Thursday, February 28, 2013

The price of separation: The Ombudsman's report on complaints against divorce lawyers


The Legal Ombudsman has today published a report "looking at issues around family law complaints and focusing on divorce". The rationale behind the report is made clear in its first paragraph:
"Family disputes currently give rise to more complaints to the Legal Ombudsman than any other type of dispute. Around 18% of the complaints we investigate are about family law. Of these, just over half are related to divorce. That is echoed by other findings about the level of customer satisfaction with divorce lawyers: for instance, research has found that dissatisfaction levels are higher in divorce cases (13%) than for other areas of law (average of 7%)."
We are then told that:
"The aim of this report is to attempt to cast some light on why divorce leads to higher levels of dissatisfaction and more complaints than other areas of legal service. What can lawyers – and consumers – do to avoid finding themselves in disputes about the service that has been provided? How can both parties protect themselves against deepening the distress of relationship breakdown with a subsequent dispute between lawyer and customer? And how will the coming changes to the legal sector – legislative, administrative and financial – impact on the situation?"
Unsurprisingly, the report tells us that the largest area for complaints on divorce is cost, with around one quarter of the divorce complaints the Ombudsman deals with being on this issue. The report gives the usual advice: keep the client updated as costs mount. We are then given a couple of examples of how things can go wrong, including the case of 'Miss A', who was told to pay costs of £15,000 over what was agreed with her solicitors, including £4,000(!) for photocopying.

The next section of the report discusses the tension between law as a vocation, with lawyers bound by a professional obligation to act in the best interests of their client, and law as a business, with lawyers needing to maximise their returns in order to survive. We are given an example of a case where neither party were willing to compromise, with the result that the complainant's costs amounted to nearly £70,000. The Ombudsman found that the solicitors had provided a reasonable service, but had neither sought to challenge their client’s approach nor inform her of her mounting costs.

The report then moves on to issues of quality. We are told that around 18% of divorce related complaints are about the lawyer failing to provide adequate legal advice, with the key issue often being the poor standard of information provided to the client.

The next, short, section of the report explains that it is not always possible to 'put things right' with monetary compensation, and points out that in some cases minor issues with the solicitor's service have no effect upon the outcome, with the result that the complainant rejects the Ombudsman's decision to take no action.

The next section of the report looks at the 'matrimonial market', and how it is changing. In particular, the report looks at the pros and cons of cut- or fixed-price services, and mediation.

The report concludes that:
"...there are very good reasons why we can expect there to be more complaints about divorce than almost any other area of law. However, it is possible for lawyers and customers to manage the risks inherent in divorce better."
We are then given eight case studies, demonstrating complaints made to the Ombudsman, whether or not they had merit.

The report can be found here in html format, or here, in pdf format. The Ombudsman has also produced a consumer guide, containing ten 'helpful tips' to using a divorce lawyer, which may be found here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Family Lore Clinic: Is there any reason why I wouldn't be granted a decree nisi?


Before pronouncing a decree nisi, the court must be satisfied that the party applying for it (usually the petitioner) is entitled to the decree. Essentially, they will be entitled if the petitioner has proved the grounds for divorce, i.e. that the marriage has irretrievably broken down (assuming there are no procedural irregularities, and that the other party is not defending the divorce).

Exactly what needs to be proved depends upon the basis of the divorce, i.e. the other party's adultery, the other party's unreasonable behaviour, the other party's desertion, two years separation with the other party's consent or five years separation.

If the court is not satisfied then it will normally direct the party applying for the decree to provide the court with further information, although it could fix a hearing instead.

(As usual, if you require more details or specific advice, you should consult a specialist family lawyer.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

TC and JC (Children: Relocation): The presently governing principles of relocation

Mr Justice Mostyn
A summary of TC and JC (Children: Relocation) [2013] EWHC 292 (Fam), decided on the 21st of February.

The case concerned the mother's application to relocate the children to Australia, where she had previously abducted them there in 2011. (After the father made an application in Australia for their return, she eventually agreed and they came back to the UK. She then issued her relocation application.)

The case came before Mr Justice Mostyn, who set out the legal framework governing relocation applications. He began by referring to the leading cases, including Payne v Payne, K v K and Re F (A Child). From these he drew the following 'presently governing principles':
i) The only authentic principle to be applied when determining an application to relocate a child permanently overseas is that the welfare of the child is paramount and overbears all other considerations, however powerful and reasonable they might be.

ii) The guidance given by the Court of Appeal as to the factors to be weighed in search of the welfare paramountcy, and which directs the exercise of the welfare discretion, is valuable. Such guidance helps the judge to identify which factors are likely to be the most important and the weight which should generally be attached to them, and, incidentally, promotes consistency in decision-making.

iii) The guidance is not confined to classic primary carer applications and may be utilised in other kinds of relocation cases if the judge thinks it helpful and appropriate to do so.

iv) The guidance suggests that the following questions be asked and answered (assuming that the applicant is the mother):
a) Is the mother's application genuine in the sense that it is not motivated by some selfish desire to exclude the father from the child's life?

b) Is the mother's application realistically founded on practical proposals both well researched and investigated?

c) What would be the impact on the mother, either as the single parent or as a new wife, of a refusal of her realistic proposal?

d) Is the father's opposition motivated by genuine concern for the future of the child's welfare or is it driven by some ulterior motive?

e) What would be the extent of the detriment to him and his future relationship with the child were the application granted?

f) To what extent would that detriment be offset by extension of the child's relationships with the maternal family and homeland?
v) Since the circumstances in which such decisions have to be made vary infinitely and the judge in each case has to be free to decide whatever is in the best interests of the child, such guidance should not be applied rigidly as if it contains principles from which no departure is permitted.

vi) There is no legal principle, let alone some legal or evidential presumption, in favour of an application to relocate by a primary carer. The old statements which seem to favour applications to relocate made by primary carers are no more that a reflection of the reality of the human condition and the parent-child relationship.

vii) The hearing must not get mired in taxonomical arguments or preliminary skirmishes as to what label should be applied to the case by virtue of either the time spent with each of the parents or other aspects of the care arrangements. 
He then set out various other observations regarding relocation applications and concluded from them (at paragraph 18) that:
"They explain irrefutably to my mind why presumptions have no place in a relocation application. I therefore start with a blank sheet. There is no presumption in favour of the applicant mother. My determination will involve a factual evaluation and a value judgment. I will ask myself and answer as best I can the questions in paragraph [(iv)] above but their answers will not be determinative or even necessarily tendentious (in the true sense of that word). They will merely be aids to my determination of the ultimate single question, which is, of course: what is in the best interests of these children?"
He concluded that the decisive factor that moved him off the "knife edge" in favour of the mother's proposal was his finding that the impact of a refusal would bear far more heavily on the mother than the other way around (i.e. paragraph (iv) (c) above). However, he emphasised that his decision was "based from first to last on the interests of these children" and said (at paragraph 52):
"I must shut out my strong feelings for sympathy for the father at the high-handed, selfish and autocratic way he has been treated by the mother, and I must eschew any temptation to punish the mother for that conduct."
Accordingly, the mother's relocation application was granted, although it transpired that the father was able himself to relocate to Australia, so he also ordered joint residence.

