District Judge Graham Green. Medway in Kent was the scene of a pilot project between August 2004 and July 2005 involving applications under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 (the Act) for 'occupation orders' and 'non-molestation' orders. The High Court, county court and family proceedings courts (FPCs) all have jurisdiction to make such orders. The Family Law Act 1996 (Part IV) (Allocation of Proceedings) Order 1997 (SI 1997/1896) allows, subject to limited exceptions, proceedings for occupation orders and non-molestation orders to be commenced not only in county courts which are divorce county courts, family hearing centres and care centres, but also in FPCs. Despite this provision it is understood that the vast majority of such applications are issued in the county courts having the necessary jurisdiction. Furthermore although art 11 of the 1997 Order gives the county court power on application or of its own motion to transfer proceedings under Part IV to a FPC, the evidence is that this power is rarely invoked.
The pilot project at Medway was initiated, with the support of the Lord Chancellor and the President of the Family Division, in order to ascertain what would be the consequences for the litigants, the county courts and the FPCs if the power to transfer were used regularly by the judges in the county courts.
The purpose of this article is to give an insider's view on the consequences of that pilot project. See December  Fam Law for the full article.