There are currently two potentially conflicting developments in the family justice system in England and Wales. First, the introduction of unified courts administration from April 2005 provides the opportunity to establish a Family Court to replace the system of concurrent or triple jurisdiction put in place by the Children Act 1989. The creation of a Family Court was considered in the 1970s and the 1980s but complexity and costs ruled it out, despite public support. The system gave three separate courts (Family Proceedings Courts, County Courts and the High Court) similar jurisdictions in children matters and allowed for case transfer to ensure they were heard with related matters, or at a level reflecting their complexity. Procedures were similar, but separate court rules applied in the FPC. Concurrent jurisdiction was extended to domestic violence proceedings but the FPC was given no powers to deal with property matters. Although concurrent jurisdiction remains, fee structures and loss of confidence in the lay magistracy has led to a sharp decline in the use of the FPC. This chapter considers the new role of family courts and the powers and skills its judges require. Courts now face a diet of difficult family cases, resistant to other forms of resolution, demanding adjudication of specific matters rather than general welfare or equity decisions, which the courts have been used to handling. Although family judges need specific knowledge, the powers and skills required are closer to those of other civil or even criminal judges - and on that basis the case for creating a Family Court diminishes.
|Translated title of the contribution||What is the future for family courts? Developments in England|
|Title of host publication||Family Law: Balancing Interests and Pursuing Priorities|
|Editors||Lynn Wardle, Camille Williams|
|Publisher||William S Hein|
|Pages||585 - 595|
|Number of pages||10|
|Publication status||Published - 2007|