Sunday, July 31, 2011

Like a broken record...

Following on neatly from my last post, one of the pleasures of vinyl records was when the needle got stuck, causing the music to repeat. Reading Christopher Booker in the Telegraph is a very similar experience.

Switching metaphors, the particular bone that this dog won't relinquish is, for those who don't already know, the child protection system. His latest gnawing appeared yesterday, when he re-visited the case of "a 17-year-old girl, five months pregnant, who fled to Ireland with her parents, after receiving a letter from a social worker she had never met to say her baby would be seized the moment it was born".

Booker then treats us to a shocking story of how this young mother was abused by social workers. The social workers are not, of course, able to explain their actions, but who wants to hear both sides of the story anyway?

Booker continues relentless, concluding with the revelation:
"Most shocking of all is the way these inhuman actions are then supported by a court system which often seems rigged against the parents (and the children), to the point where they are forbidden to speak at all except through lawyers who appear as complicit in the system as the social workers themselves."

...only it's not really a revelation at all, as we've heard it all before.

For legal reasons, comments have been disabled on this post.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Something for the Weekend: 'GRAMMOPHONE'

This was probably my favourite Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch. Of course, back then I identified with Rowan and Griff, but the extraordinary way technology has moved on since would now put me firmly in Mel's shoes...

Friday, July 29, 2011

News Brief: Yes, there IS some news...

As we head into the summer vacation, serious family law news is likely to get a bit scarce, but there is still some of it about...

Both Family Law Week and Family Law report upon the recent successes of the Child Support Agency, as a result of which a record number of children are apparently benefiting from child support/maintenance payments. All of which sounds very impressive, but clearly not impressive enough to distract the government from its intention to reform the child maintenance system, as Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller makes clear. A case of too little, too late?

On Wednesday Community Care reported that: "Ofsted inspections of local authority children's services could in future consist of a two-week, on-site, unannounced visit that will include direct observation of interactions with children and families." The proposal is contained in a consultation on changes to the inspection of local authority children's services. Thankfully, I have no direct experience of being inspected by Ofsted, but I do know how stressful it can be. Whether unannounced inspections will decrease or increase that stress, I can only guess...

Also on Wednesday, the Telegraph reported that the number of children being adopted in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level on record (i.e. since 1997), according to official figures. Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of Barnardo’s, is quoted as saying that social workers must be “braver” and should “act fast” to place children with a new permanent family if their birth parents clearly cannot cope. Hmm, I can already hear the howls of protest from the 'Stalinist state tears families apart' brigade (led, coincidentally, by the Telegraph's very own Christopher Booker).

Finally, Family Law Week reports that the Families Need Fathers’ telephone helpline logged a record number of calls in 2010/11. I suspect that that record will be easily broken in the first year after the government's legal aid cuts come into effect...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Venal & Grabbit publishes its diversity data

Magic circle firm Venal & Grabbit has published anonymised diversity statistics revealing the gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and educational background of its UK lawyers.

The statistics come ahead of the Legal Services Board’s requirement that all firms publish this type of research from next year, particularly sole practitioners.

The figures show that all of Venal & Grabbit's partners, associates and trainees are male.

Some 100% of the partners described themselves as ‘nicely tanned’.

100% of the partners declined to disclose their sexual orientation, threatening to obtain a super-injunction if anyone were to try to disclose this information.

The statistics showed that 100% of Venal & Grabbit's partners and 100% of its associates went to a proper, fee-paying, school.

Venal & Grabbit's Senior Partner Edgar Venal said: "I don't know which cretin at the Legal Services Board came up with the bright idea that all firms must publish this rubbish from next year, but here at Venal & Grabbit we don't care about such things as 'diversity'. All we care about is the ability of staff to bring in fee income.

"We realise that, for example, some might criticise us for not having any female fee earners, but it's well known that a woman's place is in the home, not in the office."

* * * * *

Linklaters publishes its diversity data - Law Society Gazette, 28th July 2011

Discerning

N v N: The limits of appeal

Family Law Week has published two judgments in the case of N v N, which went before the Court of Appeal at the end of June. The case involved a husband's appeal against an order further extending the term of a maintenance order.

In the main judgment, Lord Justice Thorpe considered the husband's appeal. Briefly, the facts were that in January 2005 a periodical payments order had been made by consent, which required the husband to pay to the wife £1,000 per month for a period of five years until 24 December 2009. There was no section 28(1)(a) bar. The wife applied to extend the term of the order and the District Judge extended the maintenance term to April 2012, with a s.28(1)(a) bar. The wife appealed against this order, and the term was extended to the end of August 2015, the s,28(1)(a) bar was set aside and beyond August 2015 there was to be a nominal joint lives order. The husband sought permission to appeal against this order.

Lord Justice Thorpe found that the appellate judge had wrongly interfered with the discretion of the District Judge (paragraph 21):
"It is very important that the limited function of the circuit judge in hearing appeals from the District Judge should be recognised and honoured. This is not a process that allows any rehearing de novo. It is not a process that allows for the admission of fresh evidence unless exceptional circumstances demand that. Essentially much of the speech of the wife on that occasion was an endeavour to introduce a fresh view of the history and fresh evidence ... That could not be admitted in any principled way and in that lies the explanation for a variation which is particularly substantial in that the election for a joint lives order is a fundamental departure from what the parties had agreed ... in 2005."

