Friday, August 31, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Re K (Children): How not to conduct yourself when faced with care proceedings

Lord Justice McFarlane
In this recent post I pointed parents towards two excellent posts advising how they should conduct themselves when faced with the possibility of having their children taken into care. A Court of Appeal judgment today is another illustration of the need for such advice, with the mother and stepfather doing themselves no favours by the way they behaved, both with regard to the investigation by social services and the court proceedings, contravening the advice given in both posts.

Re K (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 1169 concerned an application by the mother and stepfather for permission to appeal against an interim care order removing the child from their care and placing him with the maternal grandparents, and a special guardianship order made in favour of the maternal grandparents. The application was granted, but it seems clear from the judgment that neither the mother nor the stepfather have helped themselves.

Both the mother and stepfather took it upon themselves to choose when they should cooperate with social services, and when they should attend court, withdrawing from engagement in the process when they considered that it was going against them, or that the end result was a fait accompli. Giving the judgment, Lord Justice McFarlane does not say that they were the cause of their own misfortune, but obviously refusing to cooperate is likely to lead to an unfavourable result.

Further to this, the original basis for the making of an interim care order was emotional abuse in the home of the mother and stepfather, as a result of the stepfather's alleged bullying and intimidating behaviour. Given this, the stepfather did not help himself by his behaviour when he and the mother gave oral submissions to the Court of Appeal via video link. As Lord Justice McFarlane said (at paragraph 22):
"It is right to record that much of the early part of the hearing was dominated by [the stepfather] who allowed his anger and frustration to manifest itself to the extent that it was difficult for us to focus on the substantive points that the couple wished to make. [The stepfather] sought to prevent [the mother] from addressing us at all. It was only when [the stepfather] was persuaded to subside and [the mother] was permitted to address the court in more measured tones that we came to see more clearly the potential merits of their case. At the conclusion of the hearing my Lord [Lord Justice Ward], with characteristic bluntness and charm, advised [the stepfather] in no uncertain terms to control his anger and frustration at any subsequent hearing and to allow [the mother], who is after all the mother of these children, to be the principal advocate of their case."
Now, obviously parents (or step-parents) are likely to get angry and frustrated in these situations, and it is easy for those advising them to tell them to control their temper, but it really is essential, as failure to do so is likely to do irreparable damage to their case. Fortunately, in this case, the damage may be repairable.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


AT THE OFFICES of Messrs. Venal & Grabbit, Solicitors, the Partners are in the post-room opening and sorting the morning post.

"I see a local authority is considering taking legal action against a website that threatens to 'expose' social workers by publishing their names and photographs online." Said Mr Grabbit, as he ripped open a large envelope with particular gusto.

"Yes," replied Mr Venal, "it's that same bunch of nutters who 'expose' judges."

"And Guardians." Said Mr Grabbit, dispatching another item to the junk-mail bin.

"And, worst of all," exclaimed Mr Venal, "they 'expose' solicitors!"

"Appalling." Muttered Mr Grabbit, as he placed an invoice from the firm's stationers on the 'This can wait' pile.

The pair continued their work, the silence only broken by the odd curse when a letter opener ripped its contents as well as the envelope.

Then Mr Grabbit piped up again.

"You know," he said, " we should start a website exposing clients for their crimes against lawyers!"

"Excellent idea, Mr Grabbit!" Exclaimed Mr Venal. "We could name and shame clients who don't pay our bills promptly!"

"And those who ring up and insist on speaking to you, even when your secretary has told them you're not available!" Said Mr Grabbit.

"Yes, and how about the clients who have the timerity to question the advice you give them?" Said Mr Venal.

"Quite." Said Mr Grabbit, shifting the post from his pile to the trainee's pile.

"You know," said Mr Venal, "perhaps the people who set up these sites aren't nutters after all..."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

News Update: 28th August 2012

WELCOME to the Family Lore News Update.

Items already covered in separate posts since the last update:

‘Uncleared work’ at the Child Support Agency increased by 16% in last reported quarter
The Department for Work and Pensions has released a summary for the three months ending 30 June 2012. Full story: Family Law Week.

Local authority criticised for lack of care of two autistic children
Local Government Ombudsman recommends payment of nearly £20,000 to complainant. Full story: Family Law Week. The Ombudsman's report can be found here.

Law Society warns about money laundering schemes targeting family lawyers
The Law Society has issued renewed guidance concerning money laundering and fraudulent schemes which may target the litigation practices of law firms. Full story: Family Law Week.

Council charter for care leavers aims to address inconsistencies in support
A care leavers’ charter will launch later this year in a bid to improve the support councils provide as corporate parents. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

Unexplained infant deaths continue slight decline
The Office for National Statistics has published a statistical bulletin relating to unexplained infant deaths in England and Wales in 2010. Full story: Family Law Week.

Ofsted warns of abuse risks to disabled children
Disabled children in England need better protection against neglect or abuse, suggests a report by children's and education watchdog Ofsted. Full story: BBC News.

L (A Child), Re [2012] EWCA Civ 1157 (21 August 2012)
Appeal by father against refusal to enforce a Portuguese judgment and decision that the English court had jurisdiction to deal with the mother's application for residence. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Suggitt v Suggitt & Anor [2012] EWCA Civ 1140 (19 June 2012)
Appeal against property order made on the basis of proprietary estoppel. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Family Law Week.

Winter v Winter [2010] EWHC 3825 (Fam) (30 June 2010)
Committal application for breach of an order made in proceedings relating to the enforcement of a maintenance order. Suspended sentence of imprisonment imposed. Full report: Family Law Week. See also Marilyn Stowe's post, below.

