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Senior family judge pledges greater transparency in family law

The family law system is undergoing the “most radical reforms in a lifetime”, according to a senior judge.

In a recently published statement, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, said ongoing reforms to family justice in the UK were “nothing short of revolutionary”.

He  stressed his determination to focus on transparency within the family justice system. “I am determined to take steps to improve access to and reporting of family proceedings. I am determined that the new Family Court should not be saddled, as the family courts are at present, with the charge that we are a system of secret and unaccountable justice.”

The judge also emphasised the role of magistrates in the forthcoming ‘single family court’. Due for introduction in April 2014, this will see magistrates and judges of different levels sitting in the same courts.

“I have never accepted,” wrote Sir James Munby, “that Magistrates are unsuited for family work or, in particular, for public law cases. Quite the contrary. So Magistrates will play a vitally important part as judges in the Family Court.”

Sir James Munby became President of the Family Division earlier this year following the retirement of Sir Nicholas Wall.

Lord Justice Ryder recently made similar remarks, describing a “revolutionary culture of change” within the family justice system.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. MLT says:

    “Greater transparency in family law”
    This will never happen!
    I am personally aware of a father that was refused contact with his daughter by a female circuit judge at Guildford County court. This was due to his apparent narcissism.

    The judge ignored the fact that the same father has successfully maintained contact with his older daughter for over 8 years. She also ignored the fact that all previous contact with the child in question had been very positive.

    The same female circuit judge at Guildford count court also ignored the fact that the mother of the child in question, had previously falsely alleged rape in order to secure free legal representation.

    The same female circuit judge at Guildford count court also ignored the fact that the mother of the child in question, had also been issued with a warning from Surrey & the Met police because of her previous attempts to harass the father.

    A few weeks prior to this ruling, the mother of baby P was granted visiting rights to her other children while she served the remainder of her prison sentence for the brutal torture and murder of baby P.

  2. Kelly Wheeler says:

    It is so interesting that you state “The family law system is undergoing the “most radical reforms in a lifetime”, according to a senior judge.” In our state we see the same scenario. Alimony laws are making a radical move in Florida and we see the courts radically changing. It is so reveling that that is a scenario that happens even in another country. As
    href=””>Family Law Attorneys in our great city, Clermont, Florida we see the effects of new radical laws and how it complicates the system. This was a great read and It is nice to see the family law perspective from other sources. Great job.

  3. MLT says:

    What you won’t have in the USA are:
    – 1/3 of children (3.8 million) not having any contact with at least 1 parent.
    – An ever expanding government funded organisation (Cafcass) processing care application for over 10,000 children annually.
    – The parent of the above 10,000 children only receive up to £85 per month in government funded child benefits, but foster parents receive up to £1,200 per month for each of the same children.
    – The children who aren’t lucky enough to be fostered or adopted, are often removed from their biological parent(s) and placed in children homes which are located next-door to drug dens, brothels and police no-go areas. Homes also profit up to £1,200 per month for each child.
    – Over 100 deaths of children after their mothers alienate the biological father(s) and then introduce a new man. Cafcass regularly use the photo of one child (baby P) to support the need for more government funding. (this actually happens)
    – Women are automatically presumed in law to be good mothers. Often ignoring the previously stated repeated pattern of disgusting deaths of children.
    – Men (fathers) are automatically presumed to be guilty in all instances of domestic abuse or violence allegations.
    – A cooperative media black-out on any negative press pertaining to the UK family law.
    – An apparently never ending list of celebrity child molesters.

    What the USA does also have is a vast collection of aged, socially detached, socially inept, impotent and apparently vacuous family court judges and professionals. This is probably why you have your mess in Florida…

  4. Winston Smith says:

    I’ll believe this when I see a herd of pigs flying past my window.

    We were promised this by James Munby’s predessor but one 3 and1/2 years ago but nothing happened.

    The Family Court is so bad they can’t allow it without major scandals breaking outin all direction.

    Remember secrecy was imposed from 1992 because of the cosmic mega-sandals of the late ’80’s/ early ’90’s.

    Bu tthis time it’s even worse because of the Family Court itself and the way judges behave and SS witnesses, Guardians and Expert Witnesses behave there.

    Demands for prosecution of SS staff and Guardians for perjury and conspiringto pervert the course of justice? Naughty Lists for judges not allowed to sit in the Family Court because of the problems they cause?

    You must be joking! This is what you would get if the screcy of what goes on there comes off!
    Can you imagine it, pickets by judges outside the RCJ on behalf of colleagues put on the naughty list?

    It just can’t be allowed to happen!

  5. ObiterJ says:

    This is an essential part of the move to the new Family Court. Of course, for individual cases, it might be only too easy to find grounds for maintaining reporting restrictions.

    As regards Magistrates in public law children cases, the President is assuring magistrates that they will have a role to play. The question is just what that role will be.

    Judicial continuity is vital In these, often difficult, cases. It is rare that the same magistrates follow a case from start to finish – though it can and does happen. The judicial continuity is, in reality, with the legal advisers who bring in a bench if they need one.

    Under the revised procedures which have recently come into effect there is a section called Allocation Criteria. On the basis of the criteria, only the most straightforward cases could be allocated at the outset to magistrates.

    Perhaps there should be a proper evaluation of the role (if any) which magistrates can play in public law matters.

    Private law matters are rather different and magistrates will undoubtedly continue to exercise a fuller role in that area.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Obiter J
      Thanks for this. I can see a lot of work going to them eg all the contact disputes going straight to Magistrates to free up the time of the DJs. I think they will be very important in the new single courts but I agree about continuity.

  6. Tori says:

    I have been in family court proceedings for 18 months and i can not even begin to tell you how unprofessional, manipulating, lying this system is…….. false information, date errors and complete chastisement of a birth parent. Expert reports that fully support children’s social care. I cant see any relevant changes. I am a survivor of abuse yet this whole system have again become other abuser of myself. Lucky for me i have fought my entire life but how many other parents will have given in to such a ruthless barbaric system???? PARENTS SHOULD BE ABLE TO QUESTION SOCIAL WORKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Theresa says:

    Having sat through a “final” hearing today where I witmessed my ex swear on a bible to speak the truth and proceeded to lie through his teeth I can tell you all- the family system is composed of kangaroo courts, a charade played out by men for men, with the false pretence that the child is at the centre of the ruling when in actual fact it is based entirely on the demands of absent parents. How can a system be correct or honourable where it is fundamentally based on rewarding absent parents, promoting the message that it really doesnt matter how many times they destroy their child’s life by disappearing and reappearing because the “law” will always welcome them to trudge destructively back and forth through their child’s life. So underhand is this secretive set up that you probably won’t print my comment as it mentions the goings on in these farcical anomalous places.

  8. Tristan says:

    I don’t think many fathers would agree with you, Theresa. Most fathers only get “every other weekend” and that’s if they’re lucky, with half a lifetime spent on just getting that. You need to ask yourself why he’s become an absent parent and what role you might have played in that. Children are best brought up by two parents working cooperatively together even when they no longer share a bed.

    If he’s a basket case father at the moment, try and help him improve as a parent. It is important for your child’s normal development that he stays around.

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