Family Law Practice Direction: Court Bundles

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With Practice Direction 27A – Family Proceedings: Court Bundles recently revised and coming into effect on 23 July 2018, Trinity Chambers’ family law specialists outline the three key changes this Practice Direction has introduced, including on page limits for certain types of documents and its application to electronic bundles.

The revised Practice Direction 27A — Family Proceedings: Court Bundles (Universal Practice to be applied in the High Court and the Family Court) came into effect on 23 July 2018 and introduced three key changes:

1. Page limits for certain types of documents
2. Further requirements for bundles of authorities
3. The inclusion of various provisions confirming that PD27A applies to electronic bundles

Page limits

In a letter to local practitioners, HHJ Roberts, DFJ for Essex and Suffolk, drew particular attention to paragraph 5.2A, which introduced page limits to certain documents. Paragraph 5.2A.1 reads:

“Unless the court has specifically directed otherwise, being satisfied that such direction is necessary to enable the proceedings to be disposed of justly, and subject to paragraph 5.2A.2 below, any of the following documents included in the bundle shall be limited to no more than the number of sheets of A4 paper and sides of text specified below:”

Case summary – 6

Statement of issues – 2

Position statement – 3

Chronology – 10

Skeleton argument – 20

List of essential reading – 1

Witness statement or affidavit (exclusive of exhibits) – 25

Expert’s or other reports – 40 (including executive summary at the beginning of no more than 4 pages)

Care plan – 10 

Bundles of authorities

The relevant paragraphs in respect of bundles of authorities are as follows:

4.3A.1

Copies of all authorities relied on must be contained in a separate composite bundle agreed between the advocates. Unless the court has specifically directed otherwise, being satisfied that such direction is necessary to enable the proceedings to be disposed of justly, the bundle shall not contain more than 10 authorities. Where a case is reported in a law report which contains a headnote, such a report shall be used and transcripts (including transcripts on BAILII) shall not be used. Where the bundle is in electronic format an appropriate hyperlink to each authority should be provided.

4.3A.2

Attention is drawn to paragraph 6 of Practice Direction (Citation of Authorities) [2001] 1 WLR 1001 and to Practice Direction (Citation of Authorities) [2012] 1 WLR 780 (both set out in The Family Court Practice) which must be complied with. The reference to “county court cases” in para 6.1 of the first practice direction should be read as including family court cases decided by a judge other than a judge of High Court judge level. Therefore, a judgment on an application attended by one party only, or on an application for permission to appeal, or that only decides that the application is arguable, or by the county court, or in the family court of a judge other than a judge of High Court judge level, may not be cited or included in the bundle of authorities unless either (i) the judgment clearly indicates that it purports to establish a new principle or to extend the present law or (ii) the court for good reason has specifically directed otherwise.

6.4

The preliminary documents shall be lodged with the court no later than 11am on the day before the hearing and, where the hearing is before a judge of the High Court and the name of the judge is known, shall (with the exception of the authorities, which are to be lodged in hard copy and not sent by email) at the same time be sent by email to the judge’s clerk.

Other provisions

HHJ Roberts has reminded local practitioners of the need to comply with the following paragraphs:

  • 4.1 – documents which should not appear in the bundle
  • 4.2 – documents which must be signed and dated
  • 4.5 – cross-referencing of bundle page numbers in preliminary documents
  • 4.8 – removal of all superseded documents when re-lodging bundles
  • 6.3 – bundles must be lodged by 2 working days prior to the hearing
  • 6.4 – preliminary documents must be lodged by 11 am on the day before the hearing

It is worth noting that non-compliance may lead to cases being removed from the list and/or costs sanctions for those responsible.

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