C (A Child) [2012] EWCA Civ 1144 (11 July 2012)
Appeal against return order after the child changed her mind about returning to her father in Canada. The mother also sought the dismissal of the father's application, but this was refused and the matter was remitted to the Family Division. Full report: Family Law Week. See also my post, above.

In a Dorney-Kingdom of their own: Segal orders examined
Byron James, barrister, 14 Gray’s Inn Square, considers the circumstances in which Segal Orders can be made.Full article: Family Law Week.

Family Rights Group in response to Mr Justice Ryder's proposal for the modernisation of family justice
By Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive, Family Rights Group on modernisation of the family justice system. Full article: Family Law.

Can’t pay, won’t pay?
Marilyn Stowe looks at the recently published case of Winter v Winter (above). Full post: Marilyn Stowe Blog.

I wish I was Special, you’re so very Special (Guardians)
Some musings on Special Guardianship, and particularly what the ‘character’ of such placements are when it comes to working out level of contact. Full post: suesspiciousminds.

And finally, Lucy Reed at Pink Tape answers those who say: "I don’t know how you do it - it must be so depressing" (how many family lawyers have heard this?), and considers whether being a parent makes her a better child care lawyer, in her post Parent Lawyers.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Hero Passes

Neil Armstrong, 1930 - 2012
Tonight I learned of the sad passing of one of the few people I have ever considered a hero. Neil Armstrong, R.I.P..

Never Miss a Trick

Lawyers report drop in divorce enquiries during the Olympics - This is Bristol, 24th August 2012

Something for the Weekend: Irish Olympic Sailing Commentary

With thanks to regular commenter Northern Lights, here is the best thing to come out of the Olympics (Warning: strong language):

Friday, August 24, 2012

When will people learn: you don't burn books?

Clare Phillipson, director of the Wearside Women In Need, has called on people to burn copies of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, claiming it is degrading towards women and encourages sexual violence.

Perhaps Ms Phillipson has never heard of Heinrich Heine and his famous quote, but that is still no excuse for burning books. Of course we should all discourage violence against women, but this is not the way.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

C (A Child): An incredibly rare order

Lord Justice Thorpe
C (A Child) [2012] EWCA Civ 1144, reported today on Family Law Week, concerned Hague Convention proceedings and the unusual circumstance of a child changing her mind about returning to live with her father in Canada.

The short judgment of Lord Justice Thorpe in the Court of Appeal does not go into detail as to the facts, but they appear to be essentially as follows.

The family, comprising mother, father and daughter now aged fifteen resided in Canada. The mother brought the child to this country and the father sought her return under the Hague Convention.

As Lord Justice Thorpe put it, it appeared that there would then be 'a good old battle' about the child's return, but she indicated that she was keen to go back. Accordingly, the judge made a return order consensually and without investigating or determining the issues.

However, within a week the child was stating "both clearly and firmly" that she had changed her mind, and the matter was returned to court. The judge concluded that he did not have the power to set aside his previous order, and the case was therefore sent to the Court of Appeal.

Counsel for the child argued that not only should the appeal be allowed, but that the Court of Appeal should also dismiss the father's application, because of the views now expressed by the child and because it was "perfectly apparent" that the child was "suffering not just emotional turmoil but physical illness in consequence of the stress which she is currently experiencing". Lord Justice Thorpe described the order being sought as "an incredibly rare order" which could only be made "if it is demonstrated that the outcome of any remission is so plain that it would simply be abusive to put the parties and the trial judge through the process".

Naturally, counsel for the father opposed the making of such an order and, among other unspecified options, proposed that the return order be set aside and the case remitted for rehearing.

Lord Justice Thorpe found that the resolution of these conflicting submissions was "not particularly easy". However, whilst it seemed "extremely unlikely" that the return order would be enforced if the child remained in her present emotional state, he came to the "reluctant conclusion" "that there are potential issues which render it impossible to declare that the outcome of remission is so overwhelming[ly] obvious as to render remission futile". The father could not "be denied a process of trial, there having been no completed process of trial in the court below."

Accordingly, the case was remitted to the Family Division, although both Lord Justice Thorpe and Lord Justice McFarlane, giving a concurring judgment, expressed the wish that the parents try to resolve matters between themselves, "rather than expect a rather blunt legal process to be deployed and come up with an answer which they as parents have responsibility for taking".

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A few thoughts on (some of) the arguments against same-sex marriage

I HAVE SEEN many arguments against the introduction of same-sex marriage (it seems to me that opponents know their position is weak, so use a 'blunderbuss' approach, putting forward every argument of which they can conceive, many of which are extremely weak). However, I have yet to come across one that, when given a modicum of consideration, has any real validity. Here are my thoughts upon some of the arguments (all taken from the Coalition For Marriage website):

Redefining marriage would make marriage adult-centred rather than child-centred.

Marriage is already about two adults. If they have children, fine. If they do not have children, that is fine as well. Children will not be affected, and in any event same-sex couples have children too.

Marriage has a distinguished place in our history.

But it has not been unchanging - laws relating to the celebration and dissolution of marriage have been changed many times over the centuries. In any event, the fact that something has existed for a long time does not, of course, mean that it cannot, or should not, per se be changed.

If marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined to allow polygamy?

There is already nothing to prevent it being so redefined. However, we are not talking about such a redefinition. If and when we do, objectors (who I'm sure will include many who are now in favour of gay marriage) will have the opportunity to object. Such an argument is nothing more than (rather feeble) scaremongering.

No one has the right to redefine marriage.

Where does it say this? Marriage is governed by the law, and the law can be changed.

Redefining marriage will be expensive, have complicated policy implications, have bewildering effects on the English language and lead to further unfairness.

