Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's enough to give divorce a bad name...

"Neither party comes out of the case looking good, or, indeed, even mildly versed in decent behaviour."

It has been dubbed 'the divorce of the century', the latest high-profile divorce case to capture the American public imagination. In one corner we have 66-year-old George David, the Chairman of United Technologies Corporation, and in the other 36-year-old Swedish Countess Marie Douglas-David. And they both came out fighting...

His allegations included that she had had an affair and had forced him to have sex with her. Her allegations included that he had had an affair and that he was a control freak. Clearly going for the sympathy vote, she claims that she needs at least $53,000 a week to cover her living expenses. And so it goes on... For more gory detail, see this report in The Observer today.

Friday, March 27, 2009



Today [Friday 27th March 2009], in Harrogate, 100 top lawyers, doctors, and social workers will examine whether the Children Act 1989 – the law behind the Baby P case and the Doncaster child protection crisis – is still fit for purpose.

In its time, the 1989 Act was hailed as “the most comprehensive and far reaching reform of child care law which has come before Parliament in living memory” (1). It followed the much-publicised deaths of children from abuse and neglect in the 1980s – for example, Jasmine Beckford, Tyra Henry and Kimberly Carlile – and the removal to care of over 100 children said to have been sexually abused in Cleveland.

John Myers – barrister and head of the family team at Zenith Chambers in Leeds – says the multi-disciplinary conference will ask whether the Children Act 1989 has lived up to expectations: “Has the court system protected children in the way the Act intended? Has co-operation between agencies improved? Has the welfare of the child become the paramount consideration? How has support for families and safeguarding of children worked?”.

The conference – organised by Zenith Chambers – will hear from:
• Law Professor Mary Hayes of Sheffield and Swansea Universities, a family law specialist, and a Deputy District Judge in Magistrates Courts.
• Dr.Kate Ward, a designated Consultant Paediatrician at Airedale General Hospital.
• Paul Nixon, Assistant Director, Children's Social Care, North Yorkshire County Council.
• Jane Booth, Corporate Director, Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass) and previously at the Social Services Inspectorate and Assistant Director of Children’s Services in Kirklees.

John Myers added: “The conference will help us share best practice in child care law across the professions, and we’ll publish recommendations about the future of the Children Act 1989”

* * * * *

(1) The quotation is from the speech by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay to the House of Lords in the 2nd reading of the Bill on 6.12.98.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pro-Active Judging

Many thanks to Jeanne Hannah of Updates in Michigan Family Law for drawing my attention to this remarkable video:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

1000th Post!

Now I really ought to get a life...

Money Box Live

Today's Money Box live programme on BBC Radio 4 was on the subject of divorce and separation. The panel of expert guests comprised John Fotheringham, consultant in family law at Edinburgh solicitors Fyfe Ireland, Jane Craig, family partner at Manches, London and Kirsty Marshall, senior advice worker with Gingerbread/One Parent Families. You can listen to the programme on BBC iPlayer, here.

How to sell divorce services

In my continued quest for great law firm commercials, I came across this. They call it a 'skit', but it's so frighteningly realistic, I'm not so sure...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Proposals for Divorce Reform

A couple of posts below I set out Resolution's News Release regarding their call for an overhaul of the divorce laws. This is a subject close to my heart and I have since read an article in Resolution's monthly Review by National Committee member Nigel Shepherd (left), in which he sets out Resolution's proposals for reform.

Way back in September 2007 I posted about the questionnaires that Resolution was then sending out to members, seeking their views on reform of the divorce laws. Those views have been thoroughly reviewed by the National Committee, which has now 'distilled' them into the following proposals:

1. That Part I of the ill-fated Family Law Act 1996 (which remains valid) should be retained. Part I of course just set out the general principles underlying the rest of the Act, such as that the institution of marriage is to be supported and that a marriage which has irretrievably broken down and is being brought to an end should be brought to an end with minimum distress to the parties and to the children affected. Nothing controversial there.

2. That the (pointless) 'Certificate with regard to Reconciliation' that solicitors have to file with divorce papers, stating whether or not they have discussed the possibility of a reconciliation with the Petitioner (almost always answered in the negative) be replaced by a new 'information statement', confirming that the parties had been given certain prescribed information about counselling, mediation, collaborative law, parenting plans and other local services that could assist them. This seems eminently sensible.

