Rebecca Tarn, a solicitor with Newcastle and Hexham’s Leading Divorce Specialist solicitors, Major Family Law comments from 22nd April 2014 the much anticipated “Single Family Court” will be introduced across England and Wales. Although this change has been on the horizon for some time, what does it actually mean?
Here are some key points:-
The Single Court
The main change is that there will now only be one point on entry for all family law applications. This means that instead of lodging your court application with the nearest county court, all applications must be submitted to either Newcastle or Teesside County Court in the North East. The other local courts, such as Gateshead, Morpeth and Durham, will now be known as “Hearing Centres”. Once an application is dealt with by the Newcastle or Teesside Courts they will allocate the case to a local Hearing Centre. This decision will be made depending on the facts and complexity of the case and cases may be heard by a Judge or a panel of Magistrates depending on who is available.
The divorce petition used to start divorce proceedings will now be a more simple tick box form and there will no longer be any need to complete a statement of arrangements for children form. That form historically required any person wishing to start divorce proceedings to inform the court of the care or contact arrangements for any children of the relationship. This is no longer necessary.
Another big change is the introduction of the “Children’s Arrangements Order”. The focus will not be on residence and contact orders, which are now abolished, but rather the general care arrangements for children post separation with a presumption of equal parenting.
Except for limited cases, all parties who wish to start court proceedings must first attend an initial consultation with a mediation service. This is now a mandatory requirement.