I have harrumphed before – and will no doubt do so again – as to the silliness of the euphemism ‘single family court’. Where does this leave the law reporters and those of the varied ranks of family lawyers, students, press and others with an interest in family law reports?

The brilliant BAILII series of law reports now has, just for first instance family proceedings decisions the following separate categories of report:

• EWHC (Fam) – High Court Family Division decisions
• EWFC – High Court judge decisions (EWFC/HCJ) made in the family court
• EWFC – ‘other judge’ family court decisions (EWFC/OJ)

To this list could reasonably be added:

• Child support Upper Tribunal decisions: UKUT/AAC Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) decisions (though the reader must work out which are child support decisions: mostly these have the letters ‘CSM’ added to the case title in recent reports;
• Administrative Court family law decisions: mostly these will be in the EWHC (Admin) list (eg R (ota X) v London Borough of Tower Hamlets [2013] EWHC 480 (Admin), Males J: foster parent as ‘one of the unsung heroines of our society’; and Re X (A Child) [2014] EWHC 2522 (Fam) Sir James Munby P (though here the report kept its ‘(Fam)’ categorisation)); but sometimes they remain in the Family Division list (see eg PJG v Child Support Agency [2006] EWHC 423 (Fam), or Giltinane etc in [2006] 2 FLR 857, Munby J.
• Chancery and other High Court (mostly EWHC (Ch)) cases involving family, trust and eg cohabitation issues (eg Harb v HRH Prince Abdul Aziz [2014] EWHC 1807 (Ch), Rose J).

In addition of course the family lawyer, student etc must keep up to date with cases in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court lists.

As a postscript to all this, Sir James Munby P cryptically reminded readers (Re W (Children) [2014] EWFC 22) that he is not a judge of the High Court (I imagine his BAILII reports – of which there are many where he sits in the family court – will remain in EWFC/HCJ):

[12] … Lest any pedant seeks to take the point that I am not a judge of the High Court, may I make it clear that this requirement applies as much to hearings before the President of the Family Division as to any other judge of the Family Division.

BAILII cope with this by putting reports of his decisions in whatever court he is sitting in: Court of Appeal, Administrative Court, Family Division, family court (High Court judges). To my knowledge he has yet to sit in the Upper Tribunal, though there is no reason why he should not: Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 s 6(1) (the first case I did in the new Upper Tribunal was before Carnwath LJ (ahtw)).

If you recall that your case is Re S (say), Re W, B v B, Smith v Smith etc you only have to know in which type of family proceedings court it was heard, the level of judge, and better still the year. If it is reported you will have relatively little trouble in finding it. (If it is a judgement of Sir James Munby P, you may have to be a little more patient.) And if you think you are looking for (say) Re M in the Family Division but should be looking for Re N in one or other level of single family court your search may take a little longer….

I assume this is all because judges guard their rankings jealously, and because the single family court is divided into High Court (Family Division) and all other family courts (except administrative law courts and child support tribunals) – I hope that’s clear).

It’s probably far too late to suggest this; but surely we could start with all Family Division and family court reported cases being in one ‘family law’ list; and for good measure the few administrative law, and child support Upper Tribunal, reports could make guest appearances.


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