Friday, January 30, 2009

Ancillary Relief Toolkit

As well as the usual daily update to Family Law Focus, I've added a new feature: the Ancillary Relief Toolkit. The toolkit comprises a list of web links relating to ancillary relief, including legislation, leading cases, calculators, tables and other useful links. I will be adding to the kit continuously, but if you are aware of any useful links that you think should be included, please let me know.

Best Divorce Lawyer’s Card

My thanks to James J Gross of the Maryland Divorce Legal Crier for this:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Interview with Neil Denny on Family Lore Focus

In addition to doing the biggest daily update yet on Family Lore Focus, I have added an interview with Neil Denny of Mogers Solicitors in Bath, one of the architects of 'Red File', described as 'a new model for providing divorce remedies', to get more detail on this interesting idea. The interview can be found here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Family Law Focus Daily Update

I've done a large daily news update to Family Lore Focus today, with links to several interesting news stories and family law blog posts from England, Australia and the United States.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Podcast Interview #1: Charon QC

Today I embark upon a new career as a podcast interviewer, and who more appropriate to talk to for my first podcast interview than Charon QC, probably the most prolific podcaster in the UK legal blogosphere? We talk about many things, including podcasting, Twitter, blogging and, of course, drinking red wine. I hope you enjoy listening to the podcast as much as I enjoyed making it:

Podcast Interview #1: Charon QC

Family Law Focus updated again

Family Law Focus has been updated again, including the third article on Parental Alienation Syndrome by Dr L.F. Lowenstein.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ultimate Court, Ultimate Lawyer

I'm never quite sure what Muhammad enjoys more on a Sunday morning - his breakfast (today it is Gourmet cat food, slow cooked with duck and garden vegetables), or catching up on the week's news.

"Oh dear," he giggled, "not only are Supreme Court judges unhappy with their real address, they're also unhappy with their virtual one. What a shame."

"Well", I said, "it could have been worse. The court could have been located in Back Passage, in the City of London!"

Muhammad laughed. "And I've just done a domain name search." He said. "It's true most 'supremecourt' names have been taken, but 123-reg suggests plenty of alternative domains - how about '', '', or even ''?"

"'' - excellent." I replied seriously. "Perfect for these times - sends out the message that the Supreme Court is a court for everyone. I shall suggest it to Lord Hope immediately."

Muhammad rolled his green eyes with the disdain that only a cat can do, and turned back to the news. I began composing my email to Lord Hope, but it wasn't long before Muhammad came upon another story that deserved his comment.

"Well," he said, "times may be hard for some lawyers, but Helen Ward won't be going short this year."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Haven't you heard?" Said Muhammad. "Bernie Ecclestone has ditched Withers and instructed Guy Ritchie's lawyer, Helen Ward at Manches."

"What, so you mean she'll be representing Ritchie and Ecclestone?"


"Blimey. I guess her fee income will be more than mine this year then." I said.

Muhammad nearly choked. Perhaps one of the garden vegetables had got stuck in his throat. "Yes," he coughed, "I suppose you could say that."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Week in View 24th January 2009

A podcast roundup of stories from the world of family law and family law blogs:

The Week in View 24th January 2009

Stories/posts referred to in the podcast:

President Obama's Family Agenda

Husband in court bid to claim damages from ex-wife and her lover 'for raising their child' -

Bernie Ecclestone 'hires Guy Ritchie's divorce lawyer' - The Telegraph

Madonna and Guy Ritchie have still not agreed on son Rocco's schooling - Telegraph

Agbaje v Agbaje [2009] EWCA Civ 1 (20 January 2009)

G v A [2009] EWHC 11 (Fam) (20 January 2009)


Marilyn Stowe Blog: The CSA: Rachel Baul Answers Your Questions

Maryland Divorce Legal Crier: Two Stories

Marilyn Stowe Blog: London is the “divorce capital of the world”? Think again!

Benussi Blog: How a credit crunch marriage split could save....your marriage!

