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Children and Families Act 2014 gains royal assent

The new Children and Families Act has received royal assent and will introduce changes to the law to give greater protection to vulnerable children, better support for children whose parents are separating, a new system to help children with special educational needs and disabilities, and help for parents to balance work and family life.

The Act also ensures vital changes to the adoption system can be put into practice, meaning more children who need loving homes are placed faster. In addition, reforms for children in care can be implemented including giving them the choice to stay with their foster families until their 21st birthday.

The family justice measures in the Act include:

  • making it a requirement to attend a family mediation, information and assessment meeting to find out about and consider mediation before applying for certain types of court order unless an exemption applies,
  • sending a clear signal to separated parents that courts will take account of the principle that both should continue to be involved in their children’s lives where that is safe and consistent with the child’s welfare,
  • ensuring that expert evidence in family proceedings concerning children is permitted only when necessary to resolve the case justly, taking account of factors including the impact on the welfare of the child, and
  • introducing a maximum 26-week time limit for completing care and supervision proceedings, with the possibility of extending the time limit in a particular case for up to eight weeks at a time, should that be necessary to resolve the proceedings justly.

The majority of the family justice provisions in the Children and Families Act will come into force on 22nd April, at the same time as the launch of the new single family court.

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