These can really be answered quite simply: other countries have done it, so why should it be so difficult for us? I suspect that most of us will be able to cope with any 'bewildering effects' on the English language (which will surely only be transitory anyway). As for unfairness, see also my thoughts on Civil Partnership, and my answer to the religious liberties point, below.

A majority of the public oppose same-sex marriage.

I'm not sure that this is so, but even if it is that is not a bar to changing the law. There are many laws that a majority of the population oppose, but that doesn't of itself make them bad laws. Most new law is passed without a public referendum, and much is not included in any election manifesto. In any event, as my other answers indicate, no one should be adversely affected by a change in the law here (this is also surely self-evident: how does a gay couple getting married affect me?), so I don't see that there is a problem if a majority object.

A man and a woman who wished to enter into the traditional institution of marriage would no longer have the opportunity to do so. Only the new, statutory institution, which defined a ‘marriage’ as the voluntary union of any two persons, would be available.

So what? They are able to get married now, and they will be able to get marriage after the law is changed. They will notice no difference. Why should they have a special status? Or, to put it the other way, why shouldn't everyone be equal? (As for Civil Partnership, my view is that it should be abolished after same-sex marriage is introduced. If it is not, then it should be available to opposite-sex couples, so that everyone is treated equally.)

Redefining marriage would have serious consequences for religious liberties.

The concern here seems to be that those who continue to believe only in 'traditional' marriage because they think their religion requires them to do so will be discriminated against, in the same way that those who oppose homosexuality and Civil Partnerships have been 'discriminated' against. Anyone who knows my views upon religion will not be surprised to hear that I have little sympathy for such an argument. These people need to stop believing in books that were written hundreds or even thousands of years ago, and come into the twenty-first century. They believe themselves to to be truly 'moral', but surely the 'moral' position is to support equality? If they can't do this (and no one is forcing them to change their beliefs), then they will just have to keep their beliefs to themselves, without using them to discriminate against others.

Redefining marriage would have serious consequences for schools.

Oh dear, children may have to be taught the truth: that there are people out there who engage in same-sex relationships. Get over it (I'm sure the children will). Hopefully, openly educating our children may actually have a highly beneficial effect, by (eventually) reducing prejudice against gays.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

News Update: 21st August 2012

WELCOME to the Family Lore News Update, mercifully shorter than usual, due to the summer vacation.

Items already covered in separate posts since the last update:

Family of Muslim man in right-to-life court battle
The family of a Muslim man left in an apparently vegetative state after a heart attack five weeks ago caused severe brain damage have begun an appeal to ensure he will be given life-saving treatment, against the advice of clinicians, if his condition worsens. Full story: The Guardian.

Grandparents Association calls for reform of costs rules in care proceedings following T (Children)
The Grandparents Association has welcomed the clarity given in the recent Supreme Court decision in Re T (Children) [2012] UKSC 36. Full story: Family Law Week.

Judge attacks forced marriage that put disabled woman 'at risk’
A judge has said the forced marriage of a Muslim woman with learning difficulties should be annulled and condemned the “insulated” families who arrange them. Mrs Justice Parker also said that forcing marriage on someone who lacks mental capacity is a “gross interference” with their dignity and autonomy. Full story: The Telegraph.

Grandparents Plus call on government to raise the profile of kinship care
Government plans to speed up the adoption process risk “overlooking the extended family as the first port of call”, the charity Grandparents Plus has claimed. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

NICE launch health and wellbeing standards for children in care
Children and young people in care are to benefit from new quality standards designed to promote their health and wellbeing. Full story: Children & Young People Now. The draft quality standard can be found here.

Action plan to stop child abuse in the name of faith or belief
The Department for Education has published an action plan to cut through the “wall of silence” around ritual child abuse and neglect in the name of witchcraft, spirit possession, the supernatural and faith. The plan itself can be found here. Incredible that such things are still an issue in the twenty-first century, but there we go...

R v R [2012] EWHC 2390 (Fam) (13 August 2012)
Judgment in wife's application for financial remedy orders on dissolution of marriage, in case involving, inter alia, the evaluation of the wife's contributions to the development of the husband's company. Full report: Bailii.

Re Ali [2012] EWHC 2302 (Admin) (18 July 2012)
Applications for declarations of beneficial interests in a number of properties by various family members of the husband, such claims being opposed by a receiver appointed to enforce a confiscation order. Full report: Family Law Week.

You never know when it might just… Buckaroo!
Suesspiciousminds discusses whether too much weight is being put on the back of North Yorkshire County Council v B [2008] 1 FLR 1645, and whether there is such a thing as a ‘ruling out’ hearing at interlocutory stage. (You will understand its title when you read the post!)

In their best interests: at what point should children make their own decisions?
Marilyn Stowe reviews the recent cases of NHS Trust v Baby X and L v P (Paternity Test: Child’s Objection).

In their best interests, part two: the alarming case of C (A Child)
Continuing from the previous post, Marilyn discusses the case Re C (A Child) [2012] EW Misc 15 (CC), which also concerns a parent’s wishes pitted against a child’s.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Special Post of the Month Award: BabyBarista

Just when you think that Tim Kevan must surely be running out of ideas for new BabyBarista posts, he comes up with another great one.

The legal money tree discusses easy cases where, in the words of HeadClerk "on the whole, your only real obligation is to turn up, look smart and pick the fifty pound notes from the tree one at a time."

It is enough to warm the cockles of Edgar Venal's heart, and wins another of my special Post of the Month awards (even though we haven't yet reached the end of August).

Incidentally, and not for the first time, Tim refers to my local county court at Chatham (Medway) in the post (usually used when he wants somewhere grotty for a character to go). And is the 'grumpy judge' a certain someone before whom I used occasionally to appear?

