The process of reform: next steps (condensed)

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding the reforms to the family justice system to be less of a programme and more of an avalanche…So, just in case you don’t have time (I expect practitioners are rather busy with cases…) to read all 11 pages of the President’s latest missive (his 12th View) here are six important areas to note:

  • Following the implementation of the Child Arrangements Programme (CAP), the Private Law Working Group (PLWG) has been drafting guides and other materials to assist litigants in person and the judges involved in private law cases, including:

- a guide to urgent and without notice hearings (published by HMCTS as ‘CB8’)

- a revised guide for the judiciary on mediation (prepared by the  Family Mediation Council and endorsed by the Family Justice Council, facilitated by PLWG)

- a guide for judges dealing with private law cases involving issues of capacity (drafted by PLWG and soon to be published by the Family Justice Council); and

- witness statement templates for use by litigants in person (to be issued by HMCTS)

  • the President has invited Mostyn J and Cobb J to chair a new Financial Remedies Working Group (with an interim report by 31 July 2014) to explore ways of improving accessibility for litigants in person, and to identify ways of further improving good practice in financial remedy cases – the objective is to produce something analogous to CAP: the Money Arrangements Programme (MAP) – key areas of consideration are:

- to adapt processes in financial remedy cases for litigants in  person

- making judicial processes more inquisitorial

-  explanatory materials written in plain English for use by litigants in person, (supplementing Action Guide: Applying for a financial order without the help of a lawyer, shortly to be published by Advicenow with assistance from the Family Justice Council)

- the potential scope for introducing a shorter or more streamlined process in cases where the court is satisfied that this is appropriate

- a review of forms

  • the President plans to issue in the near future, for discussion and comment, a draft rule change to enable relevant applications under the Arbitration Act 1996 to be made in the Family Division and not only, as at present, in the Commercial Court, and also draft guidance dealing with a number of procedural matters
  • Hayden J and Russell J have been asked to chair a new Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group (with an interim report by 31 July 2014), with input from the Family Justice Council to review:

- the Family Justice Council’s April 2010 Guidelines for Judges   Meeting Children who are Subject to Family Proceedings

- the Family Justice Council’s Working Party’s December 2011    Guidelines on Children Giving Evidence in Family Proceedings

- the wider issue of vulnerable people giving evidence in family    proceedings

  •  the President will be issuing shortly, for discussion and comment, a consultation paper dealing with:

-  transparency

- listing

- disclosure to the media of certain categories of document

- the possible hearing in public of certain types of family case

  •  the work of the family orders project (led by Mostyn J) is being concentrated in two areas: first, a comprehensive set of financial remedy orders and, secondly, a comprehensive set of orders covering those matters within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Family Division – the President will shortly be issuing the second of these for discussion and comment.

There’s more of course, this is just a heads-up on some key areas, and if you have time to read all 3,562 words, you can do so here: View 12.

Geraldine Morris is a solicitor and Head of LexisPSL Family.

Twitter: @GeraldineMorris

See here for more practical guidance on family law reform and to request a free trial of LexisPSL Family.

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