The Family Justice Review has been published today and its full 228 pages can be read http://bit.ly/sSx0IF David Norgrove Chair of the Family Justice Review identifies problems and weaknesses within the current system and recommendations on how to improve matters moving forward.
I have addressed a number of the recommendations relating to the court system and children in part 1 of my blog http://bit.ly/v3OTk9
This blog focuses upon the recommendations for divorce and financial arrangements. The review has recommended a revised divorce process to enable individuals to complete this themselves. It recommends that an “information hub” is established where they will access and “online divorce portal” enabling them to have all of the information they require to complete the application on-line. The system is to be designed to have the necessary built-in checks to prevent the frequent errors that now occur but would be processed by a central court processing centre.
The same grounds and conditions apply as at present but if the acknowledgement of service is returned and doesn’t contest the divorce then a court officer will issue the decree nisi, thus allowing the application for decree absolute to take place in the current timescales. If the ground is contested the application would be transferred to the applicants local court for judicial consideration.
The focus where possible are that all issues in dispute should be considered together whether in mediation or consolidated court hearings. However there is a warning that “care should be taken to avoid extra delay that this may cause particularly in relation to children”
There is a recommendation that the Government should establish a separate review of financial orders to include an examination of the law. This would encourage modern social trends are reflected in law and by the judiciary.
There is concern expressed about the impact of the legal aid reforms which is to be monitored so as to ensure that the supply of properly qualified family lawyers which is vital to the protection of children is not damaged significantly.
Most lawyers will welcome a number of the recommendations that have been made as the Law Society and Resolution have been consulted as part of the review however there remains a significant cost which is detailed within the review that will have to be met to implement the recommendations which during the at the current economic climate may mean that these are delayed.
There are some of the usual re-branding exercises that invariably are recommended with most reviews with the most notable being that “Alternate Dispute Resolution” which most people have got to grips with now and is known as ADR should be changed to “Dispute Resolution Service”. For those of us who enjoy cricket the DRS (Decision Review System) is already in use and it would be dangerous to confuse both.