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Reforming Family Justice

A Guide to the Family Court and the Children and Families Act 2014

FROM £49.50

"A large and important book that should be on the shelf of every family lawyer." Sir James Munby

This book contains detailed commentary on, and analysis of, the Single Family Court and the Children and Families Act 2014, Pts 1 and 2 (which deal with family justice), including clear and comprehensive guidance on the new regime and relevant rules/practice directions. The rationale behind the Act is discussed, through analysis of the origins of the need for reform, reflecting back to the Norgrove Report and Sir Ernest Ryder’s work.

The reforms represent a huge change to the way in which professionals working in the family justice system will have to approach and deal with cases, and this comprehensive practitioner’s text provides an invaluable guide thereto. Given the withdrawal of legal aid from April 2013 in private law cases, the book also provides clear practice guides, summaries and glossaries of legal terms, with a view to assisting litigants in person who are negotiating their own way through the system.

Chapter 1 – The case for change 
  • The history of the reforms
  • The Family Justice Review and the work of Ryder LJ
Chapter 2 – Private law disputes
  • The effects of the reforms of legal aid
  • The Child Arrangements Programme and orders
  • The child in the dispute
  • The role of CAFCASS
  • Reforms to financial remedy proceedings
  • Draft orders

Chapter 3 – Dispute resolution services
  • Forms of DRS
  • Mediation in 2014
  • Mediation through CAP
  • The Miams requirement
  • Funding considerations
  • The process of mediation – pros and cons
  • Draft MOU and SFI
Chapter 4 – Public Law
  • The interim position – a learning curve
  • The Revised PLO
  • Draft orders
Chapter 5 – Experts
  • Part 25 reforms
  • Funding considerations
Chapter 6 - Adoption
  • The case for change
  • Fostering for adoption
  • Case law review
  • The balance sheet approach
Chapter 7 – Transparency 
  • The President’s guidance
  • Reporting restriction orders – practice and procedure
  • Case law review

Clear guidance and authoritative comment on the new Single Family Court and the Children and Families act 2014

Logically organised, the book begins with an historical perspective in the first chapter followed by six chapters which cover, in all the relevant detail, a range of issues, from, for example, the aims of the 2014 Act through to Dispute Resolution Services, adoption reform and the new ethos informing transparency and reporting restriction orders.

Complex and sensitive though this area of law remains, the focus generated largely by the reforms is now markedly more child-centred than ever before ‘…No-one involved in family justice,’ say the authors, ‘should be in any doubt that the child welfare should be their paramount concern.’

The book evolved as a result of the research undertaken by the authors while compiling family law updates on a weekly basis. Sir James Munby, Ryder LJ and other experts also provided their input of support and advice for the final version. Endowed with the voice of authority, this book functions not only as an unassailably accurate practitioners’ guide, but as a helpful assistant to litigants in person who seek to understand the system and the impact of the changes brought about by the new legislation.

Practitioners eager to familiarize themselves with the structure of the family court and the resulting arrangements will find this book invaluable, as will anyone involved in family law proceedings.

Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor,
Richmond Green Chambers

Read the full review  

Watch the full review
" am indebted to Sarah Blackmore and Jacqui Thomas for undertaking a task that is integral to the change programme that was envisaged when the recommendations of both the Family Justice Review and the judiciary were accepted. They are right to describe me as an ambassador for change. I am not the originator of change, merely, for a short time, its guardian. Real change is generated out of the good practice of the professionals who work on the ground in the many and difficult cases that come before the family court. It cannot be imposed by others although it can be influenced and led by the judgments of the senior courts, quality leadership and a structure which promotes research based good practice, empirical monitoring of outcomes and the management of priorities and cases within the family justice system. This invaluable book is central to an essential component of change which is education, the dissemination of good practice and the fostering of a co-operative and positive environment in which new and better ideas are allowed to develop.

I hope that the family court that we have created and the leadership and case management principles that have been developed will flourish to the advantage of the children whose futures are influenced by us. Lest it be thought that change places organisational management ahead of the interests of the child, let me be the first to say that in a family justice system the principles of proportionality and good change management must be viewed through the telescope of quality. We must never sacrifice the quality of what we do on the altar of price rationing or cost effectiveness. The quality of the judicial intervention in a child's life should be the object of scrutiny by professionals and public commentators alike. We must continually strive to improve both the quality of evidence and decision-making and this book will help all of us adapt our practices so as to achieve that aim.

