Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Review: A busy week

So, our brave footballers are back on home soil, having failed to reach the second round of the World Cup, unlike those footballing giant nations such as Costa Rica, Switzerland and Algeria. This video, which appears to be going viral, suggests that for some England supporters getting through was not the only reason they wanted them to win:

Moving on, on Bailii this morning I came across what to my knowledge is the first reported case where a child arrangements order was made. H v F (Relocation) concluded with Mr Justice Peter Jackson making a child arrangements order in favour of the mother (the relocation aspect being due to the fact that she intended to return to her native New Zealand).

Otherwise, it has been quite a busy week for family law news. The following stories in particular caught my attention:
No prizes for spotting the common theme in those three stories.

As for myself, I have been posting as usual on Marilyn Stowe's Family Law & Divorce Blog, including the following:

With that, I will bid you a good weekend.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review: The Family Court without a Lawyer - A Handbook for Litigants in Person, 2nd Edition

The Family Court without a Lawyer

A Handbook for Litigants in Person, 2nd Edition

By Lucy Reed

£30 - Published by Bath Publishing: June 2014

With a slightly different title to reflect the existence of the new Family Court, this is the second edition of Lucy Reed's guide to self-representation in family matters. You can find my review of the first edition here.

So, what is new? I will leave Lucy to explain:

As will be seen, the book updates the law, including all of the changes that took place last April. It also provides more information regarding alternatives to court proceedings. As a result, as Lucy points out, the book has increased in size, as is the way with all new editions of legal textbooks.

The book also now boasts a foreword, written by Mr Justice Cobb, who points out that the book is not just for litigants in person, but is also for their families and for their McKenzie Friends (in fact, I can imagine this being a general handbook for all McKenzie Friends involved in family law work). It is even a useful handbook, he says, for those who have representation. I agree with him on all points.

Despite the changes, the book follows a similar format to the first edition, being organised into the same seven parts as before:

 1. Understanding The System - including chapters on the courts, lawyers and support, and where to find the law.

2. Putting It Into Practice - including what to expect at court, general procedure, evidence and a chapter on running your case.

3. Divorce, Separation & Finances - the law and procedure on these areas, including a chapter on finances for separating cohabitees.

4. Children - the law and procedure in matters concerning children, including chapters on child abduction and children cases for non-parents.

5. Domestic Violence & Abuse - the law and procedure on domestic violence.

6. After Judgment - including enforcement, costs and appeals.

7. Toolkit & Resources - including a glossary, a list of internet resources, a table of cases, precedent forms and templates (with working versions of many available to download from the book's accompanying website, and extracts from rules and statutes.

As one might imagine, the main updates are to Part 1 in respect of the family court, legal aid (I understand the book was actually revised in March last year to accommodate the legal aid changes then) and sources of help, and to Part 4, covering the changes in respect of children law and procedure, including the new child arrangements orders and the CAP. For example, the chapter in Part 1 on lawyers and sources of support now includes sections detailing those situations for which legal aid is still available and a short section on mediation providers. The new sections are written in the same accessible but authoritative style as before.

There are also some updates elsewhere, such as a new section on legal services orders and maintenance pending suit in the chapter on finances for divorcing couples or civil partners.

Apart from those updates (which are substantial), I noticed some re-writing of chapters or parts of chapters (such as the chapter on cases involving domestic violence and abuse), although it would take too long to compare editions for me to say just how much has been re-written. With that proviso, much of the book does not appear to have changed, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

One small criticism I had previously was of the layout of the book. This has improved, for example with better fonts in places, and the feel of the book has improved, although I'm not entirely sure why - different paper and/or printing process, perhaps?

There is, of course, even more need for a book such as this since the abolition of legal aid for most private law family matters last year. Any assistance that litigants in person can find is welcome, but finding general advice as useful and reliable as this is pure gold. If you are in the unfortunate position of having to represent yourself in the Family Court, then you simply cannot do better than obtain a copy of this book, which you can do from the book's website, mentioned above, or from Amazon, including a Kindle edition.

Friday, June 20, 2014

There's more to life than football

As the cliché goes, it's not the despair but the hope that kills you. No, I'm not referring to the latest shambolic showing by our shower of over-paid ball-kickers, but rather to the reform of the our family justice laws. So much is in need of updating, such as bringing in no-fault divorce and giving property rights to cohabitants. In both cases we have had our hopes raised by parliamentary initiatives, only to have them dashed by parliamentary incompetence and indecision.

Well, Baroness Deech is obviously not prepared to sit on the bench and wait for government to act. She has introduced her own private members' bill aimed at reforming the law on finances and divorce. Her Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill is the subject of my Wednesday post on Marilyn Stowe's Family Law & Divorce Blog.

The recent case of A (A Child) was apparently described by Mr Justice Moylan as the longest dispute of its kind that he had encountered during his years as a judge and barrister. In my post on Tuesday I set out some of my thoughts on when children disputes go wrong.

