How to cope with family law reform

How to cope with family law reform

So, as from 22 April 2014 everything has changed (or has it?). You were already busy dealing with clients and targets, how on earth can you fit in getting up to speed with all the changes? Do you know the adage that you have to spend time to save time? That is the approach you need to take here. Don’t waste your time by getting things wrong, set aside some time to get up to speed (as a starter take a look at 10 things you need to know about family law reform). Here are a few thoughts on how to cope:

Pre-action

Mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAMs) are now compulsory save in limited circumstances (see Family Procedure Rules 2010 (FPR 2010) PD 3A). Forms C100 and Form A now include a section previously covered by a separate FM1. Don’t let this be a surprise for your clients, tell them as soon as possible that this will be a requirement before they can issue proceedings. Have a standard paragraph or letter ready, you will be saying this a lot from now on.

Allocation, court fees, court forms

All three have changed (but not all of them, just some). Avoid that sinking feeling when you see your application returned by the court in your post tray and have to waste your (and your clients’) time by resubmitting. Before issuing anything check:

-          You have used an up to date version of the relevant court form, see: What do you need to know about the updated family court forms?

-          The court fee is correct, see: Family Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2014, SI 2014/877

-          You are applying to the correct level of court (see the schedules to the Family Court (Composition and Distribution of Business) Rules 2014, SI 2014/840)

If you are not happy with the allocation for your case you can make an application for reconsideration, see FPR 2010, 29.19 (but bear in mind that the President is keen for more cases to be dealt with by justices, see: Justices' Clerks and Assistants Rules 2014, SI 2014/603, as amended by Justices’ Clerks and Assistants (Amendment) Rules 2014, SI 2014/841).

Procedure

It’s all change for private children law with the introduction of child arrangement orders – FPR 2010, PD 12B is your starting point here (plus the flowchart). Similarly with public children law, for which start with FPR 2010, PD 12A (plus the flowchart).

Don’t think that financial remedies have escaped the reforms,  you still have allocation, court forms and court fees to navigate plus FPR 2010, Pt 9, Ch 5 sets out an accelerated procedure for various financial proceedings including applications under Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989 and applications for variation of financial orders.

And bundles…see FPR 2010, PD 27A, essential reading before preparing a bundle with more changes to come later this year limiting the size of bundles.

Some things can wait...

Appeals have changed (FPR 2010, PD 30A). There are new provisions regarding contempt (FPR 2010, PD 37A). Amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 have made changes to enforcement. But put them on your 'to do' list, you have enough to do right now, take a look when you need to/have time.

Is it a cliché to say Keep Calm and Carry On? That overused phrase never seemed so apt…

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About the author:

Geraldine is Head of LexisPSL Family. She was admitted as a solicitor in 1992 and was in practice for 15 years, most recently as a partner and head of the family team at Hart Brown, a large Surrey firm.

Geraldine writes for Butterworths Family Law Service and is a past editor of the Resolution Review. She has been published in the New Law Journal, the Law Society Gazette and the District Judges’ Bulletin as well as in the national press including the Times and the Telegraph.

When in practice she was a member of the Law Society Family and Children Panels, and an accredited Resolution Specialist with a focus on advanced financial provision and pensions. A past Resolution regional secretary and press officer, Geraldine also contributed chapters to the Resolution publications, International Aspects of Family Law (3rd Edition 2009) and The Modern Family (2012).