Court of Appeal Confirms Family Court's Authority to Make Incidental Orders: Analysis of [2024] EWCA Civ 2

Citation: [2024] EWCA Civ 2
Judgment on


The case in discussion, [2024] EWCA Civ 2, is a pivotal one in the context of the Family Court’s powers within the United Kingdom. It serves to clarify the extent to which judges in the Family Court may utilize inherent powers of the High Court in making orders, specifically under section 31E(1)(a) of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (MFPA 1984). As a unified court system handling family proceedings, the Family Court’s ability to make incidental and supplementary orders is instrumental in ensuring justice and functionality. This analysis aims to dissect the legal principles and implications derived from this case, providing insight into its practical application.

Key Facts

The case concerns two minors, B and A, embroiled in care proceedings following reports of the father’s alienating and coercive behavior. The key issue revolves around the control of the children’s Apple devices, which the mother sought to transfer from the father to the local authority. Her Honour Judge Gargan, presiding as a Circuit Judge at the Family Court at Luton, declined to grant the mother’s injunction request. She believed her powers did not extend to ordering such a transfer, especially involving external entities such as Apple, given her interpretation of the Family Court’s and her own jurisdictional limits. The appeal challenged this decision, emphasizing the miss-application of the court’s powers and jurisdiction.

The central legal tenet examined in this appeal is the application of section 31E(1)(a) of the MFPA 1984, which confers upon the Family Court powers equivalent to those that could be exercised by the High Court in analogous proceedings. The case required the court to clarify several points:

  1. How the family court should view its own powers relative to the High Court’s powers.
  2. Whether or not section 31E(1)(a) requires a judge specifically authorized as a High Court Judge to exercise those powers.
  3. The proper allocation of proceedings within the Family Court system.

The appeal judgment emphasizes a systematic approach to understanding whether the Family Court or a particular judge has the jurisdiction to make a certain order. It encourages judges to assume they have the power to make ancillary and supplementary orders supportive of their substantive decisions unless statutes, rules, or guidance explicitly state otherwise.

Key case law references within the judgment include In re K, CH v WH, and A v B, which illustrate the use of inherent High Court powers within Family Court proceedings. Conversely, Re T (A Child) was distinguished by emphasizing the distinction between invoking substantive and incidental High Court jurisdiction.


The Court of Appeal, led by Sir Andrew McFarlane P, allowed the appeal and set forth key findings:

  1. The Family Court has the inherent powers of the High Court available to it regarding incidental and supplemental orders, ensuring the efficacy of its substantive decisions.
  2. A Circuit Judge within the Family Court, such as Judge Gargan, does not require additional authorization as a High Court Judge to make certain orders within the context of family proceedings.
  3. Specific applications reserved to the High Court are defined by the MFPA 1984 and supporting guidance, and the jurisdiction to make incidental or supplemental orders does not fall within this reservation.

The matter was remitted to the original judge to reconsider the mother’s application for the injunction regarding the Apple IDs, based on updated information and with the understanding that the power to make such an order existed.


The case of [2024] EWCA Civ 2 reinforces the broad jurisdiction and powers of the Family Court to facilitate its functioning and objectives. It clarifies the misconception around the limitations of a Family Court judge in making orders that could also be made by the High Court. By establishing the conditions under which the Family Court can use these inherent powers, the judgment provides a secure framework for the lower courts to administer justice effectively, without unnecessary recourse to the higher courts. This case acts as an essential guide for the legal practice within the Family Court, delineating the extent of the court’s powers, thereby instilling confidence in the unified system to deliver comprehensive resolutions to family law disputes.

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