In his 18th View from the President’s Chambers, Sir James Munby outlines his vision to revolutionise the system for financial remedy proceedings, beginning with a new Financial Remedies Court pilot launching early this year. Emily Goddard looks at the new system.
Sir James Munby hopes that a successful launch of dedicated financial remedies courts and an ultimate separation of the divorce administrative process from consequential financial proceedings will improve justice both procedurally and substantively. In particular, he sets out the following aims in respect of each:
- Procedural justice
- Specialist judges to be appointed to the new Financial Remedies Court (FRC)
- Early allocation to the right judge, at the right level and at the right place
- Application and enforcement of standard directions and interim orders
- Substantive justice
- An improved programme of judicial training
- The reporting of judgments of small and medium cases
- Sufficient time allowed for judicial preparation ahead of the final hearing
The FRC model will build upon those introduced by the Family Court system and the Court of Protection. The FRC will be part of the Family Court and will deal with all cases dealt with in the Family Court or Family Division. These will include claims for financial and other relief under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, claims under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, claims under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, and, in due course, claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 and under TOLATA 1996.
The pilot courts will operate separately from the regional divorce centres and there will be a number of regional hubs with a lead judge for each hub area. Hearings will be conducted at the regional hub and at Financial Remedies Hearings Centres across the region, in which only ‘ticketed judges’ will sit. All financial applications should, therefore, be issued at the FRC regional hub and not at the regional divorce centre, as was previous practice.
Proposed changes to the FPR to implement the pilot of this model were placed before the Family Procedure Rule Committee (FPRC) for approval on 6 February 2018. The pilot is expected to commence towards the end of February or in early March this year in London, the West Midlands and South East Wales.
A new Form A will be used for the issue of all financial proceedings in the pilot courts. This will require more information than its predecessor, the intention being that it will allow for early and appropriate allocation. In addition, a new universal Form E will be introduced, which among other amendments abolishes the use of the Form E1 in Schedule 1 children’s claims.
In the coming weeks, therefore, family law practitioners should be aware of:
- the commencement of the FRC pilots in London, the West Midlands and South East Wales;
- the introduction of the new Forms A and E and their use in the pilot courts;
- the requirement to issue financial remedy applications at the FRC hub where applicable, rather than at the divorce unit (for London this is the Central Family Court); and
- (hopefully) a more efficient and streamlined approach to justice.
Matthew Humphries, a partner in the Divorce and Family team in London, commented:
“Since the introduction of regional hubs, which process both divorce and financial applications, significant delays have affected practitioners and litigants in person alike. All eyes will be on this pilot scheme to see whether it can help ease the crippling congestion in the Family Court system.”
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