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Family Justice Reformed

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


Previously known as Reforming Family Justice: A Guide to the Family Court and the Children and Families Act 2014

Paperback i

Book printed softcover

Family Justice Reformed contains detailed commentary on 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 underlying procedural regime and the rationale for the reforms.

The reforms continue to represent a huge change to the manner in which professionals working in the family justice system have to approach and deal with cases, and this comprehensive practitioner’s text provides an invaluable guide thereto.

This new edition has been thoroughly revised throughout and contains analysis and practical guidance on all recent developments, including additional chapters on ‘The challenges in cases involving young adults’ and ‘Digital Court modernisation’. An Appendix contains relevant legislative provisions and guidance.

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.

“ … a large and important book that should be on the shelf of every family  lawyer.”

From the Foreword to the first edition by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division.

Table of Cases
Table of Statutes
Table of Statutory Instruments
Chapter 1: The Case for Change 
The Family Justice Review
The timetable for the child
The case against delay
The Government response to the Family Justice Review: A system with children and families at its heart
The judicial proposals for change
The case monitoring system (CMS) and the Tri-borough Project
Local authority innovations
Case monitoring systems
The single family court
The family court – its shape and organisation
The local family court
Family drug and alcohol court (FDAC)
The family court – London
Locations/geography in London – public law
The digital court – transforming family justice for the future
The judicial proposals in 2012–2014
The Tandem Model
The 2012 Family Justice Review’s over-arching recommendations
Chapter 2: The Aims of the Act 
Private law disputes
C (A Child) & Anor v KH
The facts
The criticisms on appeal and guidance for the future
The problems for litigants in person and the courts
Consequences of a lack of representation
McKenzie Friends
From the private law pathway to the Child Arrangements Programme
Child arrangements orders
Applications for orders relating to children
Shared parenting
International experience
The Swedish example
The Australian model
The 2014 Act
What is meant by ‘suggests?’
Child arrangements order
Grandparents and other family members
Other amendments to the private law regime
Parental responsibility
Child Arrangements Programme
Litigants in person
The court process – hearings and evidence
Allocation and gatekeeping – CAP para 9 and Practice Guidance
Without notice applications – CAP para 12
The child in the dispute
The role of Cafcass
Revised PD12J
The dispute resolution appointment – CAP para 19
Frequently asked questions
Divorce and financial remedy proceedings
Draft orders in financial remedy applications
Chapter 3: Dispute Resolution Services 
Collaborative law
Mediation in 2014
The Family Justice Review
Child Arrangements Programme
Parenting plans
Mediation as ongoing process
The 2014 Act and mediation
The new provisions
Mediation information and assessment session – what is it?
LASPO and mediation
Legal aid funding
Process of mediation
The limits of mediation
Benefits of mediation
The child’s voice in mediation
Example of a memorandum of understanding
Example of a statement of financial information
Chapter 4: Public Law 
The interim position – a learning curve
Strong and robust leadership
The ‘case manager’ role
Timely and more selective use of assessments and agreements with providers
The early appointment of children’s guardians
Judicial continuity and robust case management
Social worker confidence
Focus and commitment
Quarterly ‘post-case reviews’ to identify and share learning points and overall leadership
Thoroughness of assessments and use of experts
Thoroughness of hearings
Justice for children and parents
Delays being incurred pre- or post-proceedings
The timing of the case management hearing and the case management order
Extensions to the 26-week timeframe
Sustainability in the longer-term
The Revised Public Law Outline (PLO)
26 week timetable
Scope to extend care proceedings beyond 26 weeks
‘A problem solving court’
1. The Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC)
Interim care orders
Practice Direction 27A – court bundles
Preliminary documents
Format and contents of the bundle
Timetable for lodging of the bundle and preliminary documents
Stage 1: Issue and allocation
Stage 2: The advocates’ meeting
Stage 3: Issues resolution hearing
Settlement conferences
The settlement conference process
Pilot scheme evaluation
Human Rights Act claims
Chapter 5: Experts 
The need for reform
The change in culture
The Children and Families Act 2014
‘Robust case management’
Re C (A Child) (Procedural Requirements of a PD25 Application)
Timetable for an application
Case study: X Local Authority v A, B and C
At the case management hearing
The quality and length of expert reports
The final recommended standards
Funding of independent expert evidence – the Legal Aid Agency
Re R (Children: Temporary Leave to Remove from Jurisdiction)
JG v The Lord Chancellor & others
Social workers and Cafcass officers – already instructed experts
Good Practice Guidance for Social Work Practised in the Family Courts
The threshold analysis
The care proceedings
The independent social worker assessment
The children’s guardian
The analysis and recommendations report
Threshold analysis
Analysis of parenting capacity
Child impact analysis
Early permanence analysis including the proposed placement and contact framework
Case management analysis and advice
Example of revised PLO Cafcass case analysis
Chapter 6: Adoption Reform 
The background to reform
The causes of delay
The importance of ethnicity
Early permanence
The approach of the courts
Re B-S – the need for full analysis
Re B-S in the context of the modernisation reforms
Application of Re B-S
The balance sheet
The impact of B-S on the level of adoption
Contact post-adoption
The fairness of adoption proceedings
Support for adopters – duties of local authorities
Chapter 7: Transparency and Reporting Restriction Orders – The New Ethos 
The Transparency Project
The call for transparency
Service outside of the jurisdiction – the Facebook problem
Open justice – The case-law Re A
Re J (A Child)
Re P (A Child)
Family and criminal proceedings – the overlap
Covert recording
Transparency conclusions
Draft order
President’s Guidance
Chapter 8: Transitioning from the Family Courts – The Challenges in Cases Involving Young Adults
Background – transition from child care
Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000
Care leaver policy
Children and Young Persons Act 2008
Children and Families Act 2014
Care Act 2014
The Children and Social Work Act 2017
Involvement of the Court of Protection and the Mental Capacity Act 2005
Deprivation of liberty – the Article 5 rights of the young person
The inherent jurisdiction of the High Court
Protection of vulnerable adults
In my preface to the first edition of this important work I ventured a personal opinion about the importance of education, academic collaboration and the use of empirically validated research in family justice: in other words, an appreciation of ‘what works’. I am delighted that over the last 3 years we have witnessed huge strides in our understanding of and support for these elements of a healthy justice system. There is now a greater investment in family justice research, development and education than at any time in my professional life. The benefits of that collaboration are beginning to be seen in the quality of the evidence and submissions we hear in cases, the commentary of professionals in the specialist media and in the leadership that is provided by our judges and professional colleagues. These important advances are reflected in the content of this work. The authors provide a commentary of quality on what we do and they deserve our thanks and grateful attention to the detail of what they have written.

