Monday, June 30, 2008

A Good Question

This afternoon a client told me that she hated the divorce process and asked me how I could do this kind of work all the time. Beats me, it's certainly not the money...

The Curse of Spam

283. That's how many spam emails I've just deleted from my mailbox, all coming in over the weekend. Now, I'm sure that's not a record, but it is an indication of the effect of spam on the email system. It seems to me that unless a cure is found, email will soon be moribund as an effective means of communication, which will be a great pity, as it can be so convenient, especially where speed or distance is a consideration.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What shall I post today?


I was going to post about the Scottish case involving the dentist, the prostitute and the sexually transmitted disease, but I didn't.

I contemplated posting about Tricia Walsh-Smith's husband giving evidence in court yesterday, but decided against it.

I thought about doing a post about the speculation that Madonna has hired Sir Paul McCartney's lawyer Fiona Shackleton, but I won't.

It even occurred to me to post about the goings-on in Christie Brinkley's upcoming divorce, but I decided against that too.

Hmm, not sure I'll be writing a post today.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stop distorting young minds!

I've just come across this article, by AC Grayling in the Guardian, via RichardDawkins.net. In it he describes how "the British government is handing over large tracts of the school education system, along with tens of millions of our tax money, to groups of Anousics". Anousics, he explains, are:

"...people who variously believe in ghosts and alien visitations, in the dead coming to life, in magical occurrences, in forms of cannibalism, in obsessive rituals and incantations, in strange psychological observances and sexual perversions, in weird ancient myths, which they regard as true accounts of the origin and nature of the world, and in personified forms of evil and malevolence; who traditionally employ and always threaten torture and execution for those who do not accept their theories, who to gain their ends sometimes engage in war, massacre and murder, and at other times use bribery, brainwashing, and techniques of preying on the poor, sick, depressed and traumatised."

...in other words, Anousics are the religious, specifically the Church of England, the Baptists, the United Learning Trust, Muslim, Jewish and other religious organisations. As Grayling says:

"If the government were handing schools and money to astrologers, witch doctors, Scientologists, the Manson cult, and the like, to educate our children, we would be concerned, would we not? Yet the grounds of belief, the beliefs themselves, and the level of rationality of these groups do not differ one jot from any of the so-called "major religions" to whom the government is handing over schools and money like candy."

Grayling says that 25% of England's secondary schools and an even higher proportion of primary schools are run by Anousics, and these figures are rising fast, with the full support of the Government. This insidious indoctrination of our children must be opposed by people of reason everywhere: all education should be secular.

The Greatest Risk

The BBC reports today that Napo, the union which represents family court and probation staff, has called for tighter checks on domestic violence offenders. According to the union, probation officers have reported a number of cases in which domestic violence offenders were released without risk assessments or checks on their accommodation, with the result that some offenders were returning to live with their victims, and were committing further assaults. This must be addressed - the release of the offender is often the time of greatest risk to the victim, as the offender is out for 'revenge'. Indeed, I have come across cases where the victim has been afraid to apply for committal as they fear what the offender will do when they are released.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Down Memory Lane #5

Reading through the 25th anniversary special issue of Resolution's Review, I came across a term that I haven't heard in a long while: jactitation of marriage. For those readers who are somewhat younger than me, jactitation of marriage was a procedure whereby the petitioner sought an order against a person who falsely asserted that they were married to the petitioner. It now seems strange that this was so commonplace that it required a procedure of its own, although I certainly never dealt with a case myself. In fact, I'm not entirely sure why I was aware of the procedure - was it included in the family law course when I was at the College of Law? Not surprisingly, jactitation of marriage was consigned to the dustbin of history, when it was abolished by section 61 of the Family Law Act 1986.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

United Too Soon

As any family lawyer in this country will know, Friends Reunited has a lot to answer for when causing marriage breakdown, but the Telegraph today reports a new twist: a woman who found a childhood sweetheart on the website bigamously marrying him. Sally Bailey admitted going through with the wedding to Glen Bickers, an old classmate, despite not yet being divorced from former husband Raymond Bailey.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stamp out this abuse

