Legal language is famously resistant to change, but the fault doesn’t necessarily lie with the lawyers. Delegates to family law organisation Resolution’s conference last week heard of a widespread reluctance to embrace the terminology introduced by the Children and Family Act 2014.
Elspeth Thomson, a partner at David Gray Solicitors, complained that two years since the act came into effect people are still using the old vocabulary of ‘contact’ and ‘residence’ orders, which the act promised to abolish. Apparently, hardly anyone employs the new approved term ‘child arrangements orders’.
‘Did the act make no difference at all?’ she asked – noting that even the government’s website on the Children Act still refers to residence and contact orders that no longer exist.
Obiter suspects that changing the terminology involved in an issue as emotive as access to children was always going to be tricky. And sometimes it’s right to resist: we couldn’t help but cheer a couple of years ago when officialdom conceded defeat in its attempt to replace ‘litigant in person’ with the daft ‘self-represented litigant’.