Blunt Instrument

17 Feb

The other day I attended Court to retimetable a care case because an expert advised a further assessment was needed. There had been some delay in acting on the advice and the Issues Resolution Hearing (“IRH”) would have to be shifted and the 26 weeks exceeded. At Court the Local Authority, perhaps anticipating judicial criticism, revised the time needed for its final evidence and the IRH and 26 weeks were retained. The Judge commented that she wished all the cases in the list were as straightforward as ours but that it was a shame we had all come to Court when a consent Order could have been filed. The retort that her list would be very dull if her wish were fulfilled produced a wry smile.

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Family Breakup

The other day I attended Court to retimetable a care case because an expert advised a further assessment was needed. There had been some delay in acting on the advice and the Issues Resolution Hearing (“IRH”) would have to be shifted and the 26 weeks exceeded. At Court the Local Authority, perhaps anticipating judicial criticism, revised the time needed for its final evidence and the IRH and 26 weeks were retained. The Judge commented that she wished all the cases in the list were as straightforward as ours but that it was a shame we had all come to Court when a consent Order could have been filed. The retort that her list would be very dull if her wish were fulfilled produced a wry smile.

    Attending Court is indeed an expensive process but with all the insistence that expert reports have been overused in the past and are permitted far less than they used to be, and that cases should be expedited as if on a conveyor belt despite the lack of resources applied to judicial availability, it is perhaps not surprising that practitioners anticipate judicial resistance to any attempts to change timetables. It seems that the days of Family lawyers discussing the welfare of the child outside Court have been replaced by analysing whether the correct form has been accurately completed and trying to guess what we have done wrong this time.

    Things do seem to be relaxing somewhat and it appears that the frighteners applied when the new rules were introduced were deliberately so and we have all duly taken note. Common sense and the welfare of the child are still the guiding principles, at least as applied by our local judiciary, whatever the government have in store for us to come.

    On the same theme, I note from the CAFCASS website that Separated Parents’ Information Programs are only available by Court order. While I appreciate that they do not want people on the courses until the safeguarding checks have been completed, it seems an expensive and blunt instrument if an application has to be made where all that the parent wants is for the other parent to be educated in the strategies necessary for co-parenting when separated. Does anyone know whether this facility can be provided otherwise?

Hugh Merry

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