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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Monday 9 March 2020

New Procedural Rules For Family Cases

Here we go with some important changes for family cases (such as divorces, financial remedy applications and applications relating to children). Give thanks to the Family Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2020 SI 2020/135 and amendments to certain practice directions which will be published before 13 March 2020.

As from 6 April 2020, writing to the court on the sly will generally be taboo. As with civil cases, anything written to the court by a party to family proceedings of substance or about procedure,  must be copied to the other party or their representatives and state on its face that this is being done.  The only exceptions will be a compelling reason for non-disclosure provided it is explained and communications that are purely routine, uncontentious and administrative.

From the same date, there's confirmation that no use may be made in court of unofficial recording equipment without permission.  And clarification that apart from the parties, generally, anyone who seeks a transcript of a hearing requires permission and the money to pay for it. The court will also empowered to assist a litigant in person by directing the compilation and sharing of another party’s note of the proceedings.

As from 6 July 2020, parties to applications for financial remedies in the course of  matrimonial proceedings will have to comply with strict rules aimed at getting faster settlements and keeping costs under control. Each party must send to the court and the other party an open proposal for settlement after any financial dispute resolution appointment has failed to procure a settlement and usually within 21 days of that appointment.

Also from 6 July 2020, there is a toughening of the procedure for telling the court and the other side how much each party has so far spent on the case. These costs estimates will need to be sent to the court and the other side no later than one day before every hearing in a financial case (and a copy taken along to the court for the hearing), be verified by a statement of truth in the form which will be specified in the practice direction and there will be a special one for litigants in person. And, where the party has a solicitor, they must discuss the estimate  with the client  (although there is no obligation on the solicitor to have a bottle of smelling salts available in case the client passes out with shock).

You'll find lots and lots about financial cases and how to handle them in my book Breaking Law.