I know there have been and will be others far more learned than I who have/will comment on the Review, but I thought I would still give my views, for what they are worth. Specifically, the following recommendations are those upon which I have something to say:
The Family Justice System:
Establishment of a Family Justice Service: An excellent idea, which should be part of the establishment of a separate family courts system (see below).
Removal of charges to local authorities for public law applications: Common sense.
An integrated IT system should be developed for use in the Family Justice Service: Sounds good, but where is the money going to come from?
Judges and magistrates should be enabled and encouraged to specialise in family matters: About time. No disrespect, but I've always thought it absurd that judges deciding family matters may have no experience dealing with them.
A single family court, with a single point of entry, should replace the current three tiers of court: Another sensible decision, removing what was a complete nonsense, albeit improved somewhat by the Family Procedure Rules 2010. However, as mentioned above, we should really have completely separate dedicated family courts, rather than have family cases share buildings with civil and criminal cases, although of course there will never be the money for such a thing.
HMCTS and the judiciary should ensure routine hearings use telephone or video technology wherever appropriate: A good idea, which should reduce costs and speed matters, but may not be appropriate where litigants in person are involved.
Courts should refocus on the core issues: Not having done any public law work since the 1990s, I'm not perhaps the best person to comment upon this, but I'm not sure that it is a good idea to leave the care plan to the local authority.
The six month time limit for the completion of care and supervision proceedings: Sounds great, but the obvious question is: how is this to be achieved? The Review gives its ideas, but these are not entirely convincing. The real concern is that this will just put more pressure upon an already over-stretched system, and those who work within it. Obviously, delay is a bad thing, but it is clearly a lesser evil than getting things wrong more often.
A pilot on the use of formal mediation approaches in public law proceedings should be established: Interesting idea, but I'm really not sure that many public law cases will be suitable for mediation.
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: This has perhaps caused the most controversy of any of the recommendations, with many, including family lawyers, feeling that an opportunity has been lost. I was originally in favour of such a presumption, but I am tending now towards the view that it could put the rights of the parent ahead of the welfare of the child, which would obviously be wrong.
The need for grandparents to apply for leave of the court before making an application for contact should remain: I agree with this. Grandparents can be very supportive, but they can also be disruptive, especially where they have 'taken sides'. Besides, encouraging further litigation by making it easier for them to become involved does not sound like a good idea to me.
Child arrangement orders to replace residence and contact orders: Not really sure how much practical difference this will make. Hopefully, not going to be just a change in terminology (which I don't think will change the way orders are perceived - parents are concerned with how much time the children spend with them, not what it is called).
Establishment of 'online information hub': Again, how is this to be paid for?
‘Alternative dispute resolution’ should be re-branded as ‘Dispute Resolution Services’, in order to minimise a deterrent to its use: I can't see that this will make much difference. Anyway, 'ADR' is not a term used that much in connection with family matters, is it?
Where an order is breached within the first year, the case should go straight back to court to the same judge to resolve the matter swiftly: Sounds good, but will it make any difference to enforcement of orders? I'm not sure it will.
There should be no link of any kind between contact and maintenance: Of course.
The process for divorce should be dealt with administratively by the courts, unless the divorce is disputed: Not actually as much of a change. OK, it releases judges to do more important things, but that seems to be all. Will 'administrators' now make 'judicial' decisions, such as whether a petition has been proved, and who should pay the costs?
Government should establish a separate review of financial orders to include examination of the law: Good. When?
The Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission should carefully monitor the impact of legal aid reforms: Well, this just made me laugh. As if legal aid would ever be reinstated to those areas from which it is to be removed...