The following is an extract from a talk delivered by the immediate past President of the Family Division to the Cheshire and North Wales Resolution Family Law Conference at Chester on 25 September 2018. The full version will appear in the November issue of Family Law.
April 2014 saw sweeping and what has turned out to be, although I say it myself, immensely successful reform of the family justice system. In particular, it saw the coming into being of the single Family Court, incorporating in one legal structure, and in many places with all the judges of the new court (including, I emphasise, the magistrates) located under the same roof, the family jurisdictions of the county court, of the now abolished family proceedings court and, in large part, of the Family Division of the High Court.
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Alongside these institutional reforms, the family justice system saw radical improvements in practice and procedure: in particular, a focus on the imperative need for judicial continuity and robust judicial case management. Cases are now allocated, on issue, by a judicial allocation team not merely to the appropriate tier of judge but to a specific judge who thereafter is personally responsible for the case. At the first directions hearing, the allocated judge makes an order which (a) identifies the issues, (b) sets the timetable for the case and (c) gives comprehensive directions down to and including the final hearing.