However, he finished with this message:
"Child abduction seldom, if ever, has a happy ending. It has rightly been described as a form of child abuse. The mother's conduct was abysmal. It was an act of deliberate cruelty to her husband, the father of her children. It was directly contrary to the interests of the children for them abruptly to have been removed from the society of their father. It has subjected them to two years of uncertainty while they have been taken across the world, back and forth. It has embroiled all members of the family in extensive litigation with days in court in both countries. It has brought the mother to the brink of bankruptcy. Yet it has not been until very recently that the mother has developed any self-awareness. Her attitude was "I did not abduct them; I just took them home". This is an all too common attitude but it is as misguided as it is futile. If the place to which the children are taken is a subscriber to the Hague Convention then the children will almost inevitably be returned with all the delay and heart-break that this case has demonstrated. Had the mother behaved correctly and made an application for relocation in 2011 then I expect it would likely have been granted, and all that trauma avoided."

News Update: 26th of February 2013


WELCOME to this week's Family Lore News Update.

NEWS
Businessman fails in bid to prevent wife divorcing him following a holiday row over map-reading
A businessman whose wife divorced him after an argument over her map-reading during a holiday in France has failed in a legal bid to overturn the decision after a family judge said he has similar rows with his own wife. One day, common sense will prevail and we will finally have no-fault divorce, so that this sort of nonsense can be consigned to the dustbin of history. Full story: The Telegraph.

Mediation fails to reduce litigation over children
Greater use of mediation in family proceedings has had a limited impact on the number of children involved in private family law cases, recent figures show. Will not make good reading for our "mediation is the universal panacea" government. Full story: Solicitors Journal.

Del Monte chief Vivian Imerman agrees £15m divorce settlement
The high-profile divorce battle between the multimillionaire drinks magnate Vivian Imerman, nicknamed "The Man from Del Monte", and his estranged wife, Lisa Tchenguiz, has ended in a £15m settlement. Full story: The Guardian.

Divorcing couples often hide assets, survey suggests
Many people going through divorce could be hiding their wealth from their partners, a survey suggests. This non-news story of the week can be found on BBC News.

Uncertain future for serious case reviews following government delay
Ex-children's minister says the government should have the power to force local authorities to carry out serious case reviews, while the preferred model for SCRs remains unclear. Full story: Community Care.

Four in five parents now paying for their children
Figures released today show the vast majority of parents who use the Child Support Agency (CSA) are now paying for their children. Full story: Department for Work and Pensions. See also this post.

Figures show divorce hot spots
Separating couples are being urged to use mediation instead of ending up in courtroom battles after a list of England and Wales divorce hot spots was revealed. Full story: Ministry of Justice. See, however, this story and also this post.

Briefing on Children and Families Bill
Resolution has drafted a briefing on the Children and Families Bill. Full story: Resolution.

Supreme Court dismisses local authority’s appeal in J (Children)
The real possibility that the parent caring for the child has harmed a child in the past is not by itself sufficient,’ says Lady Hale. Full story: Family Law Week. See also the law report, article and blog post, below.

Supreme Court unanimously allows father’s appeal in L and B (Children)
Court considers circumstances in which a judge is entitled to change her mind after oral judgment. Full story: Family Law Week. See also the law report and the article, below.

Munro two years on: Social workers find little has changed
Professor Eileen Munro’s much-anticipated review of child protection was initially heralded a great success by social workers, but now, nearly two years since the review was published, it appears there is less optimism about its potential to reform. Full story: Community Care.

CASES
B (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 1901 (14 December 2012)
Returned hearing before the Court of Appeal after a local authority had shown reluctance to implement the Court’s previous decision. Full report: Family Law Week.

Re W (Removal at Birth: Contact)[2013] EWCA (21 February 2013)
Care proceedings. Appeal by parents against refusal of contact. Appeal dismissed. Report: Family Law.

M (A Child) [2012] EWCA Civ 1905 (21 November 2012)
Appeal by father against finding of fact that he was responsible for injuries to child. Appeal allowed. Full report: Family Law Week. See also the blog post, below.

In the matter of J (Children) [2013] UKSC 9 (20 February 2013)
Case concerning the issue of whether a previous Court finding that one or both of two individuals caused significant harm to a child constituted a ‘finding of fact’ in subsequent proceedings aimed at determining whether there was a real possibility that other children will suffer harm in the care of one or other of those individuals. Full report: Supreme Court. See also the news story above and the article and blog post, below.

In the matter of L and B (Children) [2013] UKSC 8 (20 February 2013)
Case dealing with the issue of whether the first instance judge had or correctly exercised the power to change her decision following an oral judgment where no order had yet been perfected. Full report: Supreme Court. See also the news story above and the article, below.

Re O-C (Interim Care Order: Jurisdiction) [2013] EWCA (14 February 2013)
Local authority granted an interim care order and made an order for the return of the children from Ireland, to where the mother had fled. The mother appealed and the interim care order was set aside. Report: Family Law.

Re B (Committal Proceedings: Breach of Injunctions) [2013] EWCA (14 February 2013)
Appeal by father against committal for breach of injunction preventing him from harassing or interfering with the foster carers and from publicising any information in relation to the proceedings. Appeal dismissed. Report: Family Law.

ARTICLES
Swimming in the Pool: relevant factors to satisfy the threshold criteria after the Supreme Court's judgment in J (Children)
Ben Boucher-Giles of Fountain Chambers considers the Supreme Court’s judgment in J (Children) [above] and considers how it fits into the wider picture of findings as they relate to threshold. Full article: Family Law Week.

When Can Judges Change Their Minds? The Supreme Court’s judgment in L and B (Children)
Martha Gray, Pupil at 1 Garden Court, considers whether and in what circumstances a judge who has announced her decision is entitled to change her mind, particularly in the context of fact-finding hearings in care proceedings, in the light of the Supreme Court’s recent judgment [above]. Full article: Family Law Week.

