Family Law Committee Report

Claire Darley

Committee Chair

This year more than ever we have found the Committee has provided a much-needed support network for those working on the Committee.

We have shared notes on practice and procedure and have found, the West Midlands Family Law Bar Association Website, a particularly helpful source of information!

“The Road Ahead” by Sir Andrew McFarlane has been a must-read and “go to” document of the year.

We started the year, last year, with Judge Thomas’ “Wellbeing Protocol”. On this theme we organised an event last autumn, with Mark Cooper, Barrister at law, (who has been part of the court’s Covid-Plan Group), Lawcare and the lead finance judge at Birmingham Family Court, His Honour Judge Rowland.

We have covered the topic of case management, which has been an ongoing theme at committee meetings. A particular example, is the Consultation paper, prepared by District Judge McCabe. This relates to how the Financial Remedy Court will operate when social distancing measures are reduced.

The consensus of the Committee was that hearings should be attended where possible,(when measures are reduced). The exception may be hearings which are administrative in nature – such as First Directions Appointments in finance cases.

We have considered there may be a need for court hearings to be attended, for formality and solemnity to be restored, because there was some anecdotal evidence that this may not always be the case when hearings take place remotely. Our thoughts in general,were that remote hearings should be the exception, rather than the rule.

The greater time that Practitioners have been spending to organise remote hearings, to ensure the smooth running of court hearings, may not be sustainable.

Ahead of the departure of Family Law from EU Law on New Year’s Eve, we held an event towards the end of the year, with local and London-based barristers, which approached the subject in a light-hearted way, which was very well received.

We are planning a “Meet the Committee Event” in the autumn. The purpose is to engage with BLS members/family practitioners. The principle aims are to further our Equality Diversity and Inclusion plan and our “mission statement” to ensure we are inclusive to all. We wish to engage with members and non-members and in particular the younger practitioners to ensure our future.