Family Court Improvements Proposed

Top Judge prepared a number of recommendations concerning the increase of efficiency of family courts.

Mr Justice Ryder, who is supported by the Lord Chief Justice, proposed some changes, which could possibly help to improve outcomes and increase the case procession speed. Currently cases such as divorce, custody or abuse are often dealt with too slowly, as too much time is taken until the final decision is made. The idea proposed is that there can be placed a cap of 26 weeks for dealing with the case and its conclusion.

Another change featured in the recommendations is a single family court to be dealing with the cases. currently many cases are being sent from one court to another and often being handled by a variety of judges and magistrates , who might not have enough contact with each other.

It should improve the communications, as a single building would house all family courts (wherever possible), and judges and magistrates will be able to easily communicate with each other, as well as with the case holders. This will lead to a faster outcome and smooth case handling. In addition,  establishment of family court support centres is also proposed. This will serve to provide legal and administrative help to people, in terms of linking between courts for example.

Another important part of the changes suggested features a great attention to the children involved in family law cases. The proposal suggest measures to help children better understand what is happening and why certain decisions are being made by the court. Also, the changes proposed focus on children`s view and opinions, as often they are the ones affected by the decisions the most.

The report includes a portion of criticism over the appearance of expert witnesses in cases, where this is not so necessary, “Experts are misused and over-used,”he says. Limiting their usage is one of the points, which will respectively lead  to more training and guidance for the judges.

Mr Justice Ryder explained his recommendations, by saying: “The judicial modernisation programme is a plan which is designed to ensure that there is a robust framework in place to give effect to both the judiciary’s proposals and legislative change”.

The changes are expected to be applied in two phases. The first phase will take place by the end of 2013 and it will put in place structures and “leadership and management principles”. During the second phase in 2013-2014 judges will be trained and prepared for the Children and Family Bill, which will probably deal with the idea for 26 week cap for all family law cases.