Contact, appeals and death by kindness
"In Re H (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 72 three senior judges in the Court of Appeal handed down a reserved judgement in a case concerning an 8 year old boy who was said by his mother not to want to see his father." Says David Burrows in this article on Family Law.

Repatriation of EU family law powers, Part III
David Hodson continues his series examining areas where family law powers taken by the EU could (and should) pass back to the UK and other member states

DNA—the true test of any relationship?
Neil Sullivan provides an update on recent developments in DNA testing, in this article in New Law Journal.

BLOG POSTS
A full house this week from suesspiciousminds:

Vulnerable witnesses revisited
The Court of Appeal have looked again at a case involving the issues of a vulnerable adult giving evidence. Re M (A Child) 2013 [above]. Full post: suesspiciousminds.

“Lancashire Hot Pot(ato) “
The Supreme Court have given their decision in Re J [above], looking at whether a finding of fact that an injury was caused and neither parent can be excluded, forms a basis for finding that such a parent would be a risk to children in a new relationship. Full post: suesspiciousminds.

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me, a McKenzie Friend ?
The Court of Appeal considered the role of McKenzie Friends, post the Practice Note guidance, in the case of Re H (Children) 2012 Neutral Citation Number: [2012] EWCA Civ 1797. Full post: suesspiciousminds, who doesn't get any better with his post titles.

Monday, February 25, 2013

News Podcast: For the week to the 25th of February 2013

This week's summary of the most important family law news stories and cases, in a not-quite-so-short-as-usual but still (hopefully) easy-to-listen format.



(If you can't see the audio player above, try refreshing your browser. Alternatively, you can listen to the podcast here.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Something for the Weekend: Joy of a Toy - The Soft Machine

I was saddened to hear of the death of Kevin Ayers this week. Ayers was a founder member of the band Soft Machine. His period with the band was perhaps a little before my time (I got to know them in the early seventies), but he was a great influence upon them and the music I listened to in my teens. Here is my small tribute to him:

Friday, February 22, 2013

THE RAINMAKER: Chapter 1 - The Young Man


DICK SHIFTY, paralegal, was partial to a McGreasyburger. Most days when he was not in court he would slip into the local restaurant for a swift Big Greasy, and today was no exception.

As he sat down to enjoy his purchase he could not help noticing a young McGreasyburger employee at the adjacent table, with his head buried in a pile of legal textbooks.

Dick knew the books well enough, having studied for and failed his law exams too often to mention (most recently last year, 1979). Their titles caused a shiver to run down his spine: Gritty on Contracts, Smith and Jones's Criminal Law and Cul de Sac on Torts.

His interest piqued, Dick turned to the young man. "What's a McGreasyburger employee doing reading those?" He asked.

The young man explained that he had recently passed his law exams and was working at McGreasyburger while he was waiting to find Articles, so he could complete his solicitor's training. He needed the money to pay off the loans he had taken out to get through law college, and was re-reading his law books during his lunch hour to 'keep his hand in' while he waited.

Dick Shifty was impressed. "So you're looking for Articles?"

"Yes."

"I may be able to help."

"Really?" Said the young man eagerly.

"Sure." Replied Dick. "I work for a law firm, and I'm sure my boss could find a place for you."

"That would be great!" Exclaimed the young man.

"Good." Said Dick. "By the way, what's your name?"

"Grabbit," said the young man, "Ebenezer Grabbit."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Family Law Clinic: Can police enforce a contact order?


Unfortunately, it is not at all unusual for the police to become involved in contact disputes, especially where there are problems when the children are (or are supposed to be) handed over from one parent to the other. However, can they force the parent with whom the children live to hand them over to the parent in whose favour a contact order has been made?

The simple answer is that the police will not want to get involved in this way. Their primary concern will be that the children are safe, and if they are happy that they are, they will not normally intervene, even if it appears that a court order is being breached (obviously, they would intervene if a crime has been committed).

If a contact order has been breached, then the parent in whose favour it was made will have to return to the court to enforce it. There are a number of ways that courts can enforce contact orders, and a specialist family lawyer will be able to advise upon the best course of action to take.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to manipulate the 'news' to your advantage


Two 'news' stories today demonstrate nicely how government these days tries to persuade Joe Public around to their way of thinking.

First we had the Ministry of Justice, which released figures showing the divorce 'hot spots' around the country. The figures don't actually tell us much at all, as they refer to the number of divorce petitions issued in various county courts, without telling us anything about the number of people living in the 'catchment area' of each court (not to mention variations where petitions are issued in 'foreign' courts, because those courts are more efficient). Not deterred by this little detail, the MoJ told us that:
"The statistics have been published as the government takes steps to ensure that couples who make the decision to separate give consideration to using mediation.

Mediation is a quicker, simpler and more effective way of agreeing how they divide their assets or make arrangements for their children, which avoids the often divisive effect of the courtroom."
And Family Justice Minister Lord McNally jumped on the bandwagon with this:
"All too often I hear stories of families going through expensive and traumatic court hearings but we know that when working out how to split assets and arrange time with the children, mediation is a far simpler and cheaper approach for everyone and leads to better outcomes.

"That is why we are changing the law so that all couples seeking a court order about child contact or a financial matter must attend a mediation information assessment meeting first, to find out about mediation and consider whether it is suitable for them."
We are then treated to various figures, telling us how expensive contested court proceedings are, and how much our wonderful Government is spending on mediation. What we are not told, of course, is how much the Government is going to save by abolishing legal aid for most family matters from the first of April. Still, that doesn't matter, because mediation will be the magical panacea that will replace proper legal representation with legal aid, won't it?

Moving on, the second 'news' story was released by the Department for Work and Pensions, which happily announced that:
"Figures released today show the vast majority of parents who use the Child Support Agency (CSA) are now paying for their children."
Minister for Child Maintenance Steve Webb chipped in with:
"These figures show we now live in a society where parental financial responsibility after separation is just considered the norm by people.

"A third of children now live in separated families and we know that the overwhelming majority of parents want to do what’s right by their kids - even if they’re no longer with the other parent.

"Wherever possible we want parents to work together for the sake of their children - not against one another. Supporting your children after a break up is just what most parents do these days.

"Recent You Gov research shows 9 in 10 people believe children are better off when both parents work together to agree child support between themselves after they break up. And the evidence backs that up."
It gives you a warm feeling inside, doesn't it? Clearly, this government knows what's best when it comes to child maintenance, and no doubt its forthcoming reforms will make everything rosy.