Accordingly, the application for permission was granted, the appeal was allowed, the order of the appellate judge was set aside and the order of the District Judge was restored.

Lord Justice Longmore and Lord Justice Stanley Burnton gave consenting judgments.

The husband sought an order for costs, and this was dealt with in a separate judgment. He relied not only upon his success, but also upon a 'Calderbank letter'. However, Lord Justice Thorpe did not accept either argument. As to the letter, it was superseded by another settlement letter, which required the wife to pay the husband's costs, and therefore "was plainly inconsistent with an offer to settle". As to general principle, there was no order for costs in the court below, and he agreed that that had been "a wise provision":
"Given their respective financial circumstances, given the interests of the children, I would simply say no order as to costs in this court as in the court below".

Again, Lord Justice Longmore and Lord Justice Stanley Burnton gave consenting judgments.

Every Argument Every Couple Ever Has EVER.

As the blurb for this video states: If you ever got in a fight with your significant other, it went EXACTLY like this:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I, too, can see nothing wrong with this...

A Chinese couple have sold three of their children just to pay for their online gaming obsession. Apparently, their sons realised $4,600 each, but their daughter was only worth $500 (who wants daughters anyway?). The couple apparently could see nothing wrong with what they had done and showed no remorse, claiming that: "We don't want to raise them, we just want to sell them for some money". Sounds quite reasonable to me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In all things give thanks

As anyone who follows this blog will be aware, I wouldn't normally post a video of a pastor saying a prayer, but I rather liked this one, particularly where he gives thanks for his "smoking hot wife":



[This video has been doing the internet rounds for the last couple of days and to be honest, I can't remember where I came across it first.]

Kernott v Jones: Patience, young Skywalker

I'm no expert on the machinations of the Supreme Court, but it seems to me that the judgment in Kernott v Jones will not now be handed down until the Michaelmas term, which begins on the third of October. By then Mr Kernott and Ms Jones would have waited one day short of five months to hear the outcome of their case, such is the speed of justice at these exalted echelons. Of course, if I'm not right about this and anyone has any better information, please let me know.

To recap, the issue to be decided by the court (as stated on the Supreme Court website) is: "Whether a court can properly infer an agreement by an unmarried couple, who hold a property in equal shares at the date of their separation, to the effect that thereafter their respective beneficial interests should alter." It is, of course, a matter that could have a serious bearing for many people, so it is not just the parties who are anxiously awaiting this decision.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Perfect for blocking incessant nagging

As regular readers will know, Family Lore likes to promote marital harmony. As part of this service, may I present the I'm Not Listening Earplugs:


A must for hen-pecked husbands everywhere, these beauties actually work!

Can also be used with screaming infants.

Next: How to make her think you're doing the gardening, when you're actually down the pub.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Yawn

The media today is hyperventilating over the Berezovsky divorce settlement, once again re-hashing articles about the highest settlements ever and London being the divorce capital of the world, etc. etc...

I'm sorry, but I can't get interested in any of this. Such settlements have no bearing whatsoever upon the vast majority of divorce cases that go through our courts, despite the excitement they cause in some legal quarters, and the media interest in them is little more than the titillation of ogling the rich and famous.

Accordingly, my inhalation of breath will be of the yawning kind...

Something for the Weekend: Space Shuttle: The complete missions

This week it has to be this wonderful Nature video tribute to the space shuttle, which includes footage from every single mission, in order:



For more information about this video, see here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is Collaborative Divorce a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

The question is asked by Georgialee Lang in the Canadian edition of the (I know) Huffington Post. She says:
"...make no mistake. Despite what you may have heard, collaborative lawyers are still out to get the best deal they can for their clients. The "warm and fuzzy" marketing is merely a smokescreen.

In certain respects, collaborative divorce is a wolf in sheep's clothing where strategies usually reserved for "bulldogs" are implemented, including the dreaded "nothing is settled until everything is settled" and "We refuse to counter" mentalities, driving one party to negotiate against him or herself."

Not having any direct experience of collaborative law, I can't comment. Still, an interesting point of view...

Legal aid, legal aid, legal aid

Four items in the Law Society Gazette today regarding legal aid caught my eye:

Firstly, and most importantly, the Gazette reports that: "Family lawyers have attacked the government’s plans to deny legal aid to domestic violence victims who accept ‘undertakings’ from an allegedly abusive partner". As the report says, this is likely to lead to more contested hearings, which obviously does not exactly sit well with the government’s stated intention to resolve more cases through mediation. Another example of 'un-joined-up thinking', it seems.

Elsewhere, Roger Smith relates the unsurprising news that the English were mute at the International Legal Aid Group conference in Helsinki in June. He says that in previous years the English have been big players at these meetings, with plenty to say, but: "Alas, we have joined our predecessors, the Americans, as countries that once led the world on legal aid developments. There is little chance of spinning the current cuts as anything other than a slashing of entitlement to the poor and powerless." Quite.