The Independent reported on Sunday a police operation next month to stage high-profile checks on flights to a number of African states, in an attempt to stop young girls being taken abroad to undergo forced genital mutilation (hat-tip: Current Awareness). The Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (FORWARD), an international non-governmental organisation that works to advance and protect the sexual and reproductive health and human rights of African girls and women, estimates that around 11,000 British-based girls aged between 9 and 15 have undergone the ritual in the UK or in their parents' home countries, and research by the Department of Health suggests that more than 20,000 British girls are at risk. In 2003 it was made illegal to perform female circumcision on a British citizen anywhere in the world, but since then no one has been prosecuted. Clearly, more needs to be done to stop this appalling abuse of children - and if you have any doubt as to how appalling it is, read the harrowing account of victim Salimata Badji-Knight, at the end of the report.

Meanwhile, unnecessary circumcision of male children continues in this country unchallenged.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin: 1937 - 2008

Divorce-Online: The Way of the Future?

When Divorce-Online announced recently that they now handle 5% of all divorces in England every divorce lawyer in the country should have sat up and taken notice. There are about 150,000 divorces in England and Wales each year, so I make it that they handle about 7,500 divorces a year, an incredible figure for one business. What is responsible for this success?

Divorce-Online was founded in 1999 by Mark Keenan, and was the first online divorce service in the UK. Their business model is that they only deal with agreed matters, essentially offering two levels of service: 'DIY Divorce' and 'Managed Divorce'. With DIY Divorce, the clients will deal with the divorce themselves, with the company completing all documents for them, at a cost of £65, or £150 if a consent order is also required. With Managed Divorce, the company will also file the documents with the court and deal with correspondence, with their fees starting at £175. The company has a staff of 7 with additional work, such as drafting consent orders, outsourced to solicitors.

It seems to me that there are two primary reasons why clients are attracted to the service: cost and convenience. With fewer people entitled to legal aid and money now becoming tighter, the appeal of a service that seriously undercuts solicitors is obvious. The only problem, of course, is that you have to have agreed a financial/property settlement with your spouse in order to take full advantage of the service. As to convenience, the public is expecting to be able to do more and more from the comfort of their own homes - if you can order your grocery without going to the supermarket, why not deal with your divorce without having to go to see a solicitor?

The other reason for the success of Divorce-Online is the drive of Keenan, and his willingness to innovate. He was not afraid to set up the business at the time of the dot.com crash, and initially ran it from his home in his spare time, until he found an investor. He often appears in the media, and the company was famously the first to advertise cut-price divorce services on television.

Not dealing with contested matters, services like Divorce-Online will never replace solicitors, but they are certainly having a serious effect upon the profession, and I can see many in the profession having to quickly reconsider their business model in order to survive. The title to this post is incorrect: it is not the way of the future, it is the way of now.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

She won't go away...

There's no stopping Tricia Walsh Smith. Not content with her 'YouTube Divorce' fame, she recently appeared on broadband 'pop culture show' "The Heyman Hustle", she is in 'serious talks' for her own Reality Show (the mind boggles), she has begun writing the memoirs of her life and she is soon to launch an online store, selling t-shirts, tank tops, hats, and other 'Warrior' paraphernalia "reflecting the strength, power, dignity, and courage Tricia shows on behalf of women everywhere", amongst other projects. Say what you will about her, she certainly doesn't lack energy. Her divorce proceedings begin on the 26th June, and on her website you can even vote on who you think will 'win', if there is such a thing as a winner in a divorce.


Update: For an account of her first day in court see here. The videos were shown...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Madeleine: A Ward of Court

Many thanks to Jailhouselawyer for pointing out this article, in The Telegraph today. It has been revealed that, shortly after Madeleine McCann disappeared last year, her parents applied to the High Court to have her made a ward of court. They are now using the wardship to ask the court to order Leicestershire Police to disclose details of reported sightings of Madeleine, so that they can have those sightings investigated by a detective agency.