Family Lore Search

Family Law Focus Update

I've done another large daily update to Family Lore Focus, including the second of three articles by Dr L.F. Lowenstein on Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Family Lore Focus includes daily news from the world of family law and family law blogs, articles on family law, podcasts, reference (including a search engine dedicated to English family law) and a forum. Feel free to have a look around and participate in the forum. If you have written an article on family law that you believe would be of interest to English and Welsh family lawyers and you would like it published on the site, please send it to me, at john[at] Full accreditation will be given for all articles published.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Carnival is Not Over

Your humble correspondent has offered and, more importantly, been accepted, to write a Blawg Review, on the 15th June. With a little trepidation, and a few misgivings as to the amount of work involved, I am looking forward to it enormously. It will be an honour, and another opportunity for a British blawger to fly the flag, after Charon QC did so recently with such eloquence, and Head of Legal (9th March) and Geeklawyer (16th March - yes, they've let him back) will have done so too.

Lowenstein on PAS

Educational, Clinical and Forensic Psychological Consultant and Chartered Psychologist Dr Ludwig F. Lowenstein has very kindly agreed to me reproducing three of his articles on that common scourge of children disputes, Parental Alienation Syndrome ('PAS'), on Family Lore Focus. The first article, 'Implacable Hostility Leading to Parental Alienation' can now be found on Family Lore Focus, here.

Dr Ludwig F. Lowenstein M.A., Dip. Psych., Ph.D. founded Southern England Psychological Services in 1978, following years of experience as a Consultant Psychologist and after serving the Hampshire Education Authority as Chief Educational Psychologist. He obtained his M.A. and Doctorate in Psychology and Education at London University, and is one of Britain's most quoted authorities on psychology in Education. Over the years he has held such appointments as: Director of Assessment and Guidance for maladjusted boys with learning difficulties, London and Winchester; Chief Examiner in Education Psychology, College of Preceptors, London; former educational psychologist in Essex and London; Visiting Lecturer to the Universities of London, Southampton, Maryland (U.S.A.), and Visiting Professor to the University of Khartoum (Sudan), as well as to many U.K. Colleges of technology and teacher training colleges. He is currently an Educational and Psychological Consultant. He was made a fellow of the college of Preceptors and has also published books and over 360 articles on a variety of subjects including those dealing with Forensic matters.

Family Lore Search

Ruthlessly stealing an idea from Nearly Legal, I have put a new feature on Family Lore Focus. Family Lore Search is a web search engine dedicated to English (and Welsh) family law. Use it to search for law reports, statutes, or anything else English family law related on the web (and mostly free!). The search form can be found on the reference page on Family Lore Focus.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Re F Revisited

The eagle-eyed reader will have noticed that Family Lore now sports a shiny new advertisement, from DNA tester Cellmark, a company I first used some twenty years ago, when DNA fingerprinting blood tests first became available. I remember that well - the accuracy of the results were a revelation after the uncertainty of old-fashioned blood tests. Back in those days, Cellmark pretty much had the field to themselves, but nowadays it seems that hardly a month goes by without my receiving a flyer from a new company offering DNA testing. However, not all of those companies know as well as Cellmark what they are doing, as a re-read of the Re F (Children) (DNA Evidence) case proves...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Am I to be a counsellor now too?

I received a flyer from Resolution today inviting me to attend an 'awareness training' which will explain what my clients can expect should they attend a parenting workshop. No problem with that (although I'm not sure what the word 'awareness' adds to 'training'), but what does slightly concern me is the reasoning they give for attending:

What do you say when your client asks how to tell the kids that they are divorcing?

I say that I am a lawyer, and not qualified to give such advice.

Are you afraid to broach the question of how the children are coping with their parents separation?

No, because I would not normally ask such a question.

Do you worry about your clients' communications with their children?

No, because that is unlikely to be any of my business and even if it is, then again, I am not qualified to advise.

Now, I realise that the questions may be aimed at the simple answer "advise your client to attend a parenting workshop", but that is not how it reads, and this is not the first time that it has been suggested that I provide non-legal advice to my clients. The modern increasingly holistic approach to family law is all very well, but in the end I am only a lawyer. I am not a counsellor, just as I am not a financial advisor, a chartered surveyor or a medical expert.

