President calls for sweeping reforms of the family law justice system
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court, the most senior family law judge in England and Wales has spoken at the Legal Wales Conference about his desire to see ‘radical’ reform he believes is necessary to counter the negative effects caused by the cuts to Legal Aid in recent years. He has once again questioned how much judicial input is needed in the divorce process, having previously suggested the idea in the spring.
“Reform is desperately needed – has been desperately needed for at least 40 years. Thus far governments have failed to act. Reform is inevitable. It is inconceivable that society will not right this injustice in due course.”
Divorce and Children
Munby once again suggested that it was high time for the concept of fault to be removed from the divorce process and for irretrievable breakdown to be the sole basis on which a marriage is legally brought to an end.
Of the new Child Arrangements Programme he said “The concept of the courts’ continuing monitoring and review function following the substantive hearing – the legacy of ideas rooted in old wardship practice – will in large measure become a thing of the past”.
Munby also mirrored the view put forward by his colleague Sir Nicholas Mostyn earlier in the week that cohabitants’ financial rights on separation were sorely lacking in comparison to those of married people.
It remains to be seen whether any reforms will be made to the family justice systems but it seems likely given Munby’s reputation as a moderniser. He has presided over two of the most fundamental changes in recent years: the introduction of the Child Arrangements Programme which revamped the old ideas of contact and residence and enshrined in law ideas such as parental involvement, and the recent change to the Single Family Court by which the system is streamlined and differences between the process and remedies in difference courts eliminated.
The Child Arrangements Programme came into use in April 2014 and replaces contact and residence order with a single Child Arrangements Order regulating who a child should live with and who they should spend time with. The Programme puts a strong emphasis on mediation and avoiding court if possible.
If you have any questions about how the Child Arrangements Programme affects you, speak to one of our family law solicitors by calling 0800 222 9500.