The largest family justice reforms for a generation will come into effect today 22nd April 2014.
These family justice reforms put children clearly at the heart of the family justice system and focus on children’s needs rather than what parents see as their own ‘rights’, Justice Minister Simon Hughes has announced.
The changes come as the new single Family Court becomes a reality and most of the family justice provisions from the Children and Families Act are implemented.
The reforms being implemented on 22 April will see:
- The introduction of the new Family Court in England and Wales with a simpler single system and a network of single application points making it easier for the public to navigate. The Family Court make sure the right level of judge is appointed for a particular case, in the most suitable location. All levels of judge being able to sit in the same building, which will help reduce the unnecessary delays caused by cases transferring between different courts.
- Justices’ clerks and their assistants will be authorised to assist all judges across the Family Court (including on undefended divorce cases), allowing judges to focus their time on more difficult cases.
- The introduction a 26 week time limit for care proceedings to further reduce the excessive delays in these cases and give greater certainty to the children involved.
- New child arrangements orders that will encourage parents to focus on the child’s needs rather than what they see as their own ‘rights’.
- Expert evidence in family proceedings concerning children only permitted when necessary to resolve the case justly, taking account of factors including the impact on the welfare of the child.
- Compulsory family mediation information meetings so separating couples must consider alternatives to the harmful and stressful court battles when resolving financial matters and arrangements for child contact.
These reforms form part of the government’s social justice strategy, which is aimed at making society function better by transforming people’s lives. The reforms to the family justice system are designed to allow children in difficult family situations, through no fault of their own, to get the support they need to allow them to move forward with their lives and build a positive future.