Act of Sederunt (Ordinary Cause Rules 1993 Amendment) (Case Management of Defended Family and Civil Partnership Actions) 2022

Oct 03, 2022

New rules have been developed by the Family Law Committee of the Scottish Civil Justice Council for defended Family and Civil Partnership cases in the sheriff court.  

The FLC undertook extensive research to identify areas for improvement, particularly on preventing undue delay in proceedings relating to the welfare of children. The Act of Sederunt amends Chapters 33 and 33A of the Ordinary Cause Rules 1993 and was approved by the Council in April 2022. The new rules will commence on 25 September 2023.

 The changes introduced by the new rules include:

• Chapters 9 and 10 will no longer apply to family actions with the provisions being accommodated within the new Chapters 33 and 33A instead. The current Chapter 33AA has been removed and relevant provisions incorporated into the new chapter. This is simpler and provides procedural clarity for family cases. The case management provisions will apply to all family and civil partnerships actions and it is anticipates that greater judicial case management will result in cases being resolved more quickly. 

• Options hearings have been replaced with an initial case management hearing and a full case management hearing has been introduced. These hearings have a checklist and parties will be expected to advise the court about to each matter. This is intended to ensure the important issues are clearly focussed upon so that cases can be resolved more quickly and reduce system churn with fewer continuations.

• The Sheriff has discretion to combine the initial case management hearing with a Child Welfare Hearing where they deem it appropriate in order to reduce the number of court hearings in a case.

• The rules have been updated to require that the Form F9 is lodged regardless of whether or not the pursuer seeks orders under Section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 .

• Sists will be until a specific date, with the court interlocutor specifying the reason for and the length of the sist. The provision also requires a review of sist hearing not later than 30 days after the expiration of the sist.

• A list of witnesses should include a summary of the evidence that each witness is to give. This will allow the sheriff to ascertain what evidence is to be given and if necessary request experts to confer, exchange opinions, and prepare a note on what can be agreed and the reasons for their disagreements. The rule implements recommendation 121 of the Scottish Civil Courts Review.

• Rules on mediation have been expanded to include all family actions, not just those seeking orders under section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.  There are exceptions in relation to cases with allegations of domestic abuse. The rule implements recommendation 77 of the Scottish Civil Courts Review.

• New rules in relation to judicial continuity have been introduced in order to partially implement recommendation 50 of the Scottish Civil Courts Review.

In developing the rules, efforts have been made to achieve better consistency in practice between the civil courts and where possible, to modernise the language to improve accessibility and ease of understanding.


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