Rt Hon Sir Ernest Ryder, Senior President
June 2017

From the first edition

" 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 produced the second edition for which we hoped. There has been much continuing reform since they first wrote this invaluable book, which means they have had to weave in much new material. The history of reform is brought up-to-date and much new case-law is included.

The second edition is a worthy successor to the First. Again, our authors deserve our thanks and our congratulations.

Sir James Munby
June 2017

From the first edition

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, 37 Park Square Chambers, Leeds


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 placed 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. It has now been fully updated for a review of the situation following the three years since the introduction of the 2014 Act.

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, updated to examine the proposals for increased digital resources to be used in court and online procedures.

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 (LASPO) 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.

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 2014 Act makes attendance at a MIAM compulsory prior to a court application. Chapter 3 examines the use of mediation and explains the process as it now stands in 2017, as well as providing a draft memorandum 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. The newly updated Second Edition includes the impact of the FDAC, settlement conferences, and important projects such as PAUSE which are making valuable solution-based changes to the court 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 courts.

Also considered by the authors is the move towards greater transparency in the family courts and the recent case-law relating to reporting restriction orders, as well as the work of the Transparency Project which continues to provide invaluable resources and explanation of the work of the Family Court.

The final chapter examines the options available to practitioners working with older teenager and care leavers, transitioning towards adulthood. The complex interface with the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the deprivation of liberty issues are also updated and are invaluable for all modern family practitioners.

The appendices to this book include all relevant sections of the 2014 Act, and the main statutory instruments, as well as the most up-to-date court forms where available.

The law is stated as at 5 June 2017.

Sarah Blackmore
Jacqueline Thomas

June 2017

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