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Bar Council and FLBA urge care on family justice reforms

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The Bar Council and Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) have urged the Government to take a considered and practical approach to reforming family law and not to rush to legislate, as it published its response to the Family Justice Review.

Commenting on particular areas of the Government’s response, Nicholas Cusworth QC, Chairman of the FLBA, said:

“There are parts of the Government’s response, which we welcome, such as strengthening the Court’s enforcement rules, for which we have called for some time. Current rules are piecemeal and ineffective, and a cohesive approach to revising them would be a positive step.

“However, there are a number of elements of the Government’s response where question marks remain. On shared parenthood, we agree with the Family Justice Review’s finding that, learning lessons from the Australian experience, legislating on this issue risks creating the perception that there is a right to substantially shared or equal time, for both parents. It is already widely understood and applied by the courts that children benefit from having a relationship with both parents and legislation would be unnecessary and may do more harm than good. The Government must consider this with the greatest of care.

“The Government continues to place great emphasis on mediation. Mediation in private law cases is supported and encouraged, but there will always remain a significant minority of cases that do have to go to court. The extent to which the size of that minority diminishes after the introduction of compulsory mediation is not yet clear. Particularly given the likely increase in the numbers of litigants in person anticipated when the LASPO Bill becomes law, there may be very little reduction (if any) in the numbers of private law cases requiring court intervention.”

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