Forthcoming changes to the family law in England and Wales amount to a “revolution”, the President of the Family Division has claimed.
In the recently published 11th View from the President’s Chamber, Sir James Munby said:
“Central to this revolution has been – has had to be – a fundamental change in the cultures of the family courts. This is truly a cultural revolution.”
The family courts stand “on the cusp of history” and the changes due on April 22nd mark “the largest reform of the family justice system any of us have seen or will see in our professional lifetimes.”
Tuesday sees the introduction of the ‘Single Family Court’ and the retirement of the current Family Proceedings Court. The newly unified court will deal with all but a few family proceedings which will be reserved for the High Court. Family cases will no longer be heard in either magistrates or county courts, although the family courts will sometimes sit in county and magistrates court buildings.
Amongst other changes, April 22 will also see the introduction of compulsory attendance at a MIAM – mediation information and assessment meeting – for anyone planning to take a family dispute to court. People attending such meetings will be provided with information on mediation as an alternative way to resolve their differences.
In addition, child arrangements orders will be introduced, replacing the residence and contact orders currently used to settle the circumstances of children following divorce or separation.
Child arrangement orders are defined by the Children and Families Act 2014 as:
“…an order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following—
(a) with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and
(b) when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.”