- Family Justice Reforms
Family Justice Reforms
Family Justice Reforms23 Apr 2014
The family justice reforms, which have been described as “the largest for a generation” by the Ministry of Justice, came into effect on Tuesday 22nd April 2014. The aim of the reforms is to put children clearly at the heart of the family justice system.
What is changing?
The family justice system has undergone an unprecedented overhaul and many aspects of that system have changed or are set to change. Below, Kuits Family team set out the key changes in respect of private family law proceedings.
New Unified Family Court
“A new Family Court has been introduced so that family law matters are dealt with under a single centralised court system,” says the team. “Prior to the reforms, family law matters were dealt with by the Magistrates’ Courts, County Courts and High Court – this was considered to be confusing and inflexible.”
The Family Proceedings Court will no longer function, and Magistrates’ Courts and the new single County Court will no longer hear family law matters. The High Court will continue to hear family law matters but only specific and specialist matters which will remain reserved exclusively for the High Court.
Child Arrangement Orders
As part of the reformed system, Residence Orders and Contact Orders in respect of children will be replaced with the new Child Arrangement Order. Child Arrangement Orders will regulate arrangements about who a child will live with, spend time with or otherwise have contact with.
The team explains: “The intention behind the change in terminology from Residence andContact to Child Arrangement is to take the emphasis away from perceived parental “rights” and to ensure that the emphasis is placed firmly on those arrangements, whatever they may be, which best meet the child’s needs.”
“For quite some time, separating couples have been strongly encouraged and sometimes ordered by the court to engage in “alternate dispute resolution” (such as mediation) prior to bringing their dispute to court,” says the team. “The family justice reforms take that a step further by requiring people to consider mediation – including requiring them to attend at a family mediation information meeting – before attending court in relation to financial or children disputes, unless a specific exemption applies.”