Final revised PLO and the New Single Family Court are on schedule for April 2014…..

From the 22nd April 2014 the Family Justice System will see the implementation of the final version of the revised PLO in public law cases (PLO 2014), the creation of the new single Family Court, and the implementation of the Child Arrangements Programme (CAP 2014) in private law cases.

The PLO 2014
Work is almost completed on the amendment to the current Pilot PLO and the supporting rules. One of the PLO’s main aims is to reduce delays in care proceedings and other identified problems in the family justice system which include, delays in the appointment of guardians, underfunding, and ineffective inter-agency co-operation.

The Single Family Court

The single Family Court will be a national Court for all family proceedings in England and Wales. Family cases will no longer be heard by the County Court or the Family Proceedings Court, and will instead be heard by the Family Court.

In this respect, the Family Court will be similar to the Crown Court, which is also a national court that sits at many locations in England and Wales. The Family Court will be able to sit anywhere. In reality though, it will usually sit at the County Courts and Magistrates Courts where family work is already currently heard.

Child Arrangements Programme (CAP) 2014
The aim of the CAP is to act as a ‘one-stop shop’ to explain the entire process in a clear and accessible way, recognising that this area of dispute is used by very large numbers of people who have had no legal training representing themselves because for one reason or another they could not seek legal representation through a Solicitor or Barrister.

There has been a recent case of significance in relation to the practice in public law cases. This case involved Care proceedings where the father of a child, aged 3, had been charged with the murder of the child’s mother. There was criticism made by the judge of the parties’ in respect of their failure to comply with court directions and guidance given as to the linked care proceedings and coexisting criminal proceedings. This case is significant because it identifies the duty on family and indeed criminal practitioners to comply with Court Orders and Directions given by courts. Mr Justice Keenhan made the following comments below:

A Local Authority v DG and others [2014] EWHC 63 (Fam)

“The conduct of the parties in this matter and the wholesale failure to comply with case management directions is lamentable. Family practitioners must wake up to the fact that, whatever the difficulties presented by public funding issues and/or the pressure of work, the court will no longer tolerate the failure of parties to comply timeously with court orders. Those failures simply lead to unacceptable delays in the proceedings which are wholly inimical to the welfare of the children involved”.