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New court system will ‘put children first’

A Lancashire legal expert has revealed that an overhaul of the family court system will do much more to put children first during court proceedings.

The new system sees the former three court system replaced by just a single tier, and an emphasis has been placed on dealing with court cases much faster.

A study into the old system found that care cases were taking an average of 56 weeks, and under the new rules a limit of 26 weeks has been introduced.

Other changes mean that separating couples must at least explore the option of mediation as an alternative to court.

Helen Lucking, partner in the Family team at Napthens solicitors, said: “The court system is at breaking point and has been for some time.

“Worse still, children are the ones that have suffered traditionally, when cases take too long to come to conclusion.

“Under the new rules, a single family court system has been created in the same way as there is one criminal court system. A central judge will allocate cases to the most appropriate figure, for instance a magistrate or District Judge through to the High Court.

“Along with the new 26 week limit on care cases this will mean the system is more effective and sensitive towards children. The old contact and residence orders will also be replaced with child arrangement orders which place more emphasis on the children involved.

“Perhaps the most important element is the compulsory mediation which will encourage separating couples to remain outside the court system. Solicitors should always encourage this anyway, and it is good to see this approach become compulsory.”