Major changes in the family courts in England and Wales

On 22nd April 2014, the largest family justice reform was implemented and brought with it major changes to the family justice system as well as a new combined Family Court in England & Wales.

In 2011, the Family Justice Review made a number of important recommendations for reforming the family justice system focussing on cutting delays and putting children at the heart of the system.

The reform has implemented the following changes:

  • Separating couples must attend a mediation awareness session before they are allowed to take disputes over their finances or children to court
  • All cases will now be heard in the new single Family Court in order to create a simpler system with greater flexibility for cases to be allocated to the right judge from the beginning
  • Justices’ clerks and their assistants will be authorised to assist all judges across the Family Court enabling more effective and efficient use of the judges’ time
  • A maximum 26 week time limit for completing care and supervision proceedings to help reduce the long delays
  • Courts will take into account the principle that separated parents should continue to be involved in their children’s lives focussing on their children’s needs
  • Expert evidence in family proceedings concerning children will only be used when necessary taking into account the impact on the welfare of the child

These changes mark a significant moment in the family justice system putting the welfare of children at the heart of the system and encouraging families to resolve disputes outside of court.

If you would like further information on separation, divorce or children matters and advice on the options available, please contact our Family Law Solicitor Rebecca Williams on or 0118 947 8638.