In April 2014 a new Family Court is scheduled to come into existence. Two preliminary points:
Firstly, the writer does not (necessarily) hold the same view as any of those who feature in what follows.
Secondly, any similarity between the meeting referred to below and those which take place in the programmes “2012” and “W1A” is purely deliberate.
A meeting of the Family Law Think Tank was attended by a senior politician, Lord Welwyn Tentioned (LWT), a senior civil servant, Ben Herebefore (BH), and a strategy advisor, Ivor Nidea (IN).
IN: Lord Welwyn, I have a three-dimensional plan which will transform the provision of Family justice in the UK.
BH: Oh dear.
LWT: Good man, we need a bit of initiative. What have you come up with?
IN: Well, at the moment, people attending court on Family cases might have their case dealt with by lay magistrates, a District Judge of the Family Proceedings Court, a District Judge of the County Court, a District Judge of the Principal Registry of the Family Division, a Circuit Judge in the County Court, a High Court Judge, etc. etc. This can be very confusing.
LWT: I quite agree. What have you thought of?
IN: From now on we should have just one type of Judge for Family cases, a new type of Judge called a Family Court Judge.
BH: And where would you get these Family Court Judges from.
IN: Well, they would be lay magistrates, a District Judge of the Family Proceedings Court, a District Judge of the County Court, a District Judge of the Principal Registry of the Family Division, a Circuit Judge in the Cou…….
BH: So in other words, the same as under the current arrangement.
IN: Ah yes, but that brings us to the second dimension.
LWT: Splendid. Tell us more.
IN: Well, at the moment people attending court on Family cases might have to attend a Family Proceedings Court, a County Court, the Principal Registry building on High Holborn, the High Court in the Strand, etc etc. This can be very confusing.
LWT: Absolutely spot on old chap. What have you thought of?
IN: Family cases will now be dealt with in just one court, a brand new Family Court.
LWT: How very exciting.
BH: And where exactly would this Family Court be?
IN: All over the country. In Family Proceedings Court buildings, County Court buildings, the Principal Registry building on High Holborn, the High Court in the Strand….
BH: So in other words, the same as under the current arrangement, just with a new name.
LWT: Oh come on, Herebefore, give the chap a bit of encouragement. This is a brilliant plan. Another gin perhaps?
IN: Thank you My Lord. In fact there will be changes other than just the name. For example, we will have new premises in East and West London, although there may be a slight delay in East London due to problems with the Landlord. And then there is my third dimension.
BH: I can hardly wait.
IN: House Rules.
BH: I beg your pardon?
IN: We will create uniformity of approach across all branches of the Family Court, so that all of our consumers feel part of one big…..er…….family. We will set out requirements of terminology, grammatical modality, permitted use of capital letters, the prohibition of dates with ordinal possessives, the use of the metric system to define distances up to 1,000 metres. We will specify what symbols are to be used for different currencies and, most importantly, we will require the use of Times New Roman font, 12 pt, with single spacing and the use of justification.
LWT: My goodness, you seem to have thought of everything Ivor. Jolly well done.
BH: I am sure that people involved in the stress and distress of court proceedings relating to their family will find it most reassuring and comforting to see that papers they receive from the court will all be nicely printed, albeit several weeks overdue. When is it intended that these plans should take effect?
IN: 22 April 2014.
BH: Ah. Three weeks late then.
BH: You might think that but I could not possibly comment.
A new dawn, or plus ça change? We shall see.
Marcus Price heads the Family and Divorce team at Thompson Smith and Puxon (TSP). For a free initial consultation contact Marcus on 01206 217073 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let TSP help you understand exactly what your options are.