Showing posts from December, 2012

Old John's Almanac 2013

Following the success of my predictions for 2012 (with a remarkably similar graphic), here are my predictions for 2013:

January - Sir Paul Coleridge announces the launch of the Foundation of Small-Minded People. In an attempt to keep a lower profile, he makes the announcement whilst wearing a paper-bag on his head.

February - Mr Justice Ryder publishes the second 'Implementation Update' for the Family Justice Modernisation Programme. He says that he will "set up a new pathway which will enable better patterning of judges to give clear deployment instructions to their unified family administrations, to provide a multi-layered alternative to judicial decision-making with regard to the expectation documents and deployment guidance which will be applied to the itineraries and sitting patterns of mixed ticket judges". So, that's all clear then.

March - Fathers' rights group The Real Families Need Fathers 4 Justice launch a new advertising campaign: "Say it with …

Something for the Weekend: Pat Metheny Unity Band - New Year

OK, it may be a couple of days to go before New Year, but it's never too early to enjoy Pat Metheny. This is a track by his new Unity Band:

Seventeen things that happened this year...

1. Sir Paul climbs back on his hobby-horse
To coincide with 'Divorce Day' in January, Sir Paul Coleridge announced that he was launching a foundation "to defend marriage and reduce of the "scourge of society" of family breakdown". The Marriage Foundation was actually launched on the 1st of May, with patrons including the three wise Baronesses: former President of the Family Division Baroness Butler-Sloss, chairman of the Bar Standards Board Baroness Deech and lawyer to the rich and famous Baroness Shackleton. It didn't go down well with me (see image), and I wasn't the only one - it led to Sir Paul being investigated by the Office for Judicial Complaints, following a complaint that his neutrality as a judge could be compromised. He was cleared of misconduct, but promised to take a “lower profile” position, although from the news today, "lower profile" clearly does not preclude him from criticising the Government's same-sex marriage p…

Happy Isaac Newton Day!

Celebrate once again the greatest person ever to be born on the 25th December: Happy Isaac Newton Day!

Something for the Weekend: John Lennon - Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

If only...

THE FIRM: Chapter 14 - A Christmas Carrot

AT THE OFFICES of Messrs. Venal & Grabbit, Solicitors, Edgar Venal has just arrived back from Mustique.

He was still relieved that the whole McCheap/Molotov thing had been just a dream, and was determined to show his thanks by doing something for those less fortunate than him, i.e. his staff.

Accordingly, he called an immediate meeting of all staff, in the firm's boardroom.

*            *            *
Edgar sat at the head of the boardroom table. His partner, Ebenezer Grabbit, sat next to him, wondering what this was all about, as Edgar had said nothing to him.

When the staff had all gathered, Edgar stood up.

"In the spirit of Christmas," he announced with a smile, "I have decided to give you all a £10 voucher off of our fees when... er, I mean if, you instruct the firm to deal with your divorce."

Ebenezer Grabbit looked aghast at Edgar's generosity.

The staff, however, looked strangely underwhelmed, and Edgar wondered if perhaps it wasn't enough. …

Guest Post: Shock finding of divorce survey

A new survey questioning people about divorce has come up with a shock finding. 

The survey, conducted by ICBM, asked ten people what they thought divorce was for, and a majority of respondents said that it was to terminate marriage.

The survey was commissioned by leading divorce firm Venal & Grabbit. Commenting on its findings, Senior Partner Edgar Venal said: "This unexpected result has come as a shock to us all. Who would have thought that most people thought that the purpose of divorce was to terminate marriage?"

If you are thinking of terminating your marriage, then we at Venal & Grabbit can help. We have experts who can deal with all aspects of marriage termination - just call us for a quote.

Family Lore Clinic: Does a divorce court order carry interest on a lump sum?

Yes it does, provided either:

(a) the order includes a provision that interest is payable; or

(b) the order does not include a provision for interest, but the lump sum is at least £5000.

In each case, interest will be payable from the date by when the lump sum must be paid (the order will state this date). If the order includes a provision that interest is payable, it will also specify the rate of interest. If the order does not include a provision for interest, the rate will be the current 'prescribed rate', which is presently 8% per annum.

(As usual, this is necessarily a simplification of the law. If you require more details or specific advice, you should consult a specialist family lawyer.)

News Update: 18th December 2012

WELCOME to (very probably) the last Family Lore News Update of the year. (Warning: It's another big one.)

Thousands of the most damaged children in care being failed
Report criticises treatment of children in care outside their home areas and under supervision of youth offending teams. Full story: The Guardian.

Gay marriage: divorces over adultery face legal challenge
Unfaithful husbands could attempt to stop their wives divorcing them for adultery if gay marriage is legalised, according to senior lawyers. Full story: The Telegraph.

Even divorcees think divorce is too easy, poll finds
Getting divorced is too easy – even in the opinion of the majority of divorcees, a survey suggests. Full story: The Telegraph.

