Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Review: Damned if you don't, damned if you do...


Notable things this week:

As the party conference season gets under way, it is always interesting to see what, if any, gems of new family law our political masters have in store for us. Sure enough, Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats are promising to give "extra legal rights to unmarried couples who separate" or, to use lawyer parlance, property rights for cohabitees. I and many other family lawyers have been calling for this for years, although whether the Lib Dems will have the political clout to push it through after the next general election (I assume there will not be time to do so before) is, of course, a matter for the electorate.

Coincidentally (?) on the same subject, Resolution has published the results of a survey that says that 69% of MPs "agree there is a mistaken belief in the existence of “common law marriage” among their constituents, and that 57% believe the law needs to be changed to provide greater protection for unmarried couples upon separation". Another example of a survey supporting the views of the organisation that commissioned it, but hopefully an indication that there may yet be change in this area in the not too distant future.

The serious case review in the Daniel Pelka case has been published. Its findings include that there were missed opportunities to protect Daniel and potentially uncover the abuse he was suffering, and that at times, he appeared to have been "invisible" as a needy child against the backdrop of his mother's controlling behaviour. Recommendations include: a review of information sharing and notification systems in respect of domestic abuse; ensuring a robust system for recording injuries or welfare concerns by school staff; and that health professionals should consider child abuse as a differential diagnosis "as part of an holistic assessment of the child".

On the same subject, a petition calling for a 'Daniel Pelka Law' requiring professionals to report child abuse has apparently been rejected by the Government, on the grounds that it is not required, as it is already clear that concerns should be reported. I have to say that I'm not sure what such a law would add, save for extra pressure on professionals. It would surely also increase the number of cases unnecessarily reported, thereby increasing the pressure on an already creaking system.

Meanwhile, our President has been busy again. In his judgment in Re B-S (Children) he expressed the Court of Appeal's "real concerns, shared by other judges, about the recurrent inadequacy of the analysis and reasoning put forward in support of the case for adoption, both in the materials put before the court by local authorities and guardians and also in too many judgments". Spelling out good practice, he said that two things were essential: proper evidence and adequately reasoned judgments. His judgment has been considered as a warning that Michael Gove’s drive to speed up adoptions should not be allowed to break up families unnecessarily.

There's nothing quite like telling us something we already know. The Guardian informs us today that "Co-operative Legal Services compared the grounds for divorce in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s as well as the present day" and found that during that period unreasonable behaviour has overtaken adultery as the most popular 'grounds' [sic] for divorce. Really? I wasn't aware of that.

And finally, my tweet of the week:

Have a good weekend - please drink responsibly.

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