Major Changes Sweep Across Private Family Law

Date online: 25/07/2014

Major Changes Sweep Across Private Family Law

RADICAL changes to Private Family Law came into effect in April 2014 putting children firmly at the heart of the new family justice system.

The newly reformed and relaunched family courts are to create a more efficient justice system by reducing delays, giving more support to parents and offering vulnerable children greater protection.

“The changes that came into effect this year refer to how private family cases are dealt with by the Court, said Susan Johnson, Family Solicitor at Molesworths Bright Clegg.

“These are cases where there is a disagreement between parents as to where a child is to live or more frequently how often the child is to see the other parent (previously called residence and contact or sometimes custody and access).

“Such matters are now dealt with under the Child Arrangements Programme (CAP) which applies where a dispute arises between separated parents and/or families about arrangements concerning children,” she said.

The new laws aim to steer families away from the negative effects that going to court can have and to use alternative solutions when they are suitable. Also separating couples will be encouraged to consider mediation as an alternative to an upsetting courtroom battle. Greater emphasis will be on families reaching safe agreements which focus on children without the need for going to Court.

Family Solicitor, Susan Johnson advises:

• If parents cannot reach an agreement between themselves or through negotiations with the assistance of solicitors, and an application to Court is intended, the person considering the application must attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

• The other party is also expected to attend a MIAM (which can be a separate one) to see if there is a way to resolve the disagreement without going to Court. (There are a few situations where attendance at mediation is not required).

• If mediation is not suitable or is not successful then an application can be made to Court. Throughout the Court process, mediation is to be considered.

• In some cases Legal Aid is available for attendance at mediation.

• If a Court Order is made it is called a Child Arrangements Order and will set out (if necessary) where a child lives and how often the child sees the other parent. The Order can also record any agreements between the parents for specific needs of the child.

• When parents separate it is important that as far as possible they reach an agreement regarding their children. This agreement can be set out in a Parenting Plan so each parent is clear as to any arrangements and/or obligations they may have. Parenting Plans are by their nature an agreement that can help parents focus on what the children’s needs are.

If you want help or advice in relation to negotiating a Parenting Plan, Mediation or Court proceedings please contact us in the family department at Molesworths Bright Clegg.

Susan leads the Molesworths’ Family Law Department and is a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel. She is a qualified and experienced family law solicitor, dealing with matters including divorce, contact / residence & injunctions. Susan can be contacted at or 01706 767404

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

Molesworths Bright Clegg is a firm of solicitors established in the United Kingdom and is registered with theSolicitors Regulation Authority.

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