Attainment gap between looked after and non-looked after children narrows slightly
For the third year an annual statistical release has been published showing reported outcomes for looked after children with comparative figures for non-looked after children. Full story: Family…

News Podcast: For the week to the 17th December 2012

A not-quite-so-brief-as-usual summary of the top family law news stories and cases from the past week, in an easy-to-listen podcast.

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

Something for the Weekend 2: Lynyrd Skynyrd - FreeBird

My earlier post was perhaps a little frivolous. Here, to compensate, is a fabulous recording of the great Lynyrd Skynyrd at their height, before tragedy struck. Their best known song, demonstrating of course their famous three-guitar attack:

Something for the Weekend: The Stranglers - "No More Heroes"

This started off being a serious post, lamenting the fact that all of my heroes seem to have passed away. Naturally, I thought of this song, that I saw the band play live at the Reading Top Rank way back in 1977 (yes, I pogoed). However, as I looked through various videos of them playing it I came across this one, in which they are not taking things entirely seriously. Possibly. Well, it amused me, anyway:

Friday View: 'Cookie cutter' justice?

The other day, that well-known family law journal the London Evening Standard ran a piece suggesting that, when it reports on the Matrimonial Property, Needs and Agreements Consultation, the Law Commission will recommend the adoption of formulaic guidelines for spousal maintenance, similar to the Canadian Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.

The Commission did, of course, explore the Guidelines in its Supplementary Consultation Paper. There are two points of particular note about the Guidelines:

Firstly, they offer a range of figures, rather than a set amount, thus leaving it open to the parties to argue what figure within that range would be appropriate in their particular case.Secondly, the use of the Guidelines is purely voluntary, although they have apparently become 'thoroughly embedded' within the Canadian system since their introduction in 2008 (they are intended to generate appropriate outcomes in the majority of cases). I understand that the courts have stated that if…

THE FIRM: Chapter 13 - A Realisation


Edgar woke with a start. He was sweating profusely, and not because of the Caribbean sun, now slipping towards the horizon. He looked up and saw his faithful negro manservant Old Toby gazing down at him.

"Master Venal, yous dinner's ready!" Exclaimed Old Toby.

Edgar looked around. He was beside the swimming pool at his villa Slaver's Plantation on Mustique, not in Venal & Grabbit's underground car park.

Slowly it dawned on him that it had all been a bad dream: there was no Mike McCheap, no Ronnie or Reggie Molotov, and the only Firm was Venal & Grabbit.

Furthermore, Venal & Grabbit do not have a 'Head of Security' (although Edgar wondered whether it might not be a bad idea...).

A wave of relief flowed over him.

He wiped the sweat from his brow, poured himself another mint julep and took a long swig.

It had all seemed so real. He shuddered as he remembered the sight of Ronnie Molotov blocking his escape from the unde…

Family Lore Clinic: Is university full-time education?

Many financial orders on divorce use the term 'full-time education', usually to express a cut-off date ("until the youngest child shall cease full-time education"), either to indicate the duration of maintenance payments, or the date upon which the former matrimonial home should be sold. Sometimes the order is a little clearer, by stating whether it is full-time secondary or tertiary education that is intended.

Assuming that the order does not specify secondary education, the simple answer is that university would normally be considered full-time education. Of course, there may be university courses that are part-time, but an undergraduate course would usually be full-time.

As far as I am aware, 'full-time education' is not defined in a family law context, but HM Revenue and Customs does have a definition, which it uses for the purposes of child benefit and tax credits, and which a family court is likely to follow, if there were a dispute. The definition says…

In the matter of A (A Child): Appeal dismissed

The Supreme Court has handed down judgment in In the matter of A (A Child).

The Issue
Whether disclosure of the identity of the accuser and substance of allegations of serious sexual abuse made by a third party should be disclosed to parties involved in contact proceedings relating to a child.

The Facts
A, who is now 10 years old is the daughter of Ms G (‘mother’) and Mr J (‘father’). Her parents married in 2000 but separated in 2002, when A was 6 months old. The father applied for a contact order in the county court in 2003. A number of orders were made culminating in a final order in 2009 providing for A to stay with her father for two weeks every February from 2010 onwards and for four weeks every summer. X (a young person) made allegations of serious and sustained sexual abuse by the father that allegedly took place when she was a child. X did so in confidence but did not wish to take her allegations any further and initially refused to have her identity or the details of her alleg…

Davies v Davies: Contribution and inherited assets

A summary of Davies v Davies [2012] EWCA Civ 1641.

The case deals with the issues of contribution and inherited assets, although I'm not sure it takes the jurisprudence on either very much further.

Briefly, the case concerned the husband's application for permission to appeal against a lump sum order. In addition to the matrimonial home, the wife had been awarded £2.2 million. The husband contended that she should have received £1.5 million.

The husband is the owner of a successful hotel, which he inherited from his father in 1997/98. At the time the three houses in which the hotel business traded were jointly owned between the husband and his two sisters, but he subsequently bought them out. The husband's principal case was that the wife was no more than a receptionist who had been employed intermittently in his business during the years of co-habitation and marriage. His alternative case was that the assets available to satisfy the wife's needs hardly extended to the…

News Update: 11th December 2012

WELCOME to this week's Family Lore News Update. It's another long one...