On a somewhat lighter note, Obiter reports that a certain @JonDjanogly who has been posting on Twitter is not, in fact, our beloved justice minister, but an imposter. This is a shame, as some of his tweets were quite fun, for example:

And this:

I suppose it just goes to show that you can't believe everything you read on Twitter...

Finally, there is the letter from Martin Comport of Dale & Dale, which I mention for a completely different view of the legal aid debate. He says:
"I have read how the Law Society is continuing its fight against legal aid cuts. I do not recall the Society asking whether they should spend money on a campaign with which I may not agree."
He says that his fee paying clients have to take a commercial decision whether or not to litigate and wonders "whether such a consideration is taken when granting a legal aid certificate". "Perhaps", he says, "the legal aid budget would not have increased had a more stringent financial test been considered and hence such proposed cuts would not now be proposed". I shall leave it to the reader to form their own view on this...

How not to behave at a wedding...

I've posted videos before showing things that can go wrong at a wedding (apart from getting married, that is), but this one is in pole position:



[Found on BuzzFeed.]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Law Commission to review enforcement of financial orders

The Law Commission has announced that it will be reviewing financial provision on divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership. Don't get too excited though, as it will only be looking at enforcement of orders, not the basis for claims (although enforcement could certainly do with simplification).

In its Eleventh Programme of Law Reform the Commission says:
"The current law has been described [by the Family Law Bar Association] as “hopelessly complex and procedurally tortuous”. The available enforcement mechanisms are contained in a wide range of legislation. Members of the public, legal practitioners and at times even the courts have difficulty understanding their interaction, and the current law prevents some sensible arrangements being put in place."

It goes on:
"The aim of the project would be to offer a clear set of rules and the opportunity to access the full range of enforcement options in the same court and without the need for multiple hearings. It is important that the court has the ability to consider enforcement against a wide range of assets and that the enforcement regime works effectively when small amounts are owed, so that parties are not forced to wait until large arrears are due before enforcing orders in their favour."

The Commission will commence work on this project once it has completed its work on Marital Property Agreements, and aims to publish a consultation paper 12 months thereafter.

Reassuringly Expensive


Unhappy together: Divorce at 40-year low as couples can't afford to separate - Daily Mail, 19th July 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Marriage does not improve children's development: IFS

New research published today by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found "little or no evidence that marriage itself has any effect on children's social or cognitive development". It is true that, on average, children born to married parents achieve better 'cognitive and social outcomes' than children born into other family forms, including cohabiting unions, but the research indicates that this is simply due to the fact that more affluent and better educated couples were more likely to get married. Accordingly, the IFS concludes that: "Policies aimed at encouraging parents to get married before they bear children thus require a rationale other than one based on the impact of marriage on child development".

It will not make very good reading for David Cameron (although I suspect he currently has other things to worry about) or, indeed, for Iain Duncan Smith and the Centre for Social Justice, which has long campaigned for policies aimed at encouraging marriage.

You can read the research here, a press release from the IFS here and a report about it in The Telegraph, here. There is also an article about it in The Guardian, here.

Old School Thai

Edgar Venal does not normally employ counsel, as their fees inevitably reduce the amount he can justify charging clients. However, for those really big cases when one has to impress the judge he instructs Quentin Pompous-Arse QC. Quentin may not be the sharpest knife in the box, but judges always fall for his aristocratic accent. Edgar and Quentin go way back, both being former Bullingdon members.

Normally when Edgar and Quentin meet they do so at Boodle's gentlemen's club in Pall Mall. However, they felt that today the club might be a little too full of anxious members hoping their names are not mentioned when MPs question the Murdochs. Accordingly, Quentin has chosen somewhere a little off the beaten track: the Crazy Bear Thai restaurant in Fitzrovia, where he is also a member.

It is not just a social meeting. Quentin is concerned that some of the tactics he has used to dig the dirt on opposing parties may also fall under public scrutiny.

"You do realise old boy," he said, pushing his Khao phat poo around his plate, "that compared with what we've been up to, phone hacking is small fry?"

"Well, quite." Replied Edgar, tucking in to his Phat kraphao.

"You don't seem at all concerned." Quentin was rapidly losing his appetite.

"Why should I be?" Asked Edgar.

"Why? Because if the media get wind of what we've been doing, then we'll be crucified."

"The media? Who's going to trust them now?"

Quentin thought about that for a moment. "All right," he said, " but what about the Government?"

"The Government? Who's going to trust them now?"

"Well, what about the police?"

"The police? Who's going to trust them now?"

"Ah, I see." Replied Quentin, a wave of relief crossing his face.

"Now," said Edgar, "I fancy a dessert. How about Sangkhaya fak thong?"

Fattening


Marriages Happier When Wives Thinner Than Husbands, Study Says - International Business times, 18th July 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

News for the Week Ending 18th July 2011

Here is a summary of the week’s family law news, in a record two minutes thirty-five seconds:



(Those without Flash can listen here.)