Wardship is a fairly rare bird these days. Its effect is to empower the court to make such orders as are deemed necessary for the protection of the child. This may seem a bit odd in respect of a child that is missing and may be dead, but wardship is quite often used in such circumstances - the court can make whatever orders are considered necessary to locate and return the child, and this is exactly what the McCanns are seeking. On the face of it, it does seem to make sense - surely the more people that are looking for Madeleine, the greater the chance that she will be found (assuming, of course, that she is still alive)? On the other hand, a cynic might say that the application is just a smokescreen - an attempt by the McCanns (who are, of course, suspects in the case) to indicate their innocence.

Update: The police have agreed to release the files.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pull the other one

I was amused to read in the Gazette this week that Lord Hunt has indicated that it is 'likely' that solicitors will ultimately benefit from an increase in legal aid fees, after the new fee arrangements are implemented. Under the arrangements advocacy fees for solicitors and barristers will, of course, be unified, although for some reason it has been decided that barristers' fees will be reduced to the level of solicitors, rather than solicitors' fees increased to the level of barristers. Funny that. Still, I'm sure that Lord Hunt's words will have solicitors flocking to do legal aid advocacy work...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In Defence of the System

Being a little fed up with the many recent attacks on the family justice system and all those who work within it, I’ve been thinking of writing an ‘in defence of the system’ post for a while. Now I don’t have to - Lucy Reed at Pink Tape has done it already, and far more eloquently than I could have:
The family justice system has no miracle cure for broken families. Parliament cannot legislate for love or hate or any other human emotion with any degree of precision and the law is a blunt tool given to judges with which they try to perform very delicate surgery. A court cannot treat the ailment of family breakdown by the dispensing of justice, like a pill.

Recommended reading, particularly for those disillusioned with what the system has done (or not done) for them.

No Nudity Here

I've said before that I don't like to disappoint any readers of Family Lore, but a look at the keywords that have brought people here suggests that some of the, ahem, more discerning surfers out there may not find what they are seeking. Take, for example, this recent search term:

family nudity blog

Is there such a thing? If not, maybe I'm missing an opportunity - perhaps I should spice up this blog? Then there's the similar:

naked family stories

Sorry, I don't have any, I'm afraid. Pity - could make my job more interesting. I also don't have any pictures of:

naked english house wifes

Now, I wouldn't mind but it should, of course, be 'wives', not 'wifes'.

Lastly, my favourite:

family naked bach

Is the searcher a Welsh naturist, or perhaps they know something about the private life of the great composer? I clearly lead too sheltered a life to answer such questions.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

C-MEC: Effect of new formula

Now that the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 has been passed (and further to this post), I've been having a more detailed look at the effect of the new rules for calculation of child maintenance, contained in Schedule 4. I've put together the following table, using The Salary Calculator to come up with figures for net income (all figures are rounded down to the nearest pound), and assuming that the NRP has no other children:


(I believe these figures are correct, but if you think I've made an error, let me know.) Just to recap, the new system will be based on gross income, with the basic rate figures (income £200 - £800) changing from 15% to 12% for one qualifying child, from 20% to 16% for two and from 25% to 19% for three. The rates reduce to 9%, 12% and 15% where the NRP's gross weekly income exceeds £800. The intention of the reduced rates was, of course, to keep the maintenance figures the same. As will be seen from the table, this has worked fairly well, but there are some anomalies, especially where there are one or two children - here, many NRPs will pay significantly more, particularly if they have higher incomes.I'm also not sure if the lower rates for NRPs with gross weekly incomes over £800 are low enough to achieve parity with the current formula.

