Importance of complying with court orders
In previous newsletters I have highlighted the comments made by the President in Re W (A Child) Re H (Children)  EWCA Civ 1177 concerning the importance of complying with court orders. He said (para 53),
‘Let me spell it out. An order that something is to be done by 4 pm on Friday, is an order to do that thing by 4 pm on Friday, not by 4.21 pm on Friday let alone by 3.01 pm the following Monday or sometime later the following week. A person who finds himself unable to comply timeously with his obligations under an order should apply for an extension of time before the time for compliance has expired. It is simply not acceptable to put forward as an explanation for non-compliance with an order the burden of other work. If the time allowed for compliance with an order turns out to be inadequate the remedy is either to apply to the court for an extension of time or to pass the task to someone else who has available the time in which to do it.’
Practitioners need to be aware of the latest pronouncement by the President, underlining the point set out above. In Re W (Children)  EWFC 22 in which he said (para 19) that:
‘I repeat what I said in In re W. I emphasise that the parties in cases in the Family Court are not permitted to amend a timetable fixed by the court without the prior approval of the court. I emphasise the obligation on every party, spelt out (as in this case) in the standard form of case management order, to inform the Court “immediately” in the event of any non-compliance. That obligation is imposed for good reason, though too often, as in the present case, it also is not complied with.’
I cannot emphasise too strongly how important it is to comply with the President’s guidance. Parties cannot amend a timetable fixed by the court without the prior approval of the court. That does not mean that parties may not make a joint approach to the court for approval of a variation of the timetable to which they are all agreed. Any such approach to the court must indicate whether the proposed amendment to the timetable will affect the overall timetable of the case and in particular any date fixed for IRH and/or final hearing. Joint applications for an amendment to the timetable which will not impact on the overall length of the case or on the date fixed for an IRH or final hearing are likely to be approved by the court without the need for a further hearing. Any application to approve an amendment to the timetable which impacts upon the overall length of the case or on the date fixed for an IRH or final hearing will be listed for hearing before the allocated case management judge.