Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Review: I told you so...

A quick mention of two stories that popped up yesterday:

Firstly, the BBC reported that, according to research by Pat Thane, professor in contemporary history at King's College, London, the idea of the traditional British family, where children grew up in two-married-parent households, is a myth. She argues that until World War Two, significant numbers of people never married. Thus, for example, in 1939 some 30% of children were conceived out of wedlock. She says:
"There is a well-known narrative in Britain about the history of the family - that 'traditionally' people lived in stable two-parent families with married parents who stayed together life-long, boys had fathers at home for role-models who kept them disciplined, and everyone looked after the older generation.

"Then came the 1960s and permissiveness, and people started divorcing, living together and having babies outside marriage; unprecedented numbers of complex families of step-relatives formed; and British society was 'broken' as some would put it.

"I want suggest that the real story is a bit more complicated."
The professor acknowledged that there was at least one point between 1945 and 1979 that marriage became "almost universal", but she said: "This is a period which, in present-day discourse, is often presented as an historical norm of long-lasting stable marriages. It was actually historically very unusual in the numbers of long-lasting marriages." One source of that discourse is, of course Sir Paul Coleridge's Marriage Foundation. The Foundation deny that they are trying to turn back the clock, but when they say such things as "We have lost confidence in marriage as an institution at the heart of families", it is clear that they do believe the past was a better place, when obviously it was not.

That nice Mr Grayling
The other story I want to mention appeared in The Observer, which reported that cuts in legal aid are creating chaos in the family courts, according to legal experts. The story tells us of delays caused by the number of LiPs, domestic violence victims facing abusers in court without representation, children stuck in limbo whilst their parents dispute 'custody' and people who simply cannot afford to go to court. All of which was, of course, completely foreseeable before legal aid was abolished for private law family matters last April. The MoJ is, however, unrepentant. They said that the reforms were necessary to stop the legal aid budget ballooning, but insisted that the vulnerable would not lose out. As to the first point, the story tells us that experts question whether the measures would save money, saying that they believed the ministry had failed to appreciate the consequences of the cuts. As to the second point well, that is patently untrue.

Oh, and before I go - congratulations to all those gay couples who have tied/are about to tie the knot!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Review: Conscious Uncoupling Edition

It is with a heart full of happiness that I bring you this edition of my Friday Review.

Well, friends, I didn't intend it to be this way but review posts on Fridays appear to have become the new paradigm. Perhaps there has been too much rigidity in my thought processes for me to write review posts on any other day of the week. Or perhaps I should just allow my exoskeleton of protection and imprisonment to fall away and offer me the opportunity to begin constructing an endoskeleton, an internal cathedral, with spiritual trace minerals like self-love, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness.

Or perhaps not.

Moving swiftly on, what happenings have been going down this week?

Thankfully the cascade of new family law judgments has slowed to somewhat of a trickle, although there have been three (so far) family law cases in the Court of Appeal. The termination of parental responsibility case D (A Child), that I summarised here, was one of them. Another was N v N, which concerned the circumstances in which a court may, on the grounds of material non-disclosure, set aside an order for financial provision following divorce. In July 2013 the court set aside a spousal maintenance order made in 2009, on the grounds of material non-disclosure by the husband. The husband appealed, and the Court of Appeal found in his favour, setting aside the 2013 order and reinstating the 2009 order. The third judgment was the Hague Convention case Re B (A Child), which appeared on Bailii this morning, and in which a mother's appeal against an order that the child be returned to France was dismissed.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has published a report saying that that thousands of people are at risk of harm or even murder because of widespread police failure in England and Wales to tackle domestic abuse. The inspectorate condemned the police service for treating domestic abuse as "a poor relation" to other police activity, and concluded that only eight out of 43 forces responded well to domestic violence. As Lucy Reed at Pink Tape asks: This is news?

Meanwhile, the first commencement order for the new Children and Families Act has surfaced (albeit that it was made last week). This brings into force section 10 (MIAMS), section 13 (expert evidence) and section 17 (repeal of section 41, etc.) on the 22nd of April, coincidentally just in time for the shiny new Family Court.

What else has happened this week? Well, there was the announcement of a certain celebrity separation that led to a few interesting discussions on Twitter and elsewhere. I couldn't possibly comment. Far be it from me to make cheap capital out of such a thing. Instead, I will neutralise that negative internal object and release the psychic belief structures that make me think that it is no more than so much pretentious babble.