I am very grateful to the authors for their careful and detailed consideration of some very important issues."

Sir Ernest Ryder,
September 2014

Sarah Blackmore and Jacqui Thomas have given us a large and important book that should be on the shelf of every family lawyer.

Reforming Family Justice charts the whole process of the reforms from the work of the Family Justice Review through all the subsequent planning, introduction and implementation, whilst at the same time providing an exemplary analysis of the new law and its subsequent judicial interpretation. This is both an acute work of contemporary legal history, which will be of enduring value, and an accurate guide to the law as it stands. Our authors weave together a wide range of materials to produce a compelling account which puts the new law in its wider historical, social and political context, at the same time as it provides a sure guide for the busy practitioner. They deserve our thanks and our congratulations.

No doubt the continuing processes of reform and the seemingly endless stream of judicial decisions will demand an early second edition. In the meantime, let us take full advantage of the first.

Sir James Munby,
President of the Family Division
September 2014

With a specialist contribution by Taryn Lee QC.
In 2014, the family justice system in England and Wales underwent seismic change. The previous three-tier court system of family proceedings courts, county courts and High Court was replaced by the single family court through the provisions of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, and for the first time statutory time limits were introduced for public law care proceedings through the Children and Families Act 2014 (the 2014 Act).

All areas of family law and family court users were affected, from separating parents to prospective adopters. The 2014 Act places greater emphasis on alternative forms of resolution, particularly mediation, by requiring applicants to attend at a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) before issuing court proceedings in respect of their children or finances. 

This book aims to provide an overview to the 2014 Act, with explanations as to the reasons behind the reforms, as well as up-to-date case commentaries.
In chapter 1, the case for change is set out, tracing the history of the family justice review, and the research findings that led to the arguments in favour of reform. The arrangements of the new family court are then explained and the structure of the family court is examined.

The Children and Families Act has a major impact on three main areas; private law, dispute resolution and public law. In chapter 2 the new approach to private law disputes is explored. The effect of the legal aid reforms following the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LAPSO) cannot be ignored, with the resulting increase in litigants in person appearing before the court.

The reforms to the private law system resulted in an entirely new Child Arrangements Programme (CAP), which aims to simplify and streamline the process, clearly signposting parties to the appropriate services and setting out the stages of court applications. References are provided for links to the up-to-date court forms and draft orders in use at the time of writing.

The Child Arrangements Programme reflects the re-emphasis on dispute resolution services. One unforeseen consequence of the LASPO cuts to legal aid was a vast reduction in the number of couples turning to mediation before going to court, despite public funding remaining available for both the mediation process, and legal advice running alongside mediation. CAP again signposts parties to mediation, and the CFA 2014 makes attendance at a MIAM compulsory prior to a court application. Chapter 3 examines the use of mediation and explains the process, as well as providing draft memorandums of agreement and statements of financial information, the written documents which follow a successful mediation.

Chapter 4 turns attention to the public law reforms and the revisions made to the public law outline. Taryn Lee QC examines the learning curve that took place during the transitional period and the lessons learnt from that time, before the new Public Law Outline and the case management orders are provided by the rest of the chapter. Integral to the reform of the public law system is the introduction of the statutory time limit of 26 weeks for the completion of a care case, unless extended by the court. It is hoped, and research shows, that the accompanying reduction in delay will result in better outcomes for the children that find themselves in the system.
One of the mechanisms used in order to reduce the delays in the care system is the reduction in the reliance on independent experts, which is examined in chapter 5. The Family Procedure Rules 2010, Part 25 has been significantly amended to reduce the number of experts, and to remind all practitioners that the social workers and guardians in a case are often the only experts required by the Court.

The public law system remains the focus of chapter 6 which examines recent policy changes in the field of adoption, and the cases recently decided by the higher courts in that sphere.

The final area considered by the authors is the move towards greater transparency in the family courts and the recent case-law relating to reporting restriction orders.
The appendices to this book include all relevant sections of statute, and the main statutory instruments, as well as the most up-to-date court forms where available.
The law is stated as at 30 June 2014.

Sarah Blackmore,
Jacqui Thomas,

September 2014

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