Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Humph

Found this on my desk this morning, along with some other 'reminders' around my room. Thanks everyone - I was actually trying to forget!

Well, I guess it's all downhill from here. Come to think of it, it's been downhill for some time...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More Dirty Linen

Well, she's done it again. The self-styled 'YouTube Superstar' Tricia Walsh-Smith has published a second video on YouTube regarding her divorce. Now, I'm not particularly bothered about her and what she has to say, but I am interested in the effect, if any, of these videos upon the court proceedings, with the first hearing apparently due next Monday. Will the videos have any bearing, will they assist her case, or will they, as seems more likely, only make things worse for her? We shall see.

Meanwhile, here's the second video. Not so revealing or sensational as the first (if anything, rather rambling), but finishing with a question and the threat of more to come: "Will Tricia end up in a tent? Stay Tuned!"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Philanthropy 2

Here's the latest selection of search queries that have recently found their way to Family Lore, with my replies. As usual, my Disclaimer (see the sidebar) applies to what follows.

financial divorce consent order breach

The order may already have provisions covering this. If not, what to do depends upon the nature of the order that is breached. If it is an order for the payment of a lump sum of money, then it can be enforced in the same way as any other debt (warrant of execution, garnishee order, charging order etc.). If it is for payment of maintenance, the usual procedure is attachment of earnings. If it is for a transfer of property then you can, if necessary, obtain an order that the judge sign whatever documentation is required to give effect to the transfer.

do the english want sharia law?

I don’t think so, and I certainly hope not.

the beatles members with beards


Didn't they all have beards at one time or another?

recent cases beneficial interest after cohabitation after appeal 2008

Err… Fowler v Barron, for one.

adultery co-respondent rights uk

The Co-Respondent can deny the alleged adultery, and can also be heard on the question of costs.

family law since april in uk

Um, it is April. Which April do you mean?

family lawyer seeks work in ireland

There's a joke here...

english law relating to gifts

Not sure if this relates to family law, but disputes over gifts to the parties do often crop up, especially gifts from the parents of one party. That party or the giver of the gift then argues that it was a gift to them only or, in the case of monetary gifts, that it was actually a loan. The answer depends upon the nature of the ‘gift’ and the circumstances, but in the absence of an agreement to the contrary gifts are usually to both parties, and are not loans unless there is evidence of repayment.

claiming half of my ex husbands pension

Yes, you can, although it is arguable that you are only entitled to half of that proportion of the pension that was accumulated during the marriage. There are other factors involved, and you should seek legal advice.

examples of a character reference for a divorce

Why would you need one?

entitlements if my husbands leaves

All I can say here is that the starting-point is equal division of assets. If you want more than that, get some advice.

property price dispute in a consent order

Most orders provide a mechanism for resolving property price disputes, and if they do not then the price will be determined by the court.

money that's what i want tabs

Are you telling this to Tabs, or do you want tabs as well as money? If the latter, seek drug counselling.

family law not eligible for legal aid cant afford

You and many others. Most firms offer advice, for a fixed fee, and there are schemes for fee funding, such as this one.

new law relating to partners and houses

It’s been shelved for now – see this post.

number of school dropouts reported in the british army

What’s this got to do with me?


Update:
I've since had a great search term, which I had to add to this post:

legal advise psyco ex wife

My advice: 1. Learn to spell. 2. Get a bodyguard. 3. Hire a good lawyer, and be prepared to give them a bit more detail. 4. In future, be more discerning in your choice of women.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Musical Interlude

...because we separate like ripples on a blank shore, and because I love this song:

Her Ladyship won't be amused...

As a matter of principle (see below), I'll not be going out and buying the Sunday Times today so that I can see the full list of the 1000 richest Britons (it will not be published online until Tuesday), but I have it on good authority that Sir Paul McCartney's fortune is estimated by the paper at £500 million, £100 million more than Mr Justice Bennett's valuation of £400 million. Does this raise the awful prospect of Heather Mills reopening the case? I think not. Firstly, it will of course take a lot more than a newspaper estimate to persuade a court that the figure was wrong. Secondly, the award was clearly based upon her needs, rather than a percentage of the matrimonial assets - she would therefore also have to show either that Mr Justice Bennett was wrong in this, or that he grossly underestimated her needs.

