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The Supreme Court London - Family Procedure Rules Article

On 29th April 2024, an update to the Family Procedure Rules (FPR) came into effect. Helen Davies, Senior Associate in Family Law explains Family Procedure Rules and their role in Domestic Abuse Cases.

What are the Family Procedure Rules and what does the update entail?

The Family Procedure rules were established in 2010 and, in layman’s terms, are effectively a ‘how to’ guide for anyone using the court system, setting out procedures and protocols which Courts, family solicitors and families are required to follow.

The aim of the most recent update is to try and keep cases out of court and encourage settlement at an early stage. There is now a greater expectation that families will engage with non-court dispute resolution (formerly known as “Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR”) to resolve financial matters and arrangements for children.

The changes include a new, wider definition of Non-Court Dispute Resolution. Previously, the focus was on mediation, but the definition has now been widened to include not only mediation but also “….arbitration, evaluation by a neutral third party (such as a private FDR process) and collaborative law”.

Meditators will be required to explain to parties the full range of non-court dispute resolution options at the first meeting and advise as to what option may be best suited to try resolve disputes outside of the Court arena.

Parties will also now need to set out their views on engaging with non-court dispute resolution options in writing. A failure to engage with non-court dispute resolution without good reason, could result in cost orders being made against the non-co-operating party within financial proceedings.

Courts will also have the power to adjourn proceedings during natural intervals in the case if the Judge believes that non-court dispute resolution could be appropriate and allowing time for the couple to engage. By doing this, it ensures Judges continue to question if alternative methods should be attempted throughout the life of a case and there is already seemingly judicial enthusiasm for these changes coming from the higher courts.

It is hoped that these changes will support the wellbeing of children and families, by encouraging settlement via less contentious and damaging routes. This will hopefully result in less emotional and financial cost to families whilst also reducing the burden on the family court.


What do this mean for cases where Domestic Abuse is an issue?

There had previously been a consultation on whether mediation should be made mandatory, but those proposals faced much opposition and ultimately were abandoned in January 2024.

As such, although the changes to the Family Procedure Rules have seen a move away from the term “domestic violence” to be consistent with the updated terminology of the Domestic Abuse Act, domestic abuse remains a meaningful exemption to the requirement to consider mediation meaning that the protections afforded to victims of domestic abuse and other vulnerable parties have been preserved.

Where domestic abuse is or has been a factor, parties can be exempted from trying mediation and can advance straight to court proceedings meaning a victim couldn’t be forced to try negotiating with their abuser directly.

Domestic abuse doesn’t automatically prevent parties considering/attempting some form of non-court dispute resolution, however, should a party wish to try and avoid litigation, but it would be important to understand the options, how they might work in practice and whether it can work for in the individual circumstances.

Here at DTM Legal we have a wealth of experience in dealing with all aspects of Family Law. If you need any family law advice, then please contact one of our Family Team by calling 01244 354835 or email Helen Davies at If you have other concerns relating to family law, visit our Family Law page or Domestic Abuse page for more information on our services.

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