Single Family Court – More Changes Afoot
It is now 6 months since the Family Justice System was restructured with the creation of a Single Family Court for England & Wales. Significant reforms took place, to include:-
• Compulsory Family Mediation Information Meetings to enable couples to consider alternatives to Court proceedings when resolving financial matters or issues relating to their children.
• Child Arrangement Orders replacing ‘Contact’ and ‘Residence’ Orders, to encourage parents to focus on the child’s needs rather than on their own ‘rights’.
These reforms are continuing:-
• From 22 October 2014, Family Courts will presume that each parent will play a role in the life of their child on the basis that this will further the child’s welfare. The changes intend to encourage parents to be more focused on the child’s needs following separation and the role that each of them play in the child’s life. This parental involvement provision will apply to cases started on or after 22 October 2014.
• It is likely that by next year, there will only be a limited number of Courts in which a Divorce Petition can be processed.
In my experience, since the cuts in public funding were introduced, there are increasing numbers of people who are dealing with matters without legal representation. New government figures suggest that over 60% of parents are going to Court without a lawyer to contest child arrangements. This inevitably causes delay and increases the costs for the represented party.
According to Resolution, an association of family lawyers, Family Courts are already at breaking point and it remains to be seen whether the already pressurised Court system is going to cope with these further changes.
For further advice on the new Single Family Court or any other issues arising from the breakdown of a relationship, please contact Liz Hebden, Head of the Family Department or any member of the team on [email protected] or 01756 700200.