Personally, I find all this fascination with money and wealth to be somewhat distasteful, and I therefore recommend the Independent on Sunday's antidote - the 'Happy List', which profiles "100 people who make Britain a better and a happier place to live".

Saturday, April 26, 2008

ASCII Matrimony

Here's a quick counterpoint to the post I did the other day about divorce rings - a computer geek's wedding ring, inscribed with binary. Translated, the inscription reads 'J S', the initials of the groom and bride. Let's hope they never get a 01000100 01001001 01010110 01001111 01010010 01000011 01000101.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stack v Dowden applied

As is well known, the House of Lords in Stack v. Dowden made it quite clear that (in the absence of an express declaration of trust) it will not be easy for a joint owner to demonstrate a shared intention to own the property in unequal shares, where there is no express agreement to that effect. However, a seed of doubt was sown by their Lordships as they found that Ms Dowden had discharged that burden. Well, it is now becoming clearer just how heavy the burden really is.

In Fowler v Barron [2008] EWCA Civ 377 (hat-tip to Nearly Legal, who has already posted on this), Mr Barron put down nearly £30,000 towards the purchase price, paid the mortgage, the council tax and utility bills and yet the Court of Appeal found that he still hadn't rebutted the presumption of equal shares. The point was that, unlike in Stack, there was nothing exceptional about the facts here. Lady Justice Arden:

"The facts in this case are different in many respects. For instance, the evidence as to mutual wills [contradicting Mr Barron's assertion that the property was only conveyed into joint names so that it would pass to Miss Fowler by way of survivorship if he were to die before her] is not replicated in Stack. Moreover, unlike the parties in Stack, there is no evidence that Mr Barron and Miss Fowler had any substantial assets apart from their income and their interest if any in the property, and Miss Fowler made no direct contribution to paying for the property. I do not think that it is reasonable to infer that the parties intended that Miss Fowler should have no share of the house if the relationship broke down. That might leave Miss Fowler dependent on state benefits and housing for support. The way that she used her own income indicates that the parties largely treated their incomes and assets as one pool from which household expenses will be paid. There is also important evidence about their wills ... In those circumstances, I do not consider that the presumption of equal beneficial interests can be successfully rebutted."

It may be considered that this would leave Miss Fowler better off than a cohabitee who had contributed a fixed share of the purchase price, as there it might be inferred that there was a common intention to share ownership in the same proportions as the contributions. Lady Justice Arden also dealt with this:

"...the reason why the result in that case may be different is because that is what the court infers to be the parties' intention. It would have been open to them to agree to divide the ownership in any other way. The basis, on which Stack proceeds, is that the court's jurisdiction is based on the parties' common intention, expressed or inferred. The parties' autonomy to devise a solution suitable for their circumstances is preserved."

All of this may seem somewhat hard upon Mr Barron, but it is a question of intention, rather than fairness. To prove an intention that shares should be unequal there needs to be something particular and unusual about the facts of the case. As Lord Justice Toulson said, there was nothing at all unusual about the circumstances in this case.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Digging a deeper hole?

Still on the subject of domestic violence, Bystander at The Magistrate's Blog has posted a follow up to the post I mentioned a couple of days ago. It seems he came in for some criticism for implying that the offence had been committed (husband assaulting the wife), without the matter being tried, and therefore for gender bias. Unfortunately, I doubt that his new post will satisfy the critics. He says:
If police are called, either by one of the parties or as often happens by neighbours or even children, and they arrive to find a bruised and sobbing victim, a bit of broken furniture, and a couple of distraught kids, then an offence has almost certainly been committed.
He does, however, go on to make clear that "only evidence will do", but then continues: "Nevertheless it is right to recognise that in a typical abusive relationship the abuser will be a man". I fear he may be in for more criticism.

I'll keep out of that debate, but I would take issue with his description of a battered women's refuge as a "rat-hole", as, I'm sure, will those who provide refuges. For anyone in doubt, I refer to the post I wrote last month, which links to a 'virtual refuge', where you can see just what a refuge is like.

