John Jackson, Park Lane Plowden Chambers
This article examines the tension between the paramountcy principle from The Children Act 1989 of the Welfare of the Child and implementing Practice Direction 12J. It considers the difficulties courts have in putting into practice PD 12J, in particular the listing of fact-finding hearings within a court system that can’t list those hearings within a reasonable time frame because of lack of judicial time. John Jackson argues that many Judges and CAFCASS Officers who have been brought up considering that fact-findings hearings are not in the child’s long-term interests are finding it hard to go against their instincts in listing fact finding cases to establish domestic abuse in its ‘control and coercive’ forms.
This article also argues that the Scott Schedule, used for many years in private law fact-finding hearings, is out of date, difficult to use in court and suggests a change in practice should take place favouring a findings document (similar to a threshold document in public law), which in particular should focus on how the abuse suffered by a parent risks impacting on the welfare of the children.
The full article will be published in the February issue of Family Law.