Preparation for the single family court

The Family Procedure (Amendment No 2 ) Rules 2014, SI 2014/667 (the amendment rules) come into effect on 22 April 2014 making changes to the allocation and transfer of proceedings, appeals, enforcement, and contempt and committal. They are part of a package of statutory instruments that will be needed for the purposes of the creation of the family court. What changes to procedure do family lawyers need to be aware of?

Why are amendments to the Family Procedure Rules 2010 (FPR 2010) required?

In the government response to the Family Justice Review, published in February 2012, it accepted the recommendation that a single family court (to be known as the family court) should be created to deal with family proceedings, replacing the current three tiers of court structure, with the High Court retaining exclusive jurisdiction in just a limited number of areas. In order to achieve this, primary legislation was required and provision for the establishment of a family court for England and Wales was enacted in the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (CCA 2013).

FPR 2010 sets out the practice and procedure to be followed in family proceedings in the High Court, county courts and magistrates’ courts. When section 17(3) of CCA 2013 is in force, establishing a family court for England and Wales, the FPR 2010 will govern the practice and procedure to be followed in family proceedings in the High Court and in the family court. The main purpose of Family Procedure (Amendment No 2 ) Rules 2014, SI 2014/667 is to reflect the creation of the family court. See also the Family Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2014, SI 2014/524 and the Family Procedure (Amendment No 3) Rules 2013, SI 2013/3204 which also amend the FPR 2010 (in relation to the marriage of same-sex couples and the single family court respectively).

What are the key areas covered by the amendment rules?

The amendment rules make changes regarding:

• the allocation and transfer of proceedings

• methods of payment under certain maintenance orders

• the time allowed to appeal against a case management decision in family proceedings

• a new permission requirement when appealing from a decision of a district judge (magistrates’ courts), and

• procedures to be followed in relation to contempt of court and committal

The amendment rules also relate to the enforcement of orders consequential on the creation of the family court.

What is changing?

The most important consequential amendments to the FPR 2010 include:

• the prescription of procedures relating to the methods of payment under certain maintenance orders—the current rules relate to the magistrates’ court which will cease to exercise family jurisdiction on the introduction of the family court

• provision for prescribed functions of the family court to be performed by a single justice of the peace

•  provisions reflecting that it will be unnecessary to apply for proceedings to be transferred to a different court where a party is seeking to move proceedings to a different level of judge—instead, a procedure is provided by inserting a new FPR 2010, 29.19 to request a re-consideration by the court of the allocation to a particular level of judge

• the amendment of FPR 2010, 30.4 to provide that an appeal against a case management decision must be made within seven days of the decision

• the amendment to FPR 2010, 30.1 to extend the definition of district judge for the purposes of permission to appeal—currently, except in certain circumstances, permission to appeal against a decision of a judge of the High Court or county court is required, but not from a decision of a magistrates’ court: when the family court comes in to effect, by extending the definition of district judge, permission will also be required to appeal against a decision of a district judge (magistrates’ courts)

What is new?

The amendment rules introduce into the FPR 2010 a new Part 37 containing free-standing rules for family proceedings on contempt and committal. The new rules are modelled on the provisions contained in Part 81 of the Civil Procedure Rules1998, (CPR) SI, 1998/3132. Currently the FPR 2010 make provision in relation to contempt of court and committal by application, with modifications, of the relevant parts of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998. The aim of the free-standing rules is to enable litigants to access clear rules without the need to refer to other instruments in an important area of procedure.

Claire Sanders is a solicitor in the Lexis®PSL Family team. For further information see the Lexis®PSL Family practical guidance on family law reform (subscriber content).

 

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