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Spring Budget: what it means for Family law

Posted on 7 March 2024

As part of the 2024 Spring Budget Jeremy Hunt has announced a commitment of £170 million to deliver a "justice system fit for the modern era". £55 million of this has been allocated to the Family Courts to offer "online targeted guidance and earlier legal advice, shortening wait times and supporting families through non-court dispute resolution".

Following the Government's conclusion not to implement compulsory mediation in family law proceedings (after its earlier consultation on the topic in the summer of 2023), the Government instead announced plans to introduce a 'legal advice pilot'. These plans have now come to fruition in the Spring 2024 budget in the form of the 'Early Legal Advice Pilot'. This scheme will see £12 million of the overall sum allocated to the Family Courts by the budget invested in expanding the scope of Legal Aid to encompass early legal advice in private family law proceedings for parties considering an application to the Court for child arrangements.

Likewise, the Government has published plans to introduce a 'One Stop Shop', a 'new online information and guidance tool' which will aim to encourage earlier resolution of family disputes and promote the use of non-court remedies by educating families on the various options available to them. It is hoped by many in the Family Justice system that this will help parties develop a clear understanding of the approach of courts and the various routes to settlement they can take, thus improving the chances of successful mediation.

While the announcement that the Government will extend Legal Aid to support early legal advice in private law children cases is to be welcomed, it remains to be seen whether this relatively limited Legal Aid provision, alongside a raft of self-help focussed educational resources, will have a tangible positive effect on court waiting times and the Family Justice system as a whole.

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