“Hello, can you hear me?” – video-witnessing of wills to be made legal in England and Wales
The Government’s review of family justice, chaired by David Norgrave, is published today. The findings are far-reaching and cover the breadth of the family law/justice services. There is a predictable emphasis on the role and benefits of mediation as a way of resolving disputes following the breakdown of family relations. A new online ‘divorce information hub’ is proposed to enable couples to access information and court processes quickly and directly. In children cases, references to ‘contact’ and ‘residence’, which are seen as polarising, are to be replaced by ‘parenting agreements’ designed to encourage parents to agree and record arrangements for their children without judicial interference. Controversially, the proposals do not include the provision of ‘equal rights’ for parents (something campaigners for father’s rights will doubtless challenge) and similarly, an automatic right for grandparents to have contact with their grandchildren does not feature. In addition the report recommends strict court deadlines for dealing with cases involving children in care so as to deal with the current “shocking delays” in the family courts. Given the pressure that this will undoubtedly place on an already over-burdened court system it is unsurprising that the thrust of the reforms is to steer divorcing couples and disputing parents away from the courts by offering them alternative ways to resolve conflict.
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