the family court

Going through a divorce, or separation, is one of the most stressful activities that you can possibly undertake.

Changes to mediation from 22/4/2014 : the family court

The courtroom

It can be a very difficult thing for clients to attend legal proceedings. Mediation is by far the best way to go about a disagreement between parents, or guardians, as to the way in which children under their care should be brought up, and how arrangements should be made between parents.

Without mediation, parents often find that they get involved in legal battles which can involve very high costs and can also involve them in disputes that inevitably harm children.

Under changes that are underway since 22nd April 2014, under the new family law legislation, there will now be a single family court which will enable you to consider your problems in a more friendly, less adversarial, manner.

However, we would still advise that you try mediation first. Indeed, under new legislation this will be mandatory and so you will have to have, at least attempted, the mediation route.

The Family court

There will, under the new arrangements, be a single family court which will be the one stop shop for legal proceedings involving families.

Some cases will still have to proceed to higher courts, for example if a case involves a dispute in international law, but it is expected that most legal cases will reach only the single family court.

It is possible that other courts can be made into family courts for proceedings where there is no nearby family court in the vicinity, or for other reasons.

A family friendly approach

Although less family friendly than mediation, the single family court is designed with the needs of families, and particularly children, in mind.

Each single family court has a family centre which will be arranged so that families feel comfortable, and where they may seek additional advice and guidance on the proceedings.

The family court will also have a judge, or magistrate, who is specially allocated to deal with family legal issues. This legal figure will have specific knowledge of, and experience with, dealing with family cases.

This will reduce some of the tension which families, and children in particular, can feel when dealing with legal proceedings.

The family court will also offer legal advice, and will be able to restrict cases which come before it. This is an attempt to encourage couples to try mediation services, before going to a family court.

In most cases, it will be a magistrate that listens to proceedings concerning children. In all cases, magistrates are expected to give a reason for arriving at a particular decision.

Moreover, magistrates will be expected to produce their own, independent, reasons for a decision. They can not make use of pre-prepared statements which have actually been produced for them in advance by one of the parties involved in the dispute.

What is most important for magistrates is that they can prove that they have met the major requirements of the Children’s Act when they are arriving at their decisions.

This means that they must be fully prepared to give a full account of their reasons.


When it comes to a dispute involving children, mediation is by far the most favourable route. Indeed, most courts, including single family courts, will not hear from parents (or guardians) until they have tried mediation first.

However, if things do come to court, then the single family court, with these new regulations, is an excellent forum to discuss problems. The court is designed with the interests of children in mind.

Contact us for Family Mediation – 03300 101 354

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