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Headlines, deadlines, outlines (but not hemlines)

The revised Public Law Outline was published last week, and I hadn’t yet blogged about it.

You can find it here

Lucy Reed over at Pink Tape has also blogged about it, and you can read her bit here:-


There’s some jaunty young fellow-me-lad writing about it for Family Law Week, which you can find here,  though without as much ‘snark’ as suesspiciousminds would apply to it.

I go back to one of my earliest ever blog posts, quoting the German military strategist Helmut Von Molke

“No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy”

and we will have a much better idea in the autumn (or more accurately, by the end of next spring, when all these 26 week cases OUGHT to be concluding) how it operates when moved from the field of theory into practice.


[And just to save me having to do a whole separate blog post, because I wanted to tell everyone how much I love THIS picture, which shows Mick Jagger at the very height of his rock-God powers, enjoying the cricket AND carrying a pint of bitter  (in a dimpled glass no less) . I don’t think I have seen a picture that quite makes me feel so utterly English as this one]

Mick gets some satisfaction



“On the twelfth day of proceedings, my true love sent to me…”

 A purposeful and robust CMC

Or that is the plan in the imminent revised Public Law Outline anyway.

Let’s have a look, day by day, at what that might mean for the beleaguered parents solicitor.

On the first day of proceedings, my true love sent to me….

A notice from the Local Authority (don’t worry, they aren’t all going to rhyme)

I shall  assume that the notice is served on a Monday, marking day one of the proceedings, and the client promptly reacts to that by wanting an appointment with a solicitor, and they are able to get one that same day. Luckily, the solicitors diary has been freed up by the helpful LASPO changes, hurrah.

Day twelve is therefore a week on Friday.

That will, as we now know, be the CMC. Under the revised Family Procedure Rules 2010 and assorted Practice Directions, if a party seeks an expert assessment, they have to lodge a draft order and the raft of information with the Court not less than 2 working days prior to the CMC.

If you haven’t done that by the time of the CMC, it is very very unlikely that you’ll be getting an expert assessment.

So, by day 10 (the Wednesday of the second week), the parent’s solicitor needs to have drafted that order, got all of the information, and lodged that with the Court. Let us assume that the solicitor has no time out of the office and is able to draft all of that documentation ON THE VERY SAME DAY THEY GET THE INFO FROM THE EXPERTS

{This may not actually be realistic, I am looking at a counsel of perfection here, as if that needs saying}

Thus, the expert needs to have responded to all of the requests for information by Day 10. How long do we think we should give them to do that? Well, we’ve got a weekend at days 6 and 7, so it probably means the solicitor needs to send the expert the request by day 5. That gives the expert the grand total of three working days to complete all that information.

Our fantastically dedicated and efficient solicitor (and their fast-typing assistant)  sends the request for information out on the very same day that they draft the request, and they will do it all by email, because post would make this utterly impossible – that therefore means that the solicitor needs to have everything in place to know what expert they want, what questions are to be asked, by day 5 (which is probably the day after the first hearing).

So no prospect of getting any disclosure in, and you will know where the child is placed in the interim, and what the Guardian’s view of the case is for a whole day before making those strategic long-term decisions about expert assessments.

Day 1 Monday papers received – client comes in with all of them promptly

Day 2 Tuesday

Day 3 Wednesday Day

4 Thursday The first hearing, probably

Day 5 Friday The solicitor needs to identify what expert assessment might be required, formulate some questions, find some suitable experts and send off the request for information as required by the Practice Direction

Day 6 Saturday

Day 7 Sunday

Day 8 Monday

Day 9 Tuesday

Day 10 Wednesday Expert responds to the request for information, solicitor completes and lodges draft LOI, draft order and all the requirements under the Practice Direction

Day 11 Thursday

Day 12 Friday CMC

Oh, and you probably have to write your client’s statement too in that period. Luckily, as you can see, there are a full 5 working days where you are doing nothing whatsoever but twiddling your thumbs. [Apart from, you know, reading the papers, taking instructions, giving advice, contesting an ICO, preparing arguments as to why there should be an assessment, and looking after any other client you happen to have]

We are lucky on this plan that the care proceedings are issued on a Monday, as we only lose two days to weekends. If the proceedings are issued on a Friday, we lose four days to weekends. Heaven help any issued just before a bank holiday weekend.

I think if I were an expert, I wouldn’t be putting down any deposit on a new conservatory or a holiday cottage in the South of France, I suspect with that sort of timetable, instructions might well be drying up a bit.