2024 Family Court Reforms

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The government has announced that families will be better protected from the impact of lengthy court disputes thanks to new measures. These are promised to help resolve disputes more swiftly. These measures include:

  • Early legal advice to help settle disputes outside court
  • Assistance with accessing mediation
  • More courts to join the pioneering Pathfinder pilot

At the end of January 2024, the government published a response to the Private Family Law Early Resolution Consultation. The response said: “The overwhelming view of respondents was that a lack of clear information and guidance means opportunities are being missed to resolve arrangements for children earlier. Many couples look to the courts as a first port of call when alternatives like mediation or early legal advice might avoid needless acrimony and expense

Early legal advice

Early legal advice can make a world of difference for parties in a family law dispute, whether about finances or children. It can offer peace of mind, and a clear way forward. Most importantly, it reduces the risk of long-running, expensive proceedings. It is important to get legal advice as early as possible, to understand what can be done to resolve the issues in your case.

What is mediation?

Mediation can be a productive way of finding resolution with the help of a professional, without going to court. However, if there are domestic abuse issues, or issues that cannot be agreed, then it may not be viable. To avoid forcing a continued relationship between a victim and their abuser the government will not change the law to demand mediation for separating couples in all cases. However, the government wants to encourage use of child inclusive mediation so that children’s views can be heard. It will become easier for mediators to apply for advanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks, so they can work with children. Mediators will also be further trained on screening for domestic abuse. A specialist solicitor can advise on where to start with your case.

What is the Family Court Pathfinder model?

The Family Court is piloting a new approach to cases where separated parents disagree about child arrangements. It aims to be more investigative and less adversarial, strengthen the voice of the child and increase support to parties who need it. There is collaboration with outside agencies from an early stage. While yet to be fully tested, the pilot has received positive reviews. It has so far been running in Dorset and North Wales. It will be extended to South-East Wales in April 2024, then Birmingham in June 2024. Finally, the intention is to roll it out to all courts in England and Wales. Even in areas not yet impacted directly by this approach, the family justice system is being advised to consider its broader lessons. The Pathfinder approach will increasingly need to be considered by lawyers and parties in family law disputes.

Here to Help

If you need advice on any family matter, please get in touch with Tracey Dargan, Partner and Head of Family and Divorce.

Please note the contents of this article are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.