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On 22nd April, a new Court dealing with family cases came into operation in England and Wales.

Created by the Crime and Courts Act 2013, the single Family Court replaces the old system which involved family cases being dealt with by three separate Courts.

There are over 250,000 new family cases each year which deal with issues such as divorce, domestic violence and adoption.  In 2011, a review found that care and supervision cases were taking an average of one year to be dealt with, causing the futures of vulnerable children to be undermined.

Under the new system, care cases will normally be dealt with within six months.

In addition, there are changes to the way in which children are dealt with in family cases, with terms such as “residence” and “contact” being abolished, as such terms were thought to focus on the rights of parents rather than on the needs of children.

Further changes will involve separating couples being compelled to attend mediation before taking disputes to Court, limits upon the expert evidence that can be used in cases involving children and Justice’s clerks and assistants being authorised to assist all Judges across the new Family Court.

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