Draft legislation on Family Justice published for Pre-Legislative Scrutiny

The Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice have today published for 'pre-legislative scrutiny' draft legislation on Family Justice, introducing changes to the operation of the family justice system, as recommended by the Family Justice Review and accepted by the Government in its response published in February 2012.

The main provisions are as follows:

Private Law:
  • new provision so that prior to making an application for a court order in family proceedings of a description specified in Family Procedure Rules, the person who proposes to make the application must first attend a ‘family mediation information and assessment meeting’;
  • the replacement of residence and contact orders by a 'child arrangements order';
  • the repeal of section 41 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and section 63 of the Civil Partnership 2004 to remove the requirement that the court should consider, in any proceedings for divorce (or dissolution in the case of a civil partnership), nullity or judicial separation where there are children of the family, whether it should exercise any of its powers under the Children Act 1989. (Any dispute about the arrangements for a child resulting from divorce, dissolution etc. will in future be dealt with by way of free-standing application to the court under the Children Act 1989.);
  • the repeal of uncommenced provisions of Part 2 of the Family Law Act 1996.

Public Law:
  • putting in place a maximum 26 week time limit for the completion of care and supervision proceedings;
  • ensuring that decisions regarding the timetable for the case are child focused and made with explicit reference to the child’s welfare;
  • removing the eight week time limit on the duration of initial interim care orders and interim supervision orders, and the four week time limit on subsequent orders;
  • requiring the court to focus, when considering the care plan, on those issues which are essential to the court’s decision as to whether an order should be made;
  • ensuring that expert evidence in family proceedings concerning children is permitted only when necessary to resolve the case justly, taking account of factors including the impact on the welfare of the child, and whether the information could be obtained from one of the parties already involved in the proceedings.

The draft legislation, including explanatory notes and commentary, can be found here.


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