What is Practice Direction 36Q and how does it affect child arrangements in Devon?
Owing to increasing pressure on judicial and CAFCASS resources, and building on recommendations made by the President of the Family Divisions Working Private Law Group, a new process has been implemented to deal with private law applications made to the Family Court in Devon.
What is the new child arrangements process for Devon?
The new process means that cases such as applications for Child Arrangements Orders to determine where children live and how and when they spend time with the other parent are now dealt with slightly differently.
The aim is for applications to be dealt with more efficiently and effectively through the introduction of early triage and case management of cases between the issue of the application and the first hearing. As a result of Covid-19, the courts have become under increased pressure and it was important the steps were put in place to address this.
Effectively the changes mean that Private Law cases are now triaged, so that the first court hearing (First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointments – FHDRA) is often dealt with as a paper hearing and not attended by any party. There also appears to be a stricter approach taken towards the provision of MIAM certificates, which are the certificates that parties need to obtain before an application can be issued.
How might the changes affect you?
The need to triage has led to some existing applications moving to the new procedure and court hearings being vacated, leading to frustration for some parties.
It remains to be seen as to whether or not the changes do have the intended impact or whether they might prolong proceedings, given that many first court hearings will take place without parties in attendance and without representatives.
There may need to be more careful preparation for first appointments, to ensure that there is clarity regarding the issues for determination that might not always be clear from the outset.
If you are unsure about Practice Direction 36Q and need any help or advice, please do get in touch with us.