Family Procedure Rules 2010 – The Very Abridged Version

The Family Procedure Rules 2010 – not to be confused with the Family ProceedINGS Rules 1991 (as amended) – are now available for your delectation. I don’t know many lawyers who would relish the prospect of poring over almost 300 pages of SI, so I’ve done it for you. Not entirely selfless, as it’s a task I had to perform for other reasons (I take the view that it wouldn’t do to write a book about Family Courts without understanding the rules), but regardless of that you may send your thanks, congratulations, contributions or insults my way any time.

The new FPR are hailed as a single consolidated set of rules, in contrast to the mishmash of FPR, FP(CA)R and SCR, CCR, CPR that preceded. However the new rules do appear from first reading to rely rather more heavily on Practice Directions for the essentials than has hitherto been the case. Since those PDs have not yet been made available there are some parts of the picture that unfolds below which remain a little blurry. This then is a first sketch, the detail will have to be in-filled later when the PDs are available and when I’ve recovered from the tedium that is part and parcel of a comparison between old and new rules.

I have not summarized every element of the new rules. Many large chunks of the rules are in fact the same rules in more logical order or expressed in less lawyerly style (although I still don’t think the rules will win any Plain English Crystals (mind you I note with only one raised eyebrow that listed as holders of a Crystal are the ‘Legal Services Board’ (sic) and the Child Support Agency – perhaps crystals are not so hard to come by). I have focused (as you may imagine) on those aspects of the rules which represent a departure from the old, but what has struck me about this exercise is how much material I thought at first scan was new, but in fact was already in the rules. (I make this confession with some confidence that it is not just me to whom this will apply – I know none of you know these rules inside out either – that’s what we pay £300 for the Family Court Practice for!) I had assumed for example that, based on the length of the section concerning the representation of children, there was much new material on this topic. In fact the vast bulk of it is already in the rules, rules we have all probably read at some point but which we scarcely ever refer back to. There are many dusty corners of the FPR which many practitioners will not have had cause to peer into regularly – this is an opportunity to (re)familiarize yourself with those aspects of the rules observed mainly in their breach or which are well known as to content but not as to source (who can tell me the rule number which bars the filling of evidence in section 8 applications except by specific direction of the court?). There are more than one of the rules which had me muttering “good idea – why wasn’t that in the rules before? Oh – it was. Guess we just ignored it”.

So, here is my first run at the mini-FPR 2010. Whatever else it may be it’s a damn sight shorter than the full version. Please let me know if there are any errors or idiocies by posting a comment below.

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Research on Litigants in Person

Been meaning to pop a link up to Richard Moorhead’s useful summary of his research on Litigants in Person. In response to the Legal Aid Green Paper, which cites that research, he sets out what the findings were, and the somewhat limited nature of the existing research. Of particular note to readers of this blog will be the final paragraph in which he predicts that the biggest impact of the proposed legal aid cuts insofar as it produces more Litigants in Person and increases the strain on the system will be in the area of family law.

Also of interest is a post on the same blog concerning the stats for family cases in the last 2 years – which in a number of areas show marked decline. My view in a nutshell is that this is a result of many unhappy couples sitting tight during the recession – it has not been a good time to separate and sell the family home and for many divorce and trying to achieve financial independence has simply been too unpalatable. This also probably accounts to some extent for the decline in occupation orders.

Now. Back to the turkey sandwiches.

Round Up

A few oddments observed over the last week or so:

Courtesy of Quinn.anya on flickr

Courtesy of Quinn.anya on flickr

Lord Justice Goldring has raised concerns about the impact of the proposed court closure programme on family justice. A number of magistrates courts which incorporate FPCs are likely to be affected. If family proceedings were consolidated into the County Court before DJs this would present less of a problem.

As previously reported the Lord Chief Justice has used his testimony to the Justice Committee to call for reform of the family justice system. As pointed out by a previous commenter it is unclear whether or not this report represents the entirety of the evidence given by the LCJ to the Commons, and no transcript appears to yet be available on the Committee’s website.

Also busy giving interviews is Justice Minister Ken Clarke (thanks Nearly Legal), probably no longer on iPlayer but still available on podcast as noted in the comments.

But by a mile the most entertaining of all is the pummelling that Anthony Douglas and David Bell of CAFCASS received recently from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee – it is the no holds barred questioning that was particularly a joy to read. I sometimes long to let rip when questioning a particularly tiresome witness, but there are lines beyond which Counsel cannot go in cross exam without being accused of badgering. No such line appears to apply to the Commons – no pussy footing around here: straight for the jugular in the style of PMQs. Sadly I have not had time to read right to the bottom, but when I left the conversation the witnesses were sounding increasingly badgered and could scarcely get a word in edgeways. Continue Reading…