The new scheme will not begin until 2010. From April 2009 existing CSA 'customers' will be asked if they would like to opt-in to the new system, and the transfer will take place if either parent wants to opt-in. Transfers will start in 2010 and should be completed over the following three years.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An Impossible Task

It has been reported that Brian Philcox, who killed himself and his two children Amy, 7, and Owen, 3, on father's day was going through an acrimonious divorce. Thankfully, I have never had anything remotely like this occur in any case I have dealt with, but reading reports of such events always makes me wonder if there would be any warning signs that could give a lawyer (or any other professional involved in the case) an opportunity to prevent a tragedy.

Thanks to Divorce Survivor for pointing out this article, that appeared in the Guardian in November 2006, discussing the issue of parents who kill their children (known in America by the chilling name of 'family annihilators'). It seems that there are some typical aspects to such crimes, for example most fathers kill out of revenge and most mothers as a result of mental illness, and that there are warning signs that a psychologist would spot. Depressingly, however, expert opinion is that prevention is an almost impossible task.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Senior Judge criticises system

Mr Justice Ryder, the most senior family judge on the northern circuit and a member of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Judicial Management in Public Law Children Act Cases, has launched a scathing attack on the family justice system, as reported in The Times today. According to the report, his criticisms include that the family courts are out of tune with society and that they lack the capacity to deal with the volume of cases. He "has called for an overhaul to make family courts open and in touch with the public", for example by giving judgments in public. More radically, he proposes the creation of a new “family court diversion scheme” whereby local community tribunals act as a 'gateway for family justice', and that legal aid be granted by a panel of lay people chaired by a lawyer.

Interesting stuff.

Update: The full text of the speech has now been published (in PDF form) on the Judiciary website, here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Trip to the Vet

Once a year I have the chance to get my own back on Muhammad, when I take him to the vet for his annual injection.

I knew he would make a dash for freedom when he heard me getting the pet carrier ready, but this time I was one step ahead of him, having locked the cat flap. Reluctantly, he crept into the carrier.

Muhammad also doesn't like the car.

"You're lucky," I told him. "At least I managed to get some petrol. If I hadn't, we'd be going by train."

"If we could find a seat between the mountains of secret government documents." Mumbled Muhammad grumpily.

* * *

The journey to the vets was slow but quite uneventful, at least until we passed the house of a well-known local magistrate.

"What the hell are those idiots doing up there?" Exclaimed Muhammad, pointing his paw at two figures on the roof of the house dressed in what looked like Batman and Robin outfits.

"Oh, they're just two guys from he local branch of Fathers 4 Justice." I replied nonchalantly.

"Well I hope they don't fall off." Said Muhammad. "How much further to go?" He asked impatiently.

"Nearly there."

* * *

The vets were busy. In the waiting area Muhammad got chatting to a Maine Coon, who told him that she had just come to the country from America.

"You must have been in quarantine then?" Asked Muhammad.

"Yes, twenty-six weeks." Replied the Maine Coon. "And I didn't have rabies."

"That must have been awful, incarcerated for so long when you didn't need to be."

"Yes it was. Did you hear the Government wants it increased to 42 weeks?"

"But that doesn't make sense. All the experts agree that 26 weeks is long enough."

"When has the Government listened to experts?"

"True."

"Muhammad Bolch?" Called the vet.

That brought the conversation to an end.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Age matters

I've posted previously about 82-year-old Adelfa Volpes marrying a 24-year-old man, but today the BBC reports an Egyptian case where a 92-year-old man has been banned from marrying a 17-year-old girl. The marriage was prohibited under a law which states that the age gap between spouses should not exceed 25 years, designed to prevent wealthy men from the Gulf states seeking poor young Egyptian brides. I suspect that many in the West would be outraged by such a law, but at least the man was spared Adelfa's fate. Perhaps he is now looking for a 67-year-old maiden.

