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Family law reforms – what’s changing?

Date: 17 April 2014

On 22 April, a number of changes in family law will take place including:

  • the creation of the Family Court
  • the introduction of child arrangements orders which will replace residence and contact orders
  • you will have to consider mediation if you make a court application about arrangements for your children or financial proceedings following divorce or dissolution
  • in divorce or dissolution proceedings, the court will no longer consider the arrangements for the children
  • the introduction of a 26-week time limit for care and supervision proceedings
  • when making a care order, the court will be required to focus on the parts of the care plan setting out the long-term plans for the upbringing of a child
  • changes in the contact provisions between adopted children and their birth family, former guardians and others.

The creation of the Family Court

The Family Court will deal with most family proceedings including:

  • divorce
  • dissolution of civil partnerships
  • child arrangements orders relating to children
  • care and supervision orders relating to children
  • adoption of children
  • non-molestation and occupation orders.

You will need to issue proceedings in your nearest Family Court. You can find these details by entering the area of law and your postcode using the court and tribunal finder on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk. You are then informed by HM Courts and Tribunals Service where your case will be heard.

All outstanding family proceedings that were issued in a county court or family proceedings court before 22 April, will continue in the Family Court. Any applications received but not issued on or before 21 April will be issued in the Family Court.

Child Arrangements Orders

Child arrangements orders will replace residence and contact orders. A single child arrangements order will set out arrangements about who a child should live with, spend time with and have other types of contact with and when these arrangements should take place.

Family Mediation and Assessment meetings

In most cases, you will have to consider mediation by attending a Family Mediation Information and Assessment meeting before making a court application about arrangements for children or financial proceedings following separation or divorce.

You may be able to get legal aid to pay for mediation if you meet the financial conditions.

Changes in divorce and dissolution proceedings

The Family Court will no longer consider the arrangements for children as part of divorce or dissolution proceedings. The person filing for divorce will no longer have to complete a statement of arrangements for children when filing a petition at court. If you cannot agree with your partner about the arrangements for where your children live and who they spend time with, you will need to make a separate application to the court.

Citizens Advice

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