Confusion clouds landscape for consumers legal services, says new Ombudsman

I have received the following press release from the Legal Ombudsman:

Confusion clouds landscape for consumers legal services, says new Ombudsman

The confused system of regulation for legal services risks leaving consumers without protection when things go wrong, the new Legal Ombudsman warns today. Against a backdrop of a rapidly changing legal landscape, there are particular difficulties in areas such as claims management and will-writing companies, he says.

The warning from Chief Legal Ombudsman Adam Sampson comes as he publishes his first Annual Report to Parliament following the launch of the organisation in October 2010. More than 38,000 people contacted the Legal Ombudsman during its first six months in operation, with the organisation launching some 4,000 investigations into the service provided by lawyers, and resolving 1,450 cases.

For the most part, the quality of legal services being provided is reasonable, the report says. “We know that most lawyers do a good job for their clients and, when things do go wrong, we generally see a great willingness from the profession to work and to learn with us,” says Sampson. “But some of the stories we hear are shocking, and all have a heavy impact on the people involved.”

More problematic is the fact that there are gaps and confusion in what legal services are regulated and what are not, Sampson argues.

“One service which crops up a lot is will-writing. It’s a service carried out often by will writing firms who aren’t regulated. Because of this customers are left with little means of redress when things go wrong.

“We’ve seen similar confusion about claims management companies, with lots of consumers believing they’re getting a legal service even though most of the work is carried out by a non-authorised person. Again, we can’t help.”

Consumer organisation, ‘Which’, supports the need for a more comprehensive protection regime for customers. Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: "Which? undercover investigations into both will-writing firms and claims management companies have revealed examples of poor practice. As the legal services market continues to grow in both size and complexity, it's crucial that consumers who have paid for a legal service that's not up to scratch know where to turn to get help. We want the Government and regulators to wake up to the current lack of clarity and to provide a clear and straightforward route of redress for consumers."

“The arrival of a legal services market in which consumers will, potentially, have complaints about ‘hybrid’ services poses some serious questions about who they’ll be able to turn to for help.”

Des Hudson, Chief Executive of the Law Society for England and Wales says: “The gap in regulation which allows unregulated cowboys to operate in areas like will writing does not just cause unfair competition to solicitors, who provide a regulated, professional service. It is also damaging to consumers , because the unregulated providers are not insured , do not provide a Compensation Fund , and are not covered by the Legal Ombudsman’s scheme for consumer redress.“

The report also highlights the need for urgent action to ensure customers aren’t left confused and vulnerable in the rapidly changing legal services market. The increased bundling together of legal services with financial services and other products, including more being offered via the internet, poses serious dangers for consumer protection.

Mr Sampson says: “In many cases it will be the Legal Ombudsman taking the matter on, but sometimes we are aware that we may not be the first point of call for the consumer. In some cases, the issue might go instead to another Ombudsman. In some, Trading Standards. Sometimes, there may be no-one in a position to help There is a huge risk of overlap and confusion here which it is important that the regulators and policy-makers begin to focus on.”

He added: “Some firms offer ‘expert’ online legal advice which is often bundled with financial or insurance services, and many of these are backed by large corporations. Naturally, consumers expect the same standard of care as from their local lawyer, but in some cases it’s woefully lacking.

“Things aren’t helped by many unregulated companies masquerading as traditional law firms, branded with more legal wigs and gowns than you can shake a quill pen at.”

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The wife was glad to have her chastened husband back...

I don't know what to say about this comic strip, which apparently depicts how domestic violence was dealt with in 1940s America:

Venal & Grabbit launch iPhone app!

Venal & Grabbit have launched their very own iPhone app for divorce clients. Called Take Them For Every Penny the app is simplicity itself to use. The client simply enters their bank details and Venal & Grabbit will then ensure that they their spouse is taken for every penny. The app will shortly be available for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Divorce iPhone App from Mills & Reeve

I wouldn't normally post about a product like this, but as Divorce UK is free I thought I would.

Divorce UK has been created by Mills & Reeve LLP and is available for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. It describes itself as "an app to help you navigate your way through marriage breakdown, separation or divorce". Listed features include:
  • An adviser section, which asks a series of simple questions and presents useful notes, links and videos along the way tailored to your circumstances

  • Videos offering advice from experienced senior family lawyers

  • A contextual glossary explaining the many legal terms you may come across

  • Answers to frequently asked questions

  • Virtual walkthroughs and simple flow charts of the legal and financial processes involved in a divorce

  • A court finder to help pinpoint the nearest court, if needed, according to your current location

  • A list of useful websites for further information

  • An enquiry form
I've had a quick play with the app and can confirm that it is easy to install and use. It is obviously not as detailed as other products, but it is clearly meant to be introductory, and at this price who can complain? (Well, I suppose our Scottish friends could complain about the name of the app...)

Unrestrained



This is a video of a judge in Monticello, Kentucky, being attacked by a woman. I am not posting it for cheap titillation, but rather to make a serious point, and one that I've made before. In the video the woman is almost instantly restrained by three burly policemen/security guards, and the judge appears to be (physically) unharmed. In most family courts in this country there is very little security, certainly not in the courtroom itself. How long would it take for someone attacking one of our judges or magistrates to be restrained?

