30% of private law cases have been to court before


The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) has recently published the results of a study looking at how many private law family cases return to court. The research also looks at why these cases return and distinguishes between those that belong in court and those that might safely benefit from alternative dispute resolution.

The results found that 30% of the 40,599 private law applications involving CAFCASS in 2016-17 had been to court before. The majority returned within two years, and almost a third had been to court at least twice before. One child had been the subject of eleven cases between 2005 and 2017.

One hundred returning cases were explored in detail to look at why they came back to court and four key principle causes were identified:

  1. safeguarding concerns raised by parties;
  2. high conflict between adults;
  3. changes in life circumstances; and
  4. the child’s wishes and feelings.

The research sets out policy and practice implications of these different types of returning cases, contributing to wider discussions about family justice reform and possible approaches the safely resolve cases outside of court.

Welcoming the research, CAFCASS Chief Executive Anthony Douglas, said:

“CAFCASS data is a valuable resource that helps us build a picture of the complex circumstances bringing private law cases back to court. We hope the research will inform sector understanding of the rise in private law applications and help us identify ways to work with children and families in complex cases in a way which brings about a much earlier safe conclusion that is in their best interests. The findings will contribute to ongoing improvement of CAFCASS’s response to complex cases, including its new High Conflict Practice Pathway and its Positive Parenting Programme.’

Court applications, especially those involving children, should be seen as an absolute last resort. At Barker Gotelee our family department work hard to try and resolve issues concerning children in the most amicable and cost effective way possible. For anyone experiencing a  family breakdown or issues with children, come and speak to one of our qualified solicitors and we will do our best to assist your needs.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Suffolk Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk