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The Children and Families Act 2014 makes changes to Part 12 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and requires that all care, supervision and other Part 4 proceedings must be completed within a maximum of 26 weeks. Provision is also made in the rules for applications for the court to exercise its power in the 2014 Act to extend the 26 week period for up to 8 weeks at a time, where this is necessary in order to resolve the proceedings justly. The court must announce its decision for refusing or granting an extension, together with a short explanation of the impact the decision would have on the welfare of the child.
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The judiciary and family practitioners will be familiar with the new provisions. The time limit was introduced during 2013 as part of the piloting of the revised Public Law Outline (PLO) which began in July 2013. However, the 2014 PLO, which will be introduced on 22 April, has been further revised following feedback from the pilot and a targeted consultation over November-December 2013 by the Family Procedure Rule Committee.
The new and revised PLO and its accompanying Flowchart, along with the C110A Application Form, and further public law proceedings materials have now been published and are available to download below.
The PLO contains the following amendments:
The court is to give consideration at the Issue and Allocation stage to cases where an urgent preliminary Case Management Hearing (CMH) or urgent contested interim care order may be necessary (this will be flagged on the C110A). This is expanded upon at paragraph 2.4 under Flexible Powers of the Court and 3.1 Compliance with the Pre-Proceedings Checklist.
The CMH is now to take place within a window of ‘not before Day 12 and not later than Day 18' instead of the fixed ‘by Day 12'. This pushes the listing of the Further Case Management Hearing (FCMH) back to ‘no later than Day 25' instead of Day 20. An FMCH should still only be listed if necessary and as soon as possible.
A number of amendments have been made to assist the court in identifying cases with an international element. This is highlighted in Part 1 Key Stages of the PLO section and now forms part of the considerations at the advocates' meeting, the CMH and any occasion when the court may wish to exercise its flexible powers in relation to an urgent hearing (paragraph 2.4). Paragraph 5.6 of the 2014 PLO highlights that the court must give consideration to cases with an international element when identifying the timetable for the child. Further clarification has been included in the Interpretation section at Part 7.
Further revisions have been made to the PLO in relation to protected parties and others with a disability. This is highlighted in Part 1 Key Stages of the PLO and directions in relation to litigation capacity now form part of the Case Management Directions at CMH stage. A new section on parenting capability is now included in the Interpretation section at Part 7.
In addition, the meaning of ‘Day' has been clarified in the Interpretation section of the PLO. ‘Day' means ‘business day'. ‘Day 1' is the day of issue and ‘Day 2' is the next business day following the day of issue of proceedings. ‘Day 12', ‘Day 18' and ‘Day 25' respectively are the 11th, 17th and 24th business days after the issue of proceedings (Day 1). '26 weeks' means 26 calendar weeks beginning on the day of issue of proceedings (Day 1).
Public Law Guidance has also been issued by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, including the President's Guidance on Allocation and Gatekeeping for Care, Supervision and other Proceedings under Part IV of the Children Act 1989 and its accompanying Schedule, the purpose of which is to ensure that all new care, supervision and other Part IV proceedings are allocated to the appropriate level of judge and, where appropriate, to a named case management judge (or case manager) who shall provide continuity for the proceedings in accordance with the President's Guidance on Judicial Continuity and Deployment (Public Law).
The purpose of the President's Guidance on Continuity and Deployment (Public Law) is to ensure that family proceedings are accorded the appropriate level of priority in their listing and that they are case managed and heard by judges, lay justices, Justices' Clerks and assistant Justices' Clerks (legal advisers) who provide continuity of the conduct of the proceedings.
Finally, as part of the President's Guidance on the use of Prescribed Documents (Public Law), the President will identify documents that are to be in prescribed form from time to time with the object of ensuring that documents filed by the parties and their lawyersc omply with the content and standards set out in any prescribed form. The identification of prescribed forms is additional to and not in place of the forms which are referred to in Practice Direction 5A which supports FPR 5.1.
For all the information regarding the forthcoming family law reforms, visit our new, fully up-to-date Family Law Reform page with all the latest news, analysis, legislation and cases.