Changes to the family justice system have now been introduced, which fundamentally change the way that the courts in England and Wales will resolve disputes between families.
As from 22nd April 2014, Combined Family Courts have been introduced in England and Wales. These courts replace the previous three-tier system and are intended to simplify the process of applying to court and to ensure that disputes are resolved quickly. The most appropriate level of judge will be assigned to the case from the start and the hearings will be heard in the most appropriate location.
There are also changes to the way in which cases involving children are considered. Gone are the terms “Residence” and “Contact” to be replaced with “child arrangements orders”. It is thought that the new orders will focus far more on meeting the needs of children and less on the rights of the parents.
The courts will take account of the principle that both separated parents should continue to be involved in their children’s lives’ as long as it is safe to do so.
Court cases involving children will also be completed in less time than currently. There is a maximum 26 week time limit for completing cases where a child is under the care of the local authority. It is hoped that this will mean speedier and better outcomes for vulnerable children.
Before you can take most disputes relating to family finances or relating to your children to court, there is now a requirement to attend a mediation information meeting with a qualified mediator. Parties to a dispute may then decide to mediate instead of going to court, which could mean their disputes are resolved more quickly and more cheaply.
For further information as to how the changes may affect your particular situation, the family team at Wrigley Claydon are able to offer a comprehensive service in all aspects of family law. We offer a free initial 30 minute consultation and, depending upon your circumstances, you may be eligible for legal aid.
Please call Jill Walker on 0161 6246811 for further information.
For further details on the reforms you can also visit the Government web page.