The Act which comes in to force on 22nd April brings with it a wide range of changes relating to children and families which includes more rigorous plans to tackle delay in adoption system, maximum 26-week time limit on completing cases concerning children taken in to care, changes to the system governing young people living in children homes and foster parents, new legislation extending parental leave beyond parents to adopters and those going through surrogacy arrangements.
Meena Kumari, family Solicitor and accredited Resolution member, commented on the Act stating that there were many changes the top three impacting on private law children cases include :-
- The long awaited presumption that it is in the best interest of the child of separated parents to have continued involvement with both parents in their lives unless they present a risk to the child.
- Change in terminology will no longer mention residence and contact orders, rather child arrangement orders which create equality between separated parents. The arrangements contained within any order will still, however, determine where a child lives and when they will see the other parent.
- Making it a requirement to attend a family mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) before apply to the court for certain orders. To find out more about mediation visit the FamilyFirst Mediation webpage.
The Single Family Court will bring together the functions of the Magistrates Court, County Court and High Court under one uniform umbrella organisation. All locations of family courts will detail with all aspects of family law with the exception of some matters relating to international child related disputes and adults with mental incapacity which will be reserved to the High Court.
All new cases will be started and heard in the Family Court but will be allocated to an appropriate judge by the court staff. All level of judges and magistrates will work alongside each other (as judges of the family court). Each hearing cases on appropriate levels of complexity and issues.