Hackney social services condemned over failures after mother kills children
Coroner criticises staff who allowed woman suffering from paranoid schizophrenia unsupervised overnight visits. Full story: The Guardian.

Child maintenance changes in force
Changes to the way child maintenance is assessed, collected and paid to recipients come into force today (10 December 2012) under the powers of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 (see Statutory Instrument, below). Full story: Family Law Hub.

Councils refer record numbers of children into care in 2012
Family courts body Cafcass has released its latest care statistics, revealing record referrals show no signs of stopping. Full story: Community Care.

Supreme Court refuses permission to appeal in Lawrence v Gallagher
Civil partnership financial remedy appeal fails. Full story: Family Law Week.

Divorce judges welcome ‘cookie cutter’ share-out plan
A n…

B v A: Complying with the principles and procedures governing the making of a without notice application

A salutary tale for any lawyer dealing with such applications.

B v A [2012] EWHC 3127 (Fam) involved a father in the United States seeking an order in this country for the return of his child, when the child was actually in Pakistan. The evidence that the child was in this country was extremely thin. The mother had been living with the child in Pakistan since 2009, but in October 2011 the father received information that the mother had been seen in a restaurant in Coventry. Accordingly, he issued proceedings here. Various orders were made, but the mother could not be located and was not therefore served. In December 2011 the court made an open-ended location order.

As a consequence of that order, the mother's passport was taken from her when she visited this country in June 2012, without the child. The mother raised the issue of jurisdiction. Accepting that neither the mother nor the child were in England in 2011, the father indicated that he would be prepared to withdraw the proce…

News Podcast: For the week to the 10th of December 2012

A brief summary of the top family law news stories and cases from the past week, in an easy-to-listen podcast.

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

Sir Patrick Moore: Thanks for everything

I saidonce before that there were few people I ever considered a hero. Well, for the second time in just a few months a hero of mine has passed away. The wonderful and utterly unique Sir Patrick Moore. Thank you for all those years of informing, enlightening, inspiring and just plain entertaining. As Brian May has said: "Patrick is irreplaceable. There will never be another Patrick Moore. But we were lucky enough to get one."

Something for the Weekend: The Bridge of Death

Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Forget about all that unpleasantness in the High Court this week, and remember how great the film was:

Friday View: The way forward?

As most of the serious items in this blog are essentially just news, I thought I would start a new series of posts in which I pass some comment upon those things that are happening in the world of family law. I have decided to call the series 'Friday View', on the basis that the posts will be written on Fridays and that the thing or things I will comment upon are from the previous week, although whether I shall write a post every Friday, we shall see...

To kick the series off, I am actually going to discuss something that has already attracted comment or, perhaps more accurately, I am going to comment upon the comment.

As I reported here, last week the Government launched a web app aimed at helping separating parents. To explain the need for such an app (and perhaps to justify the £300,000 cost), the launch was accompanied by the results of a YouGov poll commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions, which revealed "that more than half of parents (52%) find it hard…

THE FIRM: Chapter 12 - Flight

THE SHARD, Ronnie and Reggie Molotov's luxury apartment.

Naturally, Ronnie and Reggie took a rather dim view of what Mike McCheap had just told them about how Venal & Grabbit had been overcharging them.

"Nobody messes with Ronnie Molotov." Said Ronnie Molotov.

"I think we should pay Edgar Venal a visit." Said Reggie Molotov. He scanned the view out of the window, straining to pick out Venal & Grabbit's office.

"Shall I bring my Peter Andre tapes with me?" Said Ronnie, with a wicked grin.

"I don't think we'll need to resort to torture." Replied Reggie. "Just a little violent retribution..."

*            *            *
At the offices of Messrs. Venal & Grabbit, Solicitors, Edgar Venal has just arrived back from Mustique.

No sooner than he sits down at his desk, his telephone rings. He sees that it is an internal call from Bill Devastator, Head of Security at Venal & Grabbit. He picks up the receiver.




The Family Justice Modernisation Programme: Implementation Update Number One

The first Implementation Update has been published for the Family Justice Modernisation Programme. The update covers developments in respect of the following:

The Single Family Court ('SFC')
The primary legislation to create the SFC is currently proceeding through Parliament (the Crime and Courts Bill). It is hoped that the Bill will receive Royal Assent in April 2013, coming into force in April 2014. Detailed consideration of secondary materials, including Statutory Instruments, will begin this month.

The Children and Families Bill
Pre-legislative scrutiny of what will become the Children and Families Bill is presently taking place in Parliament.

Judicial Training
This will begin this month.

Family Justice Board
This has been established, with David Norgrove as Chairman. At a local level Local Family Justice Boards (LFJBs) have been set up to bring together the functions previously carried out by Local Family Justice Councils and Local Performance Improvement Groups.

Experts in th…