We have studied the outcomes of applications for contact orders, which we consider to be a good guide to the attitude courts have towards children continuing to have contact with their parents after divorce.
In 1999 we were concerned about the number of courts which refused to make orders for contact, and we called for more uniform decision making in the courts. We are pleased to see that overall there has been a big reduction in refusals - from a peak of 813 in 1996 to a low of 62 in 2002. There has also been a nearly threefold increase in the numbers of contact orders made.
Yorkshire and Humberside courts have traditionally been bad for refusing to make orders for contact, but in 2003 Bradford and Leeds were the worst offenders - with these two courts accounting for 40% of all refusals in England and Wales. Why is this? Are 40% of the worst parents in the whole country really in these two cities? Or are their judges particularly harsh?
Doncaster, Sheffield and Scunthorpe used to top the list for refusals, but in the last three years no contact applications have been refused there! So what is going on? Have the inhabitants of these towns suddenly all reformed? Or have their courts reviewed their procedures and appointed more enlightened judges?
In previous years we have noticed that when one court improved and a neighbouring one got worse it seemed to be connected with the movement of a judge. Is this the reason why Leeds refusals halved in 1999/2000 - at a time when neighbouring Pontefract refusals quadrupled? Who moved?
See what we said in 1999...
Last updated - 7 September 2004