Family Law Hub

President announces new working groups to help tackle workload pressures and voices concern over well-being of those working in family justice

Thoughts set out in the first View from the Chambers of Sir Andrew McFarlane’s tenure as President of the Family Division.

  • Sir Andrew McFarlane, the President of the Family Division, has published his first View from the President's Chambers, continuing the tradition started by his predecessor Sir James Munby. 

    He has used this first View to express concern over the workload currently in the system and of the pressures faced by those working within the family justice system. 

    To help tackle the workload he has asked three of Family Division judges to convene working groups to better understand the scale of the problem: Mr Justice Keehan will head the Public Law group; Mr Justice Cobb will reconvene the Private Children Law group that oversaw the introduction of Child Arrangement Orders; Mr Justice David Williams will head an Experts group, the availability of which is a serious concern for the President. 

    His suggestion to improve the well-being of those working on family cases is that, for a temporary period while the root causes are tackled,   

    "it is neither necessary nor healthy for the courts and the professionals to attempt to undertake 'business as usual'. For the time being, some corners may have to be cut and some time-limits exceeded; to attempt to do otherwise in a situation where the pressure is sustained, remorseless and relentless, is to risk the burn-out of key and valued individuals in a system which is already sparely manned in terms of lawyers, court staff and judges.  

    Accordingly he is encouraging local family lawyers and DFJ's to set some parameters as to what is and is not sensible or acceptable in terms of working  practices during the next  6  months or more, for example, agreeing: 

    • The earliest time of day when the court can reasonably be expected to sit;
    • The latest time of day when the court can reasonably be expected to sit;
    • The latest  time in the evening, and the earliest time in  the morning, when it is acceptable to send an email to another lawyer in a case or to the court; 
    • Reducing the components to be expected in a 'Position  Statement' to the minimum required (for example simply one side of A4 using bullet points) on the basis that a fuller oral position can be outlined at court if required.  

    He goes on to say 

    As family lawyers and judges it is, for me, a total 'given' that you will go the extra mile for the sake of the child, the parties and the system when this is needed. You will, I am sure, continue to do so. My present purpose is to acknowledge publicly that we are currently in a situation that cannot be accommodated simply by working beyond what can reasonably be expected  every now and again. 

    You can read the full View, that also includes a short update on the Financial Remedies Court pilot scheme, on the Judiciary website

Article, published: 25/01/2019

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Published: 25/01/2019

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