Hard knock life

The New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) charity has published a report today on violence against women, entitled Hard knock life. The report covers not just domestic violence but also rape and sexual assault, violence against black and minority ethnic women, violence against women in prostitution and trafficked women. NPC states that "almost one in every two women in the UK has been forced to endure abuse ranging from verbal threats to physical assault, rape, genital mutilation and forced marriage", and has calculated that violence against women costs society £40bn a year, more than the Government’s defence budget. They say that despite significant government progress over the last thirty years, "little is being done to prevent violence against women and not enough is being done to help the victims; there are massive gaps in services, and too many perpetrators escape justice". The report goes on to make recommendations to address the issues, including nine charities for donors to support. The report can be downloaded here.

I know that there are some who may ask the question: Aren’t men victims of violence too? NPC's answer to this is:
Yes, they are more likely to be victims of certain types of violence, such as muggings, but this wasn’t the scope of our report. The violence we focus on in the report is more commonly experienced by women. And women are more likely to be victims of repeated violence, as it is often carried out by someone they know.
I'm not sure that that will satisfy certain readers of Family Lore.

[Thanks to Current Awareness for the original link to this story.]

Helping parents to help children

In the post this morning I received a copy of Separation and Divorce - Helping parents to help children, a booklet published by Resolution, which 'provides parents with key information and supports them in adopting a child-centred approach to their separation and divorce'. As Resolution state: "Parents and children who have access to good information and resources at an early stage are better equipped to manage the transition from being a family under one roof to being a family in two separate homes." The booklet is written by renowned parenting expert Christina McGhee, and may either be purchased by Resolution members, or viewed (in pdf format) here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Divorced and Loving It

"Harold W. Thompson has been married twice. The first one lasted seven years and the second one lasted ten years. This middle-aged guy knows a little about separation and divorce."

Harold W. Thompson is the President of D Jewelry Co. and designer of 'divorce rings', another idea from America aimed at helping people get over the trauma of separation or divorce. The rings act "as a healing tool for broken hearts", and are full of symbolism, including a break in the ring to represent separation or divorce and three bands to represent "the three most important events in a failed relationship": meeting, marriage and separation. Apparently, some owners also have them engraved with the date of the divorce, although their purpose is not only to mark the point of separation or divorce, but "also to symbolize a new beginning and positive outlook on the future".

And if a ring alone is not enough, D Jewelry Co. can also offer other merchandise, such as a T-shirt with a picture of the ring and the caption: "Divorced and Loving It!"

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dividing parenting time

Jacqui Gilliatt has written an excellent post regarding the fraught and much-argued over issue of equal parenting time. As Jacqui says, equal parenting does happen, but so does just about every other permutation of time division between parents. She goes on to set out practical examples, and finishes off with some general advice for parents to consider.

Recommended reading for all parents involved in contact disputes.

A Sorry Tale

Many thanks to Family Law Week for the judgment in the remarkable case of Hall v Hall [2008] EWCA Civ 350, which I had not come across previously. In this case the husband instigated divorce and ancillary relief proceedings but the wife refused to cooperate, even denying that she had been personally served with the papers. When the ancillary relief application went before him on the 6th April 2006 and the wife did not appear, the district judge, clearly frustrated by the wife's (in)action, made an order transferring all known assets to the husband, in an attempt to shock the wife into cooperating, despite the fact that the husband only sought an equal division of assets. Incredibly, the wife still did nothing, and the order was implemented. Finally, in November 2006, the wife applied to have the order set aside, but her application was refused, not just by another district judge but also, on appeal, by a circuit judge, although neither judge had a full note of the case. She then applied to appeal a second time. Needless to say, her application was allowed by the Court of Appeal, where Lord Justice Thorpe found the proceedings to be "deeply flawed", and said:

"Of course a judge is fully justified in taking tough measures to convey to an avoidant litigant that she must engage in the proceedings and put her case if she is not to risk an unfair outcome. But tough measures stop at an unless order, framed to give the applicant all that he or she seeks."

Lord Justice Wall called this "a sorry tale", and I agree.

An all too common scenario?

