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The process of reform - in summary

Sep 29, 2018, 21:55 PM
he View introduces an important new programme focusing on financial remedies, the Money Arrangements Programme (MAP 2014).
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Date : Jun 12, 2014, 02:11 AM
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On 9 June 2014 the President released his 12th 'View from the President's Chamber', this one headed 'The process of reform: next steps' and focusing on what will be happening next. The full 12th View can be found here, but a number of the salient points are set out below.

The View introduces an important new programme focusing on financial remedies, the Money Arrangements Programme (MAP 2014). The MAP is to follow on from the PLO in public law cases and the implementation of the Child Arrangements Programme (CAP) in private law cases.

Money Arrangements Programme

Mostyn J and Cobb J have been invited to chair a new Financial Remedies Working Group, which is to look at ways of improving the system for litigants in person and further look at improving good practice in financial cases. There will be five main strands to the review:

  1. To look at the adaptations necessary to improve a system faced with an increasing number of litigants in person. This will include looking at the role of McKenzie friends and other lay advisors and producing explanatory leaflets written in plain English.
  2. Encouraging the use of non-court dispute resolution methods (termed N-CDR) at every stage in proceedings, both before and after issue, and facilitating the swift implementation of out of court agreements, developing further the endorsement given in in S v S (Financial Remedies: Arbitral Award) [2014] 1 FLR 1257. The President also intends to shortly issue 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.
  3. To look at the possibility of separating the divorce process from financial remedies, with the courts holding separate files for divorce and financial matters. This could potentially result in a single national processing centre for divorce in the future.
  4. To look at whether the procedures for divorce or civil partnership dissolution, claims under Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989 and claims under Part III Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 could be brought into line with each other, and potentially streamlined where appropriate.
  5. To review all application and other forms used in financial remedy cases to see whether amendments are necessary and also to create a standard body of orders to be used in such cases. This is part of the family orders project for standard orders in the Family Division and Family Court which is ongoing, with the President commenting that this particular project is continuing and has not been put on hold indefinitely.

The Financial Remedies Working Group will be producing an interim report by 31 July 2014.

Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group

Hayden J and Russell J will be chairing another new working group, the Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group, with input from the Family Justice Council. There will be three elements to this project:

  1. To review the Family Justice Council’s April 2010 Guidelines for Judges Meeting Children who are Subject to Family Proceedings [2010] 2 FLR 1872, particularly in the light of the Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Re KP [2014] EWCA Civ 554, [2014] 2 FLR (forthcoming).
  2. To review the Family Justice Council’s Working Party’s December 2011 Guidelines on Children Giving Evidence in Family Proceedings [2012] Fam Law 79, taking into account the decision of the Supreme Court in Re LC (Reunite: International Child Abduction Centre Intervening) [2014] UKSC 1, [2014] 1 FLR (forthcoming and reported in April [2014] Fam Law 408).
  3. To look at the issue of vulnerable people giving evidence in family proceedings, looking at the arrangements now in place in the criminal courts.

The Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group has also agreed to produce an interim report by 31 July 2014.

The Law Commission report, Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements

The Law Commission’s report, Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements, produced in February 2014, recommended that authoritative guidance on 'needs' be produced by the Family Justice Council. A further working group, a Family Justice Council Working Group chaired by Roberts J, will be moving forward with this project.

Transparency

The President confirms that he will be issuing a consultation paper on transparency shortly, dealing with the impact and the working to date of the Practice Guidance on Transparency in the Family Courts issued on 16 January 2014; seeking views and suggestions as to whether any steps can be taken to make the listing of cases in the Family Division and the Family Court more informative on the subject matter of the cases; seeking views on further guidance (still to be issued) dealing with the disclosure to the media of certain categories of document; and seeking views on the possible hearing in public of certain family cases.

Experts

In order for an expert to be instructed in children cases now, the court must be satisfied in accordance with s 13(6) of the Children and Families Act 2014 that the expert is 'necessary' to assist the court to resolve the proceedings 'justly'. There is a real issue about the funding of these experts, and this remains very much a live issue. The President’s comments regarding this tie in with his adjournment of the case of Q v Q [2014] EWFC 7, [2014] 2 FLR (forthcoming) and with the concerns raised in the recently published decision of HHJ Wildblood QC in Re B (A Child) (Private law fact finding – unrepresented father), D v K [2014] EWHC 700 (Fam). We can clearly expect further reports and comment from the President in this area in the future.

The View also touches on a cross-jurisdictional Committee set up under up to consider the role of McKenzie Friends, a pilot scheme for DNA and hair-strand testing starting this month in the Bristol and Taunton DFJ areas, the ongoing problems with interpreters in family cases and the guides and materials being produced by the Private Law Working Group (PLWG) following the implementation of CAP.

With all these working groups’ reports and consultations to come, the developments in family law are clearly continuing apace.

_________________________________________________

Check out our Family Law Reform page, which is a free resource bringing together everything you need to know about the family law reforms in one place.

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