I wish you all a spiritually fulfilling weekend.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

D (A Child): Father's appeal against order terminating PR fails

Lord Justice Ryder
The Court of Appeal has dismissed the father's appeal against the termination of his parental responsibility, in D (A Child) [2014] EWCA Civ 315.

The original order had been made by Mr Justice Baker on the 12th of April last year. Very briefly, the parties were not married and had one child, a boy ('D'), born in 2004. The father's name appeared on D's birth certificate, and so he acquired parental responsibility. The parents separated in 2005. Following the separation the mother's two elder daughters, then aged about 10 and 9, told her that they had been sexually abused by the father. The father was subsequently charged with a series of sexual offences involving both girls. The father initially denied the charges, but changed his plea to guilty at the trial. He received a four year prison sentence.

In July 2010, the father wrote a letter to the mother's former solicitors from prison, referring to his parental rights in respect of D, and stating that he wished to have contact with him. The mother then moved to a location unknown to the father.

The father was released on licence in June 2011. The terms of his licence, which expired on 24th June 2013, included a restriction on any contact with D.

On 16th July 2011, the mother filed an application for an order terminating the father's parental responsibility, which was granted by Mr Justice Baker last April. The father sought permission to appeal.

The grounds of appeal upon which permission was granted were that:
(i) the judge failed to distinguish the 1995 case Re P to have regard to the principles set out in the Human Rights Act 1998, the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and the changing social norms over the 18 years since Re P;
(ii) the judge failed to consider whether the mother had discharged the burden of proof so as to establish her allegation that the father was "a sexual recidivist"; and

(iii) the judge failed to make a proportionate order or take into account the asserted policy consideration that applications of this kind should not be allowed to become "a weapon in the hands of a dissatisfied mother".
Lord Justice Ryder gave the leading judgment in the Court of Appeal. He dealt with the three grounds of appeal in turn and found against each:

As to ground (i), nothing had changed to alter the court's powers or the overarching principle to be applied, i.e. the paramountcy principle. Baker J had applied that principle:
"Baker J articulated the correct test at [22] and [58] and considered the key issues on the facts of this application at [59], he utilised the welfare checklist as an analytical tool at [54] to [57] and reminded himself of the interference with article 8 rights that needed to be justified. He concluded that despite the need of every child to have an understanding of his biological origins and whenever possible a relationship with each parent, D's welfare would be 'imperilled' were his father to have any involvement in his life. That conclusion is unassailable both on the facts and as a value judgment within a careful welfare analysis."
As to ground (ii), the process of fact finding in family proceedings is quasi-inquisitorial. It was inappropriate to talk of the burden of proving a fact. The judge had made various findings against the father and on the basis of the facts that he found he was entitled to conclude that it was highly unlikely that the father appreciated the damage he had caused to every member of the family, or the danger of further damage should he have any further involvement with the family. Lord Justice Ryder said at paragraph 26:
"It is superficial to say that in this case D's father has not inflicted harm directly on his child and that therein lies a distinction with Re P which ought to have led to a different conclusion. D's father inflicted devastating emotional harm on the whole family including D which he continues to deny. It is difficult to see how in that circumstance and in the absence of any other positive factors, the father can be said to be capable of exercising 'with responsibility' his parental rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority."
As to ground (iii), it was suggested on behalf of the father that a s.91(14) order would have been more appropriate. However, Baker J had specifically considered and discounted such an order. As to the other point Lord Justice Ryder had this to say:
"[Counsel for the father] submits that by acceding to the application on the facts of this case, the court is failing to guard against the application becoming "a weapon in the hands of a dissatisfied mother". In the 18 years since Re P was decided there have been no reported decisions of that kind and the changed social conditions over those years has not led to any reported increase or change in applications of this kind. There is nothing before this court which would suggest that there is a need to enhance the court's vigilance in that regard. Furthermore, even if this vigilance is sensible, which it is, there is no remedy that is suggested other than that the court should be careful. Baker J was very careful and I can see nothing that can be derived from this submission other than support for the general proposition that the court should take the most proportionate route to a welfare resolution that is consistent with the best interests of the child concerned. The application in this case was manifestly not being used as a weapon in the hands of a dissatisfied mother. The proceedings simply could not be regarded in that light."
Accordingly, the father's appeal was dismissed, although Lord Justice Ryder did point out that:
"Nothing I have said in this judgment should be construed to suggest that it has become or should become easier to remove an unmarried father's parental responsibility. I would strongly resist any move in that direction. It is vitally important to encourage the exercise of parental responsibility by fathers. Children have a right to that benefit."
Lady Justice Gloster and Lady Justice Arden gave concurring judgments.