3. That as in the 1996 Act, the divorce process should be commenced by one or both parties filing a 'statement of marital breakdown', which would be followed by a waiting period of six months before either or both parties could file a 'declaration that the marriage has broken down, after which the divorce can be finalised. This is not quite as radical as I had hoped (see my earlier post - I feel that the six month period should not be necessary if both parties consent, although see point 6 below), but would still be an enormous improvement over our current archaic system, which can be the cause of so much unnecessary conflict.

4. That there should be power to abridge the six month period for 'exceptional reason'. Naturally, I agree with this.

5. That there should be no requirement that financial arrangements should be settled before the divorce is finalised, which keeps our system different from other jurisdictions where there is such a requirement. However, as before, there should still be power to hold up the divorce for 'good financial reason', although thankfully the power to prevent the divorce completely is considered unnecessary, in view of the introduction of pension sharing.

6. That whilst there should be no requirement for the parties to be separated, where they have been separated the waiting period should be reduced by the separation period. Accordingly, there would be no waiting period at all if the parties had been separated for six months. This seems quite sensible to me.

7. That, unlike in the 1996 Act, there should be no extension of the waiting period where there are minor children or one party objects. I certainly agree with this, which should keep the process at least relatively short.

8. That judicial separation should be retained. Why? In the 21st century, for a court to state that you are still married but judicially separated is completely meaningless.

As Nigel states in his conclusion: "None of us should under-estimate how difficult it is going to be to get a government of any hue to take on reform of our substantive divorce law". Quite. Nevertheless, that should not stop us from trying to bring our system up to date, and in line with the current zeitgeist.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Resolution calls for no-fault divorce

Another News Release from a busy Resolution conference week:


At its national conference in Bristol, Resolution, the organisation representing 5,500 family lawyers, today called on the government to help take the blame out of divorce and separation by introducing no-fault divorce.

“Under current law anyone not wanting to wait two years or more for a divorce has to prove ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery on the part of their husband and wife. This ‘blame culture’ of unreasonable behaviour introduces a degree of discord and unpleasantness into divorce proceedings from the beginning,” said Nicholas Longford, who was newly elected as Chair of Resolution at the conference.

Nicholas Longford also highlighted the lack of clarity surrounding financial arrangements on divorce: “a number of high profile and sometimes contradictory judgements around financial settlements, has introduced a large degree of ambiguity into what divorcing couples can expect to pay and receive. This ambiguity means that there is much for divorcing couples to argue for.

“If the government is serious about promoting amicable settlements through mediation and streamlined courts, it should commit to undertaking a thorough review of family law so that couples can be clearer from the outset about how their finances will be divided.”
From Resolution’s inception twenty six years ago its members have pioneered a non-adversarial approach to family law. Resolution’s members undertake to abide by a code of practice which promotes a constructive approach to family law aimed at minimising conflict.

“The government have asked the Law Commission to review the law relating to pre-nuptial agreements. Whilst this is a very welcome move, the question must be ‘why stop there’. Ultimately there is an urgent need for the government to ensure that family law is brought up to date with the needs of 21st century families, nothing less than a radical overhaul is needed,” said Nicholas Longford.

Brave new world?

I have received the following News Release from Resolution:


In a speech to Resolution family lawyers at their annual conference in Bristol this weekend, Mr Justice Andrew McFarlane said that Government plans to open family courts to the press are unlikely to enable journalists to report fully and accurately on family cases.

Mr Justice McFarlane said that detailed plans, due to come into force next month, will mean that journalists are able to attend family courts, sit in on cases and report on the process, but are likely to mean that they are specifically excluded from reporting the detail of the cases, even after the case is over.

“Whilst accredited journalists can now expect to be permitted to sit in on a private court hearing relating to children, they will face tough sanctions if they report any detail of the particular case that they are observing. Reporting will be limited to the process and the gist of proceedings, rather than the detail of any particular case. In other words the reporting will be about system rather than substance.

“The current changes will do little, I fear, to address the very real difficulty that journalists face when confronted, for the first time, after the end of the court case with a parent who is complaining about a miscarriage of justice. Such parents are, I would suggest, highly unlikely to tip a journalist off before the case starts and invite them to exercise their right to attend and observe the proceedings. Under the new scheme, the journalist is in no better position than they are now to evaluate the validity of the complaints that they are hearing”, said Mr Justice McFarlane.

