Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity (CREID)

Abstract ─ Helen Stalford, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool

Strengthening children's rights in family law: Making the UNCRC work harder

This paper explores the challenges and possibilities for using the UNCRC to support children's interests and rights in the context of family law disputes.  The key statutory reference point for family law decision-making in England and Wales is The Children Act 1989, specifically, the welfare paramountcy principle contained in s.1(3). Whilst there are now many examples of the family courts interpreting substantive and procedural issues in light of the UNCRC, this is often relatively tokenistic and limited. Moreover, lawyers acting on behalf of children remain uncertain, reluctant and, in some cases, decidedly ambivalent when it comes to using the full range of UNCRC provisions to support their legal arguments. 

Drawing on empirical research with lawyers, judges and children, and on a detailed review of family case law, this article explores in more depth how the UNCRC is currently deployed in public and private family proceedings and considers how it might be made to work harder to achieve better outcomes for children.