New Family Court is coming very soon / Child Arrangements Orders

The Unified Family Court comes into operation on 22 April 2014

The basic idea is for the Family Court to be an amalgamation of the Family Proceedings Court and the County Court. This will provide for hopefully better administration for family justice and cases being managed in a more fluid and hopefully speedier way.

There are a number of other changes coming into force on 22 April 2014 as well.

Residence and Contact Orders

As I outlined in previous postings, 22 April 2014 will also see the abandonment of Residence Orders and Contact Orders.

Instead of Residence Orders and Contact Orders, we will have Child Arrangement Orders. My own view is that this is a good thing, as this will encourage parents to focus upon the needs of their children and less upon their disputes with each other.

As a Specialist Solicitor, a Mediator, and as a parent, I know that it is the practicalities that matter.

Residence Orders and Joint Residence Orders like there predecessors, the Custody Order and Joint Custody Order, encouraged parents to think about their position against the other, rather than focusing on achieving the best arrangements for their children.

By way of example, I have had couples in mediation, where one of the parents has who have wanted to talk about 50/50 care.

But 50/50 of what?

Are we dividing up the total hours in the week, so each has half each?

Are we dividing up the waking hours? If so, how do we deal with the sleeping hours? Do sleeping hours carry the same importance as waking hours?

If weekend and holiday time is more valuable than how do you factor this in? How do you deal with holidays?

Should non-pupil days with the children schools to be factored in as additional holiday days or weekend days or do they fall in such a way as to be an inconvenience?

If you try hard enough, if you express an Defined Contact Arrangement as a Court Order, you can end up with a Court Order or arrangement that is so complicated it becomes unenforceable

Parents need to be able to rebuild a workable relationship

The best arrangements are ones where the parents are able to renegotiate their relationship and are able to show flexibility around a basic child focused plan.

What makes these type of arrangements work are rebuilt trust and good communication. These are things that can rarely be achieved through court proceedings.

The Child Arrangements Programme 2014

Fortunately, also coming into force on 22 April 2014 along with the new family court is the introduction of the new child arrangements program.

The Child Arrangements Programme will make it compulsory for those wishing to make an application to the court (unless in an emergency) to have a meeting with a mediator before their application can be submitted. This is excellent because mediation is a extremely valuable tool to enable parents to re-negotiate their relationships and to rebuild trust with each other.

One of the tragedy tragedies of the last year has been the pressure upon family mediation services as a result of the legal aid changes brought into effect in April 2013 through the legal aid sentencing and punishment of offenders act, lovingly or rather, unlovingly known as LASPO

legal aid is still available for family mediation in a way that it is not for general family law. Unfortunately, the problem that I and many mediators have encountered is the situation where one of the parents wishes to mediate and the other does not. The situation where one of the parents qualifies for legal aid for mediation and the other does not. Sadly, without the support of good legal advice. Parents can find it difficult to imagine that mediation really can make a difference. Having’s witnessed the benefits of mediation at first hand. I can certainly say that it does. I would urge anyone who is not sure to look at the mediation pages on this website and then to give me a call to arrange a meeting.

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