I posted last week about the concerns that the judiciary have about the 'criminalisation' of the new domestic violence laws. Yesterday, the Magistrate's Blog had a thought-provoking post about the realities of domestic violence cases in the criminal courts. This particular case was listed for trial last week at 11am, and was expected to last for the rest of the day. However the victim, the wife, had withdrawn her complaint against her husband, and had been issued with a Witness Summons by the CPS. Needless to say, she refused to give evidence, despite the encouragement of the Victim Support people and the pleas of the prosecutor and the Officer In The Case. The case was therefore dismissed, and the taxpayer footed the bill, including the husband's costs. An all too common scenario?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Don't Passover the Facts

On the day when a certain group of humanity begin to celebrate the myth that, for some reason, the god that created our species chose to favour them over his other creations, I thought it would be appropriate if I introduced a little reality. I therefore heartily recommend to all readers this article in the current edition of New Scientist. Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions should be essential reading for all. As the article states, since Darwin the case for evolution has become overwhelming - it is as firmly established a scientific fact as the roundness of the Earth, and yet most people around the world are not taught the truth about evolution, if they are taught about it at all:

"For those who have never had the opportunity to find out about biology or science, claims made by those who believe in supernatural alternatives to evolutionary theory can appear convincing. Meanwhile, even among those who accept evolution, misconceptions abound."

The article therefore sets out to put this right by debunking 24 'shared misconceptions' and 'creationist myths', such as that ""Survival of the fittest" justifies "everyone for themselves"", "Accepting evolution undermines morality", "Evolutionary theory leads to racism and genocide" and that old chestnut: "Half a wing is no use to anyone". My favourite quote, however, comes from the section "Creationism provides a coherent alternative to evolution":

"There is no evidence of any kind of outside intervention, and no need to invoke it to explain what is known. Yes, there are many debates among biologists, geologists and cosmologists over the finer details, but these will be resolved sooner or later by new discoveries or experiments. Reality is the ultimate arbiter."

Remember, evolution is a fact, as well a theory. If you want to believe in your religion, you are of course free to do so, but you will have to find a way to make it compatible with evolution.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Prenups: Has their time arrived?

Has the time for pre-nuptial agreements in this country finally arrived? The Gazette this week reports that demand for them has soared over the past year, in the wake of the Crossley case. In a survey of '100 of the UK's leading matrimonial lawyers' by accountants Grant Thornton, 77 said that they had seen a rise in the number of prenups, with similar rises in the numbers of pre-civil partnership and cohabitation agreements.

Meanwhile, in this month's Family Law, Mark Harper and Lucie Alhadeff, who represented Stuart Crossley, ask the question: are pre-nuptial agreements now binding in England, in the light of the decision in Crossley? The answer, of course, is that they are not but, as Harper and Alhadeff say: "Crossley provides a very useful mechanism where the prenup is likely to be a significant factor, such as in short, childless marriages". One party may now issue an application requiring the other party to 'show cause' why they should not be held to the terms of the prenup. The case can then follow a shortened procedure, potentially saving considerable time and costs. Note, however, that the procedure may not be appropriate where there are allegations of non-disclosure and where, unlike in Crossley, they could materially affect the likely award.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Not content with setting up REDUX law, which will be used for his Contract/Commercial law materials, Charon QC has also set up the insitelaw newswire and the insitelaw blog to go with it. The two are intended to work in tandem, with a main focus on "news of and comment on developments in law and practice". Thankfully, the Charon QC blawg will remain, and will "be almost entirely free of serious law". Does this man ever sleep?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An impossible position

Nearly Legal has written an interesting post today regarding the Court of Appeal judgment in Manchester City Council v Moran & Richards v Ipswich Borough Council [2008] EWCA Civ 378, a decision that could have very serious consequences for women's refuges.

The two appeals, heard together, concerned two women who were occupying women's refuges and who both sought rehousing by the local authority after deliberately acting so as to cause themselves to be evicted from the refuges. In both cases the question arose as to whether the refuges were "accommodation ... which it would have been reasonable for [them] to continue to occupy", as if so then they would be intentionally homeless, and they would therefore be refused rehousing. Lord Justice Wilson found that in both cases the accommodation was such that it was reasonable for the women to remain, and therefore they had made themselves intentionally homeless. He set out a list of factors to be considered in assessing refuge accommodation for homeless applicants. As Nearly Legal says, refuges "will not be certain whether a woman that they take in will be able to make a homeless application [while] at the refuge. They will have to consider the list of factors set out in the judgment in each and every case, as what might be reasonable for one woman’s circumstances, will not be for another. They will have to consider limiting the support that they offer. It effectively leaves them in an impossible position."

