Family courts should be investigative not adversarial
Monday, November 26, 2012 at 2:25PM
FNF Scotland in Mr Justice Ryder, courts, law reform

Mr Justice Ryder, the judge who is in charge of modernisation of family justice in England, supported a change of emphasis for family courts in a recent speech.

Addressing the annual conference of Lawyers for Children, he suggested that : "The judge has to be more than the referee on a playing field where the parties (often without any direct involvement with the child affected) decide what issues they want to litigate and what evidence they are going to present."

"In future the judge should be the arbiter of what the key issues are that need to be decided so that the ultimate problem can be solved by the court and the judge should decide what evidence he or she needs. That may involve preventing parties litigating disputes that are not key i.e. where they are only marginally relevant and where it is not proportionate for the dispute to be resolved because the resolution of that dispute is not necessary for the ultimate decision that needs to be made."

"The problem can be described as how to retain respect for the court as the decision maker while involving professionals and families in the decision making process so that the family and their own community take responsibility for the problem to be solved and the solution identified, making the age old problem of compliance or enforcement of family justice a community and family based endeavour."

These comments come as English courts prepare for an increase of people representing themselves in  family cases when most legal aid is withdrawn next April.  Although Scotland is not affected by these cuts, this suggested move away from the adversarial approach to family cases could be just as relevant here.

Article originally appeared on Families Need Fathers Scotland (
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