Thanks to recent legislation we now have a new Family Court designed to put the needs of children at the forefront.
Previously, there were different tiers of courts and you could pick and choose which to use. They tended to have slightly different approaches to the way they dealt with cases. Now, there is a single point of entry and the judiciary are tasked with case management to ensure that no time is wasted in dealing with court cases involving children. That is not to say that we can’t ask for extra time if it is beneficial in any particular set of circumstances, but the overriding view will always be that delay is not a good thing unless proved otherwise.
What this means is that we will all have to work quickly and efficiently to ensure that all the relevant information can be made available to the court so that the judges can make decisions that are both timely and just. That includes making sure that you go to get legal advice sooner rather than later if you have any children related legal issues to deal with in your family. This is especially the case when local authorities are involved in asking the courts to consider the removal of children from the care of their parents into the care of the state.
One of the other big changes is that the courts will now try to help people move away from the idea that there are arguments over “custody and access” – words which have not been used by family lawyers for many years but which are still heard in the media and on TV programmes. Court orders are now to be called Child Arrangement Orders and one single order will be drawn up in each case before the court which is tailor made for the child concerned. It will deal with where the child should live, who should see him as well as when and where and any other issues which parents are not able to agree on. Best advice is to try to find a way of reaching an agreement. But, if you can’t, the court will decide what are the best arrangements for the child. The child will be the at the heart of the court’s consideration – not the parents. The idea is to get parents to realise that the child and his/her needs is the most important person and is not someone stuck in the middle of 2 or more warring parties. It is well worth thinking about the principal of putting the child first before starting a battle!