its primary focus on the welfare of the child. However, the Children’s Guardian contribution is undermined by late appointment or absence in particular.





Munro, E.R., Hollingworth, K. (2013) Adoption Reform: Messages from local Authorities on Changes in processes and timescales. Findings from Wave 1.

Funder(s): Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre

Report:  Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre

Peer Review Status: internal review at the Department for Education

Related Journal Articles: none


An Action Plan for Adoption: tackling delay outlines the Government’s plans to reform the adoption system. The Department for Education has introduced a voluntary quarterly survey to collect quantitative data from local authorities on the number of children and adopters at each stage of the adoption process, timescales for completion of core processes, children’s age, ethnic backgrounds and disabilities.


The Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre has been commissioned to undertake three waves of complementary qualitative data collection at six months intervals in order to assist with meaningful interpretation of the qualitative data, examine factors affecting adoption timescales and causes of delay and explore how local authorities are responding to the adoption reform agenda. Twenty local authorities were approached to participate among those that met the adoption score card average time threshold indicators.


This report outlines the findings from the first wave of data collection between October and November 2012. Telephone interviews were undertaken with adoption managers from 15 out of the 20 local authorities selected for inclusion. The aims were to:

  • Explore strengths and limitations in current adoption policy and practice;
  • Examine barriers and challenges to reducing delays in the adoption process;
  • Discuss recruitment strategies for adopters;
  • Explore how management information system data on adoption processes are used to inform decision-making;
  • Examine levels of awareness concerning proposed reforms and issues emerging in the early stages of implementation.


Key findings included:

  • A wide range of factors were highlighted as contributing to delays in the decision-making processes that can be detrimental to children’s future wellbeing;
  • 13 out of 15 of the adoption managers interviewed cited court decisions as contributing to delay in the adoption process. The concerns related to the length of care proceedings, commissioning of additional assessments on birth parents and/or friends and relatives, as well as the use of experts;
  • Adoption managers expressed their commitment to reducing unnecessary delay and ensuring the timely completion of adoption processes. However, they expressed concerns about the tight timescales for the completion of the adopters’ approval process on the basis that speed may be at the expense of quality;
  • The main cause of delay in the children’s social care arena was ‘judges’ to be matching harder-to-place children with suitable prospective adoptive carers;
  • A range of strategies were employed to facilitate recruitment of potential adopters such as radio, press and television advertising;
  • Adoption scorecards were deemed useful at highlighting ‘where we are at and what we need to focus on’;
  • Adoption managers expressed different perspectives on whether a 26 week timetable for the conclusion of care proceedings would prove feasible and sustainable;
  • Adoption managers questioned whether removing the requirement for the adoption panel to scrutinise and approve children’s plans was beneficial and suggested that the new approach was less robust.



Interviews and focus groups are now being undertaken with adoption managers and social workers to examine the actions that local authorities are taking to tackle delay in the adoption process and to explore the impact of the reforms http://www.cwrc.ac.uk/projects/1129.html




Update on ongoing or forthcoming research projects





NCB Research Centre, The Role of the Independent Reviewing Officer in Improving Care Planning for Looked After Children


Local authorities are required to appoint Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) to have independent oversight of the way that looked after children are being cared for. Their primary focus is to quality assure the care planning process for each child, and to ensure that the child’s current wishes and feelings are given full consideration. New guidance has been in operation since April 2011 in an attempt to strengthen the existing arrangements, but some have called for more radical reform. The aim of this study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is to develop an evidence base about the implementation, effectiveness and costs of the IRO role, in order to inform policy and practice.


The research involves:

  • A national online survey of IROs and IRO managers and a survey of all Directors of Children’s Services. Data from Ofsted, DfE and Cafcass is also incorporated into the analysis;
  • Qualitative research are being carried out in four local authorities, including interviews with key stakeholders and looked after children;
  • Focus groups with IROs and social workers, and analysis of a sample of care plans;
  • An analysis will be undertaken of the costs associated with the IRO service.


An interim report covering survey findings is expected in July 2013 and the final full report is expected in late 2013.





The contribution of experts


Dr Brophy, J., Owen, C., Sidaway, J. and Dr Johal, J.J. (forthcoming) The Contribution of Experts in Care Proceedings: Evaluation of the Work of Independent Social Work in Care Proceedings. Stage 2. CISWA-UK and University of Oxford


Concerns about the use of independent social work (ISW) assessments emanated from submissions to the Family Justice Review (FJR). Concerns included views that ISWs can cause delay, duplicate existing local authority assessments, and undermine confidence in social work assessments.  It was also said such reports result from human rights arguments by parents – to which courts too readily accede.


This two part study addresses a lack of robust empirical data in this field.  Stage one is now completed and available at http://www.ciswa-uk.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/FINAL-REPORT-EVALUATION-OF-ISW-ASSESSMENTS-FOR-CARE-PROCEEDINGS-FINAL-23-Apr-2012.pdf


Stage II will explore the impact of assessments and the circumstances in which they are commissioned by courts with a sample of senior judges.


Provisionally, findings on the quality and duration of ISW reports indicate that with adjustment, the deployment of ISWs may assist the family justice modernisation programme to meet timescales without sacrificing quality.


