A new single family court for England and Wales came into being on 22 April 2014, when section 17(3) of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 came into force. The new court deals with all family proceedings, except for a limited number of matters which are reserved to the High Court, and it is able to sit anywhere in England and Wales. It replaces the three-tier court system which had previously existed. The new structure is expected to be more efficient and flexible, simpler for court users to understand and to promote increased judicial continuity in managing cases.
Section 9 (contact post-adoption) and many of the family justice provisions in part 2 of the Children and Families Act 2014 were also brought into force on 22 April. This includes a new requirement for a person who wishes to start certain types of family proceedings to first attend a family mediation information and assessment meeting; a new child arrangements order, replacing residence and contact orders; restrictions on the use of expert evidence in children proceedings; the introduction of a 26-week time limit for completing care and supervision cases; changes to focus the court’s scrutiny of local authority care plans on the long-term plan for the child; and measures to streamline court processes for divorce and dissolution of a civil partnership.
Section 11 of the Act (parental involvement) will come into force in autumn 2014. Section 18 will come into force two months after Royal Assent (which was on 13 March).