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  • Writer's pictureHogans Family Law Team

Amplifying Children's Voices: The Expansion of the Family Court Reporting Pilot

Updated: May 26

Family lawyers and professionals welcome the recent expansion of the Pathfinder Pilot, marking a significant step in improving the efficacy and sensitivity of family court proceedings.

Initially introduced in March 2022 in select Family Courts in Dorset and North Wales, the pilot seeks to address critical issues in the family justice system, particularly regarding the well-being and perspectives of children involved in parental separation or domestic abuse cases.

Stakeholders in the family justice system have been closely monitoring the progress of the Pathfinder Pilot since its inception. This innovative scheme has garnered attention for its efforts to enhance early-stage proceedings and amplify the voices of children within the family law landscape.

Background and Purpose

The Pathfinder Pilot emerged in response to a review of the family justice system, which underscored the detrimental impact of adversarial processes on conflict resolution, particularly in cases involving domestic abuse. Recognising the need for improved information sharing among key stakeholders, including the police, local authorities, and the courts, the pilot set out to streamline communication channels and minimise the need for abuse victims to repeatedly recount their experiences.

A central objective of the pilot is to prioritise the inclusion of children's perspectives throughout the family justice process, particularly during parental separation proceedings. By providing children with greater opportunities to express their wishes and feelings, the pilot aims to ensure that their voices are heard and considered when making decisions that affect their well-being.

How the Pathfinder Pilot Works

Initially launched in specific regions of Dorset and North Wales, the Pathfinder Pilot introduced several key strategies to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of early-stage proceedings. Central to its approach is the involvement of the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), an independent body tasked with conducting thorough investigations and providing recommendations to family courts.

One notable aspect of the pilot is the emphasis on early intervention, with Cafcass engaging with families and children prior to the first court hearing. This approach allows for a comprehensive assessment of welfare issues and the identification of potential alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation, thereby reducing the need for lengthy court proceedings.

Furthermore, the pilot facilitates closer collaboration between agencies specialising in domestic abuse support and mediation services, fostering a more integrated approach to addressing the needs of families navigating the legal system.

The Future of the Pilot

As the initial phase of the pilot concluded in February 2024, attention has turned to its expansion to additional locations across England. With the recent launch of Phase 2 in Birmingham and South-East Wales, the pilot is poised to reach a broader audience and further refine its approach based on real-world feedback and outcomes.

Justice Minister Lord Wolfson KC has underscored the government's commitment to prioritising the safety and well-being of domestic abuse victims, emphasising the importance of minimising trauma associated with the court process. By empowering victims and ensuring that their voices are heard, the pilot aligns with broader legislative efforts, such as the landmark Domestic Abuse Act, aimed at strengthening protections and support for those affected by domestic violence.

Looking Ahead

As the Pathfinder Pilot continues to evolve and expand, its impact on the family justice system will be closely monitored by legal professionals, policymakers, and advocacy groups alike. By fostering a more collaborative and child-centred approach to resolving family disputes, the pilot holds the potential to usher in positive systemic changes that prioritise the well-being and voices of all individuals involved.

At Hogans Solicitors, we remain committed to staying abreast of developments within the family law landscape and advocating for the best interests of our clients and their families. As specialists in family and childcare law, with dedicated teams in Liverpool and Manchester, we stand ready to provide expert guidance and support to families navigating the complexities of the legal system across the North West region of the UK.



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