Mr Justice McFarlane explained that in his view it is: “not really a question of whether the family court should be opened up, but how that can be achieved whilst at the same time meeting all the conflicting and valid reasons for maintaining the essential confidentiality of the process as a whole.

He called for “a mechanism that permits accredited journalists, MPs and others to have access to such material from past court proceedings as would enable them to audit the family justice process against the complaints that they are hearing from the parent.

“This might simply involve the receipt of an anonymised copy of the judgment which would do no more than expose material in written form that the journalist would have had access to had they attended the original oral hearing.

“The brave new world post-April following the ‘opening up of the Family Courts’ therefore seems to be far more sophisticated and restricted than may at first sight have been understood by some journalists, the public at large and, for that matter, the legal profession”.

* * * * *

A full copy of the speech, in PDF format, can be found here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

“For a divorce case, that went smoothly.”

My thanks to Steven Ballard of the Massachusetts Divorce & Family Law Blog for drawing my attention to this great cartoon that appeared in the New Yorker in January. Should definitely strike a chord with all divorce lawyers. Unfortunately, like Steven, my funds don't stretch to buying a licence so that I can display the cartoon here.

Biggest Update Yet

I have just completed the daily news update to Family Lore Focus. With links to nine news stories, two cases, two statutory instruments and nine blog posts, it must surely be the biggest update yet. To keep abreast of what's going on in the world of family law, head over to Family lore Focus.

New Resolution Chair

I have received the following News Release from Resolution:


Local solicitor Nicholas Longford becomes Chair of the leading family lawyers group, Resolution, at its annual conference in Bristol this week.

Mr Longford, a partner at Rustons and Lloyd in Newmarket, will head the national organisation, which represents over 5500 members, for a year.

“With the economic downturn now putting families under more and more strain and family law rarely out of the headlines, this is an important time to become Chair of Resolution” says Mr Longford.

”Resolution’s members are committed to a non-confrontational approach to divorce and separation as the vast majority of people don’t want a nasty and expensive fight with their former partner. We have long campaigned for the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce, for legal rights for cohabiting couples, and for legal aid to be available to vulnerable families. As a self confessed family man, I am passionately committed to these causes and delighted to be chairing Resolution at a time when these issues are high on the political agenda.”

Brought up in Ely, Mr Longford has been a member of Rustons and Lloyd solicitors for over thirty years. He has considerable expertise in the fields of domestic abuse and the law relating to children and is an accredited specialist – Resolution’s highest accolade – in these areas. Having become involved in Resolution in the 1980s he rose through the organisation’s ranks of the Cambridge and West Suffolk group and then moved onto its National Committee in 2005.

Mr Longford is a well respected member of the local community, volunteering his time as trustee of the Newmarket Day Centre and secretary of Newmarket Trainers Federation and is a loyal follower of the fortunes of the local rugby club. “Becoming Chair is a great opportunity to sing the praises of both Resolution and my home town,” says Mr Longford.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Something for Everyone

Another sizeable news update to Family Lore Focus today, including links to news stories, a case report, four articles and three blog posts. Something, in fact, for everyone!

If you have not done so already, you can sign up to the free Family Lore Focus weekly Newsletter, which contain links to the most important or interesting family law news, cases, articles and blog posts of the week. [If you have already signed up to the Newsletter but have not received it (it is normally sent out on Saturdays), then check your spam folder. The Newsletter is checked to pass most spam filters, but may be caught, simply due to the number of links contained in it.]

Monday, March 16, 2009

No laughing matter

Muhammad and I were clearing away the Sunday papers, ready for the recycle bin, or wherever it is old newspapers go.

"Raymond Tooth has to be my favourite divorce lawyer." Giggled Muhammad, as he pawed through yesterday's issue of the Sunday Times.

"After me", I said, feeling hurt.

"Oh, yes, of course." Replied Muhammad hurriedly.

"What's he been up to now?" I asked.

"Didn't you read the Sunday Times yesterday?"

"Well, no, actually..."

"He's been giving advice about marriage and divorce." Said Muhammad.


