In a recent case involving a child and a mother's medical records, the judge made it clear that the court both could not and should not be involved with what he described as "micro-managing". In this case, there was an appeal against an order which should not have been made for the disclosure of five years' worth of a mother's medical records in a case in which it was accepted by both parents that the child would be spending a lot of time with the mother.
The judge went on to say that by January 2021 he expected that there would be double the number of outstanding private law cases than January 2020 in the relevant court. Delays in the court system as a result of the pandemic have obviously been playing a significant part. The judges have an unprecedented case load and cannot provide the public with the legal service they need if their lists are clogged up with unnecessary high conflict private law litigation.
Examples which the judge gave of micro-management were a decision on which junction of the M4 should a child be handed over for contact, or how should contact be arranged to take place on a Sunday afternoon? Parties and their lawyers are enjoined not to bring their private law litigation to the family court unless it is necessary to do so.
The judge concluded that "if you do bring unnecessary cases to this court, you will be criticised, and sanctions may be imposed upon you". This appears to be directed both at parties and lawyers.
What are the alternatives?
1. Mediation, which requires both parties' consent, but can be a quick and cost effective way of resolving disputes.
2. Arbitration is another out of court solution which involves a third party making a decision.
3. Instruct a robust family lawyer who will advise their own client to take a long term view and to consider when concessions should be made, and who will resolutely attempt to have a constructive dialogue with the other party's lawyer.
"Do not bring your private law litigation to the Family court here unless it is genuinely necessary for you to do so."