The use of Family Assistance Orders in divorce and separation cases

Adrian James and Louise Sturgeon-Adams
31st May 1999

Confusion and contradiction surround family assistance orders, made available under Section 16 of the 1989 Children Act, to provide social work help for families experiencing problems as a result of separation or divorce.

The family assistance order requires the social worker probation officer to advise and assist those named in the order. Much time and effort is involved in working with these orders yet the process is fraught with difficulty - from orders being recorded correctly through to policy and practice issues. Based on a national survey of family court welfare services, interviews and an examination of case records, the authors investigate how the order is being used throughout the country and why different areas appear to be making orders at different rates.

They present the current situation and discuss fundamental difficulties associated with the order.