The Children and Families Act 2014 (“CFA 2014”) was given Royal Assent on 13th March 2014 and Parts I and II of the act came into force on 22nd April 2014.
The main changes to private children law cases introduced by the CFA 2014 on 22nd April are:
1. New child arrangement orders
The introduction of a new “child arrangements order” which replaces the old “contact” and “residence” orders (under section 8(1) of the Children Act 1989). The child arrangements order deals with where and with whom a child lives, spends time and has contact. It is hoped that both parents will be encouraged to cooperate together in reaching a holistic solution for the child, rather than each viewing their relations with the child individually. However, it remains to be seen whether these new orders will contain the same language and legal emphasis as the old contact and residence orders and how they can be enforced.
In line with this, a new Child Arrangements Programme has also been introduced to replace the Private Law Programme. It applies where there is a dispute between separated parents about arrangements concerning their children and is designed to assist them in reaching a child-focused solution, where possible out of court.
2. Obligatory mediation information and assessment meetings
Parties are now legally required to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (“MIAM”) before making an application to court in children cases. (Previously parties were encouraged, but not obliged, to do so.) There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, in cases where there is domestic violence or a child protection concern, or other need for urgency, or where the parties have previously attended a MIAM.
3. No more statements of arrangements for children
Couples going through a divorce/dissolution procedure will no longer have to file a statement of arrangements for children (previously obligatory in all cases where the couple had children under section 41 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1975, now repealed). This will streamline the process, so that the court need not be concerned with cases where the couple can agree arrangements for their children themselves (whilst still allowing others to apply for a child arrangements order separately if they need to).
4. Restriction of use of expert evidence
Provisions aimed at restricting the use of expert evidence to that which is “necessary” to resolve the proceedings justly (previously just contained in the amended Part 25 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010), are also now put on a statutory footing.
If you would like advice on any of these issues, 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.