"Well, for a start, he advises that a rich man should never marry a poor woman, but poor women should try to marry rich men."

"Very good advice too." I said, seriously.

Muhammad giggled again. "And he advises wives to wait until the recession is over before divorcing, so that they get better settlements."

"Perfectly sensible." I replied.

Now Muhammad laughed out loud, his pink mouth and teeth clearly visible.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I just love the way you divorce lawyers see the world."

"What do you mean?"

"You only see it in terms of money."

"We do?" I asked, puzzled.

Muhammad was now rolling on the floor, his paws in the air. "See," he said, "you're all the same!"

"No, we're not." I said, indignantly.

This caused further paroxysms of laughter.

I frowned at him. "What else has he been saying?"

"He's also advising men to divorce now, to save money."

At that point, Muhammad burst into uncontrollable merriment. I walked out and left him to it. Stupid cat does annoy me sometimes.

Blawg Review #203

Geeklawyer has excelled himself with a true orgy of law blogging delights in Blawg Review #203. Head over there immediately: "Leave your pantaloons with your inhibitions by the door: pull up a chair, sit ye down and read on."

Warning: Not for prudes or the faint-hearted. Probably not office-safe either.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Podcast Interview #6: Mark Keenan, Divorce Online

Today I am speaking to Mark Keenan, founder and Managing Director of Divorce Online, the first online divorce service in Europe. Mark founded Divorce Online in 1999, and it has since grown into the largest single provider of divorce services in the country. We talk about how he set up of the company, how it does its business and the future of provision of family law services, amongst other things. The podcast can be found on Family Lore Focus, here.

Cohabitation Bill

I have received the following News Release from Resolution:


Outdated laws on couples are creating a growing social problem, said Anthony Lester QC (Lord Lester of Herne Hill) the Lib Dem Life peer today. Speaking as his Cohabitation Bill is debated in the House of Lords, Lord Lester said that legal reform was urgently required to protect rapidly growing numbers of cohabitants, and their children, from falling into poverty.

“The face of family life has changed dramatically over the past three decades. Marriage rates are at their lowest since records began, one in four couples will be cohabiting in the near future, and cohabitation is increasingly seen as an alternative to marriage. Yet despite the widespread myth of ‘common law marriage’, couples who live together have virtually no legal protection,” said Lord Lester.

“This means that millions of people and their children are faced with poverty and hardship if relationships end. Our laws are completely out of step with modern family life. Reform is essential, as recommended two years ago by the Law Commission.”

Although cohabitation is the fastest growing family type in the UK, the lack of sufficient legal protection leaves many cohabitants reliant on government handouts and the support of family or friends when relationships break down.

“By the time I realised I had no rights, I was in too deep” said Lucy* who had two children with her ex partner. “I had sold my house and given up my job to support my ex by taking care of our children and helping out with his business. When I found out we were not common law husband and wife as I had assumed, I pressed for us to marry - to no avail. Since our split I have had to rely on government handouts and support from family whilst I try and rebuild my career and my new life as a single parent. I suppose the error I made was in trusting someone I loved”.

The reforms proposed in the Bill would have been a lifeline to Anna* whose partner left her in 2007

“My partner and I were engaged to be married”, said Anna, who was in a ten year relationship with her partner.

“We had been together a few years when he persuaded me to stop working so that I could look after him – he had a hugely successful career and I was earning much less than him, so it made sense to both of us. But after five years of not earning and looking after him and his house I was out in the cold when I discovered he was engaged to someone else. As soon as I eventually got work, my ex evicted me. The worst thing was, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.”

The Cohabitation Bill is supported by Resolution, an association of over 5500 family solicitors.

Resolution’s David Allison said: “We know from experience that the most vulnerable cohabitants are those that have made career and financial sacrifices for the sake of their relationship. In a society concerned over the breakdown of the family and its potential to throw children into poverty, we should be supporting, not penalizing those who live in mutually supporting relationships and who make sacrifices for the future of their families”.

Lord Lester said that reform would be likely to save in court costs, state benefits and public housing, whereas the current situation means that the burden of providing for cohabitants on relationship breakdown is falling on the State.

“The Bill represents a new opportunity to deal effectively with this issue. I hope that the government and Parliament will give it their support so that it may become law before the General Election”.

