The largest reform of the family justice system has now arrived in the form of the Children and Families Act 2014 marking what many consider to be a revolution of the family court process.
The enactment covers both public and private children’s proceedings and dispenses with the old three tier system of the Family Proceedings Court, County Court and High Court with the single Family Court.
The most significant practical provisions can be summarised as follows;
most care cases should now be completed within 26 weeks; and
in relation to private family proceedings there is now a requirement to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment
Meeting before making an application to the Court although there are exceptions.
Gone is the concept of residence and contact to be replaced with the broader Child Arrangement Order.
A further provision still to come into force however is that the court should presume that the involvement of both parents within the child’s life is in the best interests of the child, unless disproved. This may be through direct or indirect involvement but will not necessarily mean an equal division of the child’s time between the parents.
The intention of the Act is to assist families reach safe, child-focused agreements and where an agreement cannot be reached to provide a mechanism of achieving a swift resolution of the dispute through the Court.
Whether the Act will have the desired effect remains to be seen but there is no doubt that for all who find themselves involved in the court process there will be new and challenging times ahead.
At hlw Keeble Hawson LLP with are able to offer specialist advice in all matters relating to children and mediation. For further advice or assistance please do not hesitate to contact a member of our family team.