Big Changes to Family Law on the Horizon
The most significant changes to family law in a decade arrive on April 22nd and you can find out about them now.
Simpson Millar LLP's Emma Pearmaine, head of the family law team and Emma Hopkins Jones, associate attended a Resolution Conference to hear about the changes. Resolution is an organisation of family lawyers and professionals dedicated to promoting non-confrontational solutions and approaches to family problems.
Summary of the Changes
Although a lot of changes are happening, some of which we have highlighted in previous articles, the most important ones for you to take note of are the "headline" amendments.
In summary they are:
- A new Single Family Court – in each geographical location where family cases are dealt with their will be a single family court consisting of High Court, district and circuit judges and recorders etc.
- Before a family law application can be made, such as to see a child , attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAMS) is now compulsory for the applicant, unless exceptions apply such as if there has been domestic violence in a relationship
- "residence" and "contact" orders in relation to children to determine with whom a child will live and/or how often they see a parent will be replaced with "child arrangement orders"
- A new Child Arrangements Programme (CAP) will apply to private children law applications – finalised details of this are yet to be published. New forms of evidence will now be accepted for victims of domestic violence to receive legal aid and there will no longer be fees for applications for non- molestation orders
- Statutory changes to the care law system (where the Local Authority has to take steps because of child protection issues) come into force including a 26 weeks limit for the resolution of care cases
It is also expected that later on in the year a new "presumption of parental involvement" provision will be added to the Children's Act. This will say that the involvement of both parents in a child’s life is presumed to be in a child’s best interests, unless the contrary is shown. Parents are also being encouraged to enter into Parenting Plans when they separate to agree what the arrangements for care of their children will be.
Emma Hopkins Jones welcomes the changes and believes that with the right help and advice, many families continue to raise their children jointly whilst living their lives separately.