Changes to the Children’s and Families Act – April 2014Posted on 10th May 2015 by Goodwins Family Law Solicitors
In 2011, the Family Justice Review analysed the family justice system and made several recommendations to areas that needed reform.
Single Family Court
One such area that was subject to reform was The Family Court. The Family Court has jurisdiction over all family proceedings, as set out in section 31a of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984. Until the reforms, family legal proceedings were heard by both magistrates’ courts and also county courts, under separate jurisdictions. The changes have now removed the separate jurisdiction, creating a single family court that allocates cases to judges with appropriate levels of seniority. The respective judges are lay magistrates, district judges, circuit judges and High Court judges.
Child Arrangement Orders
The new orders as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 are related to the decisions on whom a child will live with and who they can spend time with/contact. The changes are designed to enhance the emphasis on the child’s situation, rather than placing all the importance on which parent receives custody of the child. This is in keeping with Family Justice and Civil Liberties Minister Simon Hughes’ statements: “We are making sure the welfare of the children is at the heart of the family justice system. We want to keep families away from the negative effects that going to court can have and to use alternative solutions when they are suitable.”
Other family justice measures that the new Act has brought into effect include:
- Making sure that all couples who are separated are aware that the courts are very sensitive to the fact that both parents’ involvement in their children’s life is important (where it is safe for the child).
- Before separating or separated couples take any disputes relating to child custody or finances to court, they are now required to attend meetings at which they will learn about mediation (again, exemptions are in place here, for cases such as where domestic violence is involved).
- A maximum 26 week limit has been introduced for the completion of care and supervision proceedings (except where an extension is needed for justly resolving the case)
The new Act was introduced on April 22nd 2014.
Here at Goodwins Family Law, we are proud to provide expert legal advice in all fields of family law, including divorce and child custody. Our fully qualified, experienced team can offer realistic, sensitive and helpful advice throughout your family law proceedings. For more information, get in touch with us today.