New study explores bias in family courts

Date: Jun 03, 2015

A new study, with a focus on England and Wales, has found that there is no evidence of discrimination against fathers as a result of gender bias in family courts.

The Universities of Warwick and Reading conducted this study, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation. As part of the investigation, reported on by Family Law Week on June 2, Dr Maebh Harding from the Warwick School of Law reviewed nearly 200 case files from 2011. Following the intensive study she found contact applications by fathers were "overwhelmingly successful".

Dr Harding co-authored the report with Dr Annika Newnham from the University of Reading, and according to Family Law Week it "paints a generally positive picture of the role of the County Courts in resolving child law disputes at the time of the study".

However, there were concerns that equal or near equal care was used as a way to ensure adult fairness in these courts, as opposed to achieving the best arrangement for the children involved.

Dr Harding went on to explain how although it was true that mothers took the primary caregiver role in contact applications, it was merely a reflection of the social reality after a relationship disruption. In most cases, women are more likely to take on a carer role.

There was no indication, however, that the courts showed any bias toward mothers over fathers. Dr Harding explained that there was actually a similar success rate for both mothers and fathers applying to have their children live with them.

"And although the overall number of residence orders made for mothers was higher than those made for fathers, this was because a large number of such orders were made for mothers as respondents in cases where the father sought contact," Dr Harding noted.

This report serves to show the importance of protecting children's interests, something that may seem difficult in the midst of a complicated relationship breakdown. Reaching agreement throughout these proceedings should be a top priority.

For advice when it comes to family law, contact Craddock Murray Neumann. There are lawyers who are able to assist with hearings and help to work out the best possible arrangements.