Thursday, March 31, 2011

Family Justice Review Interim Report

The interim report of the Family Justice Review has been published today. Amongst its recommendations the following caught my eye:
  • There should be a Family Justice Service established to oversee the family justice system.

  • There should be judicial continuity in all family cases.

  • Judges and magistrates should be enabled and encouraged to specialise in family matters.

  • A single family court should be created, with a single point of entry, in place of the current three tiers of court. All levels of family judiciary (including magistrates) should sit in the family court and work would be allocated depending upon case complexity.

  • With regard to public law, courts should refocus on the core issues of whether the child is to live with parents, other family or friends, or be removed to the care of the local authority. Other aspects and the detail of the care plan should be the responsibility of the local authority.

  • A time limit for the completion of care and supervision proceedings within six months should be put into legislation.

  • No legislation should be introduced that creates or risks creating the perception that there is a parental right to substantially shared or equal time for both parents.

  • A statement should be inserted into legislation to reinforce the importance of the child continuing to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, alongside the need to protect the child from harm.

  • The need for grandparents to apply for leave of the court before making an application for contact should remain.

  • Parents should be encouraged to develop a Parenting Agreement to set out arrangements for the care of their children post-separation.

  • Residence and contact orders should no longer be available to parents who hold PR, but disputes over the division of a child’s time between parents should instead be resolved by a specific issue order.

  • A father without PR who wishes the court to consider the child living with him (currently a residence order) should first apply for PR, and then negotiate for this to be included in the Parenting Agreement or apply for a specific issue order. If a father does not wish to seek PR he is still able to make a contact application.

  • An online information hub and helpline should be established to give information and support for couples to resolve issues following divorce or separation outside court.

  • Provision should be made to ensure that a signed Parenting Agreement has weight as evidence in any subsequent parental dispute.

  • Where intervention is necessary it should be compulsory for the parties to attend a session with a mediator, who should assess the most appropriate intervention, including mediation and collaborative law, or whether the risks of domestic violence, imbalance between the parties or child protection issues require immediate referral to the family court; and provide information on local Dispute Resolution Services and how they could support parties to resolve disputes.

  • Judges will retain the power to order parties to attend a mediation information session and may make cost orders where it is felt that one party has behaved unreasonably.

  • Those parents who are still unable to agree should next attend a Separating Parent Information Programme and thereafter if necessary mediation or other dispute resolution service.

  • Where agreement cannot be reached, having been given a certificate by the mediator, one or both of the parties will be able to apply to court for determination on a specific issue.

  • The First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) should be retained. Where further court involvement is required after this, the case will be allocated to a track system according to complexity.

  • Where an order is breached, a party should have access to immediate support to resolve the matter swiftly and the current enforcement powers should be available. The case should be heard within a fixed number of days, with the dispute resolved at a single hearing. If an order is breached after 12 months, the parties should be expected to return to Dispute Resolution Services before returning to court to seek enforcement.

  • There should be no automatic link between contact and maintenance. When contact is continually frustrated and it is in the child’s best interests, the courts should have an additional enforcement mechanism available to enable them to alter or suspend the payment of maintenance.

  • People in dispute about money or property should be expected to access the information hub and should be required to be assessed for mediation.

  • Ancillary relief should be separately reviewed.

  • The process for initiating divorce should begin with the online hub and should be dealt with administratively in the Family Justice Service, unless the divorce is disputed.

  • The current two-stage process of decree nisi/decree absolute should be replaced by a single notice of divorce.

  • Fees in private law should in principle reflect the full cost of services.
The review is inviting responses to the report. Answers to the consultation questions can be submitted online or in hard copy using this form before midday on 23 June 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, just completed the form. I got the mail from them as well for some reason. Perhaps I have been interested and lobbying a lot and for a long time on this subject now.

    I read the paper in full. It was bad. It was written by the family breakdown professionals, for the family breakdown professionals to encourage more family breakdown and keep them in work.

    That it went against an assumption of shared parenting for no good reason was a disgrace. The more a child sees of his or her father as a rule, the better. It does so on the basis that the Swedes and the Australians are having trouble with it. Well, I've got news for them, WE are having more trouble with our 1989 Children act and lawyers and courts and cafcass causing more trouble in separation disputes.

    The failure to acknowledge the obvious link between contact and finances was also poor.

    Abolish cafcass and csa, save the money of implementing this nonsense and put CWOs back in court along with child maintenance. Simples. Everyones happy and save £££'s. Except perhaps the Cafcass officers, mediators and feminists. Bad report by bad people.

    ReplyDelete

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