Dirty Linen

It's being called the 'YouTube divorce', and seems to be causing quite a stir on the other side of the Atlantic. British former actress and playwright Tricia Walsh-Smith has published a video on YouTube in which she complains of her treatment by her estranged husband Philip Smith, president of the Shubert Organization, the largest theatre owner on Broadway. She claims that he is trying to evict her from their New York apartment and that she will lose everything, as a result of a pre-nuptial agreement they entered into. She then goes on to give intimate details of their life, in an apparent attempt to humiliate him.

Is this the way of divorces in the future? I certainly hope not. I also have serious doubts as to whether it will benefit her when the matter goes to court, as seems inevitable. If you want to make up your own mind, here's the video:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's a girl - what else?

There is worrying news for future family lawyers in the May issue of the BBC Focus magazine. With sperm counts dropping, they speculate that within a hundred years scientists could perfect the process of parthenogenesis in humans, combining the unfertilised eggs from one woman to create an embryo. This may preserve the human genome, but it has one drawback, at least for us men. Because only genetic material from the mother is used, the offspring only have X chromosomes, and are therefore all female.

Now, any female readers may think that this is no bad thing, but before you start celebrating I should say that the article concludes that the above scenario is unlikely, in view of technical and ethical difficulties. Meanwhile, I suggest that any future family lawyers hedge their bets by offering another specialism as well!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An Awesome Prize

Stuck in a busted marriage? Then we've got the answers to your prayers...

So says Australian 'lads' mag' Zoo Weekly, as it introduces 'its best competition ever'. The prize? An 'actual divorce' (whatever that is), including solicitors' fee of up to $5000, a plasma TV (in case she grabs the one you've got), a PS3 to fill the long lonely hours, a 'spectacular three-tiered divorce cake', a divorce party with ZOO girls and, best of all, a cleaner for two months.

So, what do you have to do to win such an 'awesome prize package'? All you have to do is tell the magazine why you want a divorce, in 100 words or less. As they say: "if you're trapped in a loveless marriage or you've just found out the missus has been rooting your best mate, then this is the chance you've been waiting for."

When asked if the competition could be viewed as encouraging divorce, the magazine's editor was unrepentant: "You'd have to be pretty nutty to enter a competition to win a divorce if you're happily married", he said. Quite.

Zoo Weekly is apparently no stranger to running controversial competitions. Last year it offered readers a chance to win their girlfriends a 'boob job', by sending in shots of her cleavage.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Are new domestic violence laws failing?


The Times reports today that judges are concerned that the new domestic violence laws are not working, as there has been a marked decline in the number of victims seeking help since the laws were introduced last July. They put this down to a reluctance on the part of the victims to seek an order, for fear of giving their partners a criminal record and, potentially, a prison sentence. The concerns will be discussed at an urgent meeting between Sir Mark Potter and Jack Straw.

Meanwhile, the CPS has denied that prosecutions had dropped, although their latest figures pre-date the new laws.

If the judges are correct, it seems to me that there are three possible explanations for the estimated reduction of 25% in the number of victims seeking non-molestation orders:
  • That the judges are right that victims fear giving their partners a criminal record and, potentially, a prison sentence - although under the old law victims should have been aware that a prison term was likely if the perpetrator should breach the order.
  • That there has been a marked decrease in the incidence of domestic violence since last July - extremely unlikely, as the report mentions, particularly as few perpetrators would even be aware of the new laws.
  • Dare I say it, that the old law was abused by some people who were not really victims of domestic violence - they simply wanted to get their partners out of the house - but now they are reluctant to go to court because of the more serious criminal implications.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

And some people want this?


Here is an appalling story from Yemen. An eight year old girl was forced by her father to marry a 30-year-old man. After suffering violence and sexual abuse from her "husband" for two months, she managed to escape and went to a court, where she has filed a complaint against her father. Meanwhile, her "husband" has been imprisoned without charge, but "expressed no remorse, saying he was only practising his “right” as a “husband”".

The blogger (from Sudan) who reported this story goes on:
There can be no denying that much of the ills women face in our societies can be blamed on Islam. While whether or not the prophet married a 9-year-old is debated amongst Muslims, subsequent scholars throughout the centuries have justified marrying off young girls.