News for the week to the 20th August 2012

A summary of the top family law news stories and cases from the last week, in the usual short, easy-to-listen podcast.

(If you can't see the audio player above, you can listen to the podcast here.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Conspiracy theorists do parents no favours

As we know, there are an awful lot of people out there who believe that the family justice system and all who work within it are involved in some terrible conspiracy against parents. Theories include secret courts stealing children, institutionalised bias against fathers and corrupt lawyers doing anything for financial gain.

Of course, there will always be people who will believe in what they want to believe despite the evidence, and most of them are quite harmless, albeit deluded. However, the family justice conspiracy theorists can do great damage to parents involved in court proceedings relating to their children, particularly public law proceedings. Two obvious examples that spring to mind are:

  • that they are likely to make parents aggressive towards 'the system', in particular social workers, Cafcass officers and the court, which is obviously going to be detrimental to their case; and
  • that they are likely to make them ignore good advice from 'official' channels, such as lawyers (who are, of course, part of the conspiracy) and government websites, and direct them towards sources of dubious advice.

The purpose of this short post is to point parents involved in care proceedings away from the conspiracy theorists and towards two blog posts that were published this week, both of which contain excellent advice:

Firstly, Marilyn Stowe, fresh from appearing on ITV’s early morning show Lorraine, wrote about How to deal with every parent’s nightmare.

Secondly, suesspiciousminds gives "some brief, practical, non “I’ll sue you for genocide” suggestions" in what should you do if social services steal your children?

Both posts should be essential reading for any parents facing care proceedings.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

'Who's Your Daddy?' Mobile DNA testing in New York

Only in New York? Jared Rosenthal drives a van that provides mobile paternity tests for between $299 and $575. It seems business is good, too - Jared says that some customers flag him down like a taxi, and that he once had a woman get six children tested(!). For more details, see this CBS news story:

[Found on Oddity Central.]

Something for the Weekend: Frank Sinatra - Summer Wind

I found myself watching Frank Sinatra on TV the other evening. Reminded me it was about time I had a listen to my old Best of Frank Sinatra CDs (OK, they're on my iPod now).

Meanwhile, so that you don't miss out, here is one of my favourite Sinatra songs, complete with the great Nelson Riddle Orchestra:

Friday, August 17, 2012

BLEAK SPOUSE: Chapter 25 – The Close of Edgar’s Narrative

MUSTIQUE, two years later. Edgar Venal is relaxing with his mistress beside the swimming pool of his new, larger, villa 'Slaver's Plantation'.

He takes a sip of his mint julep and reflects upon what has happened over the last two years.

The Wedlock divorce has been even more lucrative than the Lucrative divorce. Far more lucrative, in fact. Thankfully, it has been fully contested by both parties (with a little encouragement from Edgar), so the costs have been every bit as enormous as Edgar had hoped.

Edgar's biggest problem has been working out what to do with the fortune he has earned from it. Besides buying a new villa, he has invested in properties in several other countries, added to his fleet of luxury cars and opened a few new offshore bank accounts.

Life, in short, has been good.

He sips his mint julep again and watches as the sunlight dances across the water in the pool.

He smiles at the cliché.

Edgar's reverie is interrupted by the ring-tone of his mobile phone (recently changed to Edgar's new favourite, Take the Money and Run). It is his secretary, Brunhilde, calling from the office.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Mr Venal," she says, "but I have some news that I thought you would want to know."

"Go on, Brunhilde." Says Edgar, intrigued to find out what can be worth disturbing his vacation.

"We've just had a call from Allan Plastic." Continues Brunhilde. "He says he can't bear being married to Prissy any more, and has instructed us to commence divorce proceedings."

“Excellent”, says Edgar, rubbing his hands, "you were right to disturb me."

"Enjoy the rest of your holiday." Says Brunhilde.

"Oh, I will, thank you." Edgar replies, ending the call.

He takes another sip of his mint julep.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

From the Archives: April 30th 2009 - Don't Fuck Up Your Children

In one of the sternest judicial warnings to warring parents I have come across, Lord Justice Wall (left) quoted from Philip Larkin in the case of R (A Child), Re [2009] EWCA Civ 358 yesterday. The case involved a highly acrimonious residence application, part of a dispute between the parents that had been on-going since they separated in 2003. Judge Everall QC at Luton County Court had found that it was no longer possible for the parents and the child to work together, and so made a residence order in favour of the paternal grandparents. The mother's appeal against that order was granted but Lord Justice Wall in the Court of Appeal gave a warning to the parents of the serious harm that their actions were causing to their child. "I hope this case has given the mother a fright. I hope it has also given the father a fright." He said. "They have come within a whisker of losing their child." In a postscript to his judgment he then quoted from Larkin's poem This Be The Verse:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

These four lines, he said, "seem to me to give a clear warning to parents who, post separation, continue to fight the battles of the past, and show each other no respect."

Let us hope that more parents heed the warning.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Family Lore Articles

Ever wanted to find an article on a particular family law topic? Or perhaps you recall reading an article online, but can't remember where? In either case, Family Lore Articles may provide the answer.

Part of my Family Lore Focus site, Family Lore Articles contains links to freely available online articles on a range of family law topics, from surrogacy to spousal maintenance. There are now links to more than four hundred articles, going back to January 2010. The articles are on a range of sites, including Family Law Week, Family Law, the Law Society Gazette and numerous others.

Family Lore Articles can be searched by word/phrase or by subject, so hopefully the article you are looking for shouldn't be too difficult to find.

[Note that I cannot guarantee that articles linked to in the past are still (freely) available online.]

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

News Update: 14th August 2012

WELCOME to the Family Lore News Update.