However the authors identify some key questions that remain: first the impact of reports on judicial thinking and decision making, and second the views of local authority social workers and advocates. There would appear to be benefits to local authorities in some circumstances and given timescales for the filing of evidence and completion of cases.


The study is due to complete in June 2013 and a report will follow soon afterwards.





Harwin, J. Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) – Evaluation Research Study. Phase 2 (Nuffield Foundation)

The Nuffield Foundation and Home Office funded Brunel University to carry out an independent first stage evaluation of FDAC (2008-2010). The aims were:

  • To describe the FDAC pilot and identify set-up and implementation lessons;
  • To make comparisons with standard court proceedings involving parental substance misuse, including a comparison of costs;
  • To indicate whether this different approach might lead to better outcomes for children and parents.


Key findings included:

  • More FDAC than comparison parents controlled their substance misuse;
  • More FDAC than comparison parents were reunited with their children;
  • More FDAC parents engaged in treatment and other services;
  • More FDAC children placed more rapidly in alternative permanent families when reunification was not possible
  • More constructive use of court time and some potential savings for the court system.


The report can be downloaded from http://www.brunel.ac.uk/fdacresearch


A second stage study is being conducted by Brunel University, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. It started in June 2011 and will finish in late 2013.

It continues to:

  • Compare FDAC child and parent outcomes at final order with cases heard in ordinary court, but with a larger sample than before;
  • obtain the views of parents, parent mentors and practitioners.

The evaluation includes a new element, a twelve month follow up of all parents living with their children at the end of the care proceedings. This will provide comparative information on the sustainability of parental substance misuse recovery, placement stability, child removal due to neglect or abuse, and the initiation of fresh legal proceedings.













Update on ongoing or forthcoming research projects



Litigants in person


Trinder, L., Bader, K., Hinchly, V., Hitchings, E., Hunter, R., Miles, J., Moorhead, R., Pearce, J., Sefton, M. and Smith, L. Litigants in Person in Private Family Law Cases (Ministry of Justice)


This study, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, is designed to explore the needs and impact of litigants in person in private family law cases in light of changes to legal aid implemented in April 2013. The study aims to identify the different types of litigants in person, their support needs and their impact on the family justice system using a multi-method qualitative design. The fieldwork for the study was completed just before the introduction of the legal aid changes, which removed legal aid for private family law cases. The dataset encompasses observation of 150 court hearings, three quarters of which involved at least one litigant in person and a quarter where both parties were represented cases to enable comparison. The cases observed were financial remedy, private law Children Act and special guardianship cases. In many of these cases interviews were also conducted with the parties, members of the judiciary, lawyers and McKenzie friends. This was combined with information from the court file. The researchers also ran focus groups with judicial officers, lawyers, Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) and court staff. The final report for the study is due for publication in September 2013.




Trinder, L, Hunt, J., McLeod, A., Pearce, J., Woodward, H. Enforcing Contact Orders: Cases, Courts and Consequences (Nuffield Foundation)


Enforcement has long been seen as a significant challenge for the family courts and for policy-makers but there is currently little research evidence about the types of cases involved or the court’s response to inform the debate. The study is designed to address this gap in the evidence base. The research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is designed to build a profile of the private law cases where enforcement of a court order is sought, to examine how and why the court responds to applications and to explore the actual and perceived effectiveness of current powers available to the courts to address enforcement cases. The research will examine a national sample of over two hundred enforcement cases, accessed via the Cafcass electronic case files system, combined with a small number of focus groups with judges. The study began in November 2012 and is due to report in July 2013.




Divorce and Finance


Woodward, H. Pensions and Divorce (Nuffield Foundation)

This study, which is being carried out by Cardiff Law School and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, aims to provide detailed information on the extent to which pensions are considered in those divorce cases which reach solicitors or the courts, the circumstances in which pensions are likely (or unlikely) to be included in final settlements, the alternatives adopted and the rationales behind the approach. Extensive data has been collected from 369 divorce court files, and interviews conducted with family practitioners and members of the judiciary in three different locations in England and Wales. The findings will be contained in a full report to be published on the Cardiff University website in Summer 2013.





Barlow, A, Hunter, R., Smithson, J., Ewing, J., Getliffe, K. and Morris, P, Mapping Paths to Family Justice – A National Picture of Findings on Out of Court Family Dispute Resolution (Universities of Exeter and Kent)

This interdisciplinary ESRC-funded project aims to provide evidence about the usage, experience and outcomes of the three different forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution in family law currently available in the UK – Solicitor Negotiation, Mediation and Collaborative Law. The project consists of three phases:

  • Phase 1 – A national survey to gauge national awareness, use and experiences of solicitor negotiation, mediation and collaborative law;
  • Phase 2 – Interviews with 90 parties and 30 practitioners with experience of the ADR process;
  • Phase 3 – Recordings and analysis of a selection of mediations, collaborative law sessions and lawyer-client interviews.


