Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When liability for child support ends

A very quick note on NG v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions & Anor (Child support : receipt of benefit) (CSM) [2015] UKUT 20 AAC (15 January 2015), which concerned the issue of the correct date on which liability to pay child support ends.

Liability of course ends when the child ceases to be a 'qualifying child' under section 55 of the Child Support Act 1991. Essentially, they remain a child if they are under the age of 16, or if they are under 19 and receiving full-time education. However, they may also remain a child if those conditions are not met but child benefit continues to be payable for them: paragraph 1A of Schedule 1 to the Child Support (Maintenance Calculation Procedure) Regulations 2000, as amended by regulation 4(2) of the Child Support (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No 2) Regulations 2009. In other words, liability then ends when the child benefit is no longer payable.

The point decided by NG is that 'payable' means 'properly or lawfully payable'. Accordingly, it must be considered whether the child benefit was properly or lawfully payable, not simply whether it was actually paid. In NG the Tribunal only considered whether the child benefit was actually paid, and therefore the case was remitted to be re-heard by a different Tribunal.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Changing Adoption Landscape - But Can More be Done?

Last year almost 6,000 of the 92,000 children in care across Britain were adopted – a 57% rise on previous years. An encouraging sign, yes, but are we really doing enough to change the country’s adoption landscape?

The government puts the increase in adoption orders down to its adoption action plan, with reforms and changes in adoption legislation introduced in the Children and Families Act 2014. Following the government rhetoric that the best outcome for children in care is to be placed with an adoptive family as quickly as possible, this legislation encourages local authorities to consider placing children with potential adoptive families before an adoption plan has been agreed. The former duty of social workers to match a child’s ethnicity with adopters has also been scrapped, increasing the opportunity for adoption.

But it’s not just the welfare of a child in care that benefits from adoption – a cost calculator developed by Loughborough University found that on average it costs a local authority £25,782 to have a child adopted, compared with a figure of up to £400,000 for each child remaining in long—term care.

The benefits of adoption are very clear, but this system, established by former education secretary Michael Gove, can be detrimental to the emotional well-being of children. When adoption (and placing children in it quickly) becomes the key outcome, children’s emotional needs can be overlooked and not properly reflected on before they are placed with adopted families. Of course, nobody is suggesting that it’s not harmful for a child to have to wait for such life-changing decisions, but these austerity cuts and judicial swiftness have a significant impact on family law reform.

Gove’s Own Story

Gove himself is no stranger to the adoption process, having been adopted in 1967 at the age of four months. Though he maintains that his experience was positive and that adoption was easier during this time, historical evidence suggests that his claim is misleading. Just one year after Gove was born, in 1968, 25,000 children were adopted in the UK, of which 92% were illegitimate and around 50% of those babies. Being a single mother was still very much a shameful and taboo subject, so for the mothers, children and other relatives, the adoption process was far from ‘straightforward’. We can see from popular TV shows such as ITV’s Long Lost Family, that this societal issues left, and indeed still do leave, children estranged from their biological families.

The Changing Faces of Modern Adoptive Families

Legislation allowing unmarried and same-sex couples to adopt was passed almost a decade ago, and although this change was met with opposition and legal challenges, in 2013 around 6% of children in the UK were adopted by same-sex couples – a 2% increase on 2012. Another chance to maximise adoption opportunities came with the scrapping of the duty to match children with an adoptive family of the same ethnicity as them, though this also opens up the danger of children losing their sense of cultural heritage.

There are a variety of solicitors who offer support in these circumstances – such as this example. Once on this page, there is a strong resource of related content which helps to explain important real life scenarios, so familiarise yourself with common responses before you make the necessary steps yourself.

Recently, the Children and Families Act 2014 allows children who are wards of the state to be placed with foster parents who may then go on to adopt the child. Though such placements are in place to try and prevent children losing yet another close attachment, birth families, social workers and the judicial system are challenged regarding the influence they will have on the final decision making process.

Ultimately, these decisions must be made in the privacy of courts and in respect of individual circumstances, but adoption, and the impact of being an adoptive child in the UK, is something that should remain at the forefront of our public consciousness.