Parents who believe in miracles 'torturing' dying children, doctors warn
Terminally ill children are subjected to needless suffering amounting to “torture” by parents who refuse to allow the withdrawal of treatment because of their religious beliefs, leading doctors have claimed. Full story: The Telegraph. See also this story about a recent case in the High Court.

Lord Justice Thorpe requests practitioners’ assistance with relocation research project
Lord Justice Thorpe has written to family law solicitors and barristers, requesting their assistance with a research project into relocation disputes in England and Wales. His letter can be found on Family Law Week.

Second Family Drug and Alcohol Court gets green light
The second Family Drug and Alcohol Court in the country is to be set up in Gloucestershire with the backing of the county council, NHS Gloucestershire and Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, reports Local Government Lawyer.

Care applications continue their upward trend
Care application demand has remained at a very high level, Cafcass reports. Between April and July 2012 Cafcass received a total of 3,519 applications. This figure is 8.3% higher when compared to the same period last year. Full story: Family Law Week. The care demand graph can be found here.

Guru to the stars in court over 'common law divorce'
A new-age guru to the stars is being sued by the mother of his child in a unique bid to secure a "common law divorce" payout, reports The Telegraph.

Councils left homeless boy, 16, to sleep in tent
Failures by two councils led to a homeless 16-year-old boy being forced to spend nine months living in a tent and having to sell his belongings to survive, an inquiry has found. Kent County Council and Dover District Council have been criticised by local government ombudsman Anne Seex for their "inexcusable" handling of the teenager's case. Full story: The Telegraph.

Child adoptions in England and Wales: how many are adopted, how old and were they born inside marriage?
According to the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics, the number of adoptions in England and Wales in 2011 was 4,734, an increase of 6% since 2010 when there were 4,481 adoptions. Full story: The Guardian.

The Family Procedure (Amendment No. 3) Rules 2012
These Rules make some minor amendments to the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and come into force on the 30th September. They can be found here.

N (A Child) [2012] EWCA Civ 1086 (11 July 2012)
Appeal claiming that the court had jurisdiction under the High Court's inherent jurisdiction to make orders in relation to a child, who is a British subject, notwithstanding the fact that that child is now present and habitually resident in another jurisdiction. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Family Law Week.

B (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 1082 (5 July 2012)
Children Act Sch. 1 application by mother. Application for permission to appeal against decision that the mother was habitually resident within this jurisdiction. Application refused. Full report: Family Law Week.

Dukali v Lamrani: a cautionary tale on how the courts define marriage
Dr John Fox and Eleanor Fletcher, both barristers at Lamb Building, consider the lessons to be learned from the court’s approach to determining the validity of the parties’ marriage in Dukali v Lamrani. Full article: Family Law Week.

Finance and Divorce August 2012 Update
Anna Heenan, solicitor and David Salter, Joint Head of Family Law at Mills & Reeve LLP analyse July’s financial remedies and divorce news and cases. Full article: Family Law Week.

Court of Protection update
The latest Court of Protection Newsletter from Thirty Nine Essex Street an be found here.

What happens when the validity of a marriage is questioned?
When is a marriage a marriage? Can it be a legal marriage if it didn’t begin as one? When is a marriage void? Or, if it is not a void marriage, when is it a non-marriage? Marilyn Stowe provides the answers in this post.

Hobson’s choice – voluntary or compulsory removal of a child?
A discussion of Re CA (A Baby) [2012] EWHC 2190 (Fam) (30 July 2012), from The Not So Big Society.

Acting for other solicitors
"Lawyers instructing their peers in divorce proceedings should remember that family 
litigation is based on more flexible principles and with a different type of objective 
than other disputes", says Marilyn Stowe.

“When they begin, to intervene…”
Another post with an excruciating title from suesspiciousminds (he does apologise), in which he discusses two important cases on interveners in fact-finding hearings, or “Re T for two”.

V & G Gold Medal Stamp

Further to yesterday's Press Release, Venal & Grabbit are proud to announce that the Royal Mail have issued a celebratory stamp in their honour:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Venal & Grabbit Expecting Golden Olympic Legacy

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

London, 13th August 2012: Now that we are basking in the broad, sunlit uplands of the 'Olympic Legacy', we can all look forward to a better future, say leading divorce lawyers Venal & Grabbit.

With this return of confidence, Venal & Grabbit are expecting a surge of new divorce work, with all of those who previously held off getting divorced for financial reasons now deciding to go ahead. For example, Venal & Grabbit fully expect the Legacy to remedy the problems in the housing market (along with all of the country's other woes), so that couples will no longer have to stay together simply because they can't sell the matrimonial home.

Senior Partner Edgar Venal said: "Now that the horrors... er, I mean 'wonders' of the Olympics are behind us, we can, thanks to the saintly Lord Coe and his small band of LOCOG members, expect a better future for the great 'Team GB' and all of her divorcing subjects. In fact, you could say that never in the field of marital conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few."


News for the week to the 13th August 2012

The top family law news stories from the last week, in the usual short, easy-to-listen podcast.

(If you can't see the audio player above, you can listen to the podcast here.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Borg Cube Wedding Cake

I saw this somewhere the other day, but thought little of it (novelty wedding/divorce cakes are two a penny these days), but when I saw it on BuzzFeed I had to laugh at the line "resistance is futile".

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Something for the Weekend: Morrissey - First of the Gang to Die

I was pleased to see Morrisey attacking what he called the 'blustering jingoism' of the O£ympics this week. I don't necessarily agree with everything he said, but such over-done patriotism does make me nervous. I also wonder whether the enormous sums spent on getting all those medals could have been better spent elsewhere - after all, as the former communist bloc states would confirm, winning a lot of medals does not make one country better than others. Anyway, as my tribute to one of the few who dares to swim against the tide, here is one of my favourite Morrissey tracks of recent years:

Friday, August 10, 2012

BLEAK SPOUSE: Chapter 24 – End of the Case

ON THE STEPS of the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London, the world's media have gathered to hear Edgar Venal give a press conference, following the end of the Lucrative case.