Clay Chess!

Totally off topic, but I rather liked this - could almost be an epitaph to Tony Hart:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Reading

Plenty to read this Sunday morning. I have done a large news update on Family Lore Focus, including stories from The Sunday Times, The Independent, the Daily Mail, the Irish Independent and a not-to-be-missed post by Judith Middleton on Judith's Divorce Blog.

Friday, January 16, 2009


On the front page of the Gazette this week we have the story that an 'Overwhelming demand for family advice leads to helpline expansion'. The Community Legal Advice family law helpline pilot last year was so successful that the Legal Services Commission has launched a tender for law firms or not-for-profit organisations to provide the service on a permanent basis.

The Gazette article states that "an evaluation showed 82% of callers were able to resolve their problems". So, good news then, or is it? Perhaps I am just being cynical (a condition brought about by doing years of legal aid work), but I can't help wondering whether this isn't just another cheap gimmick aimed at reducing the legal aid budget. Give the punters a bit of cheap advice (not necessarily from a solicitor, as mentioned in the article) and hopefully they won't then instruct one of those awful expensive solicitors. Another example of a second rate service for the less well off?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Susskind in Action

In a new article on Family Lore Focus, Neil Denny of Bath solicitors Mogers discusses "Red File", a new model for providing divorce remedies which follows Richard Susskind's model for the future provision of legal services. I will be interviewing Neil shortly about this innovative new product.

I also continue to update the News on Family Lore Focus, including many links to blog posts by family lawyers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Best Fights on TV

They knew how to make tasteful adverts back in 1986...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Family Lore Focus Forum

In the continued effort to add (hopefully) useful features to Family Lore Focus, I have created a forum. I hope that it will become a useful discussion place for family lawyers and anyone with an interest in family law, in the UK or elsewhere. Feel free to have a look around and post on any subject. To post, you have to join the forum - membership is free. Note, however, that I will not be giving legal advice on the forum.

Bird v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions: Common sense

It's a rarity for an an appeal against the making of a liability order to be successful, but that's what happened in Bird v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions & Anor [2008] EWHC 3159 (Admin).

The Facts: The Child Support Agency made an assessment and informed the father that he was to pay it using Transcash. However, the mother and the father had agreed that the father would pay the mother's share of the joint mortgage on the former family home, in lieu of maintenance. The father therefore made no payments by Transcash, and the Agency sought a liability order. The order was made by the Magistrates and the father appealed, on the basis that he had paid the child support, but just by a different method.

Decision: Mrs Justice Slade in the High Court agreed with the father. The Magistrates are, of course, obliged to make a liability order if they are satisfied that child support has become payable and has not been paid. Mrs Justice Slade: "Section 33(6) of the Child Support Act 1991 requires a Magistrates' Court to find that child support maintenance has not been paid where it is not paid to or through the person specified by virtue of the Regulations made under Section 29(3)(a). However there is no similar provision requiring the Magistrates to find that payment has not been made where it is not made by the method specified by virtue of the Regulations made under Section 29(3)(b). The absence of such a provision leads me to the conclusion that Magistrates are not obliged to make a liability order if they are satisfied that payment was made by the liable person but by a method other than that notified by the CSA [my emphasis]. Accordingly the answer to the question referred by the Magistrates for the opinion of the High Court is: No." With impeccable logic, she went on: "An affirmative answer to the question posed for the opinion of the High Court would oblige Magistrates to make a liability order if they are satisfied that payments have been made by the liable person but by a method other than that notified by the CSA. Such an answer would, for example, compel a Magistrates' Court to make a liability order in respect of a parent who pays child support maintenance to the specified person by cash where cheque was the specified method of payment. In my judgment Section 33 of the Child Support Act 1991 does not have that effect."

