Today is the day that the family justice system’s long-awaited revamp comes into effect. The system has been revamped before, but not quite to this extent. These changes came about due to a review which took place in 2011 and which concluded that significant changes should take place inside the system. Sir James Munby, the current President of the Family Division, has been responsible for overseeing these changes.
But what do they mean in practice and will they make a difference to the people who matter most – our families and children?
In theory at least, the modernisation of the system, for that’s what it really boils down to, looks set to change the face of family law forever. (That’s just the face, we’ll get to the other body parts in a moment).
The Single Family Court is now an exclusive court dealing solely with family law matters, a little like a large umbrella covering an entire area. As a ‘court’, it will deal with all family proceedings but a small number of cases will be dealt with by the High Court. The recently passed Children and Families Act 2014 will also be implemented.
However, in reality, although the Magistrates’ courts and County courts will not be able to deal with family proceedings, it will be possible for the Single Family Court, or Family Court as it will also be known from today, to sit in these courts’ buildings.
This change therefore is perhaps little more than a symbolic nod to the existence of family law as a standalone area of practice. It is also unlikely to have any tangible effect for children and their families.
In fact, most of the changes which will affect families are likely to stem from new legislation and guidance. We recommend Jordans’ page on all things Single Family Court for this information, which gets updated as and when more developments occur or materials emerge.
ITV are also doing very interesting news feeds on various items and their dedicated page to the Family Court is interesting for media reactions and other thoughts on the ‘new system.’
We can’t way we’re not pleased the system is getting an overhaul – we just hope that after the pandemonium dies down (if it ever does) and confusion no longer reigns supreme over what is to be done and when, that the system not only looks like it’s 21st century savvy, but acts like it, too. We have yet to see what the head, heart and soul of the system looks like in practice.