Warnings from a judge to family lawyers that bringing unnecessary divorce cases to court

Prior warnings from a judge to family lawyers that bringing unnecessary divorce cases to court have become increasingly pertinent, following Family Procedure Rule changes.

Solicitors firm, Family Law Partners, said that the recent modifications to family law procedures, effective from 29th April, are designed to ease burdens on courts, families, and financial resources, particularly given the increased court demands in the aftermath of Covid.

Outlined below are the key highlights of the revisions to family law procedures:

  • Encouragement for attending a mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM) before court application.
  • Clearer definitions of non-court dispute resolution (NCDR) options.
  • Requirement for proof of attempts at NCDR or justification for court proceedings.
  • Increased court scrutiny of MIAM attendance and case suitability for NCDR.
  • Consideration of conduct when deciding legal costs based on NCDR attempts.

Judge Wildblood QC’s remarks in the case of Re B (a child) serve as a crucial reminder to family lawyers to prioritise resolving issues through mediation rather than defaulting to court proceedings, saying:

You should settle your differences away from court, except where that is not possible. If you do bring unnecessary cases to this court, you will be criticised, and sanctions may be imposed upon you.”

Gemma Hope, Solicitor at Family Law Partners, says “To be clear, looking at alternatives to court is not just about alleviating the pressure on the courts. It’s about reducing the level of animosity that can be caused by separation or divorce. It’s about saving families time and costs as well as finding outcomes for separated families that are long-lasting. It’s about finding the right tool for the job. The court can be a blunt instrument.”

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