Comment: A common sense decision, and one that will, hopefully, be helpful in the common scenario where the non-resident parent is providing financial assistance by discharging bills for the parent with care, rather than paying maintenance direct. Note, however, that the question of whether payment of the mother's mortgage liability by the father was payment of child maintenance was not referred to the High Court: "The question posed by the Magistrates for the opinion of the High Court is predicated on a finding that payment of child support maintenance was paid by Mr Bird but not by the method notified by the Child Support Agency."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pageflakes Family Law Blogs

Where genius leads, the rest of us must (eventually) follow. Taking the lead from Insite Law, I have created a Pageflakes page including all the (current) family law blogs of which I am aware. You can now browse recent posts on all family law blogs (subject to what I say below) on one convenient page. The page will be permanently available on Family Lore Focus. The page has been organised with UK family blawgs at the top and foreign ones towards the bottom - this is meant as no comment upon foreign blogs, but merely because I think UK blogs will be of most interest to most users.

I have not included blogs which appear to be moribund, and I make no guarantees that all family law blogs are included. In fact, I suspect that many have been omitted. If your family law blog is not on the page, or if you are aware of a family law blog that is not on the page, please let me know, and I will include it.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

DIY Divorce: A Good Idea?

Jo Spain of the Family Law Matters blog has written a post warning of the dangers of doing your own divorce rather than instructing a solicitor. As a practising divorce solicitor and author of a book on how to do your own divorce I do, of course, sit on both sides of the fence on this one. There are a number of issues, and the following spring to mind:
  • Jo concedes that doing your own divorce may be appropriate where matters are agreed. Whilst this is true, I'm believe that many people are quite capable of dealing with their divorce where matters are not agreed.
  • Of course, there are circumstances where representing yourself is clearly inappropriate - I point out a number of such circumstances in my book, for example drafting a consent order to give effect to an agreed financial/property settlement, a point made by Jo.
  • I believe that a book like mine can be useful for information, even if you have solicitor - the cost of the book is less than the cost of one telephone call to your solicitor.
  • As Jo points out, you can obtain forms from the court or the Courts Service website, but these do not necessarily include all documents you might need, and the explanatory notes are limited.
  • Jo makes the point that doing your own divorce can be time consuming and confusing. I'm sure this can be true, but my book is concise, and written in a language designed to be understood by any reasonably intelligent person. It also includes a comprehensive glossary of legal terms.
  • Finally, many people are not eligible for legal aid and simply cannot afford a solicitor, irrespective of whether it best for them to instruct one - in the end, it's about providing options, particularly for people whose options are limited.


I've mentioned before Proposition 8, the enlightened California law that was supposed to ban same-sex marriage. Now, in an extraordinary development, it seems that there was a highly embarrassing typographical error in the Proposition, so that it actually defines marriage as between 'One Man And One Wolfman'. Accordingly, "every marriage in the state except those comprised of an adult male and his lycanthrope partner" has been instantly nullified. Of course, this may not be such bad news for some, although naturally Californian divorce lawyers are up in arms about the effect on their business.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Twittering in Court

Following hard on the heels of Jack Straw's recent announcement that the media would be allowed to attend family courts comes the news from America that a Colorado judge has approved the use of Twitter, and blogs, inside the courtroom to cover an infant-abuse trial. They say that where America leads we follow, so could this be a sign of things to come on this side of the Atlantic (although I doubt that judges here would allow cell phones to be used in court!)?

[As an aside, I was amused by the somewhat ironic reference to this country (which is way behind the US when it comes to openness in the courts) at end of the article, including Magna Carta and public trials in Saxon England (!).]

And how did I find this story? Why, through Twitter, of course! To be more exact, via Rex7, otherwise known as blogger Rex Gradeless - my thanks to him.

* * * * *

Update: My thanks also to the anonymous commenter below for doing something I should have thought of myself, pointing out the twitter profile of the reporter referred to in the story, Ron Sylvester, which was in the story anyway!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Blawging Goodness

It is not often that a blawger from this side of the pond gets to do Blawg Review, but yesterday we were treated a veritable feast of blawging goodness by Charon QC, which I recommend to all readers (and not just because of the mention this blog got in it!). I shall be following the numerous links he gives us, as time permits.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Infernal Memo

Personally, I can't see anything wrong with this.


