This article was published on April 23rd, 2014
The new justice reforms have had two major impacts on the current Family Court system which was previously considered to be inefficient and time consuming.
An important outcome from the reforms includes a new 26 week limit on court case decisions in a single Family Court. The process was originally a three tiered court system but this has now been combined into one single Family Court in order to be more efficient. The aim is to speed up decisions which involve children and ensure they are returned to a responsible parent or carer as soon as possible.
There are approximately 270,000 cases each year which involve family issues such as divorce, domestic violence, adoption and local authority intervention. The sheer number of cases involved has meant that often the most vulnerable people involved, the children, are left waiting for court decisions for too long.
Statistics from the Family Justice Review in 2011 found care cases were taking on average 56 weeks! The new reforms will see a 26-week time limit on court proceedings which should still see thorough outcomes being concluded quickly for vulnerable children.
A second outcome from the reforms involves compulsory mediation awareness sessions whereby divorcing couples must use mediation to try and establish clear and productive communication to minimise disruption to families.
Previously mediation was a process couples could choose to use as a complementary process to ease divorce proceedings but they are now compulsory and the reforms aim to help make divorce more respectful and prevent divorcing couples from arguing unnecessarily.
A woman who had recently been through mediation told Daybreak that she found the sessions helped secure an amicable divorce by sitting down with her estranged husband and an impartial referee who had appropriate legal knowledge.
“It just made everything more respectful, kinder and we did not want, or certainly I did not want my divorce to define the rest of my life.
“We just wanted to look after our children, our wider circle of friends and family by having a good divorce and a respectful divorce.”
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