Government Help For Separating Families
The family court reforms outlined by the Ministry of Justice (26 January 2024) in response to the Private Family Law Early Resolution Consultation are welcomed. The focus on early intervention, including early legal advice, will surely help separating families to avoid the conflict and harm that protracted family court proceedings can bring.
- Early legal advice – The Government will introduce a legal advice pilot project to provide separating parents with clarity and reassurance about the options available to them early on and before conflict increases.
- Early access to parenting programmes –There are many valuable parenting programmes available for separating couples to attend, but the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIPs) which a family court judge may direct a couple to attend is only available once family court proceedings are underway. The Government recognises that access to parenting programmes should be made available much earlier in the separation process to ensure that the welfare of children is at the forefront of parents’ minds when they begin their separation journey.
- The development of an online portal which will signpost separating parents to resources and support services which they can access at any point to help them to manage their separation well.
- Improving the information which is made available to separating families through Family Hubs.
The MOJ proposals also introduce a number of other key measures including additional support for mediators to help separating couples to reach agreement away from the family courts, and further powers for family court judges to reduce conflict in the courtroom. The full press release is set out here.
Given the possible change of Government on the horizon, it remains to be seen whether these proposals will be implemented in full but the intention is there to provide much needed support for separating families.