Oh, wait - what about those parents with care (I'll use that term) who can't get the other parent to agree to pay anything? Ah, things won't be quite so rosy for them, will they? In future, they will have to pay for a service that was previously free.

Still, we won't let little details like that distract from the good news, will we?

Supreme Court judgment in In the matter of J (Children)

Supreme Court judgment in In the matter of L and B (Children)

Supreme Court hands down judgment in In the matter of L and B (Children) and In the matter of J (Children)

Image: UK Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has today handed down judgment in two care cases: In the matter of L and B (Children) and In the matter of J (Children).

In the matter of L and B (Children) (which for some reason doesn't appear to have a complete case summary on the Supreme Court website) concerned a judge’s power to change her decision where oral judgment had been given but no order had yet been perfected. It was a care case, in which a fact-finding hearing was held to determine whether or not it was possible to identify either of the parents as the sole perpetrator of the serious injuries that the child had sustained. On the 15th of December 2011 the judge gave an oral judgment in which she held that the injuries had been caused by the father. However, on the 15th of February 2012 the judge handed down a written judgment which stated that she had “reconsidered the matter carefully” and decided that “to identify a perpetrator would be to strain beyond the constraints of the evidence which I have both read and heard”. Accordingly, the mother could not be excluded from the pool of possible perpetrators.

The mother appealed, and the Court of Appeal held by a majority that the judge was not free to reverse her decision as she had done. The Court had suggested to the mother that she submit that the judge was 'functus officio' and, after having given judgment on the 15th of December 2011, therefore lacked the mandate to re-decide the case. However, it was subsequently discovered that the order recording the judgment had not in fact been sealed until the 28th of February 2012, due to an administrative oversight.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal. Lady Hale said that the order had not been perfected, and therefore the judge had power to change her mind.

You can read a press summary of the judgment here, the full judgment here (Bailii (html) version here) and the Court of Appeal judgment here.

In In the matter of J (Children) the issue was whether a previous Court finding that one or both of two individuals caused significant harm to a child constituted a ‘finding of fact’ in subsequent proceedings aimed at determining whether there was a real possibility that other children will suffer harm in the care of one or other of those individuals?

The facts (as set out on the Supreme Court website) were as follows:
"JJ is the mother of three children with her former partner SW. On 29 March 2004 the eldest of those children, T-L, was found dead having suffered numerous injuries. Following the birth of the couple’s second child, S, care proceedings were initiated by the local authority in South Wales in which it was found that JJ and SW were the two possible perpetrators of T-L’s death although the Court found there to be no definite evidence linking one parent or the other to the injuries T-L sustained. S was taken into care and JJ and SW subsequently separated. JJ later went to live in the north of England with a new partner, DJ, and his two children, H and T, from a previous relationship. JJ later had another child, I, again with SW, although both JJ and I continued to live with DJ and his children. In December 2010 the local authority became aware of the previous Court findings in relation to S and instigated a child protection plan under which they required JJ to leave the new family home she shared with DJ, H, T and I. The local authority also issued applications for care orders in respect of H, T and I. The Court dismissed those applications on the grounds that it had not been proven that JJ was the perpetrator of T-L’s injuries and there was binding authority to the effect that findings of fact which did not identify the actual perpetrator had to be ignored in evaluating the likelihood of future harm to other children under section 31(2) of the Children Act 1989. An appeal against this decision was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. However, the Court of Appeal felt that (a) the case law was inconsistent; and (b) there was a substantive difference between cases in which there had been no finding of past harm and cases in which past harm had been established but the identity of the actual perpetrator had not been proven to the civil standard; in the latter category of cases the Court of Appeal was of the view that courts should be able to consider such evidence."
The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the local authority's appeal.

You can read a press summary of this judgment here, the full judgment here (Bailii (html) version here) and the Court of Appeal judgment here.

I will post the judgment videos of both cases, when (and if) they are published.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

News Update: 19th of February 2013


WELCOME to this week's Family Lore News Update.

NEWS
Supreme Court will decide this week whether finding of fact can be relied upon in respect of later children
The Supreme Court is due to hand down its judgment on Wednesday, 20th February in Re J (Children). Full story: Family Law Week.

Judge blocks sterilisation of Down's Syndrome woman
The parents of a “tactile” and “affectionate” woman with Down’s syndrome have been forbidden from having her sterilised to allay their fears that she might become pregnant. Full story: The Telegraph. The A Local Authority v K case - see below.

Heterosexual couples challenge 'discriminatory' civil partnerships bar
Laws restricting civil partnerships to gay couples discriminate against heterosexuals, four straight couples are to argue in a landmark challenge at the European Court of Human Rights. Full story: The Telegraph.

Conspiracy of silence on value of marriage: Politicians frightened to admit fathers are vital, says top family lawyer
Marriage is as important to the future of the nation as climate change and poverty, a senior family lawyer [i.e. Ruth Deech] said yesterday. Full story: Daily Mail.

Cabinet minister: Gay couples cannot provide safe environment for children
The Welsh secretary has said gay couples "clearly" cannot provide a "warm and safe environment" in which to raise children. Full story: BBC News.

Court of Appeal: Retirement of Lord Justice Ward
Lord Justice Ward retired from the Court of Appeal on 15 February 2013. Full story: Ministry of Justice.

Judge blocks 'worrying' attempt to take girl away from blind adoptive mother
A council has been blocked from removing a girl from her would-be adoptive mother who had gone blind, after a judge ruled social workers were wrong to assume that her visual impairment meant she was not a suitable parent. Full story: The Telegraph. The RCW v A Local Authority case - see below.

Judge: House prices are undermining marriage
A High Court judge [i.e. Sir Paul Coleridge] today warned of the “real danger” that high property prices were deterring couples from marrying and fuelling relationship breakdowns. Full story: London Evening Standard.

Charity warns of foster carer shortfall
At least 9,000 new foster families will be needed across the UK this year to look after the record numbers of children in care who need to be fostered, research by the Fostering Network has revealed. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

Support for new child care target
Family lawyers’ group Resolution has expressed support for the introduction of a 26-week target for care cases, but warned the needs of children must remain paramount. Full story: New Law Journal.

Minister clashes with MP over 'gold standard' marriage claim
Culture Secretary Maria Miller has clashed with a Labour MP after describing marriage as a "gold standard" that people aspire to. Full story: BBC News.

Divorcees to plunder their partners' pensions
Hundreds of thousands of divorcees may have to hand over more of their pension to their former spouse. Full story: The Telegraph.

