Matthew Richardson summarises some of the key practical developments in private client family law in 2018
Some key developments in private client family law have been seen in 2018, including updates to key forms and precedents, so for the return to work after the Summer holidays here is a quick non-exhaustive list of some of the notable updates from 2018, along with links for downloads and further information.
1. Template orders for family finance, children cases, and beyond
The outgoing President, Sir James Munby, published a wide range of precedent family orders in the time leading up to his stepping aside in July, such that he has left a veritable encyclopaedia of precedents that are now an essential resource for practitioners. Covering family finance, children matters, and beyond, they can be found here:
Finance order templates download link: here
Last updated: May 2018
Children and other orders templates download link: here
Last updated: June 2018
2. Family forms
Forms A and A1 were updated and took effect from 4 June 2018. Stuart Clark at The International Family Law Group helpfully summarises what has been changed here, and the forms themselves are linked below:
Some other key forms also updated this year (non-exhaustive list) were:
• Form D50C (application on ground of failure to provide reasonable maintenance) which is here
• EX50 Civil and Family Court Fees form (main family fees), which is here
• Form FM1 (MIAM form) which is here
• Form B (application to consider the financial position of the respondent), which is here
• Form C100 (s.8 Children Act 1989 application) is here
3. Court modernisation – family law applications online
Various updates to Practice Direction 36 have come into force in 2018. The full list of matters covered by PD 36 can be seen here. Arguably of most interest to family practitioners are the following:
PD 36E (from 16 January 2018) piloted the making of online applications for a decree of divorce, and from May 2018 it was made available to litigants in person. Testing of the online system is now starting for the legal profession with a small number of firms involved in a staged process that will eventually encompass the entire sequence from petition to decree absolute being applied for online. It is expected that this will be more widely available from the Autumn.
PD 36G (from 26 March 2018) is a pilot scheme for online applications under s.8 Children Act 1989.
PD 36I (from 6 August 2018) is the new online filing procedure pilot for certain financial remedy matters
4. Court modernisation – specialist family finance courts
The specialist Financial Remedies Court pilot was initiated in the West Midlands (in part) centred at Birmingham and the former President announced in July 2018 that following the ‘success’ in Birmingham it will be expanded to other regions, namely:
• East Midlands, centred at Nottingham.
• The whole of the West Midlands (including but not limited to the part in the initial pilot).
• Cheshire and Merseyside, centred at Liverpool (the extension of the pilot to Cheshire and Merseyside will enable the locally developed financial remedy protocol to be placed on a more formal footing and enhanced).
• North-east (1), centred at Sheffield.
• North-east (2), centred at Leeds.
• North-east (3), centred at Newcastle.
• London, centred at the CFC.
• South-east Wales, centred at Newport.
• South-west Wales, centred at Swansea.
According to the announcement, dates and sequence are not yet confirmed but the next to adopt will likely be Nottingham, London and Newport. The announcement from the President can be read in full here.
5. Guidelines for practitioners
In April the Family Justice Council updated its guidance on ‘Financial Needs’ on divorce to a 2nd edition. An already vital part of the family finance lawyer’s toolkit just got better. It’s hard to recommend this highly enough. Find it here.
The Pension Advisory Group’s remarkable work analysing and summarising the key issues around pensions on divorce is ongoing, and in April 2018 they published their interim reports. Read more here.
6. New President
Sir Andrew McFarlane (note it’s ‘Mc’ not ‘Mac’) took over from Sir James Munby as President of the Family Division in July 2018. The Judiciary’s announcement is here.
7. LASPO – feedback
The devastating effects of LASPO continue to blight families and professionals interacting with the justice system in England and Wales. Much is being done to feed into the review of the impact and there are numerous places to provide input. It is to be hoped, following the damning criticism of the government’s ‘consultation’ on criminal legal aid cuts in The Law Society, R v The Lord Chancellor (find it summarised here and the judgment here), that our feedback will actually be taken into account on this occasion. A vital way for us to speak out, one can provide feedback via Resolution here or via the Bar Council here or via the Government’s own website here.
No 2018 updates post would be complete without mentioning GDPR, and there are very useful starting points for family solicitors via The Law Society’s website here and for family barristers via the Bar Council’s GDPR ‘Toolkit’ accessed here.
9. For more details
For more detailed summaries covering developments across family finance law in 2018 the team at Mills & Reeve continue to provide their excellent monthly updates at Family Law Week. The 2018 catalogue to date is linked below: