News Update: 6th November 2012

WELCOME to this week's Family Lore News Update.

Social workers 'at rock bottom' over issue of race and adoption
Professional body to tell Lords committee that political stereotyping has hampered efforts to re-home vulnerable children. "Morale among social workers has been driven to rock bottom by cuts, targets and ministers making the issue of race and adoption a "political football", according to the biggest professional association." No surprise there, then - anyone from the Government listening? Full story: The Guardian.

Saudi wife entitled to affluent lifestyle, divorce judge rules as he awards her £4 million
A Saudi businessman has been ordered to pay his estranged wife £4 million and give her £150,000 a year for life after a judge ruled she was entitled to continue living an affluent lifestyle. Nice work if you can get it... Full story: The Telegraph.

Absent fathers to get legal right to spend time with their children
Absent fathers are to be given a legal right to spend time with their children, unless they are likely to cause them harm, under changes to access laws unveiled yesterday. The Government's response to the 'Co-operative parenting' consultation. As I noticed when I first looked at the response, and as has been noted elsewhere, what is striking about this is the extremely low number of responses to the consultation. There were only 214 responses, and just 93 respondents supported the favoured 'Option 1', all of which suggests to me that there is very little interest in any change to the law. Full story: The Telegraph.

Family courts 'ignoring needs of domestic violence victims'
Report finds women are frequently put in unsafe positions during proceedings, and government plans could make matters worse. Full story: The Guardian. The report is Picking up the pieces: domestic violence and child contact, prepared by the Rights of Women charity. Hmm, call me a cynic, but I am always a little suspicious of reports/research/studies whose conclusions support the views of those who prepared or commissioned them. As for family courts ignoring the needs of domestic violence victims, that was certainly not my experience - quite the opposite, in fact.

Fifth of adults believe 40 is too old to adopt
A fifth of adults in the UK believe they would be ruled out of adopting a child after the age of 40, a study has revealed. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

Dream holiday homes becoming ‘millstones’ for divorcees after Euro property plunge
For couples in the midst of divorce, tumbling property values in countries hit by the Euro crisis are rapidly turning former “dream” homes into a “toxic” legacy, lawyers have warned. Full story: The Telegraph.

Chancery judge declines bankrupt husband’s application for release from ancillary relief order
In McRoberts v McRoberts [2012] EWHC 2966 (Ch) [see below], Mr Justice Hildyard, sitting in the Chancery Division, has declined an application by a bankrupt husband under s 281(5) of the Insolvency Act 1986 to be released from the bankruptcy debts arising within ancillary relief proceedings. Full story: Family Law Week.

Children in need numbers fall slightly in last 12 months
The Office for National Statistics has published final figures on the numbers of children referred to and assessed by children's social services. Full story: Family Law Week.

Catholic Care loses gay adoption fight
A Roman Catholic adoption agency has been told [again] it cannot turn away gay couples if it wants to keep its charitable status. Full story: BBC News.

Children in care are usually not offered an independent visitor, says report
The Independent visitors report published by the Children's Rights Director documents children in care's views and experiences of having an independent visitor, as well as their views about not being offered one. Full story: Family Law Week.

Number of opposite sex cohabiting couples has doubled since 1996
The number of opposite sex cohabiting couple families has increased significantly, according to the latest statistical bulletin on families and households released by the Office for National Statistics. Full story: Family Law Week.

1996 Hague Convention comes into force on 1 November 2012
The Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (the "1996 Hague Convention") came into force on 1 November 2012. Full story: Family Law. For a summary of the Convention, see this Outline, prepared by the Hague Conference.

Child maintenance powers 'emasculated' after court ruling
Absent parents who fail to support their children may no longer be threatened with jail after a court ruling against a Government body set up to pursue them. The CMEC v Gibbons and CMEC v Karoonian cases, see below. Full story: The Telegraph.

Toyota system halves care proceedings time
Three London councils have halved the time it takes for care proceedings to go through the family court by implementing a time management system developed by the car manufacturer Toyota. Full story: Solicitors Journal.

Malialis v Malialis [2012] EWCA (24 October 2012)
The husband appealed financial orders made following divorce. The appeal was partly allowed. Report: Family Law.

McRoberts v McRoberts [2012] EWHC 2966 (Ch) (1 November 2012)
Application to release a bankrupt from bankruptcy debt arising under an order made in family proceedings. Application dismissed. Full report: Family Law Week. See also the news story, above.

KH v CMEC (CSM) [2012] UKUT 329 (AAC) (18 September 2012)
Appeal by absent parent against decision of First-tier Tribunal, after tribunal decided to proceed with hearing in his absence. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Vogel v Lothschutz [2012] EWHC (19 October 2012)
Case concerning the enforcement of a German maintenance agreement. Report: Family Law.

Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission v Gibbons; Same v Karoonian [2012] EWCA Civ 1379 (30 October 2012)
CHILD MAINTENANCE — Enforcement — Committal to prison — Non-resident parent not complying with order to pay maintenance — Statutory power, in case of wilful refusal or culpable neglect, to commit to prison and/or disqualify from holding or obtaining driving licence — Pre-condition that distress under statute should have been “sought” — True construction of word “sought” — Whether body seeking enforcement having sought distress — Child Support Act 1991, s 39A (as inserted by Child Support, Pensions & Security Act 2000, s 16(1)). Report: ICLR. Full report: Family Law Week. See also the news story, above.

G (A Child), Re [2012] EWCA Civ 1377 (31 October 2012)
Application by a maternal aunt for permission to appeal against a care order. Permission refused. Full report: Bailii. See also the post by suesspiciousminds, below.

Re C (Adoption: Assessment of Grandparents) [2012] EWCA (25 October 2012)
Appeal by grandparents against decision not to further assess them as potential carers of their grandchild prior to making a final order. Report: Family Law.

Hunt v Hunt [2012] EWHC (19 October 2012)
Parents agreed for the child to live in Mexico with mother. Father failed to return the child following contact and mother issued Hague proceedings in reliance on the agreement in establishing habitual residence in Mexico. Application dismissed. Report: Family Law.

Beyond the Nuclear: The Face of Modern Adoption (Ulster Style)
"A Judge in Belfast's High Court decided last month that unmarried and same-sex couples in Northern Ireland should be allowed to adopt children. In so doing, Mr Justice Seamus Treacy ruled that an adoption law from 1987 that discriminated against both groups was unlawful and amounted to a breach of human rights." Says Duncan Ranton in Family Law.

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

Family Division 1 – Chancery Division 2: A consideration of Petrodel v Prest
Alison Burge, barrister, of Pump Court Chambers analyses the Court of Appeal's decision in the watershed case of Petrodel v Prest. Full article: Family Law Week.

Cohabitation Update
“The purpose of this seminar is to consider the law on constructive trusts following Jones v. Kernott and recent developments regarding cohabiting couples.” Full article: Zenith Chambers (PDF).

Delegation’s all you need
"I have heard a rumour of Local Authorities purporting to delegate their P.R. (obtained pursuant to interim care orders) to proposed carers (foster carers, extended family members etc) whom they support as long term carers for children in their care but who would otherwise not qualify for legal aid, as a device in order to trigger non means non merits tested legal aid – for example in order to secure funds for representation of proposed special guardians." Says Lucy Reed at Pink Tape, in a welcome return to substantial blogging (she claimed that work had got in the way of blogging, but that is no excuse).

Taking neglect seriously
Some interesting research about children’s timescales and the Court process, which has been conducted by the Childhood Wellbeing Research Council. Full post: suesspiciousminds.

it cannot be right for the Court of Appeal to be asked to case manage cases retrospectively.
A discussion of Re G (A child) 2012 EWCA Civ 1377 [above]. More chunks from a judgment, interspersed with comment from suesspiciousminds.

A new model for family court social work?
"Social workers who work regularly in the family courts must have: a strong grounding in child development, a good understanding of effective, evidence-based family interventions, the ability to produce high quality statements, chronologies and court reports and the skills to present evidence in court." So says Camilla Pemberton in The Children's Services Blog.