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Working in the Family Justice System

The Official Handbook of the Family Justice Council


Fully updated to take account of all recent developments in family law

Paperback i

Book printed softcover

It is vital that those working within family justice understand how each profession thinks and operates. This Handbook, fully updated to take account of all recent developments including the introduction of the Public Law Outline, highlights the essentials of family justice, explains what the responsibilities of the respective professionals are and how they interact.

Though not a legal text book, it does however set out the important principles of law that underpin the system to provide an accessible guide to newcomers, as well as to established professionals who need information about the ways other disciplines work and are organised.

  • The Family Justice Council
  • The Professionals
  • The Systems
  • Core Principles of Law
  • Core Information
  • Interprofessional Issues


  • Titles Published by Family Law
  • Useful Contacts: Telephone Numbers and Websites
"an invaluable aid ... no one, no matter how able and experienced, could carry so much information in the mind"
From the Foreword by the Rt Hon Lord Justice Thorpe

"an extremely accessible, readable and informative guide to the many facets of the family justice system ... warmly recommended"

Practitioners Child Law Bulletin

"Cost? £30 - and worth far more than that in your time alone"

New Law Journal

"All family magistrates will find this guide provides invaluable information and is easy to access and to understand. They will gain a useful understanding of how each profession thinks and operates. I thoroughly recommend it and hope that a copy will be available in every retiring room."

Margaret Wilson,
Chair of the Magistrates' Association Family Proceedings Committee

"So long as there is a family justice system this book - manifestly the fruit of the editor's vast experience and a huge amount of skilled research - will be indispensable to everyone involved in it, whether as experienced practitioner or trainee, or even as someone considering becoming involved."

Stephen Cretney

"Who really knows how the mediation industry holds together, how to access information about the CSA and CAMHS, the approach the police take to prosecuting domestic violence, the rules for accessing data. This is the book that you cannot cope without, the second that your case steps off the routine path of cases that you can manage, more or less with your eyes closed."

James Pirrie, Resolution

“a first rate guide … common sense approach … fundamental reading … for both the newcomer and the experienced practitioner at all levels with the sort of information we need … excellent support material”

Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor, Richmond Green Chambers

"It is a wonderful book.....well thumbed and well used as a general read and as a source of immediate practical day-today information..... Organised logically and systematically.....an intresting and easy read....accessible reference book"
ALC 'click here for the full review'
My experience of family law and practice now stretches back almost 50 years. As a young barrister defended divorces and defended cases in the magistrates’ court provided the arena for embittered and embattled spouses and families. Wardship proceedings were still conducted in Chancery.

The Divorce Reform Act 1969 and the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act 1970 revolutionised the law and the practice. We practitioners entered into a new and vibrant scene in which we rapidly learned the complexities of ancillary relief litigation. Disputes as to children were generally within the framework of the divorce proceedings (the fashion for co-habitation being yet in its infancy) and in wardship, now transferred to the newly created Family Division. Those essential reforms gave us practitioners a new sense of commitment to professional practice which was so evidently and increasingly vital to sustaining public confidence in social and family justice.
The final enduring reform was, of course, the Children Act 1989 which modernised, rationalised and consolidated the previous position into a uniform code of law and practice for the protection and for the welfare of all children, whether born in or out of wedlock, and whether the subject of private or public law proceedings.

The Government’s commitment to achieve excellence by sufficiently resourcing specialist practitioners and experts within an inter-related and inter-disciplinary collaboration introduced a decade in which the importance of family justice was acknowledged, often by its prioritisation over competing justice systems. Into this world the first edition of Working in the Family Justice System was born.
Its second edition was promoted by the newly created Family Justice Council, then confidently developing as the focus of policy and practice debate within the family justice system.

Sadly, much of its advice and exhortation to Government has gone unheeded over the course of the last two years and I now survey a family justice system in crisis. Never has the morale of the specialists from every discipline been so low. In such a climate the only hope is to avoid self interest and faction. We must work together and we must support each other through the difficult times that will undoubtedly lie ahead. It is therefore particularly timely that the third edition of Working in the Family Justice System arrives to facilitate communication and a sense of a professional community united in adversity.

In writing the third edition Elizabeth Walsh has been joined by Gillian Geddes, a practicing children proceedings barrister with great experience. I am encouraged to hear that a fourth edition is on their future agenda.
The Rt Hon Lord Justice Thorpe

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