I make this announcement with the authority of the President (of the Family Division).
On 18 January 2022, Mostyn J, the judge then in charge of Standard Family Orders (“SFOs”), announced a wide ranging review of the SFOs. I continued the review after succeeding him on 26 April 2022. HHJ Hess was appointed to lead the review of the financial remedy SFOs, with the assistance of Amy Kisser and Nicholas Allen KC. HHJ Moradifar was appointed to lead the review of the children SFOs, with the assistance of Steven Howard, Nastassia Hylton, Edward Bennett and Alexander Laing. I am enormously grateful to them all for their immense work in undertaking this exercise.
I am also grateful to Melissa Chapman of Class Legal who carried out a complete overview of formatting and layout. Class Legal produce an online package of the SFOs, which is free to access for any member of the judiciary (full time or part time) with an ejudiciary account; they can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
As part of the review process, Mostyn J announced a consultation period. A full list of those who responded is attached at Appendix A. It includes judges, barristers, solicitors and various organisations.
The significant volume of responses, combined with the detailed consideration given to the SFOs by the Standard Orders Group, has led to a number of revisions. In part, they reflect changes in law, practice and procedure. In part, they have been amended to achieve internal consistency and clarity of phraseology. Formatting and stylistic improvements have also been made.
As before, the SFOs do not have the status of “forms” under FPR Part 5. The default position is that they should be used, but parties and the court are permitted to adapt them to such extent as may be appropriate.
Among the main changes to the SFOs are:
- The orders contain directions supporting the Statement on the Efficient Conduct of Financial Remedy proceedings in the Financial Remedies Court Below High Court Judge level.
- The orders give a greater steer for the commissioning of SJE experts rather than sole experts, and for their reports to be considered by the court without personal attendance at the hearing.
- The orders accommodate directions relevant to remote hearings and the guidance on electronic bundles.
- The financial orders include additional undertakings such as (i) not applying for decree absolute/final decree until 28 days after the making of a financial order (relevant for the making of a pension sharing order); (ii) removal of Land Registry notices; and (iii) obtaining a Get.
- The orders incorporate the provisions of the Divorce and Dissolution Act 2020, incorporating the new terminology for divorces – conditional order and final order in place of decree nisi and decree absolute – although retaining both options for the time being while this change takes effect.
- The orders incorporate the provisions of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, including prohibition against cross examination provisions, and the appointment of a Qualified Legal Representative.
- The financial orders include draft costs orders updated to reflect changes in practice and guidance on costs.
- The financial orders include draft directions and substantive orders on pensions updated to reflect changes in practice and guidance in this area.
- The financial orders include a free-standing draft order to accommodate the Accelerated First Appointment procedure.
- The orders include a Permission to Appeal directions order.
- The orders incorporate the changes to law and practice brought by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
- The orders incorporate the new required forms for cases involving committal applications.
- The orders incorporate, among other updates, an updated Deprivation of Liberty order, an updated standalone Port Alert order, reference to the “Planning Together for Children Course” instead of the “Separated Parents Information Programme”, and the correct contact details for any disclosure request to NHS England.
- The orders incorporate bespoke headings for the Family Court and the Family Division.
- The children orders reduce significantly the use of recitals. In general, recitals now appear at the end of children orders, giving greater prominence to the body and substance of the orders.
- Warning notices have been updated and made consistent.
- In the children orders, there are separate orders for different stages of public law and private law proceedings, all of which have been made more streamlined.
I attach the updated House Rules which reflect the changes made.
I anticipate that a further, albeit much more limited, review of the SFOs will be undertaken during 2024 once the orders are bedded in and users have experience of them in practice. The Standard Orders group is conscious that, although the intention has always been to provide a comprehensive set of orders to which any user can reach, some of the orders are lengthy and can be time consuming for a judge to draft in a case where both parties are unrepresented. This particularly applies to private law children cases and Family Law Act injunctions. A judge with a busy list of such hearings may be required to draft several orders during the court day. The Standard Orders Group is investigating ways in which this task can be made more streamlined and quicker for judges.
Respondents to consultation:
Our Family Wizard
News Media Association
Media Lawyers Association
The Official Solicitor
Association of District Judges
Peterborough City Council
High Court Cafcass
Office of the President of the Family Division
HM Tipstaff Office
Family Justice Council Experts Group
Claire Athis Schofield
International Family Law Group
DJ Peter Hatvany
DDJ Tim Melville-Walker
HHJ Eleanor Owens
DDJ Graham Campbell
HHJ Richard Robinson
DDJ Rachael Oakes
DJ (now CJ) Beth Japheth
HHJ Richard Clarke
DJ Joanna Geddes
DJ Kevin Harper