Friday, December 4, 2015
'They're damaging children' - Family courts criticised for failing to enforce their own orders
A general view of The Ministry of Justice building
Joanna Morris / Thursday 3 December 2015 / News
THE family courts are damaging children and vulnerable families by failing to enforce their own orders, says a Darlington woman.
The woman, who did not want to be named, and her former partner were ordered to attend mediation sessions and complete parenting courses after a custody battle went to the family courts.
She completed the requirements laid out in the court order but thus far, she said her ex-husband has failed to comply.
If she wants to ensure he obeys the order, she has been told she must take him back to court for another hearing at her own cost.
With the cost of hearings often exceeding £200 and legal aid increasingly difficult to access, the woman cannot afford to pursue the matter – a predicament she believes may face many vulnerable and low income families across the UK.
Accusing the legal system of lacking the teeth to ensure people comply with orders issued, she said the onus should not be on people like her to foot the bill for others’ failings.
She said: “This is not just about me or my children, it must affect hundreds.
“Social services can’t help because it’s not a safeguarding issue and the courts say we need to go back for another hearing, which costs £276.
“I did everything the courts asked me to but he’s refusing, even though these courses would improve life for our children – nobody’s a perfect parent.
“In order to make sure my kids are looked after properly, I have to pay to take him back to court.
“The courts are issuing these orders but not following through with them and it’s costing people a lot of money.
“Like many, I can’t afford a solicitor, court costs or to take the time out of work to do this.
“It means people are getting away with this kind of thing and it’s a situation that will only get worse.”
She added: “A lot of people split up this time of year and they don’t know what to do for the best – they need to know the pitfalls.
“They need to know even if they go to court, they can’t force people to comply with orders.
“This issue needs to be addressed because the system is letting children down.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: "The family court must always act with the best interests of children concerned. If any conditions are breached the court can consider appropriate enforcement action."