28 November 2023

Resolution’s Vision for Family Justice on helping families to find solutions

To mark their Annual Awareness Week this week and the organisation’s 40th year, Resolution have launched their Vision for Family Justice. This calls for a number of changes to policy, legislation and processes in order to improve the lives of children and families in England and Wales.

The Vision document, linked here, makes five key recommendations.

One area in which Resolution suggests change is in looking for ways to help families find solutions. They consider the current status of public funding for early information and advice, the importance of co-parenting programmes and the introduction of Advice and Information Meetings (AIMs).

Currently, legal aid in respect of family matters is only available in limited circumstances. Resolution recommends that public funding for early, tailored legal advice is prioritised, to help people understand their rights and responsibilities from the outset. Early advice can better signpost people to mediation and make it more robust, as well as helping to identify other methods of resolving disputes out of court.

This issue was recently considered by Parliament, when the House of Commons Justice Committee recommended that the Government invest in early legal advice as part of their inquiry into the future of legal aid in 2021. Resolution supports this recommendation and proposes that the Government considers scaling up services which are already working together with Resolution to increase support to Litigants in Person. The potential effect of this is important; a recent World Bank report highlighted that £1 spent on legal aid saves the state £5 elsewhere (for example through reduced court spending and fewer people receiving benefits).

Resolution also proposes that co-parenting programmes should take place earlier, and that they should be a statutory requirement before an application is issued, as is the case with MIAMs.

Resolution also recommends that statutory MIAMs are replaced with Advice and Information Meetings (AIMs) to allow people to have access to broader and more rounded advice regarding their legal rights and options (including but not limited to mediation) from the outset. It is proposed that these meetings are delivered by family justice professionals and that they should take place earlier in the process before an application to court is considered.

Other key recommendations in the Vision for Family Justice include:

  • Cohabitation reform (find the link to our summary article here).
  • Improving the way child arrangements are handled.
  • Ensuring the family courts meet the needs of families.
  • Better protecting the vulnerable in the family courts.

Forsters’ Family department supports the recommendations made by Resolution. Whilst many people can afford legal advice, many more can’t. Around 80% of cases in the family courts now involve at least one unrepresented litigant. With investment from the state in early legal advice for all, many cases will be appropriately signposted away from the family courts, freeing them up to deal with only the most appropriate cases, for example those involving a vulnerable party or those with safeguarding concerns.

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