Lucinda Connell, Newcastle’s Top Children’s Solicitor states a Ministry of Justice survey examining public attitudes to the courts and, principally, court fees suggests that only half of those asked have confidence in certain aspects of the family courts. The survey shows only 9% said that they were very confident and 38% were fairly confident that the family courts make decisions which take into account the views of both parents when deciding who a child should live with. 12% of those asked said that they were very confident with 32% being fairly confident that the family courts make decisions that are in the best interests of children.
On the question of family court fees, 83% of people agreed that divorce applicants should pay a fee towards the cost of the court service if they could afford to, whilst 68% agreed that parents applying for a court decision on how often they see their children should do so.
Court fees are often not an insignificant cost and there is clearly a lack of confidence in the family courts resolving issues. Specialist family lawyers have for some time been urging parents struggling to agree the arrangements for their children to use alternative dispute resolutions and thus avoid stressful and uncertain litigation at court. Perhaps now would be the ideal time for the MoJ to help emphasis the many alternative options to Court which are available and the benefits those options bring.