The Children and Families Act 2014 came into whirlwind force on the 22 April 2014. The ethos behind the changes are to create a more efficient and effective family justice system designed to improve the experiences of children and families who go to court and to facilitate and encourage out of court resolution. Only time will tell if this objective has been achieved.
Key changes are as follows:
- Local Divorce County Courts ( as they were previously called) have been replaced by a National Single Family Court. The aim is to create a single point of entry for divorce cases. Anyone wishing to issue a children or financial order on separation must now issue in a Designated Family Centre. Qualified staff will then signpost the case to the appropriate level of Judge and satellite Hearing centres;
- Mediation is now compulsory making it a requirement to attend a family mediation, information and assessment meeting (MIAM) to find out about and consider mediation before applying for certain types of court order unless an exemption applies. Cases are at risk of being struck out/stayed/delayed if parties fail to comply with requirements or if they incorrectly obtain an exemption.
- Section 8 of the Children Act has been amended to introduce Child Arrangement Order. Courts no longer have the power to make Residence and or Contact Orders avoiding sometimes bitter contests over labels for what are essentially orders confirming where a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact;
- Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 is amended sending a clear signal to separated parents that courts will take account the principle that both should continue to be involved in their children’s lives where that is safe and consistent with the child’s welfare
For further information please consult Gurjit Chahal ( Head of Family Law Team)