Findings from the three phases will be synthesised to arrive at an overall ‘map’ of family dispute resolution pathways. http://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/law/research/frs/researchprojects-/mappingpathstofamilyjustice/


Initial findings from the first phase of the study have now been published and are available in the March 2013 issue of Family Law at: http://www.jordanpublishing.co.uk/publications/family-law/family-law-0


The first phase consisted of two nationally representative questionnaire studies totalling just under 6,700 adults interviewed face to face (Civil and Social Justice Panel Survey 2012 and the tns-BMRB omnibus survey) probing awareness and experience of the three forms of alternative dispute resolution.


Whilst mediation was the best recognised of these forms of dispute resolution, the article considers why people who had used it were, in general, less satisfied with it than those who had used the more partisan alternatives of either solicitor negotiation or collaborative law.  The article also explores the reasons given for rejecting these different dispute resolution processes and highlights the high percentage (46% of the sub-sample of 315 respondents that had divorced or separated) of people who settle disputes without seeking legal advice at all.


Phase 2 and 3 of the study are now underway and preliminary findings from 35 of the Phase 2 interviews with parties who had experienced mediation formed the basis of a paper given at the Socio-Legal Studies Association annual conference in March 2013 by Anne Barlow and Rosemary Hunter titled ‘The End of Voluntary Medation?’.  Whilst there were some very positive mediation experiences, the paper drew attention to the worrying pressures felt by some parties to mediate brought to bear by partners, solicitors and in some instances the courts even where there was a history of violence or coercive control within the relationship, due to inadequate or incomplete screening prior to mediation. A correlation between such pressure and dissatisfaction with the mediation experience was found to exist.



News update



Resolution’s latest Guides to Good Practice

  • Resolution, which was formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association (SFLA), is an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, that supports the development of family lawyers through its national and regional training programmes, through publications and good practice guides and through its accreditation scheme;
  • New Guides for Good Practice were published in late 2012. They set out expectations and provide advice on the practice of family law. They have been drafted by Resolution’s Standards Committee with input from a broad range of members;
  • The guides are endorsed in the Family Law Protocol;
  • The Guidelines promote the constructive and non-confrontational approach to family proceedings.  They have also been fully updated to ensure they are as appropriate for Dispute Resolution processes as for the courts;




Managing Family Justice in Diverse Societies

  • This book was edited by Mavis Maclean and John Eekelar and published in early 2013;
  • The book aims to explore what response the law has or should have to different family practices arising from cultural and religious beliefs;
  • It includes consideration both of theoretical issues and also of empirical data about the interaction between specific family practices and state law in a variety of jurisdictions ranging from England and Wales to Bangladesh, Botswana, Spain, Poland, France, Israel, Iran and South Africa.


Ministry of Justice new research studies

  • The MoJ Analytical Services has recently commissioned Ipsos Mori, who will be working in collaboration with an academic and practitioner, to conduct action research to evaluate the revised Public Law Outline (PLO).  Local areas will implement the revised PLO on specified dates between 1 July and 7 October and this work is intended to support the completion of public law cases within 26 weeks. The evaluation work will be completed by January 2014;
  • The MoJ Analytical Services is currently procuring a new study on the use and client experience of Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) and mediation in private family law disputes. Analytical Services will commission the work in July 2013 and plan to have a final report in summer 2014;
  • The MoJ Analytical Services is procuring a new research study on the use of experts in family law cases. Analytical Services will commission the study in August 2013 and have a final report in autumn 2014.


For more information on these studies please visit: www.gov.uk/contracts-finder


Events and Conferences

SLSA 2013 Conference


  • The SLSA annual conference 2013 was hosted by York Law School on between 26 and 28 March, 2013. Around 350 delegates attended;
  • In her plenary speech titled ‘Should Judges be Socio-legal Scholars?’ Lady Hale of Richmond, Justice of the Supreme Court, considered whether and how judges should consider socio-legal research, drawing on a number of examples including some relating to family law. Her speech is available at: http://www.slsa.ac.uk/content/view/179/166/#Hale;
  • A number of papers were given in the Family and Children, Law and Policy Stream. They flagged mainly provisional findings from on-going academic research projects. Abstracts and speaker contact details can be supplied by contacting the stream organiser, Professor Anne Barlow: a.e.barlow@ex.ac.uk


Forthcoming Statistics Publications


Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Court Statistics Quarterly (CSQ)


  • The MoJ CSQ bulletin presents national statistics on activity in the county, family, magistrates’ and Crown courts of England and Wales. The bulletin includes statistics on both public and private family law cases, including care and supervision cases, adoption, divorce, contact and residence cases, and domestic violence. This includes data on the volume and duration of cases and legal representation in family law cases;
  • The most recent bulletin was published on 18 April 2013. They can be found on the Ministry of Justice website:




The local authority children’s social care services workforce, England, as at 31 December 2012

  • This Statistical First Release (SFR) contains information about staff employed (directly and indirectly) by children’s social services departments in England as at 31 December 2012;
  • The SFR was published on 27 March 2013. It can be found at:





We would like to thank all those whose work we have summarised in this bulletin and to other contributors who have reviewed the bulletin and made suggestions for inclusion. With specific thanks to Mavis Maclean, Anne Barlow, Julia Brophy, Judith Masson, Caroline Thomas and Liz Trinder.