Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Wednesday Review: A mantra, a plea and... another survey

I didn't intend these review posts to be a daily thing, but that's the way it's turning out at the moment...

New Minister, old news
New Justice Minister Simon Hughes has wasted no time plugging mediation, as I predicted (albeit even earlier than my prediction). In a press release which describes him as the 'Family Justice Minister' the Ministry of Justice provide a reminder, timed to coincide with the January divorce upsurge (if there is such a thing), of the 'compulsory MIAM' provision of the Children and Families Bill (see, currently, s.10). There is, of course, nothing new about this, or about the tired old mantra that Hughes has inherited from his predecessor: "Mediation works and we are committed to making sure that more people make use of it, rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court." He says.

Mr Justice Holman
An interesting story in Family Law Week reports that in a public judgment "given to highlight the 'chronic' problem of legal aid in cases of alleged international child abduction" Mr Justice Holman has called for changes to legal aid in child abduction cases, to enable the courts to keep to the 6 weeks timetable required by Article 11 (3) Brussels II Revised. He suggests that in cases where a Cafcass report is ordered, an initial grant of public funding should be made to the respondent and then reviewed upon receipt of the report. Seems very sensible, but whether the Legal Aid Agency will play ball is another matter. In this particular case the mother, a Lithuanian national with little English and no knowledge of the relevant law, was refused legal aid before the Cafcass report (which arguably assisted her case) was received, leaving her to put forward her case with no legal assistance. An adjournment was granted to enable her to appeal to the LAA, but this would take the case well beyond the 6 weeks, the court having already breached that limit in order to allow time for the mother's original legal aid application. A written version of the judgment is due to be published in mid-January.

Lastly, the latest in the never-ending stream of divorce-related surveys comes from counselling charity Relate. The headline this time is that there is no such thing as a "good" divorce, according to six out of ten parents who have been through a family break-up, with more than half of those polled admitting that, despite their best efforts, the experience had had a negative effect on their children. Once again, whether this result adds anything, or anything useful, to the sum of human knowledge, I'm not sure.

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