What's so great about 'conscious uncoupling'?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Family Lore Clinic: Do I have to take legal action if my ex is in breach of a contact order?

The first thing to say here is that the court will not automatically enforce a contact order. It will only take enforcement action upon the application of one of the parties.

Whether or not you should apply to the court to enforce the order depends upon whether you are adversely affected by the breach, and whether you consider that enforcement action would be in the best interests of the child(ren).

Obviously, if you are the parent who was granted contact by the order and if you are unable to have that contact because the other parent is in breach of the order, then you may have to apply to the court to enforce the order.

On the other hand, if the contact was granted to the other parent and they are simply not having any contact then there is little you can do - the court can't force a parent to have contact with a child. If the problem is that the other parent is not keeping to the terms of the contact order, for example regularly returning the child(ren) after the time specified in the order, then you may have to return the matter to the court, possibly for the terms of the order to be re-defined.

If you are considering making an application to a court to enforce a contact order you should first seek the advice of a specialist family lawyer.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Review: Something old, something new

Apart from the cases, more of which below, it has been a mercifully quiet week in family law. Perhaps this was because El Presidente had to spend his time giving evidence to the Justice Select Committee, rather than producing more essential guidance for our directionless profession.

Of course, we can't get away with a week without feeling the benevolent effect of El Presidente's guiding hand. For example, his transparency diktat from January continues to bear fruit. Yesterday alone I counted no fewer than eleven new family law judgments appearing on Bailii. The problem with this for practitioners, of course, is that they don't have time to wade through so much material. Perhaps judgments could be marked to indicate whether or not they are worth reading. I suggest a numbered system from 1 to 5, indicating in descending order how important the judgment is. It could go something like this:
1 - If you don't read this, make sure your insurance is up to date.
2 - Probably a good idea to read this if you want to continue to call yourself a 'specialist'.
3 - Have a glance at this whilst eating your lunch.
4 - Don't bother unless you REALLY have nothing else to do.
5 - Complete waste of time, unless it was handed down by your local judge, who will expect you to have read it.
Meanwhile, Marilyn Stowe is the latest blogger to apply a makeover to her blog. Marilyn's big reveal took place last night, with Marilyn strutting down that staircase to the applause of the admiring onlookers. Or something like that. We are told that the new design is intended to make it easier to navigate the site, particularly for first-time visitors in search of legal advice and information. Accordingly "newcomers to the homepage will still find all the latest posts there, but they will also find signposts to point their way, based on their personal situations". An excellent idea, and certainly the site looks good. Perhaps it is time I applied a bit of make-up around here, but I am rather fond of the 'old tat' style of Family Lore...

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Legal DNA Testing from The Genetic Testing Laboratories

Legal and Home/Peace of Mind Paternity Testing

There are two types of paternity test: legal paternity testing and peace of mind paternity testing. Depending on what the results of a paternity test are to be used for, interested parties need to choose between a peace of mind or a legal paternity test. Deciding which test is most appropriate is simple and the following is a good rule of thumb: when an individual only has some doubts and has no definite evidence that the alleged father is not the biological father of the child or children, a peace of mind paternity test is the recommended test. Legal testing is required when somebody needs to appear in court or plans to instigate a court case to prove or disprove paternity in order to change the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate, apply for custody or parental responsibility. The mother or Child Support Agency may request a legal test to claim child support – this is especially the case where a child is born out of wedlock and the presumption of paternity is hence not applicable. In some cases, the child may request the test if they have not been legally recognised as the legitimate offspring of their father. The results of a paternity test may help to establish their right to inherit property. Home or peace of mind testing is a sensible test to begin with as one can decide how best to proceed based upon the results of this test. In many cases, a legal test may not be warranted.