STATUTORY INSTRUMENT
The Immigration (Procedure for Formation of Civil Partnerships) (Amendment) Regulations 2013
These Regulations amend the list of registration authorities in the Schedule to the Immigration (Procedure for formation of Civil Partnerships) Regulations 2011 by replacing reference to Cardiganshire North with Ceredigion.

CASES
A bumper crop of cases this week:

R (A Child) [2012] EWCA Civ 1903 (20 December 2012)
Application for permission to appeal against an order requiring the mother to return the child to Singapore. Application refused. Full report: Family Law Hub.

A London Borough v A & Ors [2013] EWHC 96 (Fam) (15 February 2013)
Care proceedings involving three children, in a case where it had previously been found that the father was responsible for the death of a fourth child. Full report: Bailii. See also the post by suesspiciousminds, below.

AB v BB & Ors [2013] EWHC 227 (Fam) (13 February 2013)
Contact application by father in case involving serious violence against the mother. Ordered that there should be no contact, save for limited indirect contact. Full report: Bailii.

A Local Authority v K [2013] EWHC 242 (COP) (15 February 2013)
Application brought by a local authority for a best interests' determination in relation to issues of contraception for, and sterilisation of, a 21 year old woman suffering from Down's Syndrome. Full report: Bailii. See also the news story, above.

T v T [2012] EWHC 3462 (Fam) (29 November 2012)
Application by the wife for an injunction to restrain the husband from pursuing proceedings in the USA, where a pre-marital agreement had been signed. Application dismissed. Full report: Family Law Hub.

N v A (Abduction from Pakistan) [2012] EWHC 3954 (Fam) (21 December 2012)
Application for the summary return of a child to Pakistan. Application granted. Full report: Family Law Week.

S v T (Permission to Relocate to Russia) [2012] EWHC (7 December 2012)
Application by mother for permission to relocate with the child to Russia. The mother was granted permission to relocate conditional upon her obtaining an order from the Russian court based on the parties' contact proposals. Report: Family Law.

Re G-B [2013] EWCA (7 February 2013)
Care proceedings. Appeal by mother after judge refused adjournment so that she could change solicitors. Appeal dismissed. Report: Family Law.

RCW v A Local Authority [2013] EWHC 235 (Fam) (12 February 2013)
Application by prospective adopter for an injunction to prevent the local authority from removing the child from her care. Injunction granted. Full report: Bailii. See also the news story above, and my post, below.

G (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 54 (16 January 2013)
Application by a mother for permission to appeal against determination that she would not be able to look after her daughter. Application refused. Full report: Bailii.

Gill v Draper [2013] EWCA Civ 58 (15 January 2013)
Application by husband for permission to appeal against decree nisi. Application refused. Full report: Bailii.

W (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 61 (17 January 2013)
Mother's application for permission to appeal care and placement orders. Application refused. Full report: Bailii.

G-F (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 50 (14 January 2013)
Applications for permission to appeal against care and placement orders by mother and maternal grandmother. Applications refused. Full report: Bailii.

W (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 48 (16 January 2013)
Applications by mother for permission to appeal orders made during the course of care proceedings. Applications refused. Full report: Bailii. See also this post.

F (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 49 (14 January 2013)
Application by father for permission to appeal against residence order. Application refused. Full report: Bailii.

A (A Child) [2012] EWCA Civ 1890 (11 December 2012)
Application by a mother for permission to appeal against an adoption order. Application refused. Full report: Bailii.

H (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 72 (13 February 2013)
Appeal by mother against order lifting a restriction upon the father taking the child to his home. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii. See also my post, below.

ARTICLES
Children: Private Law Update: February 2013
Alex Verdan QC of 4 Paper Buildings considers three important recent judgments in Children private law proceedings. Full article: Family Law Week.

The Children and Families Bill – what private children lawyers need to know
Piers Pressdee QC, of 29 Bedford Row, examines the private children law provisions of the newly introduced Children and Families Bill. Full article: Family Law Week.

Repatriation of EU family law powers, Part II
David Hodson continues his series examining areas where family law powers taken by the EU could (and should) pass back to the UK and other member states.

Committal for contempt; non-disclosure
"Two recent cases point up the pitfalls for judges and advocates alike in the area of civil proceedings committals to prison." Says David Burrows in this article on Family Law.

The cost of occupation
Geraldine Morris examines the issues of occupation rent & equitable accounting in cohabitant cases. Full article: New Law Journal.

BLOG POSTS
“Finding” out the hard way
A discussion of the High Court decision of A London Borough v A and Others 2013 [above], and what it tells us about coming to terms with difficult findings. Full post: suesspiciousminds.

Relocation Applications and the 1996 Hague Convention
A discussion of the 1996 Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children. Full post: Family Matters.

RCW v A Local Authority: An unusual and troubling case
A summary of RCW v A Local Authority [2013] EWHC 235 (Fam) (12 February 2013) [above]. Full post: Family Lore.

Children must not pay price of targets to reduce time on care proceedings
BASW professional officer Sue Kent examines the issues raised by a new report from the Child Protection All Party Parliamentary Group, which highlights a family courts system under extreme pressure. Full post: BASW.

H (A Child):The harm of delay
A brief discussion of H (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 72 (13 February 2013) [above]. Full post: Family Lore.

Court of appeal sweepstake
Yet more pondering about the 26 week timetable unofficial roll-out a year in advance of the projected Children and Families Bill becoming law, and whether there is a hint in the Family Modernisation second update, from the irrepressible suesspiciousminds.

Monday, February 18, 2013

News Podcast: For the week to the 18th of February 2013

A summary of the most important family law news stories and cases from the past week, in the usual short, easy-to-listen format.



(If you can't see the audio player above, try refreshing your browser. Alternatively, you can listen to the podcast here.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Something for the Weekend: Peter Frampton - Show Me The Way

My goodness, where did the years go? I miss Peter Frampton with long hair (I still have my Frampton Comes Alive! LP), I miss The Old Grey Whistle Test, I miss my youth...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Your legal charmers

In a move that would make Edgar Venal proud, Bowling & Co (I won't give them the satisfaction of a link) sent out this email yesterday:


[Credit: RollOnFriday]

Thursday, February 14, 2013

One Billion Rising



Today One Billion Rising is inviting one billion women and those who love them to "walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end" to violence against women. For details, see their website, here.

RCW v A Local Authority: An unusual and troubling case

Mr Justice Cobb
A summary of RCW v A Local Authority [2013] EWHC 235 (Fam) (12 February 2013).

