Family Justice Review Welcomed By Specialist

Expert Reviews Interim Report

07.04.2011

The last few days have seen an unusual amount of reform and change in family law but it remains to be seen just what impact it will have on many people, an expert at Irwin Mitchell has suggested.

Published on March 31st, the interim Family Justice Review report by former civil servant David Norgrove revealed proposals for a major shake-up of the system with a view to creating  a service which provides both a unified family court and a single point of entry.

According to Alison Hawes, a Partner who specialises in family law at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, many of the proposals put forward are likely to get a cautious welcome from legal experts in the practice area.

She explained: “One important part of the reforms is the suggestion that Judges should specialise in family law and that there should be judicial continuity when a case becomes before the court. 

“That is to be warmly welcomed, as if a case does go on for a long time, it is scarcely in the clients’ interests to have a different judge each time there is a hearing, as they will need to be brought up to speed with the background to the case. It is also like that someone different who may have another view compared to the previous Judge.”

Alison added that a second major change is amendments being made to the Family Procedure Rules, which include a new protocol stating that couples should be encouraged to consider mediation before considering how to resolve issues which arise during a divorce.

Discussing the change, the specialist explains: “We don’t yet know what the effect will be if that protocol is not followed. 

“Judges have been given the power to adjourn cases for mediation at any point they see fit, and the emphasis will therefore be on parties and their lawyers demonstrating to the court that all other avenues have been tried before resorting to litigation.”

Alison concluded that the most competent family lawyers will be able to offer plenty of advice on this all forms of dispute resolution.

She said: “Any sensible lawyer will advise a client that litigation is uncertain, expensive and very stressful.  In the significant majority of cases a court application is only issued when it is genuinely necessary to protect property urgently, or when all other possibilities have been exhausted. 

“It is not something that anybody should undertake lightly and if a couple when they separate can benefit from mediation, it is a resource that should be taken up.”