"Ladies and gentlemen," begins Edgar, "today the court has thoroughly exonerated my client, Scot Lucrative, by rejecting Mrs Lucrative's vindictive claims against him, and refusing her permission to appeal. The court found that Mrs Lucrative's malicious allegations that my client was hiding assets to prevent her getting a divorce settlement were untrue, and that therefore there are no matrimonial assets. Accordingly, all of her financial claims against my client have been dismissed."

Edgar pauses for a moment, for effect.

"Naturally," he continues, "my client is delighted by this verdict, which finally enables him to put these awful divorce proceedings behind him, and get on with his life. Hopefully, in the future he can er... re-gain his fortune."

He pauses again, whilst he adjusts the notepaper in his hand to ensure that the Venal & Grabbit logo at the top is visible to the cameras.

"This has been a long and difficult case," he concludes, "but by utilising my experience and the full resources of Venal & Grabbit, we have once again ensured that the court comes to the correct decision. Now, any questions?"

"Yes," pipes up one media hack, "at the beginning of the case there were some matrimonial assets. What happened to those?"

"Unfortunately," replies Edgar, "they were used up in my client's legal costs, defending against Mrs Lucrative's false claims."

"Once Scot Lucrative's money ran out, how could he still pay you?" Asks another media hack.

"No comment." Replies Edgar, slightly irritably.

*            *            *

A few days later at Grim Grange, John Jaundiced is relieved that Clint and Chantelle have left. After the end of the case their mother Michelle Lucrative announced that she is actually going to live with her new Russian Billionaire boyfriend in Monaco, and that she is now sending the children back to the private schools they attended prior to the divorce.

But the children are not the only people who will be leaving Grim Grange.

Ever since Allan Plastic came to Grim Grange for that first dinner, Prissy has been pursuing him relentlessly, showering him with hundreds of loving text and Facebook messages every day. Allan has finally succumbed to her advances, and agreed to marry her. The wedding will take place as soon as Prissy has finalised an exclusive deal with Goodbye magazine.

Prissy is dreaming of a life with her knight in shining armour.

John is dreaming of a life without Prissy's cooking.

Advert suggests swapping your red-haired child for ginger beer

Seems reasonable.
[Via BuzzFeed.]

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

From the Archives: August 30th 2007 - Not all good news...

The Office for National Statistics has today published its latest data on divorces taking place in England and Wales. The headline is: "Divorce rate lowest for 22 years", and the figures show a substantial drop in the number of Decrees Absolute granted, for the second successive year. Assuming that you take the view that 'marriage is a good thing', this appears to be good news, save perhaps for us divorce lawyers...

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

News Update: 7th August 2012

WELCOME to the Family Lore News Update.

Items already covered in separate posts since the last update:

Lord Chief Justice’s report marks the increase in rise of PIPs
"The latest Lord Chief Justice's report has been laid before the House of Lords. The Report focuses on the work of the courts and on the wide range of statutory responsibilities which guide his role." Full story: Family Law Week.

Law Society supports family justice modernisation plans
Reactions to Mr Justice Ryder’s report. Full story: Family Law Week.

Refuges 'under threat' from shake-up of benefit rules
A charity that runs refuges for victims of domestic violence has warned it will have to close every one of its centres, and that women will die, because of planned changes to benefit rules. Full story: BBC News.

Girl of 10 can choose to convert from Judaism to Christianity, judge rules
A 10-year-old Jewish girl has been permitted to become a Christian after a judge rejected claims by her mother that she had been “brainwashed” and was too young to change faith. The Re C (A Child) case. Full story: The Telegraph.

Transcript of Press Conference on Modernisation of Family Justice
The transcript of the press conference held by The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Justice Goldring and Mr Justice Ryder can be found here (PDF).

Judge says religious couple's brain-damaged baby can be allowed to die
A judge has ruled that a severely brain-damaged baby boy can be allowed to die even though his devoutly religious parents wanted him to be kept on a life-support system. The NHS Trust v Baby X case - see below. Full story: The Telegraph.

New civil partnerships rise by 6.4 per cent in 2011
The Office for National Statistics has released a new statistical bulletin concerning civil partnerships in the UK. The figures contained in the bulletin show that the total number of civil partnerships is much higher than the original Government estimate. Full story: Family Law Week.

The Adoption Agencies (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012
These Regulations amend the Adoption Agencies (Wales) Regulations 2005, which make provision about the exercise by adoption agencies (that is, local authorities and registered adoption societies) of their functions in relation to adoption under the Adoption and Children Act 2002. Statutory Instrument.

The Public Bodies (Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission: Abolition and Transfer of Functions) Order 2012
The Public Bodies Act 2011 provides for the abolition, and associated transfer of functions, by order of any body specified in Schedule 1 to that Act. The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is a body listed in that Schedule. Statutory Instrument.

MA v JA and the Attorney General [2012] EWHC 2219 (Fam) (27 July 2012)
Application for a declaration under section 55(a) of the Family Law Act 1986 that a marriage which took place at a mosque was valid. Application granted. Full report: Family Law Week.

Re CA (A Baby) [2012] EWHC 2190 (Fam) (30 July 2012)
Proceedings involving the making of care and placement orders, in which the mother successfully claimed a breach of human rights in connection with the obtaining by the local authority of a s.20 consent. Full report: Bailii. Discussed by suesspiciousminds and ObiterJ in Law and Lawyers - see below.