Arab and Muslim countries have made progress in the past few years by raising the age limit for marriage, however, according to Sharia, a father is allowed to give away his pre-pubescent girl in marriage, without her consent - provided he believes her ‘husband’ to be a pious, reliable man.
I find it very difficult to see how this kind of thinking can be reconciled with human rights laws or any modern western legal system.

[Update: The marriage has now been annulled.]

Saturday, April 12, 2008

When Men Want Divorce

I don't know whether this has been seen on a blawg before, but it amused me:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Timid

Thanks to Family Law NewsWatch for publishing a letter by Jane Craig, on behalf of the Family Justice Council, criticising the Government's decision to delay acting on the Law Commission’s proposals for the introduction of legal protection for cohabitees, a decision that has already been criticised by Craig on behalf of Resolution. Craig describes the decision as "timid", and points out that concerns over the cost of the reforms to the legal aid budget are largely unfounded, as much of the cost should be recouped by the statutory charge. She concludes:
the Ministry of Justice's refusal to act now will mean that the most vulnerable partner who is very often a woman, and mother of any children of the relationship is left to face injustice and financial hardship. In some situations she is left homeless without any claims at all over the property where she may have lived for many years. If this happens, the tax payer has to fund welfare benefits and public housing to support those who should not be left in this position. It is not at all clear how this fits in with the Government's commitment to equality and protecting the disadvantaged in our society.
I could say something cynical here about the reality of government 'commitments', but I won't.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hysterical

A while back I did a post about wedding ring coffins, for you to put your wedding ring in after divorce. Now I see that a divorce attorney in Atlanta is giving them to some of her clients. When she heard about them Melody Z Richardson thought they were hysterical and purchased two, one of which went to a male client "who has everything", and the other of which will go to a divorcing woman who "has a fabulous sense of humor but is still grieving". She now plans to stockpile them at her office. I hate to disappoint my clients, but somehow I don't think I will be following suit...

Blawgpost of the Month

In a new feature for Family Lore I thought I would award a trophy for the best post I have read each month on a law blog. This is purely subjective, and my decision is final. There may be other posts that you think are better (please let me know if this is the case), but either I haven't read them, or I prefer the one I've chosen. I'll try to make this a regular feature if I can be arsed remember to do so.

There can only be one winner of my award for March. For his wonderful insight into the inner workings of the judiciary, and for going beyond the call of duty to achieve the result the client seeks, it goes to Geeklawyer for his post "Pole dancing for the judge".

[A prize of a bottle of Moniak Mead will not be winging its way to Geeklawyer - sorry, times are hard.]

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Whose divorce is it after all?

Sometimes a comment is so good that it deserves a post all of its own. Today I received the following comment from Vail, on my post about courts rejecting agreed consent orders:

"As an applicant for divorce I would welcome a judge's consideration of what is fair and reasonable, as I would also welcome the opinion of a solicitor and counsel.

Where a draft consent order has been painfully thrashed out and drawn screaming and bleeding into the world within the context of an acrimonious divorce with agreed child contact hanging in the balance, I would expect the judge to respect the decision of the parties subsequent to them hearing his opinion and let them drag their mutilated emotions and stress-wracked bodies off into their respective sunsets to make the most of what is left of their miserable lives in quiet despair -without harbouring thoughts of malice, spite and revenge against the world in general and specifically the said judge.

Whose divorce is it after all?
"

I really don't think I can add to that.

An interesting point

When is an appeal not an appeal? The answer, it seems, is when it is an application for a rehearing, according to the Court of Appeal in Turner v Turner [2008] EWCA Civ 280. The case concerned ancillary relief proceedings in one of my local courts, Dartford County Court, in which District Judge Glover made an order in 2004 that required a charge to be executed by the husband. More than three years later the question of the form of the charge had not been resolved, so the district judge of his own motion made an order that it was to be executed within 28 days, in a form which he had approved. Mr Turner objected to the form of the charge, and therefore appealed to the circuit judge, who then ordered that his notice of appeal stand as an application for a rehearing of the order made by District Judge Glover. Mr Turner then sought permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal against that order.

