WALES/ENGLAND – Key features of the single family court explained in Joint Statement

Family Law Week

Possible models of allocation of London care cases set out

The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, and the HMCTS London region have released a joint statement in respect of the single Family Court.

England and Wales will continue to be divided into geographical areas judicially led and managed by the Designated Family Judge (subject as at present to the Family Division Liaison Judge and the President of the Family Division).

In the sense in which it is used here the single Family Court (for which the proposed statutory title is ‘the family court’) refers to the fact that, within the area for which the Designated Family Judge is responsible, the overarching principle will be that all the locations at which hearings take place will be managed and operated as a single family court. There will no longer be ‘care centres’ and ‘family hearing centres’. The three key features of the local single Family Court are that:

(1) There will be one central location – the Designated Family Centre – where the Designated Family Judge will be based and which will be the principal location at which hearings take place. There may be one or more Hearing Centres attached to the Designated Family Centre at which hearings can also take place.
(2) There will be a ‘single point of entry’, located at the Designated Family Centre, for the issue of process for the entire local single Family Court.
(3) There will be a centralised and unified administration, principally based at the Designated Family Centre, for the entire local single Family Court. The key elements of this will be:

(a) a centralised ‘back office’;
(b) a centralised ‘gate-keeping and allocation team’ consisting of a legal adviser (justices’ clerk) and a District Judge: every new case will on receipt be allocated by the team (i) to the appropriate level of judge (judge for this purpose including Magistrate) and (ii) to the appropriate Hearing Centre if the case is not to be heard at the Designated Family Centre;
(c) centralised listing: a single listing system covering all judges and all cases, whether listed at the Designated Family Centre or at a Hearing Centre.

The statement sets out possible models for the organisation of care proceedings within the London region. The current volume of London care cases (based on Cafcass statistics) is shown by court within the statement.

 For the full text of the joint statement please click here.



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