NHS Trust v Baby X & Ors [2012] EWHC 2188 (Fam) (30 July 2012)
Case concerning the question of whether a baby who suffered irreversible brain damage should be removed from a ventilator and made the subject only of palliative care. Mr Justice Hedley held that he should. He concluded sadly:
“My last words must be of profound sympathy to [the parents], whose loss and sorrow can I think only be grasped by those who also have passed through the valley of the shadow of death with their own children.”
Full report: Bailii. Discussed by ObiterJ in Law and Lawyers - see below.

XCC v AA & Anor [2012] EWHC 2183 (COP) (26 July 2012)
Court of Protection proceedings in which a woman lacking capacity was subject to an arranged marriage. Mrs Justice Parker declared that it was in her best interests for a nullity application to be issued by the Official Solicitor as her litigation friend. Full report: Bailii. Also discussed by ObiterJ in Law and Lawyers - see below.

Implications of Hague 2007 being implemented
"If domestic child maintenance regulations can be described as labyrinthine then by analogy any consideration of the rules of reciprocal enforcement are similar to sinking in quicksand whilst listening to Songs of Love and Hate by Leonard Cohen." So begins this article by Melanie Barnes on Family Law.

The Issue of Costs following the Supreme Court Decision in T (Children) – ‘Not about the money?’
Dorothea Gartland, barrister, of 4 Paper Buildings and Penny Logan, principal lawyer at Cafcass consider the lessons to be learned from T (Children). Full article: Family Law Week.

Judge decides that Jewish girl could be baptised
A commentary by David Hart QC upon the case Re C (A Child) [2012] EW Misc 15 (CC). Full post: UK Human Rights Blog.

Surrogacy: a special case?
Marilyn writes: "I am delighted to publish a post today by Cameron Paterson, a journalist with an interest in legal matters. He has written about a new case in the High Court, involving the breakdown of a marriage between husband and wife who are also the parents of a child, born to them via a surrogate mother." Full post: Marilyn Stowe Blog.

Mr Justice Ryder proposes to overhaul our family courts
Marilyn Stowe discusses Mr Justice Ryder's proposals for the modernisation of family justice. Full post: Marilyn Stowe Blog.

A trilogy of important family law cases
"In this post I draw attention to some recent cases which illustrate the immensely difficult work undertaken by the judges in the High Court's Family Division and in the Court of Protection." Full post: Law and Lawyers.

“I need two volunteers – you, and you” – how ‘voluntary’ is voluntary accommodation?
"A consideration of the High Court decision in Re CA (A Baby) [see above] and whether it is now legitimate for a social worker to ask a mother to agree voluntary accommodation of a baby." Full post: suesspiciousminds.

‘Post Adoption Placement Breakdown’ – a gripping whodunnit!
Social worker and solicitor Allan Norman discusses the case Re K (A Child: Post Adoption Placement Breakdown) in this post on The Not So Big Society.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Congratulations Curiosity!

The team at JPL celebrate - Image: NASA
Totally off topic, but congratulations to all involved with the Curiosity mission for the successful landing on Mars today. Now the real work can begin. (How many limbs would I give to swap my legal career for what you guys are doing...)

News for the week to the 6th August 2012

This week's audio summary of the top family law news stories and cases in the usual short, easy-to-listen podcast. Update yourself in 4 minutes flat!

(Those without Flash can listen here.)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Something for the Weekend: John Kongos Gold 1972

I've not been following the O£ympics (I didn't even watch the opening ceremony), and could not care less if 'Team GB' win gold. However, I thought this track was at least appropriate, coming from one of the first albums I ever bought:

Friday, August 03, 2012

BLEAK SPOUSE: Chapter 23 – Vengeance is Mine

INSPECTOR GORMLESS hurries through the corridors of London's foremost private hospital, searching for Edgar Venal's private en-suite air conditioned room. When he finds it, he knocks on the door. A formidable-looking nurse opens the door, and gives him a critical look.

"Who are you?" She asks sternly.

"Inspector Gormless." Replies Inspector Gormless. "I've come to see Mr Venal. I have some important news."

The nurse closes the door. Inspector Gormless can hear her speaking to someone, then she opens the door again.

"Mr Venal says you may come in," she announces, "but keep it brief."

Inspector Gormless enters the room. Edgar Venal is sitting up in his bed, perusing the share prices in the Financial Times.

"How are you, Mr Venal?" Asks Inspector Gormless.

"Not too bad, Gormless." Says Edgar. "Just suffered a superficial wound, nothing serious."

"Excellent news, Mr Venal." Replies Inspector Gormless. "And I have some news for you, too."

"Oh?" Queries Edgar.

"Yes," says Inspector Gormless, "I've arrested Matt O'Gridley on suspicion of attempting to murder you."

"But didn't you arrest him at my office yesterday morning?" Asks Edgar.

"Well, yes." Replies Inspector Gormless somewhat sheepishly. "But we released him in the afternoon."

"So he could have been the one who shot me?" Asks Edgar.

"I'm sure he was." Says Inspector Gormless. "We know his history, and we all heard him threaten you yesterday. I expect my boys to bea... er, I mean get a confession out of him. He should be charged by the end of the day."

At that moment the nurse interrupts. "I think Mr Venal should get some rest now." She says firmly.

Inspector Gormless takes his leave, and Edgar reluctantly obeys the nurse's advice to try to get some sleep.

*            *            *

Three hours later Edgar's futile efforts at sleep are interrupted by his mobile phone ringing. It is his secretary, Brunhilde.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Mr Venal," she says, "but there have been some developments that I thought you would want to know about."

