As mentioned in my previous post, there are four private law provisions:
1. Family mediation information and assessment meetings
Since the 6th of April 2011 anyone contemplating applying for an order in 'relevant family proceedings', has been required by Practice Direction 3A to attend a 'Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting’ ('MIAM'), subject to the exceptions set out in Annex C to the PD. "Relevant family proceedings" is defined in Annex B. I find it somewhat odd that this 'pre-application protocol' only got mentioned in a footnote in the Family Justice Review Final Report, which recommended that: "Attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting and Separated Parent Information Programme should be required of anyone wishing to make a court application."
The recommendation is implemented by Clause 1(1) of the draft legislation, which states:
"Before making a relevant family application, a person must attend a family mediation information and assessment meeting.""Relevant family application" is defined by Clause 1(4) as "a family application of a description specified in Family Procedure Rules", which pretty well takes us back to PD 3A.
In short, this provision does not seem to me to add anything to the PD (although I would be happy to be corrected upon this).
2. Child arrangements orders
Clause 2 replaces the definitions of "contact order" and "residence order" in s.8(1) of the Children Act with a "child arrangements order" which:
"...means an order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following-Notice that the word "contact" is still used, but the word "residence" is not.
(a) with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and
(b) when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person".
The rationale for the new order was to "focus all discussions on resolving issues related to [the child's] care, rather than on labels such as residence and contact" (see FJR Final Report, para 4.60). Hopefully, this might reduce conflict between parents, but I can't see it making much difference to the arrangements that will be ordered by the courts, which I anticipate will be very similar to present residence and contact orders.
(Note that there is an extension to the entitlement in respect of s.8 orders - see para 24 of the explanatory notes to the draft legislation.)
3. Repeal of restrictions on divorce and dissolution etc where there are children
S.41 (and its Civil Partnership equivalent, s.63 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004) are repealed by Clause 7(1). Any dispute about the arrangements for a child resulting from divorce, dissolution etc. will in future be dealt with by way of a free-standing application to the court under the Children Act.
This provision is part of the drive to simplify the procedure for uncontested divorces, and to be welcomed - in most cases a s.41 certificate is little more than a 'rubber stamp job' in any event.
4. Repeal of uncommenced provisions of Part 2 of the Family Law Act 1996
Two words: About time!