Significant amendments are being brought into force on 29/04/2024 which impact the Family Procedure Rules (FPR), which are the rules that govern the procedures used in family law in England & Wales.

One change is in relation to broadening the wording used in court forms from domestic violence to domestic abuse and to further broaden some of the evidence which can be accepted to show domestic abuse has taken place, aligning with the provisions of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

However, perhaps the most significant change is in relation to how cases are managed both before any court proceedings are issued and ongoing case management by the court. The rules will now provide for parties and the judges in a case to consider whether non-court dispute resolution (NCDR) is appropriate to deal with a dispute rather than the court process. These changes impact not just cases issued after 29/04/2024 but will also impact on cases currently before the court.

At the outset of the case there is intended to be more judicial scrutiny of applications, including considering where parties have sought an exemption from mediation whether that exemption is appropriate. This can be at both urgent applications and the first hearing and if the Court is unsatisfied they can refer the matter back for the parties to attend NCDR.

Judges will expect parties to keep NCDR under review throughout the course of a case and may indeed delay making certain directions including listing of hearings to allow parties to attempt NCDR.

Parties will now be required to file and serve with the court and on all parties a form, Form FM5, expressing their views on NCDR.

The amendments also include a change to FPR 28.3(7) to allow a court to depart from the more usual “no order as to costs” provision, if a party has failed to engage with NCDR without good reason. At present there is no indication of what may be considered good reason but this may be clarified in due course.

Ultimately the courts and judges are keen to reduce the number of cases that are dealt with within the court arena, especially as there are significant backlogs and delays. Parties need to consider carefully at all stages of a case whether an alternative to court may be appropriate.

There are numerous options to consider dealing with a case outside of court. To find out more about these options and consider what may be right for you, contact our Family Law department.


How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819