In the Court of Appeal Mr Turner was assisted by the ubiquitous McKenzie friend Dr Pelling who, as Lord Justice Wall admitted, put forward the persuasive arguments that the circuit judge had no jurisdiction to order his appellant's notice to stand as an application for rehearing by the district judge (thereby denying him the statutory right to appeal) and that there was really no point in going back to the district judge because the district judge had made up his mind. Lord Justice Wall, however, rejected those arguments, finding that the circuit judge was entitled to make the order that she did, as she was exercising the powers given to her under the overriding objective (under Rule 2.51D) of enabling the court to deal with cases justly, as she considered that the district judge should have had a hearing - the order made at that hearing would give Mr Turner something which he could then appeal to her in the normal way.

At first sight this all seems quite odd, having to go through the charade of a hearing before a district judge who had already made up his mind, but Lord Justice Wall pointed out that: "The practical choices for this court are either to give permission today, which would result in a further hearing and then a remission either to the circuit judge or to the district judge; or to refuse permission, in which case Mr Turner would be left to his remedies to go back to the district judge, and if the district judge retains his current position then he will have to appeal." Perhaps the most sensible course of action after all?

How to trim your hedge

Last week I promised to explain how to trim your hedge so that criminals can't hide behind it. Unfortunately, my link up with Practical Gardening Weekly didn't work out, but so as not to disappoint, here goes.

What you have to do depends upon where you stand in the legal pecking order:
  • Legal Aid lawyers: use a pair of shears.
  • Private client lawyers: use electric hedge trimmers.
  • Paul McCartney's lawyers: get your gardener to do it.
Easy!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Pontification

My cat Muhammad was flicking through the news pages today on his laptop. Suddenly he let out a loud "tut", followed by an exasperated sigh.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Have you read this?" He said, pointing his paw at the screen.

""Divorce, abortion an offence to God, pope says"", I read out aloud. "Hmm, not exactly what a believer in God wants to hear just after they've been through a divorce, is it?"

"Hardly." He said, wagging his tail in annoyance. "I'll never understand why so many of you humans do believe."

"You mean cats never have believed in God?" I asked.

"Of course not." Replied Muhammad, with an indignant flick of his whiskers. "We've always known how we evolved. In fact, it's a never-ending source of amusement to us that humans only discovered evolution 150 years ago, and still many of them don't believe in it."

"Yes, we're not the sharpest pencils on the planet." I admitted. "So what are your thoughts on divorce then?" I asked, returning to the topic.

"Terrible thing." Said Muhammad. "Worse than global warming." He added, with a smile.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ex Cultu Robur

Mr Justice Coleridge caused quite a stir with his widely-reported comments about family breakdown at Resolution's annual conference last week. Laws of Love did a piece on it yesterday, and I certainly agree that the judge made some good points, especially about the lack of funding for the family justice system and the failure of successive governments to “face up to the need to reform the substantive law of divorce, financial ancillary relief and the law relating to cohabitants". However, I can't help but wonder just how qualified he is to comment upon family life in this country. What does Sir Paul James Duke Coleridge, son of a Major and educated at Cranleigh School (motto: 'From Culture comes Strength') know about the realities for the vast majority of people? No doubt he has come across many things during his illustrious career, but has he ever rubbed shoulders with those who are forced to live in the ghettos where so much of the "youth crime, child abuse, drug addiction and binge-drinking" takes place? I'm not saying that he doesn't have a right to comment - of course he does - just that he is not necessarily the best qualified social commentator.

The other point I wanted to make about the speech is one already picked up by Charon QC - the language he used, which at times reached a level of absurd hyperbole. Talk of a "cancerous" increase in broken families is straight out of the Daily Mail, and of a “never ending carnival of human misery - a ceaseless river of human distress” is just a little bit of an exaggeration. However, to compare the effects of family breakdown to those of global warming (if, indeed, there is such a thing) is plain inanity. An increase in crime and unhappiness levels in this country hardly compares with the destruction of the planet's ecosystem.

[Update: The full text of the speech can now be found here. (PDF)]

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Cyber Love

Here's a little something for male geeks everywhere, found via Geekologie, which was found in turn via BBC Click. Creepy Girl will follow your cursor around the screen in a most disconcerting way. As Geekologie says, you'll either be freaked by her or, if you're really sad, fall in love. If the latter, don't ask me for advice when the relationship breaks down.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Crisis? What crisis?

