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Family Justice Report proposes radical change.

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The Report is highly critical of what it describes as "shocking delays" in the way in which the Courts deal with Public Law and Private cases concerning children. Commissioned by the previous Government the Review contains comprehensive proposals for tackling the problems which it has identified in the existing system and it has been welcomed by the Law Society and other interested parties including Resolution. Its principal proposals are designed to take as many cases as possible out of the Court system and to resolve them by other forms of dispute resolution such as Mediation. For those cases which remain in the Court system Norgrove recommends the creation of a unified single Family Court with simpler procedures and more information for parents and children to help them understand the decision making process and how it is likely to affect them. The Report calls for the judiciary to accept greater responsibility for managing cases effectively and reducing the time which they take to pass through the Courts. Under the existing system Public Law cases are taking an average of 61 weeks for a decision to be made which is clearly unacceptable and the Report recommends that this should be reduced to a maximum of six months. Private Law family cases are generally dealt with more quickly but there is still considerable scope to speed up the process thereby reducing the period of uncertainty and stress to a minimum. Resolution, the National Association of Family Law Solicitors, whilst welcoming the reports recommendations, is concerned that any progress could be seriously undermined by the Government's controversial plans to cut family Legal Aid. If, as the Government has proposed, Legal Aid is removed from the vast majority of Family Law cases, many people will have no alternative but to represent themselves and any increase in the number of litigants in person is likely to increase the problem of delay. On the difficult issue of whether both parents should have equal rights to access to a child after separation the final Report has dismissed that idea, saying it could do more harm than good. The Report was concerned to retain a focus entirely on the issue of the welfare of children, rather than on the rights of parents. On a related issue the Report recommends no change in the position of Grandparents who will still need the Court's permission before applying for contact with their grandchildren. Mr Norgrove believes that such permission will be readily granted in appropriate cases but it will enable the Court's to continue to weed out any applications which are vexatious or have no realistic prospect of success. Approximately 90% of divorcing or separating parents manage to resolve any issues concerning their children without recourse to the Court system. The Family Team at Gepp & Sons is well placed to assist anyone who finds themselves in that situation. Our experienced specialist team will provide practical and sensitive advice which in most cases will be sufficient to meet the needs of the family as a whole and of the children in particular. In those cases where disputes prove to be more intractable we will help you to use the Court system in order to achieve the best outcome for you and your children. If you would like our help and advice in resolving any issues concerning your children please contact the Family Team who will be pleased to arrange a free initial consultation please call us on 01245 228106 or email paynes@gepp.co.uk The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.