Reaction to New Family Law Reforms

New changes were introduced today, Tuesday 22nd April 2014, to speed up the way that family law courts work.

The most obvious changes will be the creation of a single Family Court for England and Wales, as well as provisions from the Children and Families Act, which will be implemented.

The reaction to the changes has been mixed. Justice Minister Simon Hughes MP said that "this year's changes mark a significant moment for the family justice system", adding that the new Family Court "will create a much simpler system, with all levels of judge being able to sit in the same building and greater flexibility for cases to be allocated to the right judge from the start."

His view differs to that shown by The Law Society who welcome the benefits of the changes but feel they are undermined by the legal aid cuts.

The Law Society president Nicholas Fluck said:

"The Law Society supports these changes, but the problem for many separating and divorcing couples is getting access to legal advice to help them through the court process, or to find alternatives to court. The cuts in legal aid for family law have put people off from seeking advice and support from solicitors who can explain where they stand and what their rights are.

"It's important that victims of domestic violence can still get legal aid and that legal aid is still available for family mediation. However, the fact that more and more people are representing themselves in the family courts is leading to more delay."

BBC News have specified that the changes will address a range of shortcomings, and will include rules to ensure the following:

  • Care cases are normally completed within six months in a single Family Court, replacing the current three-tier court system in family cases
  • Separating couples must attend a mediation awareness session before taking disputes over their finances or their children to court
  • Limits on the amount of expert evidence that can be used in cases involving children, only being permitted when it is necessary to resolve the case justly

In the same piece their legal correspondent,

"The new 26-week time limit should mean speedier and better outcomes for vulnerable children. But there are risks. If a biological parent is on a drug or alcohol rehabilitation programme lasting a year, it is unclear whether the time limit for the care case will be extended.

"There is a power to extend the 26-week period if it is necessary to resolve the case justly, but this is new law and no one quite knows how it will be applied."

It's therefore safe to say that there are many different views on the recent changes to Family Law and much for members of the public to be aware of. So if you need any Family Law advice then please don't hesitate to get in touch.

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