Sunday, February 24, 2008

Responses to Family Procedure Rules Consultation

I've now had a chance to digest the responses to the Family Procedure Rules consultation paper, published on the 22nd February. These things move extremely slowly, so I'll begin by recapping. The original Consultation Paper was published way back in August 2006 and, as I mentioned in a post at the time, set out four 'key objectives' for the new Rules: "modernisation of language, harmonisation with the Civil Procedure Rules, a single unified code of practice and alignment in all levels of court", and sought views upon how these objectives can be realised.

The first thing I noticed was how few of the responses came from individuals involved in the family justice system. Whether this was due to apathy, leaving it to their professional bodies or simply satisfaction with the original proposals I cannot say, but as the report states, the majority of specific proposals were supported.

So, what were the responses? Here are some of the main points:
  • Service by email in family proceedings was supported, but many favoured more stringent restrictions on its use than in civil proceedings, given the personal nature of family proceedings and the perceived lack of security compared to other modes of service.
  • Generally, the proposed new terminology was supported and will go into the new Rules, although there were some who felt that 'Conditional Order' (replacing 'Decree Nisi') and 'Final Order' (replacing 'Decree Absolute') was confusing. 'Maintenance pending outcome of proceedings' (replacing 'maintenance pending suit') was felt to require further simplification. The term '2nd respondent' will replace both 'party cited' and 'co-respondent'.
  • The majority agreed that Statements of Truth should replace affidavits.
  • There was overwhelming support for the ancillary relief rules to apply to other proceedings, including Schedule 1 Children Act applications, and most felt that a simplified version should apply to financial proceedings in magistrates courts.
  • The majority of respondents felt that it was appropriate to separate financial applications from the matrimonial/civil partnership proceedings.
  • The proposal that certain procedures in the magistrates’ courts be aligned with the procedures in the county courts and High Court was very strongly supported.
  • Lastly, the proposed changes to the procedure for appeals from decisions of magistrates’ courts in family proceedings were supported by an "overwhelming majority", so that there will be a single form of appeal notice, and all such appeals will go to the county court, rather than the High Court.
Overall, it seems that there will be little change to the original proposals. The Family Procedure Rule Committee will now consult on a set of draft rules, although I understand from the Family Law Week blog that this will not be until the end of the year, so the new Rules are still some way off.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. Constructive comments are always welcome, even if they do not coincide with my views! Please note, however, that comments will be removed or not published if I consider that:
* They are not relevant to the subject of this post; or
* They are (or are possibly) defamatory; or
* They breach court reporting rules; or
* They contain derogatory, abusive or threatening language; or
* They contain 'spam' advertisements (including links to any commercial websites).
Please also note that I am unable to give advice.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.