Changes to family law puts children first

Some of the most significant changes to family law in decades came into force on April 22. The Children and Families Act will affect around 270,000 family law cases a year.

The reform follows a review carried out in 2011 which found that vulnerable children were having their ‘futures undermined’ by excessive delays, with care and supervision cases taking an average of 56 weeks.

Now, major changes have been made to improve the operation of the Family Justice System, they can be summarised as follows:

  •  A new single family court has been established which merges the previous Family Proceedings Court, County Court and High Court into one single family court.  (save that the High Court will still be able to hear certain types of complex family cases)


  •  All parties who want to make an application for a private children law order or for financial remedies will now need to attend family mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAM) before making their application to court. If at least one party is eligible for legal aid to cover the funding of a MIAM then the Legal Aid Agency will agree to cover the cost of both parties MIAM’s.


  •  A new type of order called a Child Arrangements Order will replace both residence and contact orders. These will concentrate more on meeting the needs of the children and less on parental rights over the children. This will determine who the child will reside with and who the child shall spend time with.


  • There will be a strict 26 week time limit for care proceedings.


The changes will encourage separating couples to remain outside the court system which should keep families from experiencing negative effects of court battles. If a case is required to go to court, the delays in procedures will now be limited.


Mediation is something solicitors at WHN have always encouraged as it puts more emphasis on negotiating as opposed to going to battle stations. It is therefore much more beneficial for the couples and children involved.


For further information on any aspect of family law, contact Tanya Magell on 01254 272640 or email