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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

12 JUN 2014

Public experiences of and attitudes towards the family justice system

Jonathan Cailes

Major Works Manager

@JPFamilyLaw

Public experiences of and attitudes towards the family justice system

The Ministry of Justice has published an analytical summary presenting findings from the 2012/13 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) examining public attitudes towards and experiences of the family justice system, including mediation.

The CSEW is a nationally representative household survey. In the 2012/13 survey, around 35,000 adults were interviewed. Questions about understanding of and confidence in the family justice system were asked of a random quarter of the overall sample.

Overall, the CSEW shows that although the public’s direct experience of the family justice system (FJS) is limited, those who have been involved report positively on their experiences. Around half of adults are aware of the FJS and mediation as an alternative to court. Overall, the majority of adults are confident in the FJS.

The key findings of the anaysis are as follows:

  • Direct involvement in the FJS was limited. One per cent of adults said they had taken part in mediation in the two years before interview.
  • Less than 1% of adults said they had been involved in a family court case in the two years prior to interview. The majority of those who had attended court felt that they had been treated fairly and with respect, with most feeling well informed before and while at court.
  • Just under half (47%) of adults said they had heard of the FJS before the interview. Awareness varied by socio-demographic characteristics. Women were more likely to say they were aware than men. There were also differences between groups that appeared to be related to experiences of family separation; divorced respondents and those with a non-resident child were more likely to say they were aware.
  • Three-quarters of adults identified at least one issue that the FJS deals with; the most common answer related to deciding who a child should live with, mentioned by 38% of adults. Far fewer people mentioned issues around taking children into care (11%).
  • Overall, respondents were likely to over-estimate the proportion of couples who go to court to make contact arrangements with each parent following separation.
  • Over half of adults (53%) said they were aware of mediation as an alternative to court. Similar to awareness of the FJS, women, divorced people, and those with a non-resident child were more likely to say they were aware of mediation.
  • To assess public confidence in the FJS, survey respondents were presented with either a child contact/residence case or a care case scenario. In the contact/residence case, around seven in ten adults felt that the courts would come to a decision that was in the best interests of the child (71%) and would take into account the views of both parents (72%). In the care case scenario, reported levels of confidence were slightly lower; approximately two-thirds (67%) felt the court would come to a decision in the best interests of the child and 65% felt the court would take the views of parents into account.

The full analytical summary is available to download below, along with supplementary Excel tables:

Public experiences of and attitudes towards the family justice system

Supplementary Excel tables

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