Focusing on those aspects of the Children Act 1989 which relate to the family justice system, this article outlines the development over the last 20 years of the family courts and the court welfare system (now CAFCASS ‐ Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), and the operation of two provisions: section 1(5) the ‘no order’ principle and section1(2) the avoidance of delay. Neither of these provisions have delivered what they promised and further procedural change through the Public Law Outline and the Private Law Programme have been introduced to divert cases from proceedings and reduce delay. The foundations for a family court set down in the Act appear at last to be being developed. However, the recently announced Family Justice Review means that the role and function of family courts is again uncertain.
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