The Sample Collection

Samples for a legal and peace of mind test are collected using mouth swabs which enable a quick and painless DNA sample collection. The swabs are sent in a kit by the company carrying out the test. Interested parties (typically the alleged father, mother and child) need to rub the swabs inside the mouth, under the tongue and against the inner cheek for ten seconds. Following this, the swabs need to be left to air dry. The kit contains registration forms which also need to be completed and signed by each person taking part in the test (more information about required forms, samples and authorisation for DNA testing can be found under the Human Tissue Act section below). Once all the required steps have been completed the samples can be sent off for testing.

With legal DNA testing, the test participants do not collect their own samples. Rather they need to seek a third party person with no interest in the outcome of the case, known as a sampler, to collect the samples from them. The role of the sampler is extremely important in a legal test as he or she forms an integral part of what is known as the “chain of custody”. This “chain of custody” is a procedure which ensures that all samples have been collected in the correct way, that all documentation and procedures have been adhered to and further ensuring that that there is no alteration or substitution of samples. The kit is sent directly to the sampler, who physically collects all DNA samples from the test participants, verifies the identity of each and thus, confirms the provenance of each DNA sample. Once this is done, he or she is also in responsible for sealing the samples in their respective envelopes and sending everything off for testing.

Peace of mind paternity testing and legal paternity testing only differ in the procedure followed for the sample collection. The laboratory analysis follows the exact same procedure.

Accreditation and Legal Testing

There are some important international accrediting bodies which have accreditation programmes specifically aimed at DNA testing laboratories. One of the most widely known is ISO 17025 – this is a globally recognised laboratory accreditation that sets very high standards for these testing entities and translates into reliability and competence for those individuals seeking to do their DNA testing with such laboratories. However, for legal testing within the UK, the laboratory itself much be accredited by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). Not all companies offering legal paternity testing in the UK are accredited by the MoJ. The Genetic Testing Laboratories are however, one of the leading companies in the UK that offer testing that is accredited by the Ministry of Justice. The list of companies offering testing that meets the requirement of MOJ can be found on the HMRC website.

Getting a Legal test in the UK

The Genetic Testing Laboratories (GTL) offer fully accredited DNA testing services. GTL UK are accredited by the Ministry of Justice and legal test results can be used in court cases to support evidence of a paternal relationship. Results are ready and emailed in 4 working days. A notarised hard copy will follow within a week.

The Genetic Testing Laboratories has the most competitive pricing in the UK and currently offers all its clients a 10% discount on all DNA testing for 2014. Simply sign up by clicking here and enjoy reduced prices on any test.

HTA – The Human Tissue Act

The Human Tissue Act (HTA) was implemented in order to control the way is which any type of human tissue is used, removed or stored. DNA testing requires a sample of human tissue, whether this is a blood stain, finger nails, hairs or a sample collected by means of a mouth swab. In order to comply with the HTA, the person from whom the DNA sample has been collected must give consent to the test – the Human Tissue Act refers to this as “appropriate consent”. Laboratories cannot test any DNA samples that have not been authorised for testing by the person to which the sample belongs. Whilst adults must give their own consent, children’s DNA samples can be tested if an individual with parental responsibility signs for the test on behalf of the child.

Lady Hale hands down Supreme Court judgment in deprivation of liberty appeals

For the full judgment see here (HTML version here), and for the press summary see here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Family Lore Clinic: Can I apply for a consent order without my ex husband?

Once again, I will asume that the term 'consent order' refers to the order setting out an agreed financial/property settlement on divorce, although my answer will apply equally to any sort of consent order.

The answer is, quite simply, 'no'. A consent order can only be made with the agreement of both parties. If there is no agreement, then a final order can only be made after one of the parties makes a full financial remedies application to the court, and a contested final hearing has taken place.

Of course, the parties may agree a financial/property settlement, but then one of them may refuse to cooperate with the obtaining of a consent order, giving effect to the settlement. In this situation the court may be prepared to uphold the agreement. This can be a complicated area of law, and if you think it applies to you then you should seek the advice of an expert family lawyer.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Review: The ecstacy and the agony

A couple of things to end the week:

The receipt of the royal seal of approval for the Children and Families Act 2014 yesterday was greeted with an ecstatic avalanche of news stories, press releases and tweets from both the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice. The powers that be are clearly pleased with themselves, although when I saw this particular item on Twitter:
...I couldn't help wondering whether the 'new law' (26 weeks, 'shared parenting' presumption) will do more to help the government look like it is actually doing something, rather than to help children.