Mr Justice Cobb, giving what must be one of his first judgments since being appointed to be a Justice of the High Court (although he heard the case just before his appointment), rightly described this as "an unusual and troubling case". It concerned an application by a prospective adopter ('RCW') for an injunction under section 7 Human Rights Act 1998 to prevent the local authority from removing the child from her care.

The circumstances were that almost immediately after her birth the child was abandoned by her mother. The local authority commenced care and placement order proceedings, and these were "resolved without any material opposition". The child was then placed with RCW, and the placement "appears on all accounts to have been an extremely successful one".

As Mr Justice Cobb says, things then took "an unexpected and wretched turn". RCW was diagnosed with a tumour on the brain. On the very day she was entitled to make her application for adoption, she was admitted to hospital for an operation to remove the tumour. The operation left her without sight, although it is not yet known whether that loss of sight is temporary or permanent.

After she left hospital, the local authority informed RCW that it had decided that the child should be removed from her care. This decision was based upon an assessment of RCW by a social worker undertaken on the very day RCW was discharged from hospital. RCW then lodged an adoption application, and on the same day received a letter from the council indicating their intention to remove the child from her care (it was not clear whether the letter was received before or after the application was issued). RCW then issued her application for injunctive relief.

RCW claimed:

1. That she was entitled to the protection of s.35(5) ACA 2002 (and therefore did not have to return the child unless the court so ordered), because her application to adopt was "made" before she received notice of the intention to remove.

2. That even if that was not the case, any removal under section 35(2) would infringe her (and the child's) rights under article 8 ECHR (Right to respect for private and family life). RCW and the child had established a home together, and the child regarded RCW as her mother.

3. That she was not involved in (or invited to be involved in) any of the decision making of the local authority; she had not had an opportunity to be heard, either fairly or at all, on the issue of the removal of the child from her care.

4. That the removal of the child was in contravention of section 15 Equality Act 2010, i.e. discrimination arising out of disability.

5. That she had made proper arrangements for the child's care while in hospital and while she is recuperating and adjusting to her new situation.

6. That her requests for support from the local authority had not been taken up.

The main thrust of the local authority's case was that RCW was no longer able to be the child's "primary attachment figure" because she will, through force of circumstance, now be reliant on friends and supporters to provide key care for the child.

Mr Justice Cobb found in favour of RCW.

Irrespective of the s.35(5) point, he did not consider that the local authority had given RCW a full and informed opportunity to address its concerns about the future care arrangements for the child, and had therefore acted in breach of the procedural rights guaranteed by Article 8 and Article 6, and of the common law principle of fairness.

RCW had made entirely appropriate arrangements for the child's care, at least in the short term. He was not satisfied that simply by virtue of her visual impairment RCW is unable to give an appropriate level of emotional care to the child, as the local authority asserted. The ability for RCW to provide good emotional care for the child (probably with support) needed to be properly assessed.

He stopped short of finding that the assumptions which the authority had made about parenting by a carer who is blind were discriminatory, but said that they had "shown a worrying lack of enquiry into the condition or the potential for good care offered by a visually impaired parent" and that the issue of them offering support needed to be addressed urgently.

Accordingly, he made the injunction in the terms sought.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Slew of cases reported on Bailii


There has been a slew of cases published on Bailii this afternoon, which I thought was worthy of comment.

Apart from H (A Child), mentioned in the post below, and one (or was it two?) cases already reported elsewhere, the new cases are:

  • G (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 54 (16 January 2013), which concerned an application by a mother for permission to appeal against a determination that she would not be able to look after her daughter. Her application was refused.
  •  
  • Gill v Draper [2013] EWCA Civ 58 (15 January 2013), a very rare application by a husband for permission to appeal against a decree nisi in contested divorce proceedings. Needless to say, the application was refused.
  •  
  • W (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 61 (17 January 2013), a mother's application for permission to appeal care and placement orders. Application refused. Do you see a pattern emerging in the outcomes of these cases?
  •  
  • G-F (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 50 (14 January 2013), which concerned applications for permission to appeal against care and placement orders by the mother and the maternal grandmother. The applications were refused.
  •  
  • Another W (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 48 (16 January 2013) (why can't they come up with some unique naming system for children cases?), which involved applications by a mother for permission to appeal orders made during the course of care proceedings. The applications were refused, Lord Justice McFarlane finding her case to be "totally lacking in merit", including "an astonishing submission" that the social workers had lied in preparing their report. He said that for the mother "to bombard the Court of Appeal with the material that she has and to seek to appeal every single order in the case is in my view an abuse of process".
  •  
  • F (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 49 (14 January 2013), which concerned an application by a father for permission to appeal against a residence order made in favour of the mother. His application was refused.

And finally:

  • A (A Child) [2012] EWCA Civ 1890 (11 December 2012) - an application by a mother for permission to appeal against an adoption order. The application was (you've guessed it) refused.

H (A Child):The harm of delay

Lady Justice Black
A brief discussion of H (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 72 (13 February 2013).

I'm not going to summarise the lengthy history of this case (which is well set out in paragraphs 5 to 37 of the judgment), but rather highlight what I think was the defining factor, and it is all too common: delay.

The case concerned the father's contact with his eight year-old son, and the primary issue was that the mother objected to contact at the father's home, as she was concerned the father might cause him harm. A directions hearing took place in July 2012 in relation to two matters: the mother's allegation that the father had taken the child to his flat in breach of the contact order as it then stood, and the father's application to enforce that order (the father did not proceed with this application, as contact recommenced upon his assurance that he would not take the child to his flat). Following this, the date for the full hearing relating to all outstanding contact issues was fixed for April 2013, some nine months away, due in part to pressure of work in the court.

A further directions hearing took place in October 2012, at which the judge lifted the restriction upon the father taking the child to his home:
"The judge was conscious, as he said, that other judges had not agreed to relax the relevant conditions but, he said, "those judges were not aware I am sure that it will not be until April that we can have a final hearing". He said "another best part of six months is a long time in an eight and a half year old child's life and it seems to me that I must look at the matter afresh"."
The mother appealed, essentially on the basis that the judge ought not to have relaxed the restrictions on contact without there first being a fact finding hearing in relation to certain "allegations" that the child had made about the father's conduct towards him and that not only was his decision premature, it was also a wrong exercise of his discretion on the evidence that was available, and put the child at risk.

Giving the leading judgment in the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Black disagreed. The judge had balanced the risk to the child's safety as perceived by the mother on the one hand, with the risk of harm to the child by the continued restriction upon contact on the other, and had made a decision which was within the bounds of his discretion, supported by the evidence. The appeal was therefore dismissed.

Lord Justice Elias and Lady Justice Arden gave concurring judgments.