I see that the Gazette this week has picked up on the crisis facing many high street firms, a story I posted about a month ago. Their report talks of "a significant number" of firms being forced to shed staff due to a drop in fee income levels. Examples mentioned include a London practice letting go of nine of its 13-strong conveyancing team, another closing two of its four offices and an East Anglian firm reducing its opening hours to four days a week. There is talk of one firm "desperately trying to merge with another" and, indicating the country-wide scale of the problem, an Exeter-based management consultant stating that "‘waves of firms’ in the provinces were laying off people and many practices were up for sale".

Meanwhile, how is the Law Society responding to the crisis? Deputy Vice-President Paul Marsh is quoted as saying that "many high street firms were ‘healthy’, but some would always struggle from time to time, particularly with the impact of referral fees". Sticking his head in the sand, or trying to avert a panic?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Fingers Crossed


Yesterday Judith Middleton had a nice story from Malaysia about a man who divorced his two wives within minutes of each other. Well, I've got another story from that country. In this one, a woman is suing her husband for 3 million ringgits (about £480,000), for causing her to lose her virginity to him on the false promise that he would marry her and “take care of her”. The promise had been made when he asked her to sleep with him, but now his parents are apparently objecting to the marriage and vowing never to make her part of the family, with the result, she says, that it "is a marriage on paper only".

Now, I suspect that this kind of promise is made by many men trying to entice women into bed with them, so my advice to such men is to keep your fingers crossed when making it!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Laws of Love

I hope I'm not jumping the gun in mentioning this (it wouldn't be the first time), but I've just noticed a brand new English family law blog. Laws of Love entered the blogosphere only yesterday (hopefully not an inauspicious date), and is written by Southampton-based barrister Mark Chaloner. Mark says that he fancies "having a forum to vent my spleen, inform and (hopefully) amuse others with the madness that is practice in family law". Sounds like a man after my own heart. Oh, and thanks for the mention of Family Lore in your first post, Mark!

Can contact be forced?

I've often been asked over the years whether a parent can be forced to have contact with his/her child. My answer has always been 'no', but a recent German case gives pause for thought. I am extremely grateful to Victor Dewsbery who translated and provided me with the following report:

"In the case in question, the man is married and has two children with his wife. Several years ago he had an extramarital affair with a childhood girlfriend, and a child was conceived. After the inevitable crisis he managed to save his marriage, but any reminder of the relationship with his former girlfriend posed a threat to the stability of the marriage. The mother of the extramarital child tried to force him to have contact with their son, but he refused, arguing that this would jeopardise his marriage. There were even suspicions that the former girlfriend wanted to use the case to revive the relationship. The matter went to court, and the legal battle has now been going on for several years (the child is now nine).

The higher regional court in Brandenburg (itself an appeal court) ordered the father to see his child every three months on pain of a fine of 25,000 Euros, but the father appealed to the German constitutional court in Karlsruhe, claiming that the ruling would jeopardise his marriage and infringe on his personal rights. And his solicitor argued that if he had had any say in the care of the child from the outset, he would have given it for adoption.

In today's ruling, the constitutional court basically ruled in his favour, but not for the reasons he proposed. The argument of the court was based on what is good for the child. Under German law, the child has a right to have contact with both parents, but today's ruling stipulates that this normally stops short of the use of legal force - on the grounds that in many cases it would not be good for the child to have contact with an unwilling parent. So this father is not obliged to have contact with his child (under the German legal system, the constitutional court has referred the case back to the court in Brandenburg for a final ruling, but the constitutional court's ruling on this issue is binding)."

Interesting stuff. I certainly agree with the decision of the Constitutional Court, which seems similar to how an English court would view the matter.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

LexBlog Q & A

Today I had the pleasure and privilege of taking part in a LexBlog Question and Answer interview, discussing the state of the English legal blogosphere. The interview can be found on Kevin O'Keefe's blog, Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

How To Sow Marigolds

In an exciting new departure, Family Lore is joining up with Practical Gardening Weekly, and will now include weekly posts giving handy tips to improve your gardening prowess. To kick off, today we'll explain how to sow your marigold seeds.

First, go down to B & Q and buy your seeds. Then get a box and fill it with dirt. Scrape a few lines in the dirt with your finger (in the trade we call these lines 'drills'). Sprinkle the seeds in the drills and cover them up with the dirt. Pour a load of water on the top, and you're done. Sit back and have a sandwich (remember to wash your hands first).

Next week: How to trim your hedge so that criminals can't hide behind it.