With the enactment of the Children and Families Act 2014, all family matters are now dealt with by a unified Family Court, with the exception of a limited number of matters expressly reserved to the High Court of Justice.
Having a Family Court simplifies matters as any application will be issued to the Family Court unless the matter is already before the High Court in which case it may be possible to apply directly to the High Court. This is an issue that will be best addressed by speaking with a family law solicitors. Lay magistrates and all levels of judges will be able to sit in the Family Court. A case will be allocated to the appropriate level within the Family Court for determination. It is possible for the issue of allocation to be addressed before the court if it is considered that the case has been allocated at the correct level.
The Family Court is convened to decide matters and to make orders in relation to family law. The Family Court will deal with matters such as divorce, annulments, property settlements, maintenance payments, contact and residence disputes, issues surrounding paternity and parental responsibility, surrogacy, child abuse, child abductions just to list a few.
The aim of the Family Court is to provide court users with effective access to justice. It will also aim to improve the efficiency of the justice system as a whole and to allow magistrates, legal advisers and the judiciary to work together more closely.
The Family Court can issue any Court order which was previously available under the old judicial structure (magistrates, county court etc.)
As the Family Court is a national court, it may hear cases anywhere in England and Wales and it is possible for it to sit in any county or magistrates court buildings. However, in practice, it will sit where in the Courts where family cases were already heard.