Something for the Weekend: Perspective Lyrique

...and now for something completely different: a building that moves!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Edgar Venal wins the Venal & Grabbit Family Lawyer of the Year Award!

Edgar Venal has won the inaugural Venal & Grabbit Family Lawyer of the Year Award, receiving 100% of the vote. The award, announced last week, was decided by readers of Family Lore.

Unfortunately, due to a fault in Blogger the votes of readers were not added up, meaning that the only vote showing in the poll is your own. However, Venal & Grabbit assure us that this did not affect the result, which Edgar Venal merely took from his own computer, as per this screen-shot:

As will be seen, this clearly shows Edgar Venal as the poll winner.

Accepting the award, Edgar Venal said: "I am very proud to receive the prestigious Venal & Grabbit Family Lawyer of the Year Award. It means so much, coming as it does from the top family law firm.

"The award clearly proves that I am the best family lawyer in the country, being superior to all others in every respect, including winning more cases, screwing more money out of the other party and ensuring that my clients' children do not have to see the other parent. I expect that the publicity I get from receiving this award will lead to a lot more business, and therefore even greater profits. It will certainly justify an increase in my hourly rate.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to deposit the prize money in my offshore account, before the taxman gets his hands on it."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Tough Decision

A man in Lancaster, New York, is apparently having to sell his beloved Chevrolet Camaro on eBay, due to his upcoming divorce. In the advert he invites the reader to choose between the car and his wife, and compares the 'specs' of both (list slightly cut-down):

[Found on Neatorama.]

Pecunia Vincit Omnia

I have received the following press release from Messrs. Venal & Grabbit, Solicitors:

===PRESS RELEASE===

London, 14th July 2011: Venal & Grabbit wish to express their wholehearted support for the initiative of their rival firm Mishcon de Reya in launching pre-nuptial agreement insurance today.

Senior Partner Edgar Venal said: "I can fully understand people wanting to protect their assets from their spouse. I mean, 'love' is all very well, but it's hardly as important as your wealth, is it? Accordingly, any idea that will encourage the better off to ensure that money stays with the deserving few is a good one. We are only disappointed that we didn't think of the idea first, but you can rest assured that the Head of our Strategy and Scheming Department is now looking for alternative employment.

"We will, of course, be launching a similar product, as soon as we can find insurers who will pay us a suitably high commission."

===ENDS===

Justice Committee reports on the operation of the Family Courts

It's all happening this week. First we had the Government's response to the consultation on child maintenance, then the response to the Munro report, and today we have the Justice Committee's report on the operation of the Family Courts (quite why we should have this while the Family Justice Review is on-going is another matter).

I won't give details of the report's conclusions and recommendations, as that's already been done elsewhere (see below), but highlights include:
  • An (obvious) warning that courts are going to have to make adjustments to cope with more litigants in person as a result of cuts to legal aid;

  • A call to scrap the provisions in the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010 to allow media access to Family Courts, and a recommendation that Ministers reformulate proposals to increase transparency in Family Courts, putting the views of children centre stage;

  • A rejection of the Family Justice Panel's Interim Report recommendation that a statement be introduced into legislation to "reinforce" the importance of a child having a meaningful relationship with both parents;

  • A call for judges to reduce the costs and delays in case management associated with expert reports; and

  • A call for a series of reforms designed to transform Cafcass "into a less process-driven, more child focused and integral part of family justice".
The report can be found here, a summary here and a news item on it in the Gazette today here. Family Law has also done a piece on the report, here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coleridge talks to the Beeb

Sir Paul Coleridge (left) has once again been talking about the scale of the problems caused by family breakdown, this time to Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire. You can hear what he has to say here, although unfortunately this appears to be only an extract of the interview. There's a lot about the problems in this audio, but nothing about the solutions, although the accompanying text indicates that he said that more needed to be done to keep families together. He also apparently said that the situation is only going to get worse with cuts to Legal Aid.

Sir Paul has recently called for an independent commission to reform divorce law.

* * * * *

UPDATE: Further details of this interview are now available at the Telegraph.

Another day, another response

The Government today published its response to Professor Eileen Munro’s recommendations to reform the child protection system, set out earlier this year. The response is in two parts: an overarching narrative and a grid with specific responses to each of Professor Munro’s fifteen recommendations.

You can find a press release from the Department for Education here, a summary of 'headline messages' in the response here and the response itself, in PDF format, here.

Where do lawyers find all the words?

Family Lore was once described somewhere as comprising mostly short posts. This is quite true. I am, as I have often been told, a man of few words, and in any event I generally have a short attention span, quickly getting bored with a subject and wanting to move on to the next. It has also been partly out of design: I have tried to provide busy lawyers with quick information.

But not all law blogs are the same. Most are so verbose that a busy lawyer reading them will spend more time than ever keeping up to date. In fact, I've often marvelled at the amount other lawyers can write on a topic, when I can only come up with so little. Where do they find all the words?

