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News

03 July 2024
Changes to the Family Procedure Rules

Changes have recently been made to the Family Procedure Rules (FPR) to promote NCDR (Non-Court Dispute Resolution) as an alternative to court resolution.

Over recent years the family law courts have struggled to deal with the volume of cases coming before them resulting in long delays and many cancellations which add more tension and stress to an already emotive time.

This has already resulted in many couples participating in alternative dispute resolution over the last few years which can provide a speedier resolution for them.

 

While the new procedures do not enforce NCDR on the parties involved the court  actively encourages it and parties will be required to demonstrate that they have considered NCDR by filing a form with the court (prior to lodging an application) detailing their consideration or giving their reasons for not doing so. The Court may take any reluctance into consideration when applying cost orders. Couples are also expected to continue to consider NCDR throughout the matter and failure to reasonably negotiate can result in cost penalties.

The new procedures give the court the power to adjourn the court proceedings for NCDR even if this has not been requested by the parties. 

There is now an onus on mediators to provide information on NCDR options at a Mediation and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Remote attendance is also now possible to reduce reasons for non-attendance.

However, it is important to note that there are exemptions to these new rules, e.g. Domestic or Financial Abuse. Also, NCDR will not be suitable for every couple, particularly where financial issues or children matters are concerned. 

There are a number of alternative dispute resolution options available to use including:

  • mediation,
  • arbitration,
  • evaluation by a neutral third party
  • collaborative law

Our experienced lawyers at Spectrum Family Law can discuss all options with you including the costs associated with each at the start of your matter and as it progresses. In all family law matters it is essential to seek early legal advice.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: 'The updated rules provide an opportunity for parties to explore all the options, including non-court dispute resolution, in resolving their dispute out of court when attending a [MIAM]. We are also pleased that the changes to the rules will retain the protections afforded to victims of domestic abuse and vulnerable parties, ensuring they do not need to engage in any form of non-court dispute resolution.'

The use of NCDR where possible will allow the courts to concentrate their involvement where they are most required and thus reduce the delays associated with the courts.

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