Leading Judge Puts Family Court in the Spotlight at University Talk

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University of Worcester Law students with (centre, left to right) Andrew Manning-Cox, the Rt Honourable Sir Andrew McFarlane and University Vice Chancellor Professor David Green

The Rt Hon Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, gave a talk entitled “When parents fall apart, do they fall too easily into Court?” for the inaugural High Sheriff’s Lecture, organised by the High Sheriff of Worcestershire, Andrew Manning-Cox.

Hosted by the University’s School of Law, the talk was the first in what is planned to be an annual lecture series supported by the High Sheriff of Worcestershire and raised funds for the High Sheriff's Fund, a charity within the Worcestershire Community Foundation. The event saw a full house of solicitors, judges and law students.

Sir Andrew McFarlane formally opened the University’s Law School in 2017 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University in 2021.

Opening his talk, Sir Andrew praised the University, highlighting facilities like the Art House and Law School. “I’m a big fan of the University of Worcester. In really no time at all it has become a very prominent university.

“In all sorts of ways the University has been such a success and brought young people into the centre of the City and turned the whole culture of the City on its head.”

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Addressing the central premise of his speech, Sir Andrew said he was not denigrating the Family Court or the work of those involved in it, but said that “taking proceedings in the Family Court should be the option of last resort, rather than, as it is seen by many, the first port of call”. He outlined how legislation throughout the last century or more had changed and developed the rights and responsibilities of parents.

He explored options and resources which can be used to facilitate the resolution of disputes, thereby avoiding the Family Court. He later took questions from a number of audience members, including University of Worcester Law students.

Nicola Monaghan, Head of the School of Law at the University, said: “It was wonderful to welcome Sir Andrew back to the University’s School of Law. His lecture raised many thought-provoking questions about how we should approach family law issues.”

Mr Manning-Cox said; “I would like to thank Sir Andrew for giving up his time to deliver such a thought-provoking lecture and giving all who attended the benefit of his expertise and insights in this field. Thank you also to Thursfields for their sponsorship and the University for their unstinting support.”

Read the full text of Sir Andrew’s speech.