A Relaunched family court system
I was speaking on BBC radio this morning as from today, 22 April 2014, there will be a single Family Court. This will be the national court for all family cases in England & Wales.
Family cases will therefore no longer be heard by the County Court or the Family Proceedings Court (which is also known as the Magistrates’ Court); and instead will be heard by the Family Court.
With the introduction of the Children Families Act 2014, there is also a raft of other changes to include:
• A judge acting as a “gatekeeper” so that cases will be properly allocated to the correct level of judge;
• A mandatory requirement now to attend a meeting to receive information about mediation;
• The principle that both parents should continue to be involved in the children’s lives;
• With this a concept of “shared parenting” and there will no longer be the labels of “residence” or “contact”;
• Instead we will have “child arrangement orders” which place an emphasis on what the children need rather than what the parents want.
This important change also comes on the back of court’s guidance, which came into effect on 3 February 2014, in relation to transparency of family cases; to improve public understanding of the court process and to have confidence in the court system.
Also we have recently seen same sex marriages which came into force on the 13 March 2014; allowing same sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies as well as religious ceremonies. It also enables civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage.
Overall, the new family court will be making a number of changes behind the scenes; and the thinking behind that is to make the courts operate more efficiently. What remains to be seen is whether or not the changes will practically make any positive impact bearing in mind present delays and the administrative burden placed on the courts but it is hoped that they will.
A mandatory meeting about mediation is open to debate because one size does not fit all. That said, it is always a good idea for those separating or divorcing to be aware of alternative options to include not only mediation but also the collaborative law process and arbitration. It is also important that a clear signal is being sent out to separating parents that the courts will take into account that both of them should be involved in their children’s lives and where it is safe and consistent with the child’s welfare.
James Maguire & Co is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this and children matters.
We can also advise on Schedule1 Children Act 1989 applications.
We advise clients in the Wilmslow area and also to the surrounding areas of Alderley Edge, Bramhall, Hale, Altrincham, Manchester and the North West. We are also able to act for clients nationally and internationally subject to the jurisdiction of England and Wales. For advice please contact James Maguire by telephone +44 (0) 1625 529456 or by email james.maguire@family-law.