Judge Bellamy
The much-loved Legal Aid Agency (or whatever the body administering legal aid is called these days) has taken a bashing from the judiciary in a couple of recent judgments. First we had Re R (Children: Temporary Leave To Remove From Jurisdiction), in which Judge Bellamy "lambasted the ‘almost impenetrable’ level of bureaucracy faced by solicitors" when dealing with the Agency (see the story about this in the Gazette). Today up popped the case B (a child) (private law fact finding - unrepresented father) (or D v K and B, depending upon where you read the judgment - isn't it about time we standardised case names so that they appeared the same everywhere?), in which His Honour Judge Wildblood QC complained that a father, faced with an allegation by the mother that he had raped her, was refused legal aid by the Agency. As he said: "If ever there was exceptional private law litigation then this must be it." Let us hope that someone at the Agency sees fit to apply a dose of that all-too-rare medicine: common sense.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Children And Families Act 2014 gains royal assent

The new Children and Families Act has received royal assent today. To celebrate, the Department for Education has for some reason released this somewhat nauseating video:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Family Lore Clinic: What happens if I do not respond to a solicitor's letter in the requested 14 days?

It is often the case that a solicitor will request a reply to a letter within a certain time limit, particularly when they are writing to unrepresented parties. This is especially so at the outset of the matter. However, so long as the time limit is reasonable (for example, it allows the unrepresented party time to take legal advice), the time limit should not necessarily be seen as an aggressive step - it is often intended simply to ensure that the matter is not unduly delayed.

What will happen if you do not respond within the time limit depends upon the nature of the matter and the solicitors (and the instructions they have from their client). They may do nothing, or they may write another letter. However, if their intention is to issue court proceedings if no reply is received within the time limit, they should usually make this clear in the letter setting the time limit. Thus, if you don't respond within a time limit you may then get a second letter from the solicitor informing you that court proceedings will be commenced if no reply is received within a further time limit.

Of course, some solicitors may fail to give a warning of their intention to commence court proceedings, or the matter may become urgent, so you cannot rely upon them not doing so just because they don't give a warning.

Accordingly, if you can't comply with the time limit, for example, because you are unable to obtain legal advice within it, then you should contact the solicitors and request a time extension. Such an extension should usually be given, unless the request is unreasonable, or the matter is urgent.

Of course, many time limits are set by the courts, or by procedure rules, and the solicitor's letter may refer to one of these. If this is the case, then any request for an extension of time must be made to the court.

If you have received a letter from a solicitor requesting a response within a certain time, then obviously you should seek expert legal advice as soon as possible.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Rubin v Rubin: The principles applicable to LSPOs

Mr Justice Mostyn
A 'quick and dirty' look at Rubin v Rubin [2014] EWHC 611 (Fam), in which Mr Justice Mostyn set out the principles applicable to applications for legal services payment orders ('LSPOs'), pursuant to s.22ZA MCA, inserted by s.49 LASPO.

The case concerned 3 applications:

i) An application by the wife for an LSPO in the sum of £7,268 to cover costs incurred in financial remedy proceedings.

ii) An application by the wife for an order for a lump sum pursuant to s15 and Schedule 1 para 1(2)(c) Children Act 1989 of £15,700 to cover costs incurred in proceedings under the Hague Convention.

iii) An application by the husband for an order granting permission to appeal an order of Deputy District Judge Elliot dated 28 February 2014, whereby he excepted from a stay which he granted of the wife's divorce proceedings her application for the LSPO.

Briefly, the husband is American and the wife English. There are 2 children. The family had been living in California. The wife wrongfully retained the children in this country and was ordered to return them. The wife started divorce proceedings in England and applied for financial remedies; the husband commenced divorce proceedings in California.

The wife applied for an LSPO to cover costs incurred in the financial remedy proceedings.

The husband applied for the wife's divorce proceedings to be stayed pursuant to Schedule 1 para 9 of the Domicile and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1973. This application went before Deputy District Judge Elliot on 28 February 2014, when he made an order staying the wife's petition, but excepting the wife's application for an LSPO from the stay. The husband sought to appeal against this order.

