Family Law: A Look Back at the Key Moments of 2023
In this blog, with the year drawing to a close, FLiP Senior Associate Kara Swift looks back at some of the key moments in family law in 2023.
- Transparency Pilot launched in January.
The Transparency Implementation Group Reporting Pilot launched in Cardiff, Leeds and Carlisle allowing accredited media and legal bloggers to report on what they see and hear during family courts subject to certain anonymity rules.
- Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Act) Act came into force in February.
The minimum age of marriage and civil partnership was raised to 18 years.
- March announced the extension of the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme.
The scheme providing separating couples with vouchers worth up to £500 to help resolve their disputes through mediation following COVID-19 was extended to April 2025 and backed by an additional £15million in funding. This month also saw mediation being considered in the publication of the Ministry of Justice Consultation ‘Supporting earlier resolution of private family law arrangements’ and the Family Procedure Rule Committee consultation paper seeking views on proposed amendments to the Rules. You can read more about the family mediation voucher scheme here.
- April marked the ‘opening of HFEA Register’ in the UK.
From 1 April 2023 the first children conceived by egg, sperm and/or embryo donation in UK clinics were able to apply for information about their donors and request contact (following the law change on 1 April 2005).
- May brought in new House Rules and Standard Family Orders.
Following Mr Justice Peel’s continuation of the review of the Standard Family Orders, he released an Advisory Notice with the new House Rules and revisions to the standard orders designed to support the Statement on the Efficient Conduct of Financial Remedy proceedings in the Financial Remedies Court Below High Court Judge level.
- The Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act 2023 received Royal Assent in June.
The end of June saw legislation allowing the Child Maintenance Service to intervene in cases where abuse is evident, using its powers to collect and make payments ensuring victims of domestic abuse can receive child maintenance without contact from their abuser. Read more about this here.
- Finance (No. 2) Act 2023 received Royal Assent in July.
The Spring Finance Bill 2023 was enacted enabling separating spouses or civil partners to make no gain/no loss transfers between them as part of a formal divorce agreement for up to three years after the year they cease to live together.
- August celebrated National Surrogacy Week.
Following the Law Commission of England and Wales publishing a joint report with the Scottish Law Commission on 29 March 2023 the focus of this year’s campaign was surrogacy stories and what the proposed legal reform means going forwards. Read more about the proposed reform here.
- September announced the Quarterly Family Court Statistics.
The new no fault divorce legislation came into effect from 6 April 2022. The quarterly statistics for April to June 2023 were published on 28 September 2023 and provided a comparison of divorce applications under the new legislation one year on. Divorce applications for that quarter were down 30% on April to June 2022 when the new law came into effect and 95% of divorce applications are now done digitally.
- Online Safety Act received Royal Assent in October.
This legislation is the first of its kind in the world with the hope that it will lead the way for others who are looking to follow. It places a legal responsibility upon the industry, predominantly social media companies, to keep children, young people and adults safe online.
- Launch of the Online Procedure Rules Committee in November.
The Online Procedure Rules Committee launched to support the introduction of a single point of entry for any type of tribunal issues. The Committee will consider governance and developing data standards to enable disputes to be funneled through one point of entry, with options for dispute resolution and the end point (if they haven’t been diverted) to enter the digital family justice system.
- The Family Justice Council Annual Debate in December highlights 2023’s theme of cohabitation reform.
Following the Government’s disappointing response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s report on the rights of cohabiting partners in 2022, there has been a continued focus on this issue throughout 2023 culminating in Sir Andrew McFarlane, the President of the Family Division and Chair of the Family Justice Council chairing a panel discussion on the topic at the 16th Annual Debate.
You can find out more about the proposed cohabitation reform here.
Kara Swift is a Senior Associate at Family Law in Partnership. She advises on all aspects of private family law, supporting a wide range of married and unmarried clients following separation to resolve matters relating to their children, finances and property rights with diligence and care. Kara was named both Family Law Young Solicitor of the Year 2019 in the prestigious LexisNexis Family Law Awards, and a Rising Star family lawyer by the Legal 500 UK 2023.