Report on Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage and “Honour”-Based Violence

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has today published its report on Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage and “Honour”-Based Violence. The report is in two volumes, comprising 168 and 514 pages respectively, but the summary notes:
  • Available statistics suggest that one in four women and one in six men will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives.
  • So far as so-called “honour”-based violence and forced marriage is concerned, the evidence is patchier, but the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit handles 300 cases a year, although the true number is likely to be far higher.
  • The Government’s approach to all forms of domestic violence remains disproportionately focused on criminal justice responses at the expense of effective prevention and early intervention.
The Committee's recommendations include:

1. That the Department for Children, Schools and Families introduces an explicit statutory requirement for schools to educate children about domestic and “honour”-based violence and forced marriage.

2. That visa sponsors are interviewed where there is suspicion of a forced marriage, including where suspicion is raised through information provided by third parties, and that the Government attach a power of refusal without the need for an evidential statement to visa applications in the case of reluctant sponsors.

3. That a thorough programme of accredited training for front-line professionals should be implemented across the board, including teachers, health professionals, visa entry clearance officers, police, judges and magistrates.

4. That the Department for Communities and Local Government urgently quantify the scale of the shortfall of refuge space and emergency housing for those fleeing domestic or so-called “honour”-based violence or forced marriage, and work with local authorities to ensure that refuge space is sufficient to meet demand across every local authority area.

5. That the Home Office and Association of Chief Police Officers must ensure all police officers are explicitly instructed not to issue cautions, and that the Crown Prosecution Service must charge for breaches of injunction.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Perfect Father's Day Gift

"This Father’s Day, give Dad just what he wants. A chance to get out of the house. A chance to get away from Mom’s nagging… a chance to do his own thing. This Father's Day, Give Dad a Divorce." So says The Fan 590, a sports radio station in Toronto, introducing a competition whose prize is money towards the divorce lawyer's fees for your own father's divorce. I don't know what the competition involves, but I'm sure there are plenty of Toronto fathers hoping their children have won...

Stop the Nightmares

I've mentioned this many times here before, and now there is something we can all do to publicise the issue and stimulate debate. Religious indoctrination of children is child abuse, pure and simple. Stop the Nightmares has now set up an e-petition on the 10 Downing Street website requesting the Prime Minister "to update harassment laws to prohibit religious bullying aimed at children". Here are the details:

"The current laws on harassment are not sufficient to protect children from the sort of bullying that religious groups use every day to coerce children into obedience and belief. Threatening an adult with eternal torture may be distasteful but is not likely to result in psychological damage. This is not the case with children. The effects of religious bullying can be long-term and serious, from nightmares and depression to anxiety disorders and even suicide.

The fact that threats of damnation, torture and other extreme punishment are used routinely is clear evidence that existing laws are insufficient. We call on the Prime Minister to clarify the existing harassment laws by adding clauses outlawing any form of threat, supernatural or otherwise, aimed at children; and to provide guidance to the police and other authorities on the enforcement of these laws."


I urge all readers who care about the welfare of children to sign the petition. If you have any doubts, look at the video on the Stop the Nightmares website. Chilling stuff, and difficult to watch.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Opportunity Lost

The Law Commission has today published its 10th Programme of Law Reform, including a project to "examine the status and enforceability of agreements made between spouses or civil partners (or those contemplating marriage or civil partnership) concerning their property and finances". This will include not just pre-nuptial agreements, but also agreements made during the marriage/civil partnership and separation agreements, under the umbrella name 'marital property agreements'. Such agreements are not, of course, legally binding but can be taken into account by the court in property settlements. Work on the project is to begin in September 2009, with a view to preparing a report and draft Bill by September 2012.

It was also suggested that the Commission consider reform of section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, i.e. the basis upon which the property and finances of spouses and civil partners should be divided in the event of nullity, judicial separation, divorce and dissolution. However, the Commissioners decided not to include this project in the Programme partly because of the politicised nature of the issue, and partly also because the Ministry of Justice "has indicated that it would prefer the Commission to examine the law governing the status and enforceability of marital property agreements rather than the wider issue of ancillary relief". I realise that such a project would, as the Commission says, "be a major undertaking and would have significant resource implications", but it seems that another opportunity has been lost for much-needed reform of this critical area.