The wife also sought to recover her outstanding costs in the Hague Convention proceedings by means of a lump sum under s15 and Schedule 1 para 1(2)(c) Children Act 1989.

Hearing the applications, Mr Justice Mostyn summarised the principles applicable to applications for LSPOs. I will not set out his summary in full here - it can be found at paragraph 13 of his judgment - but will set out his principle (iv):
"The court cannot make an order unless it is satisfied that without the payment the applicant would not reasonably be able to obtain appropriate legal services for the proceedings. Therefore, the exercise essentially looks to the future. It is important that the jurisdiction is not used to outflank or supplant the powers and principles governing an award of costs in CPR Part 44. It is not a surrogate inter partes costs jurisdiction. Thus a LSPO should only be awarded to cover historic unpaid costs where the court is satisfied that without such a payment the applicant will not reasonably be able to obtain in the future appropriate legal services for the proceedings."
Mr Justice Mostyn considered that the same principles should apply, with the necessary modifications, where an order is sought for costs funding in proceedings under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.

Applying those principles he found:
"In both applications the wife seeks to recover costs which have already been incurred in circumstances where there will be no further substantive litigation here whether about the children or about money. In my judgment in both applications she falls foul of principle (iv). This is not a case where her lawyers are saying that they will down tools unless they are paid outstanding costs as well as being funded for the future."
As to the husband's appeal, he found that the application for an LSPO depended upon the main suit. Accordingly, Deputy District Judge Elliot had no power to except the application for a LSPO from the stay. He therefore granted the husband permission to appeal and allowed the appeal.

As to the wife's applications, these were "fatally flawed and meritless" and were therefore dismissed.

Final report to the President of the Private Law Working Group published

The final report to the President of the Private Law Working Group ('PLWG') upon the Child Arrangements Programme ('CAP') has been published.

Key points:
  • Language of CAP simplified for benefit of LiPs.
  • Glossary added to CAP.
  • PLWG not persuaded that CAP should include a timetable for the child, measured in weeks, as in the revised Public Law Outline.
  • New section in CAP entitled ‘The child in the dispute', emphasising the importance which the parties, Dispute Resolution facilitators, and the Court should attach to the position, and views, of the child in the dispute.
  • Wording of the CAP revised to reflect the message that in-court mediation may not be appropriate.
  • The ‘Signposting Services' section has been moved forward within the CAP, to emphasise its importance.
  • Greater prominence given to parenting plans in the CAP, and guidance expanded in this regard.
  • Where there is a Parenting Plan in existence at the time of a court application, PLWG proposes that this document should be attached to the C100.
  • PLWG concludes that no step could properly be taken by the court to compel attendance of Respondents at MIAMs, absent a change in the Rules.
  • A further provision added to make clear that any Order which follows an emergency ‘without notice' hearing should specify: (a) the reason(s) why the Order has been made without notice to the Respondent, and (b) the outline facts alleged which have been relied on by the Court in making the order, if this is not clearly set out on the face of supporting statement.
  • PLWG unable to reach a consensus on the role of the legal advisers at the FHDRA.
  • New provision for safeguarding checks to be renewed where an application for enforcement is made more than three months after the relevant order.
  • Revised PD12J FPR 2010 prepared in relation to child arrangements cases involving allegations of domestic abuse and harm.
  • If an application is not finally resolved at FHDRA and directions are given for a further hearing, where the parties are both LiPs, HMCTS has agreed - if directed by the court - to prepare a Litigant in Person Bundle for use by the court at subsequent hearings.
  • No specific recommendation in the revised CAP in relation to McKenzie Friends.
  • HMCTS has confirmed that it will in the future serve C100 applications on the respondent.
  • The revised CAP includes the promised section on enforcement.
  • CAP flowchart modified slightly.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Friday Review: Of pre-nups, horses and toffs

A brief end-of-week roundup:

I liked this article in The Guardian today, questioning the value of pre-nuptial agreements, in the light of the Luckwell v Limata decision. It refers to James Ferguson of Boodle Hatfield who "points out, if protecting your assets are what you are chiefly concerned about, then in reality the only way to do so is to not get married." Excellent advice.