Now, I don't want to spend too much time on this, but here are a few brief thoughts:
  • Lawyers are used to charging by the hour, therefore the more time they can spend writing about something, the more they get paid. This is so ingrained that they still behave this way even if they are not getting paid.

  • Lawyers are taught never to describe something one way when they can do so several ways. For example the classic "give, devise and bequeath", as mentioned in this recent article in the Gazette. Despite the advice contained in the article, old habits die hard.

  • Lastly, we all know that lawyers like the sound of their own voices. Perhaps this self-adoration extends from the spoken to the written word...
Right, I've said quite enough on this subject. I'm off to find something else to talk about...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers published

Just a quick post to mention that the latest issue of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers is now published, including an article by yours truly on the Ministry of Justice Family Procedure Rules sub-site. Get your copy now!

Government publishes response to consultation on the future of child maintenance

The Government has today published its response to the Green Paper consultation on Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility: the future of child maintenance.

The publication summarises the main points made by respondents in reply to the seven questions set out in the consultation, and provides the Government’s responses. Apparently, "the Government’s more detailed plans for reform of the statutory child maintenance scheme will be laid out in affirmative regulations to be introduced in Parliament over the coming months".

The questions, and therefore the responses, talk much about 'advice' and 'support' to be given to families to help them make 'family-based arrangements', i.e. to agree arrangements, and therefore save the state from the trouble and expense of doing it for them. To be honest, I'm not particularly interested in any of this. If more people can agree arrangements then great, but people who can agree have never been the problem for the child support system - the problem is those who can't agree, and more specifically, those who don't pay.

On the question of charges for using the new system, the Government believes that "there is a fair balance in the burden of the proposed ranges of charges between the non-resident parent and parent with care and that these charges will encourage clients to consider their options and what is in the best interests of their children", and that "the proposed levels of charging have been balanced to offer value for money for both parents and taxpayers". Apart from a reference to the charge that the NRP will be liable to pay, there is little mention of enforcement in the response.

Possibly the most interesting part of the response is a section on other issues raised by respondents that were outside the (narrow) scope of the questions in the Green Paper. Those issues included whether contact and maintenance should be linked (the Government has passed that hot potato over to the Family Justice Review), a greater role for the courts (again, a decision will be made after the Family Justice Review makes its recommendations) and the self-employed NRP 'loopholes' (will be looked at further).

Falling for her

I don't normally go for these 'crazy marriage proposal' videos that seem to be everywhere these days, but I thought this one was quite good, even if it may be fake and/or sponsored by a certain drinks company:



[Found on BuzzFeed.]

Wife Selling

I just came across this great picture, on Pemberley.com. The accompanying note reads:
"A satirical engraving of the quaint English custom of "wife-selling", which wasn't quite what it sounds like, but was more a ritual among the non-genteel classes (who couldn't possibly obtain a full parliamentary divorce, allowing remarriage, according to the pre-1857 laws), to publicly proclaim a dissolution of marriage (though not one that was really recognized by the authorities of Church and State). 1820 English caricature (even though the sign says "Marché de Bêtes à Cornes")"

The note goes on to give this wonderful quote from 'an 1815 newspaper':
"On Friday last [September 15th 1815] the common bell-man gave notice in Staines Market that the wife of ---- Issey was then at the King's Head Inn to be sold, with the consent of her husband, to any person inclined to buy her. There was a very numerous attendance to witness this singular sale, notwithstanding which only three shillings and fourpence were offered for the lot, no one choosing to contend with the bidder, for the fair object, whose merits could only be appreciated by those who knew them. This the purchaser could boast, from a long and intimate acquaintance. This degrading custom seems to be generally received by the lower classes, as of equal obligation with the most serious legal forms."

More information on this excellent custom can be found on Wikipedia, here.

Personally, the only thing that I can see wrong with the return of the custom would be the effect it would have on divorce lawyers' fees...

Women's work


Stay-at-home husbands more likely to divorce: study - Globe and Mail, 11th July 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

News for the week ending 11th July 2011

Here is the week’s family law news, in just over three minutes (I'll get it down below three minutes one of these weeks):



(Those without Flash can listen here.)

The debate continues...

Just a quick post to point out that Nick Langford has done a guest post on Pink Tape, to coincide with the hunger strike of Matt O'Connor (above). I won't comment on what he has to say (Lucy has done that already), save to say that Nick begins the post by declaring that: "We need a debate", i.e. about the fathers' rights issues that have led to Matt foregoing his cream buns. I'm sorry? Haven't we been debating these things for years? Perhaps what he means is: "We need to keep on debating until everyone is so fed up that they'll agree with what we say just to shut us up".

Australian man has marriage annulled due to duress

An Australian man has succeeded in a claim that his marriage should be annulled because he did not validly consent to it, due to duress. He claimed that his girlfriend refused to terminate her pregnancy unless they got married, and he only consented to ensure she undertook the termination. After the marriage, she had the abortion, and they separated a short time later.

