New studies in the family justice system
I’m currently looking at how court proceedings have operated since the introduction of the 26-week time limit, focusing on decisions for children. Shorter proceedings may lead to different orders and more children going home, so we’ll see if arrangements last and children are protected.
The shorter process means we should find out what the court has decided in a 2-year study that wasn’t possible previously. We’ll also look at how the shorter process impacts on decision makers.
Research would also be useful in establishing how parents understand what’s happening in court and whether they’ve had a say, helping legal professionals learn how parents experience proceedings.
There are ethical difficulties in involving parents in research during court proceedings, but useful research has been conducted on representation that focused on their lawyers.
Research into court proceedings could be made less costly if data about proceedings, such as length of proceedings, number of hearings and orders made, could be captured automatically. This wouldn’t end detailed studies, but would tell us more about the effects of change.
Even if judges used a series of tick boxes after making a court order, to summarise the reasons for this decision, it would help us compare outcomes between cases. Over time, this would enable the courts to have better information about the work they're doing.