Friday, January 23, 2015

An outsider looks in

No longer practising, I am now an outsider to the legal profession in general, and the family justice system in particular (I sometimes feel that I was always an outsider). Accordingly, perhaps I might occasionally say what insiders might not. Whether that was the case in any of the posts I wrote for Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog this week, I will leave you to judge:

Child contact centres: an essential resource - Contact centres are closing. It is essential that we save them. The NACCC has launched a National Awareness Campaign.

What is family law for? - Well, someone had to ask the question.

We must still oppose these fee increases - Despite the fact that the Government has decided not to proceed with the divorce fee increase, we must still oppose the Government's other fee increase proposals.

Enforcing contact orders - With reference to the case H-R (Children).

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Publication of judgments guidance in action?

A quick post to say that I've just noticed how many cases I posted last year on Family Lore Case Digest. The total was 734, massively up from the 2013 figure of 476 and the 2012 figure of 308. It seems reasonable to conclude that this was at least in part (and probably in large part) due to the increase in the number of published judgments last year as a result of the President's transparency/publication of judgments Practice Guidance.

(I post links to most of the family law reports I find on Family Lore Case Digest. The main exception is county court judgments, unless I think they are of particular interest.)

@familylaw: Ten thousand followers surely can't be wrong?

Well, perhaps they can, but at least the followers of my @familylaw Twitter feed are keeping up with all the latest happenings in the world of family law, and there are now over ten thousand of them:


For those who don't already know, @familylaw feeds all news items, cases and articles from Family Lore Focus on to Twitter, thereby providing a convenient way to stay up to date.

You can also keep up to date by subscribing to the free weekly Family Lore Focus Newsletter here - all that is required is your name and email address. The Newsletter will will stop you missing anything that you didn't catch on Twitter, and other things.

To recap, Family Lore Focus is essentially a site that aggregates freely available family law content from the web, including news, cases, legislation, articles and blogs. Regularly throughout the day I check every reputable source that I am aware of including family law sites, general law sites, blogs, newspapers, Bailii and many others, and post links to items of interest. The most recent links can be found on the front page of Family Lore Focus, and older ones on the relevant blogs: Family Lore News, Family Lore Case Digest, Family Lore Articles, and Family Lore Blogs.

In short, Family Lore Focus, @familylaw and the Newsletter provide a one-stop (OK, 3-stop) gateway to keep you updated with all the family law developments you need, without having to search different sites for them.

If you would like to advertise on Family Lore Focus, the blogs or the Newsletter, see here.

[Post again shamelessly copied from earlier ones, with minor amendments.] 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

9 years...

...since I began writing this blog. Much has changed in the world of legal blogging in that time, not all of it for the better. Still, that is the way of things for all of us, I suppose. I certainly don't think I envisaged Family Lore lasting this long when I began all those years ago, but I shall celebrate its survival today with a slice of virtual cake accompanied, no doubt, with a not-so-virtual glass of wine.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A fantasy story, dubious advice on mediation, and other things

This week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog  was largely about bad or, at best, dubious ideas:

Socially engineering the family - A fantasy story about marriage, featuring the brave knight Sir Coleridge.

Enforcing domestic violence orders in the EU - The new EU Regulation “on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters” (this was not a bad idea).

Protecting social workers from the effects of transparency - Are social workers being sacrificed in the drive for transparency?

The limits of mediation - In particular, whether it is a good idea to go straight to a mediator, without taking any legal advice first.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers January/February 2015

The latest issue of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers is now published.

In this issue
  • Access to Justice – Timothy Hill of The Law Society considers how technology is improving access to justice
  • Information law – Judith Townend introduces the new Centre for Law and Information Policy at IALS
  • Practice technology – Paul Richmond of Richmond Chambers describes the technology supporting his barrister-only ABS
  • Websites – Catherine Bailey of Bar Marketing helps us get to know the Google Analytics service
  • Social media – Mark Gould on how he uses social media for professional and personal development
  • Cloud computing – Allan Carton and Frank Manning of InPractice explain the options for cloud computing
  • Mobile computing – Alex Heshmaty of Legal Words describes the most useful apps for lawyers
  • Plus information on The Big Advice Survey and CPD changes for 2015
  • In an online feature Glenda Harding of Kaplan Altior describes the new undergraduate level legal apprenticeship

Access the Newsletter online