Ministry of Justice

Helping separated parents resolve child arrangement disputes

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Design Brief

Help separating parents make informed decisions about child dispute resolution services, and reach amicable and sustainable agreements about their child arrangements. During my contract I worked in the capacity of Service and Interaction designer across several initiatives, and provided guidance to less experienced members of the team.

Document map

Illustrating the additional forms and leaflets parents are referred to when applying to court

Design Strategy

A highly collaborative approach with a multi-disciplinary digital team with embedded policy representatives, working with a large group of public and private sector stakeholders to facilitate a user-centred design approach to ensure solutions were meeting the needs of citizens. To facilitate collaboration, I planned and executed workshops including variations of Design Sprints to rapidly develop solutions that are useful to citizens, technically feasible, and viable to the business.

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Ideas generated by participants during a Design Sprint

Failing Fast

The team was given remit to rapidly test and iterate solutions focusing on a series of hypotheses around interaction between parents (including high conflict relationships), information and guidance, making informed choices, and the process of applying to court. In the case that a hypothesis resulted in not being true, and user needs were not being met, the team were trusted to make the recommendation to not develop the initiative further - allowing resources to be appropriated to explore different opportunities.

Process Shadowing and Story Mapping

In order to understand the process of applying to court, members of the team followed the application from start to finish, shadowing HMCTS staff at several Family Courts, and staff at the Cafcass National Intake Centre.

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Application bundle storage at Luton Family Court

After each site visit, I would facilitate a Story Mapping session for the team to bring the process to life and create a shared understanding of the process.

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Gaining a shared understanding by Story Mapping the process

Service Blueprinting

The user journey contains many touchpoints between both parents, friends / family, along with private and public services - all before they even consider going to court, which contains additional interactions with HMCTS, Cafcass and legal services. To understand and innovate on the complex journey, I created a Blueprint with the team to outline our vision for the service, and detail complex touchpoints with the required back-end support to realise this vision.

Detail of service blueprint

Service Blueprint detail view - MIAM attendance (offline) and verification (online)

Iterative Design

I worked closely with a user researcher, who conducted testing sessions during each sprint, planning research to ensure that the design was understood by users and achieving the policy objectives. Each iteration addressed problems identified by qualititative feedback from users and stakeholders.

Design iteration - updates post user testing

Latest iteration annotated with proposed updates incorporating feedback


After challenging inititatives that failed to meet the needs of citizens, the design team recommended and delivered a service pilot that enabled parents to 'Apply to court about child arrangements' online.

The service offers a vastly improved user experience for parents, providing contextual information and expediting the process for parents at risk of domestic and / or child abuse. 'Nudges' throughout the application also increased referral rates to appropriate alternatives to court and support services.

The service has received exceptional feedback from users - receiving a consistently high satisfaction rating of around 99%.

Additionally, the digital service improved the application processing for HMCTS and Cafcass staff, with a vast reduction of error rates, remissions and time to process the application.

From the outset I was impressed by Andy's relentless attention to detail while always keeping his eye on the wider user needs and buisiness goals. That's not easy in a very changeable and stressful environment.

Andy built enduring relationships and brought the most stubborn of people with him on the long-haul of the project. Looking back, the success story that the project turned out to be was largely down to Andy's talent as a designer and the confidence he instilled in everyone.

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Fraser Hamilton

Family Justice User Researcher, Freelance

A ground-breaking pilot, working collaboratively across and outside the Ministry of Justice to allow people to apply for a child arrangement, specific issue or non-molestation order online, and exploring how people can resolve disputes without going to court.

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Mark Sweeney

Director General, Ministry of Justice

Working with Andrew has been a pleasure. His character makes it easy to plan and adapt to different policy steers. He always has a positive attitude and I really hope I am able to work with him again in the future.

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Mohini Jannath

Policy Manager, Ministry of Justice

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