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Changes to Family Procedure Rules – what does this mean for you?

It isnt just the seasons which are changing – this month, April 2024, heralds changes to the Family Procedure Rules – a number of which may impact how family cases progress; especially in relation to non-court dispute resolution. This article explores what these changes are, what they could mean for you and how we at Vardags can assist you.

What are the Family Procedure Rules?

The Family Procedure Rules (FPR) governs how legal practitioners and parties to proceedings should behave in court. It is a book of rules which set out the practice and procedure for court cases and is the backbone of proceedings.

What are these changes?

Along with several administrative/formatting changes – the most significant changes introduced by the Practice Direction (PD) Update No.1 of 2024 are in relation to out of court dispute resolution, and the growing focus and emphasis on exploring alternative dispute resolution (ADR) before beginning court proceedings.

These amendments to the FPR come into force on 29 April 2024, and change PD3A, which is in the section of the FPR which addresses one form of ADR – mediation. You can read more about mediation here, as well as the requirement to attend something called a MIAM (or a mediation information and assessment meeting) before the court process begins. There is an existing exemption process – meaning that parties are not required to undergo mediation if a trained mediator deems their case inappropriate (after attending a MIAM), the case involves domestic abuse or there is urgency in the matter.  

The changes are intended to strengthen the role of mediation and are meant to require parties to genuinely explore mediation as an option for dispute resolution, rather than using the wider exemption rules to bypass this and head straight to court. This change to procedure comes hot on the heels of a recent case[1] where the court compelled the parties to engage in alternative dispute resolution (e.g. mediation) before the case could proceed in court. This underlines the fact that there is not only a change in the governing rules of family courts, but also a change in the way judges will conduct cases and applicable law.

What does this mean for you?

The changes will now mean that there is new form which parties will be required to complete setting out their views on engaging with non-court dispute resolution. The amendment provides that the new form must be verified by a statement of truth. While will still be possible to claim an exemption, e.g. due to unsuitability for mediation – there is more of a burden on parties to evidence why this is so.

It may be that, if your case progresses to court – a judge will scrutinise any claim that your case was not appropriate for mediation more closely than before. Courts will be granted further discretion to make these enquiries as to the genuine efforts made by the parties to engage in non-court resolutions.

How can we help?

Whilst we do not offer in-house mediation services, our expert team at Vardags are highly skilled both at advising clients who are undergoing disputes, and advising directly where mediation has failed and/or may not be suitable. We are also able to advise on how to evidence unsuitability under the new rules, and respond to any scrutiny from the court as a result.

We also have a network of highly recommended, trained mediators who can carry out a MIAM quickly and assist you genuinely explore if your issues are suitable for mediation.

Lastly, our team of veteran family lawyers is the best in the country at navigating the complex world of the English Courts to obtain the best outcomes for our clients, even against intensely challenging odds.

If you want to find out more about how we can help you, please contact us on 020 7404 9390.


[1] Re X (Financial Remedy: Non-Court Dispute Resolution) [2024] EWHC 538 (Fam)

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