The most significant reforms of the family justice system for a generation came into force this week, with the creation of the new single family court on 22nd April 2014.
The single unified Family Court (the “Family Court”, as it is to be called) is created under section 31A of the Matrimonial and Family Proceeding Act 1984, as amended by the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
From today, almost all family proceedings in England and Wales will be dealt with at the Family Court. (A very limited number of matters, including, for example, cases involving international child abduction, will be reserved exclusively to the High Court.)
The Family Court will include all levels of judges, including High Court judges. There will be Designated Family Centres (“DFC”) in each judicial geographical area, each presided over by a Designated Family Judge.
The process for issuing proceedings in the Family Court is:
- A party may choose which DFC they file their proceedings at.
- Once filed, the application will be passed to the “gatekeeping team”, who will allocate the case to the appropriate level of judge. (If the applicant believes a certain level of judge is required, they must complete an “allocation proposal form” stating their reasons.)
- After allocating the case, the gate-keeping team will issue standard directions and a hearing will be listed either at the DFC or a local hearing centre.
If you would like advice on filing proceedings under the new regime, please contact the partner at Hunters having responsibility for your legal matters, or (for new enquiries) please contact a member of our Family team.
This article is based on the law as at 22nd April 2014. Although we endeavour to ensure that the content is accurate and up to date as at that date, it is designed to provide general guidance only and is not intended to be comprehensive or to constitute professional advice. Specific advice should always be sought, and you should only rely on advice which is given, by reference to particular facts and circumstances.