What do we know about adults in private family law proceedings?
The family court makes life-changing decisions about thousands of children every year in cases between family members, usually following parental separation.
There are over three times as many of these private law cases in England and Wales each year than public law cases, yet the evidence base about the children and families involved is much less developed.
With the Family Justice Data Partnership – a collaboration between Lancaster University and Swansea University – Nuffield Family Justice Observatory has been working to build a greater understanding of those appearing in private law proceedings.
The best available evidence from a wide range of sources has been brought together in a new Spotlight paper. It sets out to shed light on the adults involved in private law cases, how their characteristics may affect their needs when they go through court and the type of information and support that could improve their experiences.
The aim is to support professionals working in the family justice system to reflect on the emerging messages from research and come forward with ideas for making the system work for everyone involved in private law cases.
The paper explores a range of key findings with the evidence suggesting:
- Court is a last resort for separating families
- Families in private law proceedings are often facing deprivation
- While the majority of adults in private law proceedings are White, there is an over-representation of adults from some other ethnicities
- Not all adults involved in private law proceedings are parents
- Many families going through court have experienced health issues
- Domestic abuse is an issue for many families involved in private law proceedings
- A growing number of adults in private law proceedings are representing themselves in court
Read about the key findings in full in What do we know about adults in private family law proceedings?