Brunhilde goes on to explain how, before Inspector Gormless could charge Matt O'Gridley, William Piranha turned up at the police station and explained how he had been following Lady Wedlock again and had seen her leave Edgar's office last night and then throw a gun into the canal. Lady Wedlock had confessed to the crime, and been charged with attempted murder.

"But the best news is," continues Brunhilde, "that when he heard about this, Sir Basildon telephoned us to say that he has forgotten all thoughts of a reconciliation, and wants to go ahead with the divorce."

"Thank you, Brunhilde." Says Edgar with a smile. "You were right to disturb me."

He ends the call, turns over in bed and sleeps the best sleep he has had in years.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Discontinued Olympic Sports: Wife Toss

From the Archives: November 13th 2007 - Ten Myths About Family Lawyers

I know this isn't going to go down well in some quarters, but I thought it about time I did my bit to improve the image of my profession, so here I 'debunk' ten myths about family lawyers. Yes, I know there are exceptions that prove each of these myths, but I believe that that is all they are - exceptions.

Myth #1. Family lawyers are only interested in their fees, rather than achieving a good result for their clients. Aside from the issue of professional pride, family lawyers are in business and much of their work comes from recommendations, so they have a vested interest in client satisfaction.

Myth #2. Family lawyers will follow their client's instructions no matter what. Good family lawyers will only follow their client's instructions up to a point. If it is obvious that to follow instructions would be against the client's interests, then the lawyer will refuse to act - see this recent post.

Myth #3. In children proceedings, family lawyers are biased towards mothers. Why should they be - they act for fathers as well?

Myth #4. In financial settlements, family lawyers aim to take the other party 'for every penny'. Most family lawyers are fully aware that this approach is unlikely to best serve their client's interests, and many subscribe to Resolution's Code of Practice, which requires them to conduct the matter in a constructive and non-confrontational way.

Myth #5. Family lawyers live off the misery of others. We provide a service at a time of great stress, and if it is a good service then that stress will be eased. Having said that, in a large number of our cases the parties are quite amicable - where they are not, the Resolution approach aims to reduce the misery.

Myth #6. Family lawyers are in cahoots with one another. This one is often raised when the lawyer for one party 'fraternises' with the lawyer for the other party at court. But why not? They often know each other, and just because their clients are 'daggers drawn', it does not mean that they must be too. And just because they are friendly, it does not mean that they are doing a deal behind their client's back either.

Myth #7. Family lawyers are resistant to any change in the law that will adversely affect their interests (i.e. do them out of work). On the contrary, family lawyers have supported changes that will do just that, such as encouraging mediation and supporting no-fault divorce.

Myth #8. Family lawyers encourage animosity, to draw-out matters and thereby increase their fees. See 4 above.

Myth #9. Family lawyers charge extortionate fees. Yes, some do, but for most their fees are based upon their experience and their expenses (see this post). Like any business, we have to be competitive, and if we overcharge, our clients will go elsewhere. We do not operate 'charging cartels' - in fact, lawyers rarely discuss their fees with one another. Further, if a client is unhappy with his/her lawyer's fees, they can always request the court to assess them.

Myth #10. Lastly, all family lawyers are rich. If only it were the case. True, some at the top of the profession earn very large sums of money, but isn't that true for most professions? On the other hand, the high-street family lawyer doing predominantly legal aid work will be struggling to make a living at all.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Ryder report clarified

For the benefit of the confused, I thought I would clarify Mr Justice Ryder's final report on the modernisation of family justice, by reference to the following selected quotes from the report (numbers in parentheses refer to paragraph numbers in the report):
"During phase one, there will be a strong emphasis on leadership and management development for the judiciary and the introduction of new management information to support leadership judges in their management of the court’s judicial resources." (10)

"In parallel with phase one of the programme, evidence-based good practice pathways and supporting materials will be published which the Family Court will use to improve the outcomes for children involved in cases by reducing delay." (11)

"The court will be operationally managed by the Family Business Authority of the HMCTS Board, which was created under the Framework Document of April 2011 to reflect an agreement reached by the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Senior President of Tribunals on a partnership between them in relation to the effective governance, financing and operation of HMCTS." (13)

"One of the keys to better performance in reducing delay is the more effective management of existing judicial resources. This will be provided by better patterning of judges and magistrates to enhance experience and to provide judicial continuity." (26)

"These problems can be traced to poor deployment practices: patterning, continuity, allocation and listing, and these are all matters for the judiciary. The leadership judges in the new court will need to give clear deployment instructions to their unified family administrations and be well informed in their discussions with HMCTS and the Presiding and Family Division Liaison Judges." (28)

"FDLJs and DFJs will have a webbased resource providing examples of existing protocols and agreements with other agencies which have already been successfully trialled and which can help to reduce delay by using agreed standard processes." (36)

"The court must be adept to scrutinise whether the evidence that is necessary is already before the court and if it is, why further expert assessment or analysis is necessary on the same issues. To do otherwise where no complaint about the methodology or factual basis of existing evidence is identifiable, suggests that the court is being asked to provide a multi-layered alternative to judicial decision-making which is inappropriate." (41)

"During the course of this next year expectation documents will be published which will describe agreements that have already been reached with family justice agencies to describe in plain language what the court can expect from existing or new processes which are fundamental to the court..."(49)

"Deployment guidance will be issued by the President to describe the principles to be applied to the itineraries and sitting patterns of judges and magistrates, the allocation of proceedings and listing of hearings including the development of protocols to permit judicial continuity where judges and magistrates sit in other jurisdictions." (68)

"Protocols will be published to enable ‘mixed ticket’ judges to provide judicial continuity in each jurisdiction under arrangements managed jointly by resident and designated judges." (69)

"Expectation agreements will be agreed with agencies to describe what the family court should expect of them." (73)
I hope that makes it all clear!