Interestingly, the judge indicated that he only concluded that duress had been established "with some hesitation", and due to the fact that the woman did not challenge the man's evidence.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Breaking the myth

Further to this post, this is the latest advertisement of the fathers' rights group Fathers 4 Justice (a larger version can be found here). It claims that the Conservative Party has broken promises regarding family policies, and refers to Matt O'Connor's hunger strike starting today as 'the first in a series of hunger strikes by parents'. I can't say that I'm in favour of hunger strikes as a means of seeking change - rather too close to blackmail for my taste. In any event, we are talking about the welfare of children here, which is obviously more important than the lives of a misguided few.

Oh, and the group might want to have a word with their advertising agency, or whoever put this advert together. The implication of the picture is obviously that a (family court) gavel smashed the child's toy. Unfortunately, this falls into the trap that so many fall into, and that one would have thought a serious fathers' rights group would know: the courts in this country do not use gavels.

Tracking a cheating spouse by GPS is not an invasion of privacy, at least not in New Jersey

A court in New Jersey has ruled that using GPS to track a cheating spouse was not an invasion of privacy.

In 2007 Kenneth Villanova's wife put a GPS tracking device in the glove box of their car, on the recommendation of private investigator Richard Leonard. Two weeks into the GPS tracking, Leonard found Villanova leaving a driveway in his car with a woman who was not his wife. Villanova then sued Leonard for invasion of privacy.

The appellate court has now held that Villanova had no right to expect privacy, because the GPS tracked his movements on public streets:
"Everything described in this report occurred on public roadways and in plain view of the public. There is nothing in this report that could support an inference that any surveillance of plaintiff extended into private or secluded locations that were out of public view and in which plaintiff had a legitimate expectation of privacy.

There is nothing to establish that any possible invasion of plaintiff's privacy and seclusion ever occurred. Such a finding would require that he was in a location where he had a reasonable expectation of privacy."
The moral of the story is clear: don't use your own car for those adulterous liaisons.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Something for the Weekend: The People's Front

Thanks to Nick Langford for posting a link to this during the week (and I make no apology for posting two Python videos in consecutive weeks):

Friday, July 08, 2011

Venal & Grabbit launch Family Lawyer of the Year Award 2011 through Family Lore!

Venal & Grabbit today launched their new Family Lawyer of the Year Award 2011, and I am proud to announce that they have chosen Family Lore readers to select the winner of the prestigious accolade.

You can place your vote by using the 'Vote for the Family Lawyer of the Year 2011' widget at the top of the sidebar to the right. Simply make your choice and click 'Vote'. Only one vote per person.

The poll will remain open until the 15th of July. After that the votes will be counted and the award will be presented to Edgar Venal the winner.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Matt O'Connor to go on hunger strike: Will anyone care?

Further to this post, in a melodramatic video Matt O'Connor of Fathers 4 Justice says he "will begin a hunger strike for equal parenting rights on behalf of fathers and grandparents on Sunday 10th July 2011":

Jubilation Day

Just seen this on the beeb. Clearly relevant to this blog:

MK v. CK: Relocation application by a care sharer

MK v CK [2011] EWCA Civ 793, decided today, concerned a father's application for permission to appeal against a relocation order.

The Facts: The mother is of Canadian origin. The father is Polish although he spent childhood years in Canada. He moved to England in 1993 and the mother arrived here 10 years later. The parents married in London on 27th July 2004. They have two daughters, I born 16th November 2006 and A born on 8th January 2009.

In July 2010 divorce proceedings were filed and the mother moved out of the matrimonial home. A shared residence order was made on 23rd August 2010, under which the girls spend five nights with their father and nine nights with their mother in every fourteen day period.

The mother then decided she wished to return home to Canada, and applied for leave to relocate. Her application was granted on 3rd February 2011.

The father appealed, essentially on three grounds:

1. The judge rejected the recommendation of the CAFCASS officer without proper analysis and explanation.

2. She directed herself by reference to the guidance offered by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss P. at paragraph 85 of Payne v Payne (guidance apt for applications by primary carers) rather than by reference to the decision of Hedley J in Re Y [2004] 2 FLR 330 (the only authority then available directly considering a relocation application by a care sharer).

3. In explaining her conclusion she referred only to the case that the mother presented. Even when that deficit was raised by counsel for the father, she had not remedied the defect.

Held: In his leading judgment Lord Justice Thorpe found that the father succeeded on all three grounds, and that any one of them would be sufficient to upset the judgment below (paragraph 30). On point 1: "given the clarity of the recommendation, there can be no denying the judge's obligation to explain why she rejected it" (paragraph 32). On point 2: "Given the extent to which the father was providing daily care, the judge should have considered and applied the dicta of Hedley J in Re Y rather than those of the President in Payne" (paragraph 35). On point 3: "Her conclusion is not the result of a balancing of pros and cons. She lists only the pros upon which she pronounces her conclusion. That is, in my judgment, a fatal deficit" (paragraph 37).

Having made his decision clear, Lord Justice Thorpe then went on to set out the law. He stated (at paragraph 39) that: "the only principle to be extracted from Payne v. Payne is the paramountcy principle". All the rest was merely guidance as to factors to be weighed in search of the welfare paramountcy, and he was "in no doubt at all that the guidance in Payne is posited on the premise that the applicant is the primary carer" (paragraph 41).

