The Single Family Court – What is it, and how does it affect me?


On April 22nd, the same day as some major Family Law justice provisions came into force, the biggest change, and the one you will have heard most about is the Single Family Court.  But what is the Single Family Court, and will it affect you?

The Single Family Court is now the go-to Court for all Family related matters, amalgamating the present three-tier system of High Court, County Court and the Magistrates Court.  Whilst the High Court will still hear some exclusive matters, the Magistrates Court and the County Court will no longer have jurisdiction to handle Family related matters – such as Divorce applications, Financial Remedy proceedings and Children cases.  Instead, all applications will now be made to the Single Family Court, and this in theory will make things simpler, and hopefully quicker.

As opposed to some of our neighbours across Europe, the Single Family Court will not be situated in one solitary building; instead it will be a ‘national court’ which can sit anywhere.  In practice what this means is that it will sit in the current County and Magistrates Courts that currently exist, and which will in most cases be renamed to include ‘Family Court’  to indicate that they have been designated to deal with such matters.

The most striking change perhaps is that the new Family Courts will now offer all levels of judicial personnel, from lay magistrates and justices’ clerks, all the way up to senior High Court judges.  Applications made to the Single Family Court will be allocated by the ‘gatekeeping team’ to a specific level of judge, and it is anticipated that this ‘gatekeeping’ will allow cases to be dealt with quicker and more efficiently, providing court users with effective access to justice.

In terms of children cases specifically, more stringent time deadlines have been added which should ensure these cases are dealt with in a much more expeditious manner.

Time as ever will tell how and if these sweeping changes will clear the backlog of paperwork which perennially sat in the old Court system.  This new system certainly proposes much more fluidity, especially with the opportunity to move cases between different levels of judicial seniority.

For more information about the Single Family Court, or assistance and guidance with any Family Law related matters.  Please contact Ian Davies, at our Oxford Summertown Office, on 01865 514348, or by email

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