Amendments to the Family Procedure Rules 2010

Amendments to the Family Procedure Rules 2010 (FPR 2010) will come into force on the 7 December 2015 and 1 January 2016 by virtue of the Family Procedure (Amendment No. 3) Rules 2015, SI 2015/1868, together with two new Practice Directions.

Original news

Family Procedure (Amendment No. 3) Rules 2015, SI 2015/1868

Changes will be made to the FPR 2010 from 7 December 2015 including the introduction of provisions for e-mailing applications and other documents to the court and a new FPR 2010 PD 5B: Communication and filing of documents by e-mail. Further, consequential changes are made as to the requirements for a mediator to undertake mediation and assessment meetings (MIAMs), and for the disclosure of information from financial remedy proceedings in the family courts (by a new FPR 2010 PD 9B). The rules will come into effect in stages, starting on 7 December 2015, with one rule amendment, and changes to PDs 3A and 12B, coming into effect on 1 January 2016. The amendments and new Practice Directions will apply to any proceedings commenced but not disposed of before the amendments came into force.

Communication and filing of documents by e-mail

A new Practice Direction FPR 2010 PD 5B has been added to the FPR 2010 and comes into force on 7 December 2015.

FPR 2010 PD 5B identifies which documents and communications can be sent to the court by e-mail. The documents, known as specified documents, are documents:

  • related to any family proceedings other than adoption proceedings, and
  • listed in the e-mail guidance on Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service website as a document that may be sent by e-mail to a specified e-mail address

The e-mail guidance can be found here: Emailing the civil and family courts.

FPR 2010 PD 5B distinguishes between provisions that apply to 'specified organisations' which are defined as local authorities, Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru and provisions that apply to 'persons other than specified organisations'.

The Practice Direction prescribes what must be done when a fee is payable in order for an e-mailed document to be filed with or accepted by the court. In the case of a document filed by e-mail by a person other than a specified organisation, when e-mailing the court that person must:

  • provide a fee account number, credit card number or debit card number which the person has authority to charge for the applicable fee, and
  • authorise the court to charge the applicable fee to that account or card number

The Practice Direction also sets out:

  • that the e-mail and attachments sent by a person other than a specified organisation, including any document or e-mail embedded in any attachment and copies of any of those documents that the court would be required to serve, must not exceed 25 sheets of paper in total when printed out on both sides of A4 paper
  • that a person other than a specified organisation may e-mail the court, or attach one or more specified documents to an e-mail to the court, provided that: where the e-mail, including any attachments, is being sent to take a step in proceedings, that step is taken only by that e-mail and attachments, and no other e-mail or hard copy is being sent as part of that step, and the total size of the e-mail, including any attachments, does not exceed 10MB
  • that in the event that the requirements have not been not complied with, or the court has been unable to charge the fee to the account or card number provided by the sender, the court must refuse any application or other document, including any attachment, sent by e-mail
  • technical specifications that the e-mail will need to comply with, eg that the email must contain the name of the sender and an address for contact (which can be an e-mail address), and be in plain text or rich text format rather than HTML (see paras 4.1-4.6 of the Practice Direction)
  • additional provisions such as the timing of receipt of e-mails, and
  • provisions that apply when the document that is to be filed by e-mail contains a statement of truth

Amendments will also be made to FPR 2010, SI 2010/2955, Pt 6 and PD 6A regarding service of documents by e-mail.

Communication of information from financial remedy proceedings

To supplement a new rule 9.46, a new FPR 2010 PD 9B will be added making provision as to the communication of information from certain financial remedy proceedings.

From 7 December 2015 FPR 2010, SI 2010/2955, 9.46 will provide that, for the purposes of the law relating to contempt of court, information from financial remedy proceedings may be communicated in accordance with the new FPR 2010 PD 9B. It states, however, that nothing in rule 9.46 permits the communication to the public at large, or any section of the public, of any information relating to the proceedings.

The new FPR 2010 PD 9B sets out, in relation to the communication of information by a party for purposes relating to appeals under the Child Support Act 1991 (CSA 1991):

  • who may communicate information
  • to whom that information may be communicated
  • what that information may be, and
  • the purposes for which it can be communicated

Disclosure of information in relation to an appeal made under CSA 1991, s 20

FPR 2010, PD 12G and FPR 2010, PD 14E will be amended with effect from 7 December 2015 regarding the disclosure of information to the Secretary of State and others in relation to an appeal made under CSA 1991, s 20.

Authorised family mediators

The definition of an authorised family mediator in FPR 2010, SI 2010/2955, 3.1 will be amended from 1 January 2016 to 'a person identified by the Family Mediation Council as qualified to conduct a MIAM'.

Retention of documents by the court

FPR 2010, SI 2010/2955, 29.12 will be amended to facilitate storage of documents by the court in electronic format from 7 December 2015.

Claire Sanders is a solicitor in the Lexis®PSL Family team.

 

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