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The single Family Court will be implemented on 22 April. On the same day, the majority of the family justice provisions in the Children and Families Act will come into force.
When the new single Family Court comes into operation it will be able to deal with all family proceedings, except for a limited number of matters, which will be exclusively reserved to the High Court. At the same time family proceedings courts will cease to exist.
Magistrates' courts and the new single County Court will not be able to deal with family proceedings. However, as the Family Court can sit anywhere in England and Wales, it will be possible for it to sit in county or magistrates' court buildings.
How will the new single Family Court work?
The single Family Court hopes to provide court users with effective access to justice while seeking ways to improve the efficiency of the justice system as a whole. A single Family Court will aim to allow magistrates, legal advisers and the judiciary to work more closely together.
Lay magistrates and all levels of judges will be able to sit in the Family Court. The changes mean that most proceedings will now be issued by the Family Court and cases will be allocated as soon as possible to the appropriate level of judge.
This means that cases will no longer need to be transferred between the old tiers of court. For families who need to use the court, this will help reduce delay and wherever possible, ensure greater continuity in who hears the case.
What does this mean for me?
From 22 April applicants will send their applications to their nearest Family Court point of entry. Details of points of entries can be found on the HMCTS court finder by selecting the appropriate area of law and entering a postcode: https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/ HMCTS will then show where the case will be heard.
In addition, many family court forms have been amended and a few have had their titles changed. Most old versions of forms will be accepted but certain forms have been significantly amended and so old versions will not generally be accepted. A list of those that will not be accepted will be contained in a Practice Direction to be issued shortly. The new forms will be available on our website from 22 April 2014.
Transitional arrangements are being finalised and will be set out in a Transitional Order and Practice Direction later this month. But all outstanding family proceedings that were issued in a county court or Family Proceedings Court before 22 April will continue in the Family Court. Any applications received but not issued on or before 21 April will be issued in the Family Court.
In your 2014 edition of The Family Court Practice, you will find everything you need to know about the implementation of the single Family Court and the single County Court, along with all the latest amendments to the Family Procedure Rules 2010, including the new Part 37 and Practice Direction regarding Contempt of Court and the new rules in respect of MIAMS. The 2014 Red Book will also include the new Public Law Outline, the Child Arrangements Programme and the latest legislation concerning same-sex marriages, forced marriage and domestic violence.