Family Lore Clinic: Can court ordered maintenance be changed?


I promise I haven't made it up, but this question flows perfectly from my last Clinic post, in which I discussed index-linking of maintenance orders. As I stated there, if the maintenance is not index-linked, then the only way to get it changed is to apply to the court for it to be varied, or to agree a variation with the other party.

The main point is that a maintenance order is not written in stone, unchangeable for the duration of the order. A maintenance order can be varied at any time, and the essential requirement for a variation is that there has been a change in the circumstances (of either or both parties) since the order was made. The most common changes are that the paying party's income has increased or decreased.

Note that, as well as varying the amount of the order, the court can do other things including suspending the order temporarily, discharging it, limiting its duration or replacing it with a lump sum order.

(As usual, this is necessarily a simplification of the law. If you require more details or specific advice, including advice as to the procedure on a variation application, you should consult a specialist family lawyer.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Telegraph covers real news story shock

News Update: 12th of February 2013


WELCOME to this week's Family Lore News Update.

NEWS
1.5 million children across UK face neglect on a daily basis, claims report
Action for Children calls for more public advice to aid the reporting of neglect, in this report. Full story: Family Law Week.

Judges 'should talk to children before making care decisions'
MPs warn that judges often have little experience in family law instead relying on evidence produced by social workers. Hmm. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Child Protection gives its views in this story, in The Observer.

Practice guide to the Hague Convention 1996 published
The Ministry of Justice has published the 1996 Hague Convention Practice Guide. Full story: Family Law Week.

New Ofsted report highlights failings in data for missing children
The Chief Inspector of Ofsted has published a new report that highlights the need for urgent action to establish a single register to track accurately the number of children who go missing. Full story: Family Law Week.

The Family Justice Modernisation Programme: Implementation Update Number Two
The second Implementation Update has been published for the Family Justice Modernisation Programme. Full story: Judiciary of England and Wales. See also this post.

Care application levels continue increasing
In January 2013, Cafcass received a total of 960 applications. This is a 4% increase on January 2012 levels and is the fourth highest level of applications recorded in a single month this financial year. Full story: Cafcass.

Cafcass publishes its draft strategic plan
Cafcass has published its draft strategic plan for 2013-15, which is now open for consultation. Full story: Family Law Week.

Survive the first ten years and marriage stays strong
Young couples who get through the first 10 years of marriage have the same chance of staying together as their grandparents’ generation, a study of divorce patterns over the last 50 years suggests. Unsurprisingly, the study comes from The Marriage Foundation. Full story: The Telegraph.

Reoffending by child sex offenders can be prevented, say independent inspectors
Re-offending by children and young people who commit sexual offences can be prevented, but opportunities to intervene early were often missed by professionals who failed to recognise the significance of their sexual behaviour, according to a report by independent inspectors. Full story: Family Law Week.

Two million have experienced domestic abuse in last twelve months
There were 2.0 million victims of domestic abuse in 2011/12, according to the Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences 2011/12, published by the Office for National Statistics. Full story: Family Law Week.

Victorian child neglect laws in 'urgent' need of overhaul, warns Baroness Butler-Sloss
The current laws on child neglect are not fit for the 21st Century and in “urgent” need of reform, Britain's most senior authority on family law warns today. Full story: The Telegraph.

Mrs Justice Baron ‘deprecates’ district judge’s home visits to check residence claims
Mrs Justice Baron, hearing an appeal in AMV v RM [2012] EWHC 3629 (Fam) [see below] which concerned the future care of two young children, has deprecated the decision by a district judge to visit the homes of the mother and grandparents in order to check the veracity of the mother's claims as to residence of the children. Full story: Family Law Week.

Gay marriage: PM rejects call to allow civil partnerships for straight couples
David Cameron tells traditionalist Tory MP he wants to 'promote marriage' and not weaken it. Full story: The Guardian.

Gay marriage: Russia warns Britain vote could hinder adoption
A senior Russian official has said the approval of gay marriage by parliaments in Britain and France will limit the chances of citizens of those countries who want to adopt Russian children. Full story: The Telegraph.

Government plans for radical overhaul of family law would do little to help improve lives of vulnerable children, warn charities
Charities warned that Government plans for a radical overhaul of family law [i.e. in the Children and Families Bill] including the introduction of shared parental leave would do little to help improve the lives of the most vulnerable children. Full story: The Independent.

Gay marriage: Legislation passes Commons despite Tory opposition
MPs have approved legislation for same-sex marriage in England and Wales, despite the opposition of dozens of Conservative MPs. Full story: BBC News. See also this post, and the article on Family Law, below.

CASES
C (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 55 (15 January 2013)
Application for permission to appeal against residence order reversing living arrangements. Application refused. Full report: Family Law Hub.

E (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 1893 (11 December 2012)
Appeal in proceedings concerning a relocation order. Full report: Family Law Hub.

VK v JV [2012] EWHC 4033 (Fam) (26 November 2012)
Application pursuant to the Hague Convention for the return of two children to Latvia. Held that the father had consented to the removal of one child, but that the removal of the other was wrongful. Full report: Bailii.

A (A Child), Re [2013] EWCA Civ 43 (06 February 2013)
Application by local authority for wasted costs order against firm of solicitors that acted for parents in care proceedings. Application dismissed. Full report: Bailii. See also my post and the post by suesspiciousminds, below.

Re L (Application Hearing: Legal Representation) [2013] EWCA (1 Feb 2013)
Appeal by father against refusal to adjourn contact application after his solicitors ceased acting for him and a psychiatrist had informed him that he was not fit to present his case. Appeal allowed. Report: Family Law.

AMV v RM [2012] EWHC 3629 (Fam) (28 June 2012)
Judgment, in appeal by mother against residence order, relating to the decision of the district judge to visit the homes of the mother and the maternal grandparents in order to ascertain the veracity of the mother's claims as to residence. Full report: Family Law Week. See also the news story, above.

KH and HH (Children), Re [2012] EWHC 4027 (Fam) (02 November 2012)
Care proceedings. Judgment establishing the cause of death of a child. Full report: Bailii.

KH and HH (Children), Re [2013] EWHC 165 (Fam) (25 January 2013)
Care proceedings. Judgment concerning whether the children should be made subjects of final care orders or placed with maternal grandparents. Full report: Bailii.

Kremen v Agrest [2013] EWCA Civ 41 (05 February 2013)
Appeal by judgment creditor against dismissal of application to make charging order absolute in respect of property owned by the husband. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

ARTICLES
A bumper crop this week:

Family Arbitration – two recent High Court cases
Nigel Shepherd of Mills & Reeve reviews two recent judgments in which arbitration has been considered in the family law context, in this article on the Family Law Hub.