Why I won't be letting my son drive my car...

A video of my son playing a driving game:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seeking Pastures New

Right, I am now officially seeking new employment. So, if you're looking to employ an experienced family law hack, then I could be your man. I'll consider any sort of position, and not necessarily doing fee-earning work, including non-practising positions. I can send my CV on request, but a look around this blog will say more about me than any CV. Any enquiries should be sent to my personal email address, bolch[at]supanet.com.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008

The Act has now received Royal Assent*, and can be found (in pdf form) here. Just to recap, Part 1 sets up the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, Part 2 transfers child support functions from the Child Support Agency to the Commission and Part 3 contains the new provisions for calculation, collection and enforcement of maintenance. No news yet on commencement of the main provisions of the Act, but I'm sure I'll be returning to this subject over the coming months...

[*Usual hat-tip to Current Awareness.]

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A protester is for life

Those wacky campaigners at Fathers 4 Justice are at it again. Dressed as "Captain Conception" and "Cash Gordon" Mark Harris and Jolly Stanesby have climbed onto the roof of Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman's house and unfurled a banner reading: "A father is for life, not just conception". They have said that they will remain at the property until Miss Harman has read Mr Harris's book, Family Court Hell. Apparently, the founder of Fathers 4 Justice, Matt O'Connor, has threatened that: "This is the beginning of a series of protests leading up to Fathers' Day". Oh goody, I can't wait.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Euro 2008: A Game of Football

Inspired by cretinous football commentators telling me that the teams were "playing a game of chess", I thought I would celebrate the opening of Euro 2008 by replaying in chess form England's glorious defeat against Croatia, that spared us all the pain of watching them in the tournament.

1. f3
England kick off with an unusual opening move. A tactic practised on the training ground perhaps?

1... e5
Croatia are not intimidated, they look like they know what they're doing...

2. g4
...unlike England. Could this be an own goal?

2... Qh4#
It certainly could! England's overpaid underachievers have fallen for fools mate! What a choker! Looks like McLaren's days as manager are numbered...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Latest Cases on Family Law Week

...and while I'm on a roll, I've added a feed from the latest judgments on Family Law Week.

Family Law NewsWatch

I've added a feed to (or should that be from?) Family Law NewsWatch to the sidebar of the blog. Simply click the news item to read it. Many thanks to Nick Holmes of Binary Law for his help in setting up the feed.

Update 16/6/08: After some testing, I've decided that I'm not satisfied with this feed, so I've replaced it with a news feed from Family Law Week.

Prejudicing the Children

Further to this post, I today received a copy of a letter from the local CAFCASS office to the court, regarding a report that was ordered on the 7th May. They state that they are not in a position to allocate the report to a CAFCASS officer at the present time, and that the case is currently at number 46 of the list of unallocated cases. They hope to allocate it within 12 weeks, and it will then take a further 12 weeks for the report to be completed. I make that a total of about 28 weeks from the date the report was ordered, or some seven months, all of which confirms Ofsted's findings of the "serious failings" of CAFCASS. So much for the 'delay is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child' principle in section 1 of the Children Act.

Interestingly, the letter goes on to state that CAFCASS has "now started taking measures in order to alleviate the backlog", including "outsourcing some reports to an outside organisation". Really? Who exactly are this organisation, and what are their qualifications to deal with such matters? Are they charging for this service? If so, how much? If they are charging, then would it not be better to use that money to recruit more CAFCASS officers, to resolve the problem on a more permanent basis?