*Names have been changed.

* * * * *

Further information about the Living Together Campaign can be found here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Essential Listening

The tireless Charon QC has today done two lawcasts of direct interest to family lawyers.

First up was Steve Hynes, director of the Legal Action Group, whose purpose is to promote equal access to justice for all members of society who are socially, economically or otherwise disadvantaged. Steve spoke primarily about the future of legal aid, with particular reference to family law matters. Essential listening if you are a legal aid practitioner.

The second lawcast was with Paul Marsh, President of The Law Society, and covered a range of topics including how the Society is helping solicitors during the recession, his views on the future of legal and his thoughts on the future of the profession generally. Essential listening no matter what you practise.

Now THIS is a law firm commercial...

Stand Up Now Campaign

Community Care, the website and magazine for the social care profession, has launched a campaign to protect the profession from media distortion. Stand Up Now for Social Work demands respect for social workers: "The great work of most social workers goes unrecognised while the profession gets pilloried in the media for its mistakes. The campaign to reverse this starts here." Amongst other things, they call on: "The media to portray social work in an accurate and balanced way, be accountable for the information they provide, and agree and adhere to guidelines for reporting on social work."

Since I stopped doing public law work, I've not had much contact with social workers, but (subject to the limits of the guidelines referred to above) I wholly support this campaign. Yes, social workers make mistakes (as we all do), balancing the delicate interests of children and their parents, but they also provide an essential front-line service to the most needy in society. The kind of hysterical media reporting that we have seen recently belittles the achievements of the service and demoralises hard-working dedicated professionals. I hope the campaign is successful in its aims.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Wilderness, by Samantha Harvey

I now have a new alter-ego, as a book reviewer for Law and More. My first review is of The Wilderness, by Samantha Harvey, and can be found here. The Wilderness is the story of a man struggling to cope with the onset of Alzheimer's disease. As I say in the review this is not, one would think, the most uplifting of subjects, but Harvey tells us something about ourselves, even if she can only guess as to what it is like to suffer the disease. Recommended.

Law and More is an "independent career and lifestyle site aimed solely at the legal profession". It includes employment, entertainment and lifestyle sections and (I suggest) should be bookmarked by everyone in the profession.

Foreign Focus

Included in a small but perfectly formed news update to Family Lore Focus today is a link to a post by Michigan family lawyer Jeanne M Hannah. Why, you might think, do I provide links to foreign blogs? The answer, of course, is that we UK family lawyers have much to learn from the experiences of our foreign cousins. They have exactly the same problems to resolve as we have, and their experiences are often of direct interest to us where the differences in laws are of no relevance. Even where they are, it is enlightening to see how things are done in different jurisdictions.

Take Jeanne's post for instance. In it, she discusses how in Michigan spouse maintenance can be either 'modifiable' (i.e. variable, to use our term) or 'non-modifiable', and how to go about entering into a non-modifiable arrangement. As the post points out, non-modifiable spouse maintenance is usually requested by the payer, but it can be a double-edged sword, if their financial circumstances deteriorate. Interesting stuff.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Head over to Head of Legal

In the first part of a double-header by English blawgers, Carl Gardner at Head of Legal has written an excellent Blawg Review #202 - I recommend you head over there immediately. Whether I will be making a similar recommendation next week after Geeklawyer has given us his latest effort remains to be seen...

Getting things in Focus

After a very busy weekend, mercifully little news today on Family Lore Focus. However, there is a story from Australia which contains a warning for all our divorcing clients: for goodness' sake, sort out the house contents yourselves. After a 26-year marriage the wife walked away with almost A$4.5 million, but still argued about a few of the contents of the former matrimonial home including, remarkably, the rubber hose from the laundry trough(!), thereby holding up the sale of the property. This common-sense vacuum had to be filled by the court, which made an order dealing with the contents, to the expense of both parties.

