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Routes through court – understanding the different journeys of families through private law proceedings

New research has been commissioned by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory to provide important new evidence on the journeys that different families take through private law proceedings in England and Wales.

Decisions made in the family courts have a major impact on the lives of children and families, including where a child lives, who they live with, and who they spend time with.

Significant numbers of families are involved in private law cases in England and Wales each year – over 50,000 new cases started in 2022, involving around 80,000 children (Ministry of Justice 2023). The majority of cases are between separating parents in situations where agreement cannot be reached about arrangements for children.

The 12-month study will be led by Dr Linda Cusworth from the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University. It builds on previous research conducted by the Family Justice Data Partnership, and led by Dr Cusworth as part of the Uncovering Private Law series. These reports, completed over the past 4 years, have made a major contribution to knowledge about the characteristics of private law applications and the families involved. This new research will use data collected by the family courts, by Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) and Cafcass Cymru to investigate the dynamics of private law cases, including how long they last and how many return to court. It will also consider whether pathways vary by the demographic characteristics of families or where they live.

The ultimate aim of this research is to better understand the experiences and outcomes of children and families and use this improved understanding to help the family court better meet the needs of the families that come before it.

If you would like to know more about this research,  get in touch