Does VTB v Nutritek foreshadow the Supreme Court’s approach to the Petrodel appeal on piercing the corporate veil?
Emily Marshall, family law professional support lawyer at Irwin Mitchell considers the possible implications of the Supreme Court’s decision in a commercial case on the forthcoming appeal in the Petrodel appeal, to be heard in March. Full article: Family Law Week.

Maintenance pending suit applications
"There are few reported cases in respect of maintenance pending suit applications. A recent example, however, was the appeal decision of Coleridge J in S v M [2012] All ER (D) 175 (Nov)." Says Andrew Newbury in this article in the Law Society Gazette.

Marriage equality for same-sex couples is a "no brainer"
"I, like many family lawyers, welcome the House of Commons' approval of same-sex marriage in England and Wales." Says James Stewart in this article on Family Law.

Cohabitation - better off in Scotland?
"It is perhaps one of the most enduring legal "urban myths": that a man and woman who live together for many years, support each, maybe have children together, are viewed in the eyes of the law as being married and so when their relationship ends, they will be entitled to receive a fair share of their home and any other assets." Say Lucia Clark and Louise Laing in this article on Family Law.

Issue estoppel in family proceedings
"The penetrating judgement of Mostyn J in BP v KP, NI and OI [2012] EWHC 2995 (Fam) indirectly shows up one of the real muddles of family law, namely its attempts to adopt one set of legal principles - especially in terms of procedure - across the family law board." Says David Burrows in this article on Family Law.

When a biological father who is not a legal parent can seek contact with his child
"The decision of Baker J in Re G and Re Z [also known as S v D & E] last week resolved the circumstances in which the father of a child conceived by a lesbian couple in a civil partnership can seek leave to apply for contact." Says Mark Harper in this article on Family Law.

Repatriation of EU family law powers, Part I
"In this four-part series, I examine areas where family law powers taken by the EU could (and should) pass back to the UK and other member states. Ironically, in three of the areas it does not concern the EU at all but is between member states and non-EU countries." Says David Hodson in yet another article on Family Law, which has obviously been busy this week.

Finance and Divorce January 2013 Update
Anna Heenan, solicitor and David Salter, Joint Head of Family Law at Mills & Reeve LLP analyse December’s financial remedies and divorce news and cases. Full article: Family Law Week.

Private Criminal Prosecutions in Financial Remedies Cases
Andrzej Bojarski, Kate Tompkins and Cameron Crowe, barristers at 36 Bedford Row, combine their expertise in unravelling complex financial arrangements on divorce and prosecuting serious crimes to consider whether the criminal courts might offer opportunities for a spouse in an exceptional case when all conventional options in the family courts have been exhausted. Full article: Family Law Week.

'Unfair' laws for cohabiting couples highlighted again
"The recent county court case of Pamela Curran and Brian Collins highlights the difficulties that arise when unmarried couples separate and it should serve as a warning to others in a similar position." Says Katie O'Callaghan in this article on BBC News.

BLOG POSTS
Not such a bumper week here:

“An unhelpful cocktail”
Suesspiciousminds examines the "interesting case" of Re A (A Child) 2013 [above].

Dad Tax?
"Having read a little bit about the rather unpopular bedroom tax this week I was struck by the way that the approach of two different government policies in separate areas appear to be in tension with one another." Says Lucy Reed in a rare but welcome post on Pink Tape.

Re A (A Child): Wasted costs application by local authority
A quick note by me on Re A (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 43 [above], which concerned a local authority's application for a wasted costs order against a firm of solicitors that acted for parents in care proceedings.

Monday, February 11, 2013

News Podcast: For the week to the 11th of February 2013

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



(If you can't see the audio player above, try refreshing your browser. Alternatively, you can listen to the podcast here.)

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Something for the Weekend: David Byrne & St. Vincent In Concert

I make no apology for featuring David Byrne and St.Vincent again, but their collaboration really has produced some of the best new music I've heard in years. Here is the full video that I mentioned previously. It's some 37 minutes long, but I encourage you to take the time to watch it. If you like it, why not do what I've done and buy the album?

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Family Justice Modernisation Programme: Implementation Update Number Two


Well, this is exciting. The second Implementation Update has been published for the Family Justice Modernisation Programme. The update is the first since Sir James Munby was appointed President of the Family Division. He tells us in the introduction that Mr Justice Ryder will continue in his role as Head of the Modernisation of Family Justice until Easter 2013.

The update covers developments in respect of the following:

The Single Family Court ('SFC')
A blueprint for how the SFC will work in practice has been approved by the HMCTS Board. The document governs the operational aspects of the court, concentrating on the processes governing how work will progress through the court. It is predicated on the understanding that work will come into the court through one entry point per court centre and then be allocated to the appropriate level of judiciary at the most suitable venue within the management of the court centre. At this stage, the blueprint does NOT deal with the policy/legal issues governing how the work is to be allocated.

The Children and Families Bill
It is the government’s intention that the Bill and consequential changes will progress sufficiently quickly to allow the key practical changes it introduces to the way courts deal with family cases to be implemented at the same time as the introduction of the Single Family Court by the Crime and Courts Bill in April 2014.

Judicial Training
Training for the judiciary began in December 2012 with leadership and management training for all Family Division Liaison Judges and Designated Family Judges. The next training in the modernisation programme will be at the President’s conference in April 2013, and training events will follow in April and June for around 600 members of the family judiciary who hear care cases including key legal advisers who will cascade it to legal adviser colleagues and magistrates by the end of 2013.

Experts in the family courts
This section mentions the new Part 25 and also the case Re TG (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 5, which is described as 'highly recommended reading'.

The Family Courts Guide
The Family Courts Guide will be a framework of good practice which will set out presidential guidance for the judiciary (pathways) on how to deal with public and private law cases. It will be an on-line publication. It is anticipated that the expectations documents (which set out what the court expects of agencies and other participants in the proceedings) will be published within the virtual family court guide in April 2013.

Miscellaneous
The new Practice Direction 15B, which provides guidance in relation to adults who may become protected parties and children who may become protected parties in family proceedings.

The update can be found here (PDF).

Marital discord falling shock!

Generic marriage-related image
The Telegraph reports today that a study commissioned by the Marriage Foundation, the think tank set up by the High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge to promote marriage predicts that young couples who get through the first 10 years of marriage have the same chance of staying together as their grandparentsgeneration.