‘Living in Interesting Times’ – Thoughts on a Recent Speech by Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division

At the 2019 Resolution Conference Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division delivered the Key Note Address.

I chose a career in law because of the fact that the law is always evolving and adapting and it is an exciting time to be a Family Law practitioner. It is hoped that the changes that are made will benefit all those involved in family proceedings, which are often very difficult times in their lives.

Sir Andrew discussed the interesting times that we are currently living in, and whilst there was a mention of Brexit, he was referring to specifically Family Law and the changes that are being developed and which will have a major impact on during the next 12 months.

The President also discussed Brexit, the increasing caseload in Family Courts, telephone hearings, shorter court orders, the Court Reform Programme and Financial Remedies Court.

Increased Caseloads in Family Court
Whilst private law children applications initially reduced following the legal aid changes, they have since been increasing steadily. Typically, however there is at least one party acting as a litigant in person and this can put more pressure on the Court and the breakdown in Court orders.

Telephone Hearings
It is proposed that many without notice hearings can be undertaken either by video link or over the telephone. The President confirmed that he intends to encourage all judges to consider the use of telephone hearings in without notice family cases, and it will be interesting to see how this develops going forward.

The Court Reform Programme
This is an ambitious programme to make the Courts paperless.

Litigants in person are now able to issue divorce petitions online and there is also a pilot scheme for solicitors to issue online divorces also.

In Birmingham, the Financial Remedies Court Pilot was launched over one year ago and is now being extended. At Greens we are very familiar with issuing Financial Remedy applications in this new Court, and the requirements to file documents on line.

The ultimate aim is to make family proceedings simpler so that parties can resolve matters without long drawn out and protracted proceedings which can only be a good thing.