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District Judge member of Family Procedure Rule Committee
These are momentous times for all those involved in the family justice system in England and Wales. On 6 April 2011 the Family Procedure Rules 2010 (SI 2010/2955(L17) (‘FPR') come into effect modernising procedures in all family courts. They apply common procedures to all family cases whether, in the magistrates' court (MC), a county court (CC) or the High Court (HC). At last there is to be a Family Court as recommended in the Finer Report in 1974. Yes, there is some qualification to the inclusion of MCs' proceedings in the FPR. The Family Procedure Rule Committee (FPRC) has no statutory power to make, amend or revoke the Magistrates' Court Rules 1981 which govern some ‘family proceedings' in those courts. However, the Lord Chief Justice, who does, will make appropriate amendments before April 2011.
Nor does the new regime in any guise affect proceedings which are not family proceedings within the meaning of s 65 of the Magistrates Courts Act 1980, eg variation or enforcement of a maintenance order made in the HC or CC and registered in MC. Also, the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (CPR) continue to apply to applications under s 14 of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 and under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 since they are not ‘family proceedings' as defined by s 32 Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.
If the gestation of the Family Court has been overlong, in the same month as its birth we expect the first report of the Family Justice Review (FJR). How will that affect the FPR? The question is, for the moment, rhetorical. This article is not intended to provide an analysis of every rule. Rather it is intended to give an overview of the FPR, while highlighting some specific changes of practice and procedure from the perspective of a district judge.
The FPR and all its accompanying Practice Directions can be viewed on the free Family Law website at http://www.familylaw.co.uk/articles/FPRPDs-FullList-16022011.
To read the rest of this article, see March  Family Law journal.
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