Bending the rules

The changes that came into effect on 22 April are huge, there’s no doubt about that. But is the whole family justice system really on-board? In the past few days I have heard of quite a few regional variations in how the changes are actually working in practice. A few examples are:

-          Bundles – revised Family Procedure Rules 2010, PRD 27A provides for a bundle to be supplied for every hearing (the previous version applied to hearings of over an hour) but some courts are issuing their own local directives that bundles aren’t required for shorter hearings. You can understand why, do some courts even have space for bundles for every single hearing and the administration to deal with them? The problem is, how are practitioners to know which courts require a bundle and which don’t? (See also: A bundle of fun?)

-          CAP forms – confusion reigns here, forms CAP01-04 are still being finalised by the Ministry of Justice and the President issued a directive on 22 May 2014 that CAP02Lite should be used in the meantime as a basic template for private law orders to which the language of CAP01–04 can be added. However I’ve heard that some courts have abandoned the use of any CAP forms, at least for now…

-          Allocation – the allocation provisions for the single Family Court are set out primarily in the Family Court (Composition and Distribution of Business) Rules 2014, SI 2014/840 but some courts are dictating their own allocation provisions (the example I heard this week related to emergency protection orders and lay justices).

An underlying aim of the reforms is consistency. There’s certainly been a lot of change to adapt to, but it seems that inconsistency may be increasing instead.

What’s your view? Please do share your experiences in the comments section on how the reforms are working in your area.

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