Family justice

Decisions taken in the family justice system can be life-changing for children and their families. We aim to improve understanding of how the family justice system is working and to identify changes that could improve outcomes for children.

We are the leading funder of family justice research in the UK and our work has been influential across all areas of both public and private law, including child protection, separation and divorce, and child maintenance and contact. Our goal is to improve the ability of the justice system and statutory agencies to protect the rights of children, reduce conflict and promote good outcomes.

We have also established the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (Nuffield FJO) in order to support better outcomes for children through research. The Nuffield FJO is working with decision makers in the family justice system – social workers, family lawyers, Cafcass guardians, judges and healthcare professionals – to improve understanding of why children come into the system, their experience of it, and their outcomes.

There are many points of connection between our work in family justice and our work in family and community and education. For example, in relation to the educational outcomes of looked after children and children in need.

 

Our team


  • Ash Patel
    Programme Head, Justice
  • Director, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory

  • Director, Justice

Our impact in family justice


  • Children’s sibling relationships will be better understood and protected as a result of new practice guidance on children’s sibling relationships in care and adoption proceedings. The guidance is being prepared by Dr Daniel Monk and colleagues at Birkbeck based on their research, which is the first legal study to focus on sibling relationships in the family justice system.

  • Recommendations from the Care Crisis Review have led to policy changes including amendments to the Working Together Statutory Guidance, a new Parliamentary Taskforce on Kinship Care, and changes to the Welsh Government’s Ministerial Advisory Group’s Work Programme. Led by the Family Rights Group, the cross-sector Review was established to help address the increasing numbers of children subject to care proceedings.

  • Children and young people’s privacy will be better protected as a result of new guidance issued by Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division. We funded Julia Brophy from the Association of Lawyers for Children to produce the guidance, which will assist judges in better and more consistent anonymisation practices in published judgments concerning children and young people.

Family justice projects

2 of 4

Reported

Justice | 2016 – 2018

The dissemination of lessons from research to the Judiciary

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Reported

Justice | 2016 – 2017

Transparency and privacy in family courts

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Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2015 – 2016

Feasibility study for research into improving children’s social services

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Couple of African descent attends couples counselling to discuss finding fault in divorce
Reported

Justice | 2015 – 2019

Finding Fault? Divorce Law in practice in England and Wales

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Reported

Justice | 2015 – 2017

The long-term consequences of domestic infant adoption

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Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2015 – 2018

Supervision orders and Special Guardianship

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Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2015 – 2019

Inequalities in child welfare intervention rates

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Reported

Justice | 2015 – 2017

Getting it right in time: parents who lack litigation capacity in public law

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Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2015 – 2018

Bridging the Evidence Gap in Family Proceedings

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Reported

Justice | 2014 – 2017

Understanding men’s perspectives on encounters with the child protection system

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Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2014 – 2018

Vulnerable birth mothers and recurrent care proceedings

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Reported

Justice | 2014 – 2016

Team-based learning for assessing parental capacity for change

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Latest in family justice

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.

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COVID-19 response

Nuffield-funded social scientists are conducting COVID-19 research in real-time, to capture people’s experiences of the social, cultural and economic impacts of the pandemic.