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The District Judge's Direction of 12 March 2004 sets out the procedure for conciliation appointments in private Children Act proceedings in the Principal Registry. The direction provided that these appointments were privileged and the judge could not make orders where the parties were not in agreement.
However FPR 2010 PD 12B (the Revised Private Law Programme) now takes precedence and where the conciliation scheme is inconsistent with that, it does not apply. Therefore the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) is not privileged - the judge and Cafcass officer can have further involvement in the case.
Also the judge can make an order where the parties do not entirely agree, for example about interim contact. However, despite PD12B indicating that the involvement of the child will be a matter to be considered at the FHDRA, the practice of children of age 9 and above attending court for the FHDRA to speak to a Cafcass officer is unchanged. It is understood that further guidance on practice in the PRFD will be provided soon.
Give us your views by clicking here and joining our Linkedin discussion. What is your experience of involving the child at this stage of proceedings? Does it encourage parents to focus on the needs of the child and promote early settlement? Is it putting too much responsibility on young children?
Do you think the first hearing should be privileged? And should the judge have the power to make orders without the agreement of the parties to prevent one party holding the other to ransom?
Hayley Trim is a Family Law PSL at Jordan Publishing and was formerly a family solicitor practising in London.