Legal Update
New Rules for Standard Family Orders – Public Law
7 June 2023

New Rules for Standard Family Orders – Public Law

Author: Lucy Sowden

On the 17th May 2023 Mr Justice Peel announced a number of changes to the Standard Family Orders, along with guidance as to how such orders should be drafted. This article sets out the main changes with an emphasis on their relevance for Public Family Law practitioners.

The new pro forma Standard Family Orders can be found here:

The key changes are:

  • The orders give a greater steer for the commissioning of SJE experts rather than sole experts, and for their reports to be considered by the court without personal attendance at the hearing.
  • The orders accommodate directions relevant to remote hearings and the guidance on electronic bundles.
  • The orders include a Permission to Appeal directions order.
  • The orders incorporate the changes to law and practice brought by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
  • The orders incorporate the new required forms for cases involving committal applications.
  • The orders incorporate an updated Deprivation of Liberty order, an updated standalone Port Alert order and the correct contact details for any disclosure request to NHS England.
  • The children orders reduce significantly the use of recitals. In general, recitals now appear at the end of children orders, giving greater prominence to the body and substance of the orders.
  • In the children orders, there are separate orders for different stages of public law and private law proceedings, all of which have been made more streamlined.

House Rules

Mr Justice Peel sets out the ‘House Rules’ for the drafting of Family Orders, the main points of these are summarised below.


  • Recitals in a children order shall appear in a schedule at the end of the order.
  • Recitals must only record necessary information, drafted in a short and neutral manner.
  • Recitals should not:
    • record what happened in the hearing
    • record the parties’ position
    • recite the documents which the court read (unless it was a without notice hearing)
    • recite the witnesses who were heard (unless it was a without notice hearing)

Disclosure Orders

  • Disclosure orders against third parties should each be drawn as a separate order
  • The main order should include, in the body of the order, what disclosure orders have been made and the date by which the disclosure should be made.

Format of order

  • The body of orders should always be prepared in Times New Roman font, 12 point, with single spacing.
  • Orders should be consecutively numbered from 1 irrespective of whether the paragraph in question concerns a definition, recital, agreement, undertaking or order. The schedule of recitals shall recommence as paragraph 1.
  • The next hearing should appear at the start of the Order, with the following orders and directions in chronological order.
  • Parties:
    • The parties shall be specified at the beginning of the order.
    • Children shall be referred to by their first forename and surname.
    • Each child shall be numbered as a separate respondent.
    • The children’s guardian shall be referred to as “the guardian”.
    • If a party acts by a litigation friend, or a child by a children’s guardian, this must be stated.
    • Advocates should be identified on the face of the order as Mr / Mrs / Miss / Ms etc. [surname] or by their first name and surname, with counsel being identified as such.
    • Contact details should be included for litigants in person and the solicitor of represented parties. Counsel’s details should not be included.
    • Language
    • Clear English should be used at all times, avoiding archaic legal language.
    • Definitions appear in the recitals. Abbreviations may be used.
    • In the body of the order, parties should be referred to by their status (e.g. “applicant” and “respondent”) rather than by their role in the proceedings (e.g. the mother, the father etc.).
    • “Their” should be used in a singular sense instead of “his or hers”.
    • Where a direction or order is for a party to do something, it must be directed to the party and not to their solicitor.
    • Dates must be specified using the full name of the month and year, for example 17 May 2013
    • Times must be stated using the 24-hour format for example - 17:00 or 12:00