Dispatches also set up questionnaires online for those who have used the family courts. This is not a representative sample, because those who replied were self-selecting however over 4,000 users responded, including 2,776 mothers and 1,147 fathers, making it the largest ever survey of family court users:
- Over 2,000 parents said they felt the judge was actively hostile towards them.
- Among those whose cases had concluded, over 70% of both mothers and fathers were unhappy with the outcome.
- 67% agreed or strongly agreed that their children’s mental health had been affected by participation in the family court proceedings.
- Court proceedings were reported to have taken on average 18 months to complete, with 1 in 10 cases lasting more than 5 years. The average cost of proceedings was said to be around £13,000, though 1 in 20 claimed they had spent over £100,000.
- A 1960 law, intended to protect children, says that nothing that happens in a family court can ever be reported without the express permission of the judge. It is a criminal offence to report what has happened in court and if no-one can ever know the specifics of the problems, they can’t be fixed.
Claire Waxman, Victim’s Commissioner for London, “The family courts need a major overhaul, that secrecy is actually enabling abusers and so it’s really important that we lift the lid off the family courts and we actually understand the court decisions that are made”