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The new Family Court - as from 22nd April

  • rubytuesday
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19 Apr 14 #430512 by rubytuesday
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The new single Family Court

Family Proceedings Courts will now no longer exist (in name), instead there will be a single (The) Family Court. Magistrates and County Courts will no longer be able to accept family work (Divorce civil partnership dissolution, Ancillary Relief and Child applications). The Family Court has both High Court and county court powers.

Designated Family Centres: these will be your single point of entry into the family justice system. The DFC will be the administrative “hub” for the issue of all family proceedings for the entire single Family Court.

Your application will be handled by a ‘gatekeeping team’ consisting of a Designated Family Judge (DFJ), a justices’ clerk and as many legal advisors and District Judges as are necessary. The gatekeeping team will decide what level of judge should determine your case; this will normally be Magistrates or a District Judge
It will also act as the principal location for hearings. Currently, there is little information available as to where exactly these DFCs will be located around the country, although I understand that they will be housed in courts across the area – a small number of DFCs per region – London will have only three. Once more information is made available, we will update you.

The Principal Registry of the Family Division (Holborn) will no longer act as a divorce court, and will now be part of the High Court, and be based in the Royal Courts of Justice.

A Designated Family Centre (DFC) can transfer proceedings to another DFC. This is a Part18 application.

Who deals with what

The Family Court. This court deals with all cases except:

- cases invoking the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court, whether in relation to children (wardship) or incapacitated or vulnerable adults; and
- international cases involving applications for relief under either the Hague Convention or Brussels IIA.


There are different levels of judiciary depending on the type and complexity of your case:

Magistrates – a ‘bench’ of three lay magistrates known as Justices of the Peace (JPs) preside over these cases with one acting as chairman. Magistrates have no formal legal training and will not generally be familiar with the law; they will however have a clerk sitting with them who will be legally qualified.

Magistrates deal with:
- All applications to initiate children proceedings, other than those in which there is some complexity as listed below;
- Child support proceedings;
- REMO applications
- Financial provision proceedings; (maintenance)
- Declarations of parentage;
- Parental Orders under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008; and
- Proceedings under Council Regulation (EC) No.44/2001 (the Judgments Regulation) and Council Regulation (EC) No. 4/2009 (the Maintenance Regulation).

Magistrates should not hear any case which is estimated to last longer than 3 days.

District Judge – these include District Judges of the Magistrates’ Court and District Judges of the County Court.

District judges deal with:
- Applications to initiate children proceedings in which there is some complexity such as serious allegations, disputed facts, matters of capacity, international cases, leave to remove, intractable cases and those where the child is joined as a party;
- All proceedings regarding divorce, civil partnership dissolutions, nullity, etc.;
- Applications for financial [ancillary] relief where the parties consent to permission being granted and to the substantive order sought;
- Financial resolution under the Married Women''s Property Act 1882; and
- Financial provision for children.


Recorder – these are solicitors and barristers who sit part-time for 3-6 weeks a year. They have the same powers as Circuit Judges.
Circuit Judge – these judges are more senior than District Judges and can hear appeals from them. The ‘circuits’ were replaced by ‘regions’ in 2005.

Circuit judges and recorders deal with:
- Declarations under the Family Law Act 1986 as to marital status, parentage, legitimacy and adoptions effected overseas;
- Orders preventing avoidance of child support; and
- Parental orders under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 where the child''s place of birth is in England and Wales.

High Court Judge – these represent the next level in the judicial hierarchy. They are known as Mr or Mrs Justice X and all are knighted or made dames on appointment.

High Court judges deal with:
- Applications for financial relief where the parties do not consent to permission being granted and to the substantive order sought;
- Parental orders under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 where the child''s place of birth is outside England and Wales.

The High Court. The High Court can hear all cases including those the Family Court cannot hear; its judges have greater powers than those in the Family Court.

Transfer of proceedings may only take place following an order by a High Court judge, Court of Appeal judge or the President of the Family Division. Most cases that need to be heard by a High Court Judge will still be heard in the Family Court.

Transfer of cases is regulated by Rule 29.17 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and by Sections 38 and 39 of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.

The High Court has the power to transfer proceedings either down to the Family Court (s.38 MFPA 1984) or up from the Family Court to itself (s.39 MFPA 1984).

Transfer does not affect any right to appeal or to enforce an order.
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  • LittleMrMike
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21 Apr 14 #430808 by LittleMrMike
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Designated Family Centres - to make this sort of judgment, wouldn''t it be necessary in practice to the parties

(a) To file form E ; and
(b) To give a general outline of what the respective claims are likely to be ?

LMM
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  • PGtips
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23 Apr 14 #431137 by PGtips
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