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3 changes to Family Law you need to know

Recent changes in family law (April 2014) may impact on your position if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of separation and divorce.

Here local legal experts Parsonage & Co explain the 3 main changes you need to be aware of.

1. Most local family courts will close.

Richmond Family Proceedings has already closed and Kingston and Brentford may soon follow – so there soon there may not be any local family courts.

Instead, there will be a central court at Hatton Cross called the West London Single Family Court.

How it works:

You send in your application to an Allocation Centre that decides if your case can stay at the West London Single Family Court – which is to facilitate the straight forward cases.

More complex cases will be sent to the Principal Registry of the Family Division in High Holborn – a more experienced court for more complex cases, such as those involving high net worth individuals or major child welfare concerns.

What are the implications?

Magistrates are being given more responsibility to handle public law cases for children being taken into care. Although they have had some training, they are not legally qualified.

It also means the financial costs for clients will increase should their case require court attendance, as solicitors travel costs to Hatton Cross or High Holborn will need to be paid for.

2. MIAM Requirement to attend mediation before issuing a court application

For any contested family cases, you can no longer just go straight to court. You have to first attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

How it works:

A MIAM is not actual mediation. It is just an information meeting about what mediation is. Only the applicant has to attend a MIAM – but the aim is to encourage both parties to attend a MIAM to allow clients to come to some agreement between themselves.

The applicant can opt for the respondent not to be contacted, however this may be raised in court by the judge and the applicant has to explain why they chose for the respondent not to be contacted.

It is optional whether you wish to proceed with mediation and formalise a Mediation Agreement – currently this is not legally binding, but that is likely to change in the future.

What is the implication for you?

The purpose of a MIAM is to help prevent rash decisions being made about entering legal proceedings. Mediation, if both parties are willing, is a far more conciliatory way to reach agreement and avoid unnecessary legal costs.

3. Change to the terms, residence and contact

For Children Act proceedings, the terminology Residence Orders and Contact Orders have been replaced with Child Arrangements Order. There is also the introduction of the Child Arrangements Programme (CAP2104).

What is the implication for you?

The use of gentler terminology and CAP2014 is a pragmatic step towards helping to keep disputes between parents and families outside of the courtroom and to find an out of court resolution.

If you’re facing any family law issue around children, matrimonial or financial, at Parsonage & Co we offer a fixed fee appointment £100+vat. This will help to address your concerns and outline what may need to happen next, so you will have better clarity about your situation.

Call Parsonage & Co on 020 8614 4560 to arrange a consultation in our Teddington practice.