As we head into the second week of 2024 our director and divorce lawyer Rachel Buckley considers upcoming UK government legislation and consultations and the impact on families who are going through the family law process.
Transparency in the Family Court
Following on from last year’s introduction of measures to increase understanding and scrutiny of the system, a new pilot scheme is set to start on January 29th and includes Cornwall. The fundamental principle of the pilot is that reporters are allowed to report what they see and hear in Court, unless there is good reason to say no.
The Transparency Media Reporting pilot also includes a Financial Remedies Court (FRC) reporting trial. Allowing accredited journalists to report on financial issues arising from divorce and civil partnership dissolution, and child support cases.
The FRC pilot will initially cover three trial courts: the Central Family Court, Birmingham, and Leeds. Certain hearings, like Financial Dispute Resolution, will maintain confidentiality, preserving the privacy of those involved.
Changes to Parental Responsibility in the Victims and Prisoners Bill
In January 2024 the Ministry of Justice’s proposed amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill moves to the next stage. The proposal announced in 2022 proposes to automatically remove parental responsibility for a child from a parent that is convicted of killing the other parent with whom they share that parental responsibility.
The legislation change emerged after the death of Jade Ward, whose partner and father of her child murdered her in 2021. He was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in jail. Since then, Jade’s family have lobbied for a change in the law to automatically remove parental responsibility. The amendment will remove the lengthy process that bereaved relatives have to go through to suspend or remove parental responsibility from the offender to enable them to make decisions on behalf of the child.
The Ministry of Justice have confirmed that there will be exemptions in cases involving domestic abuse.
Possible outline of future financial remedies reform
In 2023 the Law Commission of England and Wales launched a comprehensive review of financial remedy orders. Currently governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and Civil Partnership Act 2004 the review will look at how finances are divided among couples post-divorce or civil partnership dissolution.
Reviewing the effectiveness of current laws and ensure fairness for divorcing couples. The review looks to analyse things like the discretionary powers of judges, assess pension-related orders and review post-divorce financial payments.
The findings are expected in the autumn and may pave the way for significant reforms in future financial remedies legislation.
Rise in Family Court fees
The Ministry for Justice wants to increase revenue generated by the courts to ensure that they remain ‘sufficiently resourced’ and following a consultation it seems court fees are likely to increase by up to 10% in 2024.
The key objectives of the price increase are to keep pace with increased costs, improve service delivery, subsidise the cost of free services, and reduce the overall cost to the taxpayer.
Key 2024 family court fee increases include:
- Application for a divorce, or civil partnership dissolution – fees will rise from £593 to £652
- Application for a parental order – fees will rise from £232 to £255
- Application/permission to apply for adoption – fees will rise from £183 to £201
- Application for a financial order (other than consent order) – fees will rise from £275 to £303.
- Resolving family matters out of court
Alternatives to the Family Court
We’ve always, where suitable, encouraged our clients to find a solution outside of court and last year the UK government carried out a consultation ‘Supporting earlier resolution of private family law arrangements’ to review mediation in family law.
We expect that 2024 could see mandatory mediation for all suitable low-level family court cases (except where there are allegations or a history of domestic abuse). Relieving the pressure on stretched courts and to protect families and children acrimonious long-running court cases.
As 2024 unfolds, we are hopeful that these upcoming changes to UK family law in 2024 will offer more clarity, fairness, and pathways towards amicable resolutions for families navigating challenging times.
Get in touch with The Family Law Company for expert guidance and dedicated support in your family law matters.
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