Update: Many thanks to Fiona of Divorce Survivor for pointing out that Cafcass South East entered into a partnership with children’s charity Coram at the beginning of April. For details, see this press release.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

All the fun of the fair, English style

When I posted last year on the world's first "divorce fair" in Austria, I asked the question: where Austria leads, will England follow? Well, the answer, it seems, is "yes". As reported in the Telegraph today, Britain's first-ever "divorce fair" is to be held is to be held at Brighton Racecourse on the 11th October. Called the 'Starting Over Show' (S.O.S., geddit?), it is being billed as "the first UK event to help people bounce back from relationship break ups and life crises". There will be an eclectic mix of exhibitors, including mediators, lawyers, financial advisers, a photographer (!), a troupe of pole dancers (!!), and that thing that all divorcing couples need, a mystic housewife healer. I hope visitors will find what they are seeking.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Joint Birth Registration

I've been reading the article in The Times today (hat tip: Current Awareness) about the proposed new scheme to require the naming of fathers on birth certificates, where the parents are not married (the White Paper can be found here, in pdf format). I broadly welcome the idea (why should a father not get parental responsibility automatically?), but it seems to me that there are some problems with it.

Firstly, as the article points out, there is nothing that the proposed new law can do if the mother does not want to identify the father and the father does not want to be named, so there will still be a (hopefully smaller) number of children where only the mother is named. Don't those children have a right to know who their father is?

The second problem is where the mother names the father and the registrar is then expected to "pursue him until he signs". Just how is the registrar supposed to do this? What can the registrar do other than write to the alleged father? Obviously, many such fathers will simply ignore letters, leaving it to the mother to make an application to the court or, more likely, the Child Support Agency, as at present.

Finally, there must be many cases where the mother does not name the father and the father simply does not know that he is the father. I can't see that the proposals offer much to him. Sure, the mother will be asked to identify the father by the registrar, but it will be easy enough for her to say that she does not know the father's identity.

No, you're not a 'survivor'

OK, I may get flamed for this, but here goes.

A couple of weeks back Bystander at The Magistrate's Blog wrote a post in which he expressed his irritation at a domestic violence victim being described in court as a 'survivor'. At the time, I thought he was getting het up over not a lot - yes, it's true that only a very small number of domestic violence victims are killed and yes it is therefore somewhat dramatic to call them 'survivors' but, hey, it's not worth getting hot under the collar about it.

Now I'm not so sure. This morning I received the latest e-bulletin from Resolution and in it is an article about 'Parental Alienation Syndrome' (PAS) which includes a quote from someone described as an "adult survivor of PAS". Now this does irritate me. Has anyone ever died from PAS? No. Well, in that case it is completely meaningless (not to say misleading) to use the term in this context. Such hyperbolic over-dramatisation will not do anything for those who have suffered PAS, and may result in a complete misunderstanding of a serious issue that can affect many children disputes.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Relative interference

Interference by relatives is a perennial problem in family law, but I've never come across a case where relatives got a couple divorced without their knowledge! That is what is alleged to have happened to Virender Verma and Meena, in the Indian city of Hisar. The happily married couple have just found out that they were divorced ten years ago, at a time when there was a dispute over harassment for dowry between them and Virender's family. They claim that Virender's advocate brother Surinder forged their divorce documents, to defeat a possible complaint by Meena. Surinder denies the allegation.

Women, know your limits

On the subject of male chauvinism, here's a reminder of the good old days:

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Bad law, good result

I've just come across this story, via RichardDawkins.net: "France plunged into a heated debate about its marriage laws today after learning that a court had annulled the union of two Muslims because the husband said the wife was not the virgin she had claimed to be". Apparently, the husband's lawyer defended his client's position by saying that "the wife had lied about what French law calls an "essential quality" of a contracting party".

Good grief. This is western Europe, 2008. That a court should connive with such archaic male chauvinism is an affront to women. Did anyone ask the husband if he was a virgin?

Still, the wife is surely better off without him.

May Post of the Month

It took me a while to choose May's blawgpost of the month, but eventually I decided that the post that stuck in memory the most was this one, in which BabyBarista experiences one of the realities of the English legal system, i.e. that it's not always about justice, but about money.

So much for the idealism of youth...

The prize of a virtual brief fee of £2000 is on it's way to the impecunious BabyBarista.