To catch up with all of the family law news over the weekend and today, visit Family Lore Focus.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Week in Focus 7th March 2009

My weekly podcast roundup of the top family law cases and news, and the best family law blog posts:

The Week in Focus 7th March 2009

Stories/posts referred to in this podcast:

Wincott v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2009] EWCA Civ 113 - Family Law Newswatch

MM, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Lewisham [2009] EWHC 416 (Admin)

Jobs plea to ex-social workers - BBC News

Jack Straw deplores 'astonishing growth' of legal aid - The Times

Pink Tape: Jack Straw Deplores…

Women and children 'at risk as family courts reach breaking point' - The Times

Wronged parents need the oxygen of publicity - The Times

Pink Tape: Barrister in ‘No Duty to Child’ Shock

Pink Tape: Domestic Violence Against Men

Marilyn Stowe Blog: Don’t Separate In March! By Guest Blogger Nick White

Newsletter Sign-Up

Domestic Violence Injunctions - American Style

Now, I had never heard of singer Rihanna (otherwise known as Robyn Rihanna Fenty), or her boyfriend, R&B singer Chris Brown. Apparently, however, their somewhat tumultuous relationship has been making the headlines on the other side of the pond, culminating in Rihanna being granted a 'Criminal Protective Order - Domestic Violence' by the Los Angeles Superior Court on the 5th March. Nothing too unusual (unfortunately) about that, but what is, I think, of interest is that the order (what we would call a 'Domestic Violence Injunction Order') has been published, in PDF form, on the internet.

It is always fascinating to see how things are done in other jurisdictions, and three things strike me about this order. Firstly, it appears to have been made under the criminal jurisdiction rather than, as here, under the civil jurisdiction. Secondly, and in typical American style, it includes a (very sensible) provision requiring the defendant to surrender any firearms in his possession, and thirdly it expressly allows the 'protected person' to record any 'prohibited communications' with the 'restrained person'. Some ideas we could use over here?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Another bumper news day on Family Lore Focus

The torrent of family law news continues unabated. Today's update on Family Lore Focus is even bigger than the update yesterday, and includes links to a number of important news stories, a case report, a podcast and several very interesting blog posts.

If you don't have time to read the news every day, why not sign up to the free weekly Newsletter, which lists the most important family law stories, cases, legislation and blog posts of the week?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Podcast Interview #5: Natasha Phillips, Divorce Manual

Today I am speaking to Natasha Phillips, author of the Divorce Manual blog. Natasha is not a practising lawyer but does have a legal background which, she says, gave her a ‘slightly unusual insight’ into the divorce process, when she went through it herself. Her blog has been described by The Times as “packed with resources for families going through the Family Courts in the UK.” We talk about how she became interested in family law, her blog, her work to improve the family justice system and other things, including a remote controlled arachnid! The podcast can be found on Family Lore Focus, here.

Huge News Update on Family Lore Focus

If no news is good news then what is a lot of news? Well, if it is bad news that there is a lot to keep up with then hopefully Family Lore Focus will ease the burden by putting links to it all in one place. I've just completed what is probably the largest daily news update to date, including links to a wide range of news stories, a statutory instrument and some interesting family law blog posts. All is revealed at Family Lore Focus. And if going there every day is too onerous, why not sign up to the free weekly Newsletter, containing links to the most important family law stories of the week, and more?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

You Asked...

It's been a while since I did one of these, so I thought it was time I answered some of the keyword search questions that have recently led visitors to Family Lore. As usual, the Disclaimer in my sidebar applies to what follows.

Can I send a letter to district judge to correct misunderstanding in ancillary relief?

A very specific question, and perhaps a little ambitious for a Google search. The first thing to say is that you should not write to the court if you have a solicitor representing you - they should write to the court on your behalf. Otherwise, there is nothing to stop you writing to the court. As to correcting a misunderstanding, this really depends upon what the misunderstanding was, and the consequences of the misunderstanding. For example, a simple error on a court order could be corrected under the 'slip rule', without any need for a hearing. More serious problems may require a formal application to the court, rather than just a letter.

What does shared residence mean?

A common question. Shared residence is simply an arrangment whereby the children spend part of their time living with each parent. It does not mean that the children will necessarily spend equal amounts of time with each parent. Often, there is little practical difference between shared residence on the one hand and one parent having residence and the other having contact with the children, on the other.

Can I go to court to apply for a liability order myself for child maintenance?

No, you must ask the Child Support Agency to take enforcement action.

Is a consent order during divorce a good idea?

Yes. I assume you are referring to a consent order setting out an agreed financial/property settlement. Such an order should always be obtained, to ensure that the settlement is final and binding.

