The Ministry of Justice has issued information and guidance for professional parties on the ongoing Settlement Conferences pilot and evaluation.
The Settlement Conferences are taking place in some Designated Family Judge areas and involve a trained family judge adopting an inquisitorial approach in order to encourage cooperation between parties with a view to reaching an agreement that is in the children’s best interests.
The guidance includes information on process, legal issues, and data collection. It also details what is requested of the professional parties who take part in the pilot, including the Legal Aid Agency, HMCTS employees, local authorities and Cafcass.
The pilot has the full support of the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, who said:
‘I am keen that we understand whether, and how, this approach can lead to appropriate outcomes for children and families in a less adversarial context. I would like to encourage judges to consider adopting the pilot in their areas using these training materials.
The evaluation will continue during the pilot to seek the views and experiences of both judges as well as professional and lay parties. This will ensure lessons learnt and areas of good practice are shared and the settlement conference model is continually reviewed and improved.’
The full guidance can be found here.