On the other hand, Re Y clearly dealt with a shared care situation, and in that case Hedley J had stated that in such a situation the Payne approach should not be used, but rather the case should be decided by applying the statutory checklist in section 1(3) of the Children Act (see paragraphs 56 and 57).

Accordingly, permission to appeal was granted and the appeal was allowed. Lord Justice Thorpe urged the parties to consider mediation, failing which there would have to be a retrial.

Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Lady Justice Black both gave lengthy consenting judgments, although Lady Justice Black did not agree with the reasoning of Lord Justice Thorpe on point 2 above, stating that she "would not put Payne so completely to one side" (paragraph 96). She stated (at paragraph 144) that Payne: "identifies a number of factors which will or may be relevant in a relocation case, explains their importance to the welfare of the child, and suggests helpful disciplines to ensure that the proper matters are considered in reaching a decision but it does not dictate the outcome of a case".

Venal & Grabbit announce advertising deal with News of the World

Venal & Grabbit have announced an advertising deal with the News of the World newspaper.

Senior Partner Edgar Venal said: "We got it really cheap, and there will be no other adverts competing for attention. I realise that our usual calibre of client does not normally read the News of the World, but we are aiming for the wealthy-footballer-who-has-strayed-from-their-wife market. We believe that their intellect puts them into the News of the World readership, and their money is as good as anyone's."

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UPDATE: Readers may now be aware that this Sunday's edition of the News of the World will be the last. Edgar Venal was, of course, aware of this when he struck the deal - he expects that more copies of the paper will be sold and kept for posterity including, of course, the adverts. It is also the case that there will be no advertising in the paper, and that advertising space will be donated to charities and good causes. As Edgar Venal says: "What could be a better cause than a deserving divorce lawyer?"

Guilty pleasures

Mills and Boon 'cause marital breakdown' - The Telegraph, 7th July 2011

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Idiocy

I don't know why people have to behave like complete idiots at weddings these days, but here is an example of particular idiocy:



[Found on BuzzFeed.]

Venal & Grabbit partner profits top £2m

Profits per equity partner (PEP) at magic circle firm Venal & Grabbit have topped £2m for the first time since the recession.

The end-of-year figures released today by the SW1-based firm showed revenues were up for the last financial year to "a highly satisfactory figure, but one that we would rather the taxman did not know".

Partnership profit rose by "a certain percentage, to a certain amount", as the firm expanded its divorce and insolvency departments.

But it is the PEP figures, up by "a large percentage" on 2009/10, which stand out, with partners bringing in more than £2m for the first time since the boom years of 2006/07 and 2007/08.

Senior partner Edgar Venal added: "The year ahead looks exciting for V & G.

"Our breadth of high-quality practices across all major fields, and our market-leading expertise in divorce, make us extremely well positioned to make a killing from our clients."

* * * * *

Clifford Chance partner profits top £1m
- Law Society Gazette, 5th July 2011

Will the real Fathers for Justice please stand up?

Following my post the other day about the apparent attempt to "arrest" Ken Clarke by a member of the campaign group "New Fathers 4 Justice", I had a quick look at the group's website to find out a little more about them.

The first thing that strikes you about the site is the 'spiderman' background, more of which later.

Moving swiftly on, it seems that the group has two aims, set out at the top of their homepage:
"1 - Equal Contact

An automatic presumption of equal contact with the children when the parents split as a starting point.

This will give both parents equal parity of rights to see the children.

In short, we want dads to have an equal status....same as Mum!!

2 - Open Courts

To be brought into line with the crown and magistrates courts.

This will prevent corruption, biasness and implement a culture of accountability with the judiciary."

I don't want to comment on either of these aims here (I have already done so elsewhere on many occasions), save to say that even if both came to fruition I'm not sure that outcomes for parents and children would be very different from those at present, with the welfare of the child still of course being the ultimate determining factor. In any event, it seems unlikely that either aim will come to fruition, at least in the foreseeable future.

Elsewhere on the site there is a helpful 'Tips 4 Protest' page, giving advice on the right to protest, including that: "It goes without saying that you should not block entrances/exits, verbally abuse anyone, swear, trespass on to private property or intimidate people." Hmm, wasn't Ken's drive private property?

Leaving that aside, the rest of the site comprises much of what you would expect on a fathers' rights site: news, advice to 'menace your MP', a forum, videos, merchandise etc.

One thing that must be avoided, of course, is mistaking this group for any other fathers' rights group of a similar name, in particular Real Fathers for Justice or Fathers 4 Justice. The image at the top of the website for the former indicates that the RFFJ share a predilection for dressing up as spiderman, although the group do not seem to specify their aims any more precisely than "raising public awareness and applying pressure on the Government for long overdue reforms in UK Family Law".

As for Fathers 4 Justice, they have had a chequered history, having disbanded and (I think) re-formed recently. I can't say much else about them, as there is not much information on their (literally) Flash website - just make sure you mute your volume if you visit it, as the site plays some hideous music, with no apparent way of turning it off.

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UPDATE: The Fathers 4 Justice website has since been updated. See this post.