How to avoid filling in form e

Avoid or evade? Filling in a Form E can be a very onerous and tedious task, but if either party has applied to the court for a financial/property settlement ('ancillary relief'), then the court will require both parties to complete the form. Often, solicitors will require the forms to be voluntarily completed and exchanged, before negotiations take place. In this instance, it is not compulsory to complete the form, but usually adviseable to do so, with a view to settling the matter by agreement. Having said that, in simpler cases a Form E isn't really necessary, especially where each party has a good idea of the other's means.

Query new partner divorce proceedings

A new partner is not usually relevant to the divorce itself, unless it is based upon the spouse's adultery with their new partner. However, a new partner can be relevant to the financial/property settlement, if they have an effect upon that spouse's means and financial needs.

Garnishee order matrimonial maintenance

Garnishee proceedings (where, for example, the debt is recovered from the debtor's bank account) can be used to enforce matrimonial financial orders. However, they are not necessarily the best method to enforce maintenance, as the garnishee order is a one-off, and maintenance is an ongoing liability. Hence, attachment of earnings is usually the best method to enforce a maintenance order, where it is available.

What is an average child maintenance agreement?

There isn't really an average, save for the amount that the paying parent would be required to pay under the child support formula.

Example of ancillary papers for property settlement

It depends upon what papers you are referring to. Most of the forms are available on the Courts Service website. However, examples of orders are not available, and I would not advise anyone attempting to draft an order without legal advice.

What is a ward of court?

See this post.

Representing yourself at court for ancillary divorce proceedings uk

There is nothing to prevent parties representing themselves. I would, of course, recommend that they take at least some advice from a family lawyer.

Why marriages fail

I suppose I should have some idea about this after 25 years of doing this work, but I am not a marriage guidance counsellor. The best I can do is refer you to the National Statistics Online website, where they have figures for divorces by fact proven.

Cost of a consent order

A lot less than a contested order! Seriously, it depends, as always, upon the amount of work involved, but can be the difference between hundreds and thousands. Your solicitor should give you an estimate at the outset of the matter.

Finally, there were the usual oddities:

Is sex a sin?

What is a sin?

How monkeys work as a family


Family Law in Focus

At the risk of turning this blog into a succession of "Update to Family Lore Focus" posts, I do want to mention today's update, as it has some interesting content, including Jack Straw's comments regarding the growth of legal aid, a disturbing foster care case and a post by Lucy Reed of Pink Tape about a barrister's duty to the children in a case. To read about these and the rest of the day's family law news go to Family Lore Focus.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Daily News Update on Family Lore Focus

Another (reasonably) large update on Family Lore Focus today, including links to stories about social services and tax credits, two cases and a blog post about marriage contracts. Catch up on these and much more at Family Lore Focus.

If you haven't done so already, why not sign up to the free weekly Family Lore Focus Newsletter?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Letter to The Telegraph

To: The Editor, The Daily Telegraph

Dear Sir,

As a divorce lawyer I must insist that you remove this article from your website. At a time when divorce lawyers are struggling to retain their fee income, giving advice to couples upon what they should do to remain married is completely irresponsible. Don't you know there is a recession? How can you expect us to keep our fat cat lifestyles if people go around advising couples to stay married?

Any more of this nonsense and I may have to start reading The Guardian.

Shame on you.

Yours etc. etc...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

How to advertise a law firm

I'd hire them...

February Post of the Month

My choice for post of the month usually has something light-hearted or frivolous about it, but there is nothing light-hearted or frivolous about my choice this month. The family justice system continues to be attacked by the faceless purse-holders at Westminster, interested only in the cost of the service rather than its quality. Such has been the case for as long as I can remember. The latest assault has come in the form of the proposal to slash barristers' fees, a proposal which will surely drive many talented lawyers away from the work, thereby seriously reducing the quality of service for some of the most needy in society.

This subject was picked up by Lucy Reed at Pink Tape, in her excellent and heartfelt post 'Family Justice Under Threat', which wins my Post of the Month award for February 2009. The prize? Well, what prize would be appropriate for someone contemplating the prospect of having to give up the job they love? A holiday, I think. So, I have arranged a luxury virtual trip around the world, all expenses paid by the Legal Services Commission. See you when you get back, Lucy.