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Following an open meeting of the Family Procedure Rule Committee (FPRC) on 5 December 2016, the FPRC has provided an update on the progress of key family law developments including online divorce reforms, separating divorce proceedings and financial remedy proceedings, vulnerable witnesses and the work of the Financial Remedies Working Group (FRWG).
Family Procedure Rule Committee open meeting
The FPRC held an open meeting on 5 December 2016 to update interested parties on the progress of online divorce reforms, separating divorce proceedings and financial remedy proceedings ('de-linking'), vulnerable witnesses and the work of the Financial Remedies Working Group (FRWG).
What is the FPRC?
The FPRC makes rules of court that govern the practice and procedure followed in family proceedings in the High Court and Family Court. The FPRC is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice. The FPRC meet ten times throughout the year. One meeting each year is open to the public.
Details of the members of the FPRC and copies of the agendas and minutes are available on the GOV.UK website.
How are Part 3A of the draft Family Procedure Rules 2010 (FPR 2010), and draft FPR 2010, PD3AA regarding vulnerable witnesses progressing?
Draft FPR 2010, Pt 3 and FPR 2010, PD 3AA have been preoccupying the FPRC for a number of months. The FPRC have confirmed that a decision has been made to split the focus of work into two strands, focusing on:
The FPRC confirmed that a final version of FPR 2010, PD 3AA has now received ministerial clearance. A detailed timetable for FPR 2010, PD 3AA will be confirmed in early 2017.
The second strand dealing with the participation of children in proceedings is due to be dealt with by the FPRC at their meeting in February 2017.
Are online divorce proceedings any closer to becoming a reality?
The preparations for conducting divorce proceedings online are well advanced, according to the FPRC. However, any online proceedings have to be robust and rigorously tested before they are rolled out.
The FPRC are considering the wording of the current divorce petition (Form D8) with a view to simplifying it on paper, hopefully by spring 2017, and also preparing the divorce petition (Form D8) for use online. A pilot scheme will be confirmed in 2017 to trial the new online divorce petition.
The changes to the divorce petition (Form D8) are not intended to be radical, rather a simplification of the current Form D8. It is anticipated by the FPRC that a rule change will be dealt with by periodic pilot Practice Directions throughout 2017.
Is the separation of divorce and financial remedy proceedings ('de-linking') any closer?
The aim of separating the divorce and financial remedy proceedings is to simplify the procedure for customers and tie in with online divorce reforms. Confirmation from the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, is awaited as to whether a rule change is required. De-linking of divorce proceedings and financial remedy proceedings will require careful drafting of the divorce petition (Form D8) by the FPRC.
Is the accelerated (shortened) financial remedy procedure going to be extended?
The limited use of the accelerated (shortened) financial remedy procedure was acknowledged by the FPRC. The FRWG has proposed the extension of the accelerated (shortened) financial remedy procedure. A draft FPR 2010, 9.9B (standard and fast track procedures—a new rule) is being considered by the FPRC to extend the accelerated (shortened) financial remedy procedure to cases involving any application for:
A draft FPR 2010, 9.15 (first appointment procedure in relation to a direction for FDR) is being considered to strengthen the financial dispute resolution appointment (FDR) and to more accurately reflect what happens in practice. The proposed amendments to FPR 2010, SI 2010/2955, 9.15 provide that the court must direct that the case be referred to a FDR unless:
A new FPR 2010, 9.20 (consideration of the application at the first hearing) is being considered by the FPRC setting out what is expected of the court at the first appointment, namely that if the court is able to determine the application at the first hearing, it must do so unless there are good reasons not to do so.
Kirstie Gibson, solicitor in the Lexis®PSL Family team.
This News Analysis was first published in LexisPSL Family. Click here for a free one week trial.
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