Major overhaul of Family Justice System

On 22 April this year the government brought into force a number of new provisions affecting family justice in the UK. These provisions came into force as part of the new Children and Families Act 2014 with the aim of reforming the way family justice is treated and, as part of the reforms, we have also seen the launch of the new Single Family Court.

Traditionally, family justice has been left to the civil courts and specialist family judges were relatively rare, usually to be found sitting in the Central London courts only. Under the new Family Court, the government have transformed the landscape of UK family justice. Specialist family courts have been designated all around the country as part of a large scale decentralisation effort; the aim being to spread the work of the central courts over a wider area. This is particularly evidenced in the London courts which Donohoe & Co frequently use and, whilst the new reforms mean that there are now more specialist family courts to choose from in the surrounding counties (and indeed nationwide), work progressing through the London courts should now be subject to fewer delays.

In a nutshell, the family justice measures brought in through the Children and Families Act 2014 include:

  • The requirement that all parties must attend a family mediation, information and assessment meeting to learn about the option of mediation when applying for specific types of court order, unless an exemption applies.
  • Sending a clear signal to separated parents that the court will take account of the principle that both parents should continue to be involved in their children’s lives whenever that is safe and consistent with the child’s welfare.
  • Ensuring that expert evidence concerning children is only permitted when necessary to resolve the case justly, taking into account factors such as the impact that evidence may have on the welfare of the child.
  • The introduction of a maximum 26 week time limit for the completion of care and supervision proceedings, with the possibility of extending that time limit in certain cases for up to 8 weeks at a time, should that be necessary to resolve the proceedings justly.

It is still too early to tell whether the new Act has achieved what it set out to, and what the wider impact of the new measures will be.

We will be giving our feedback on the new regulations via our regular news updates. If you want to know more about any of the areas we cover in our news articles, or if you need advice on a specific area of family law, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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