Family Law Update (by Tanya Bland, Costs Assessor at Law Costing Ltd)

On the 31st July, Mr. Justice Ryder published his final report on family justice.

The report made recommendations which could be implemented within the next 2 years.

The recommendations include the introduction of a Single Family Court in the form of local Court Centres which will be managed by Family Judges.

HMCTS will continue with new case management system in the Family Courts that tracks every public law case issued which will replace the current system in use.

The report also recommends the development of new schemes to assist litigants in person in private law cases as legal aid funding will be withdrawn.

Public funding will remain for public cases – law and supervision order cases.

The reforms will be introduced in two phases by the end of 2014. The first phase will put in place the structures, leaderships and principals. Phase two, 2013 to 2014, will include judicial training, implementation of the “Children & Families Bill” and there will be rule and practice direction changes relating to the use of experts and a timetable track that will presume non-exceptional cases to be completed within 26 weeks.

On 25th July, The Supreme Court Decision in T (Children) 2012 UKSC 36 reaffirmed the general practice of not awarding costs against a party, including a local authority, in the absence of reprehensible behaviour or an unreasonable stance by the party. This case is the first occasion upon which a local authority has been ordered to pay costs in public law proceedings in the absence of any criticism of its conduct.