Divorce Questions Answered

It's been a while since I did a question-and-answer session based upon keyword activity over the last few days. so I thought it was time I did another. As always, my disclaimer in the sidebar applies to what follows, and if anyone disagrees with what I have said, feel free to comment. In no particular order:

consent order model wording

There are precedents for consent orders, the best known set produced by Resolution, but drafting a consent order is not something that I would recommend doing without a solicitor.

quickie divorce

There is no such thing - see this post.

index link child maintenance how to work out

This depends upon the wording of the agreement/order (child support is not index-linked). There is no set formula, but it usually involves annual updating in line with the retail prices index.

writing your own divorce papers

Ahem, may I suggest my book: DO YOUR OWN DIVORCE!

community service order frustrating contact

At first I thought this was referring to the new contact enforcement orders (see this post), but now I'm not so sure. If a CSO is affecting contact arrangements, then (assuming you cannot change the community service) try to re-negotiate those arrangements, or ask the court to vary them.

i have a decree nisi but how can i obtain a decree absolute if my ex refuses to finish the divorce

If you obtained the decree nisi you can apply for the decree absolute 6 weeks and one day after the decree nisi was pronounced. If (as I assume to be the case) your ex obtained the decree nisi then you can apply for the decree absolute 3 months after the date upon which they could apply. Note that such an application usually involves a hearing, and the court may delay the decree absolute until financial/property matters have been finalised.

protocols for family law

There are several, but the main one is the Law Society's Family Law Protocol.

what is shared residency

What it is exactly depends upon what has been agreed between the parents, or ordered by the court. It involves the children spending time residing with each parent, but not necessarily dividing their time equally between the parents.

dealing with the c.s.a.

All I can say is good luck! Seriously, cooperate with them, provide them with everything they request as quickly as you can, keep on to them until they deal with the matter, but don't make a nuisance of yourself.

ex wife remarried can she claim half of house if i die

She can't make a claim against your estate.

no property or children consent order

In these circumstances (and assuming a clean break is appropriate), it is best to get a simple order dismissing all financial/property claims by either party against the other, to prevent any such claims being made in the future.

christmas arguments with family

A common problem - discuss with your divorce lawyer in January!

county court matrimonial speak

Yes, we lawyers are still guilty of using jargon (although things aren't as bad as they used to be) - that's why I put a (lengthy) glossary in my book. If you're not sure what something means, don't be afraid to ask, even if it means asking the judge.

joint parental responsibility

If more than one person has parental responsibility (as will both parents, if they are married), then that responsibility is shared. If they cannot agree any particular matter, then either may apply to a court for an order dealing with that issue.

how to represent yourself ancillary relief

Yes, it can be done. Once again, I would humbly suggest my book, DO YOUR OWN DIVORCE!

And finally...

what do divorce lawyers do?

Beats me.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

December Post of the Month

As we are constantly being reminded, 2008 was the year of Twitter, the new social networking marvel that will revolutionise our lives and provide lawyers with new and wonderful marketing and other opportunities. Indeed, follow the 'right people' on Twitter, and you will be bombarded with cunning schemes as to how it can be used. However, it takes true genius (or perhaps just a sufficient quantity of red wine) to come up with a genuinely novel way to use Twitter. One such genius is Charon QC, who last night treated us to a whole new entertainment form, the 'Tweeplay'.

"At a loss as to how best I could amuse myself this eve of the New Year, I thought it may be interesting to re-take France for our Nation and report events as they unfolded on TWITTER." So begins a surreal tale of an "unauthorised personal invasion of La France", involving a number of other Twitter luminaries, a pheasant, various items of clothing, and ending up with a meal in Paris. My December Post of the Month can only go to Charon QC for 'We sailed against the French… a short *Tweeplay*….', the best use of Twitter that I've yet come across. We may have lost Pinter, but we have gained Charon QC.

The prize? Well, it can only be a lifetime's supply of the virtual 'red stuff' - we must, after all, ensure that the ideas keep flowing...