It has been suggested that Mr Justice Mostyn's decision in Mann v Mann moves compulsory mediation a step closer. His use of an Ungley Order (has Master Ungley never heard of a change of name deed?) should certainly encourage the parties to mediate, but does not compel them. For my part, I have always been against compulsory mediation - it seems to be a contradiction in terms. After all, you can take a horse to water...

So lawyers are 'striking' again today. I wish them well, but I fear they are unlikely to achieve their aims. To succeed they need to get the public firmly behind them, and there is no chance of that whatsoever. Of course, it is true that the public will want legal help when they need it, but until then the vast majority of them view the profession with little short of contempt, and seeing a bunch of be-wigged toffs picketing outside a court (even without their Mulberry handbags) will do nothing to alter that view.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Wednesday Review: It's all about the money

A couple of pecuniary things...

Unsurprisingly, practitioners have warmly welcomed the response of the Senior Judiciary to the Ministry of Justice's consultation paper on reform of court fees (see, for example, this post on Pink Tape), in which they 'savaged' the Government's proposals to increase fees. As to the proposal that the fee on a divorce petition be increased to £750 the judiciary did not agree with this, pointing out that some people may not be able to afford to divorce, meaning that they would be forced to cohabit when they formed new relationships. All of which is particularly ironic given the second thing I wanted to mention:

Lord Freud
It seems that the 'cost of family breakdown to the country' is becoming a real bandwagon. The latest suspect to jump on is welfare minister Lord Freud, who claims that it could be costing the country up to £46 billion a year. £46 billion. I hope that makes all those awful people who have been selfish enough to allow their families to break down feel guilty. Speaking in the House of Lords, he also said that the Government should actively attempt to reverse what he called “major structural changes” in society away from marriage and towards cohabitation. More social engineering from those who know best. Anyway, isn't this the same Lord Freud whose book describing his lucrative career in the city has been described as "morally ambiguous" and who was criticised in The Guardian for his "withered meanness" in attempting to link the rise in food banks to greed rather than poverty? Hmm...

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers March/April 2014

The latest issue of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers is now published.

In this issue

  • Marketing – Susan Hallam stresses the importance of setting up and verifying local business listings on Google
  • Legislation – John Sheridan explains what the Big Data for Law project aims to achieve for legal researchers
  • Twitter – Claire Cavanagh at ECJ Legal shows how Twitter can be used to best effect for law job seekers
  • Social media – Mindy Gofton of I-COM describes what social media monitoring is and the best tools to use
  • Law firm websites – Jon Curtis of Ironmonger Curtis on the benefits of law firms providing SaaS and how to go about it
  • Languages – Susan Isaacs looks at readily accessible European language resources covering legal topics
  • Resources – Ruth Bird of the Bodleian Law Library on free European law sources
  • Blogs – Cathryn Hopkins on UKSC Blog

Access the Newsletter online at

The RSS feed of latest articles is at

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

@familylaw: Eight thousand five hundred followers can't be wrong...

...well, maybe they can, but at least the followers of my @familylaw Twitter feed are keeping up with all the latest happenings in the world of family law, and there are now over eight thousand five hundred of them.

For those who don't already know (where have you been?), @familylaw feeds all news items, cases and articles from Family Lore Focus on to Twitter, thereby providing a convenient way to stay up to date.

You can also keep up to date by subscribing to the free weekly Family Lore Focus Newsletter here - all that is required is your name and email address. The Newsletter will appear in your Inbox every Monday morning, and will stop you missing anything that you didn't catch on Twitter.

To recap, Family Lore Focus is essentially a site that aggregates freely available family law content from the web, including news, cases, legislation, articles and blogs. Regularly throughout the day I check every source that I am aware of including family law sites, general law sites, blogs, newspapers, Bailii and many others, and post links to items of interest. The most recent links can be found on the front page of Family Lore Focus, and older ones on the relevant blogs: Family Lore News, Family Lore Case Digest, Family Lore Articles, and Family Lore Blogs.

In short, Family Lore Focus, @familylaw and the Newsletter provide a one-stop gateway to keep you updated with all the family law developments you need, without having to search different sites for them.

If you would like to advertise on Family Lore Focus, the blogs or the Newsletter, then email me.

[Post again blatantly copied from earlier ones, with minor amendments.] 

I said he's everywhere!