Ministry of Justice announces that from early Spring 2019 Manchester County Court will be piloting extended hours to deal with some types of family cases in the late afternoon/early evenings.
Although the details of the pilot in Manchester are not yet fully clear it is believed that what is proposed is an additional court running from 16.30-19.00 on a Monday with possible expansion to a Wednesday.
Rhona Royle, Head of Family Law at Wrigley Claydon Solicitors in Oldham, Todmorden and Manchester welcomes the scheme and says that “The types of cases being dealt with at these sessions will depend on the type and availability of Judges to hear them.
The Manchester scheme may involve some “money” cases where parties are trying to come to a financial settlement within Divorce and some “children” cases where parents are unable to agree how much time a child should spend with each parent or who they ought to live with.
The scheme is also likely to see “urgent” cases such as those relating to domestic violence (injunctions) and cases where children are at risk of significant harm and social services departments which to remove them temporarily from the care of parents dealt with.
Rhona explains: “At present Family Courts traditionally sit from 10am until 4pm Monday to Friday. In reality if a case is scheduled to start at 10am and last half a day there is a real risk that it might not get concluded before lunchtime so parties often have to book a full day off work to attend. If a hearing is to start at say 16.30, even allowing for time to discuss matters beforehand, only a half day’s leave would be needed or workers could make the missed time up”.
This test scheme may not find favour with all as it could impact on childcare arrangements.
Given how busy the family courts currently are I believe this scheme should be welcomed to reduce delays in waiting time to see a judge.
In the other pilot court (Brentford) early morning hearings; from 8am are to be tested.
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