The Children and Families Act 2014

Wake Smith Solicitors 20 May 2014

The Children and Families Act 2014 came into force on the 22nd April 2014. The changes are significant for family lawyers but the changes do impact on clients. So what's new?

  1. Now, within divorce proceedings, the court no longer requires to know details of the arrangements for children following a divorce. The idea is that should there be a problem in respect of the children, a separate application can be made to the court under the Children Act 1989 and the divorce will remain unaffected.
  2. Before any application can be made to the court to resolve issues in respect of the children or finances, the parties are required to attend a mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM) as to the ways in which the dispute may be resolved otherwise than by the court. There are of course exemptions to this requirement such as where there has been domestic violence or one of the parties does not live in the UK but, on the whole, most separating couples will have to attend.
  3. If no agreement can be reached in mediation as to who will care for the children and when, an application can be made to the court, which application is no longer for a residence or contact orders but now a "Child Arrangements Order". Such an order will set out
  4. with whom a child lives and for how long and
  5. Whom a child spends time with and for how long.

The idea was not to empower either parent over the other by giving one parent "residence" and the other "contact".

  1. Whereas before family practitioners were able to issue proceedings in either the family Proceedings Court (The Magistrates Court before itself was rebranded), the County Court or the High Court, now all proceedings are issued in The Family Court. The new Family Court consists of all three elements of the previous courts (a little like a wedding cake with three tiers) but the High Court retains some jurisdiction outside the Family Court structure. On any application being made to the Family Court, a designated "gateway" Judge will consider the paper application and determine which of the three tiers will be best equipped to deal with the nature and complexity of each individual case.

In practical terms for couples who are separating, the new system should allow for resolution before court proceedings have to be commenced and this can only be of benefit to the parties. Should proceedings have to be commenced then it is hoped the new system will prove less polarizing than it has done in the past. For advice about any aspect of The Children and Families Act please contact Lindsey Canning on 0114 266 6660 or [email protected]

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