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In a sign of these unprecedented times, by January 2021, the Family Court expects the number of outstanding cases to have doubled in a year. In light of that, a judge has now warned that sanctions may be imposed where unnecessary private law children’s applications are brought before the Court.
What are private law children’s applications?
In this context, “private law” is used to refer to applications made by individuals about arrangements for children following divorce or separation, as distinct from children cases brought by public bodies such as local authorities.
What did the Judge say?
In giving judgment on appeal, His Honour Judge Wildblood QC took the highly unusual step of giving two judgments. While one deals with the substantive issues in the appeal, the other warns parties and lawyers against making unnecessary private law children applications.
The appeal concerned an application for the disclosure of medical records, which on the facts of the case the Judge did not believe warranted the Court’s involvement, saying “not only is unnecessary litigation wasteful, it clogs up lists that are already over-filled – in terms of the overriding objective, it amounts to an inappropriate use of limited court resources.”
He went on to say:
“Judges at this court have an unprecedented amount of work. We wish to provide members of the public with the legal service that they deserve and need. However, if our lists are clogged up with this type of unnecessary, high conflict private law litigation, we will not be able to do so.”
As to what those who fail to heed his warning can expect, he said:
“Therefore, the message in this judgment to parties and lawyers is this, as far as I am concerned. Do not bring your private law litigation to the Family court here unless it is genuinely necessary for you to do so. You should settle your differences (or those of your clients) away from court, except where that is not possible. If you do bring unnecessary cases to this court, you will be criticised, and sanctions may be imposed upon you. There are many other ways to settle disagreements, such as mediation.”
All of the specialist lawyers in BLB’s Family team are members of Resolution (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association). As such we are committed to adopting a constructive, as opposed to confrontational, approach to resolving matters and will give you clear, tailored advice based on your particular circumstances.