Lastly, I have finally gotten around to doing something I have been wanting to do for a long while: writing an occasional series of posts about important family law cases of the past. I kicked off the series on Monday with a post on Wachtel v Wachtel and followed this up yesterday with another, featuring Richards v Richards.

And with that another season week comes to an end or, to put it another way, they thought it was all over... and they were right. Or something.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Coram secures grant from The Queen’s Trust to give young adopted people the opportunity to speak out and shape future services

Children’s charity Coram is delighted to have secured a grant of £300,000 from The Queen’s Trust to create a peer network of adopted young people, giving them a platform to express their views about the adoption process and their experiences as adopted children in school and in post-adoption support.

The programme builds upon the work by young people in Coram’s established participation groups for children and also young people adopted through Coram. It uses their own working title of “The Adoptables”, and their passion to address the issues so many of them have overcome - in school, in decisions about contact and in support to them and their adopted parents. Over the three years of the programme’s duration, it will be open to young people from any agency. Together, The Adoptables will produce new tools to help professionals to improve the way the adoption process works in the future. It will also enable young people themselves to act as ambassadors for adoption and for the views and needs of adopted children.

Dr Carol Homden CBE, Chief Executive of Coram, said: “This exciting project addresses our concern that, as the system seeks to ensure the adoption process responds to future children’s needs, the views of adopted children and young people themselves are central. We hope that this project will help the professional services achieve their ambition of providing the very best support for adopted children in the future through taking into account the voice and views of adopted young people themselves.”

Nicola Brentnall of The Queen’s Trust said: "We are pleased to be working with Coram, which is one of the leading experts in adoption policy and services, and a pioneer in many areas including youth participation. The Queen's Trust exists to help young people help others. This project will help young people come together to work on a project of great significance to them – with a view that the tools they produce will ultimately help other children and young people in the future.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Are You For Justice?

Sign the save legal aid to protect access to justice for all petition here.

For more information see here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

All MAPped out...

Before I head outside to drape the house in England flags I thought I would mention the posts wot I have wrote on Marilyn Stowe's Family Law & Divorce Blog this week:

The international nature of family law - In which I comment upon the, erm... international nature of family law.

World Cup domestic violence is no joke - A reminder that all DV is serious.

It’s all about the money, honey - Looking at the new MAP ('Money Arrangements Programme', of course).

Men are also victims of domestic violence - A reminder that DV is not gender-specific.

With that, I shall bid you a good weekend - don't stay up too late watching the footie.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thursday Review: (Ab)normal service

They say that you don't miss a thing until it's gone. Well, I'm certainly missing my news reader, Feedly, which has been unavailable for most of the last 24 hours, apparently due to a denial of service attack in which some nice people demanded a ransom from Feedly. The result of this for me is that the news on Family Lore Focus and my @familylaw Twitter feed may not be quite as up to date as it should be. Still, I suppose that is the sort of price we must pay for sharing the internet with those who don't deserve nice things.

Moving swiftly on, there have been some news items that have reached my eyes this week.

As I mentioned in my last post, on Monday the 12th epistle emanated from the Presidential chambers, updating us on the exciting next steps in the seemingly endless process of reform of the family justice system. I think Andrew Pack on Twitter summed up the profession's feelings best:

As is well known, the President never sleeps. Not content with telling us all about his reforms and handing down numerous judgments (see, for example, Re G), he gave a speech to the British Association of Social Workers in which he suggested that courts should consider ordering contraception lessons for problem parents who have had multiple children taken into care. I would have thought that this might have stirred up some controversy, but as yet I've not seen any sort of response.

Statistics time:
  • In the latest of a long line of freedom of information requests by Marc Lopatin we have found out that between April and December 2013 57% of parties involved in private law children proceedings were unrepresented, an increase of 57% upon the number unrepresented parties in the previous year. No surprises there.
  • Along the same lines and with a very similar result, the latest figures from Cafcass show that in May 2014 they received a total of 2,239 new private law cases, a 55% decrease on May 2013 levels.

Finally, two items hot off the press that I've not yet read but which look interesting:

1. Staying with Cafcass, the case F-D v The Children And Family Court Advisory Service has just appeared on Bailii. It concerned a claim for damages against Cafcass for negligence, misfeasance in public office, and for a breach of the right to a family life under article 8. The claim was dismissed.

2.Lastly, the Ministry of Justice has just published findings from the 2012 to 2013 Crime Survey for England and Wales examining public attitudes and experiences of the family justice system. Should be worth a gander.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Friday Review: Guidance and good practice

Just after my last post, in which I suggested that it was a slow news week, a couple of news stories and cases popped up to prove me wrong. I will mention here one story and one case.

Clearly, what family lawyers need most is more guidance. Without it, they have obviously been stumbling around in the dark, with nothing more than statute, case law, statutory instruments, rules, practice directions and text books to point them in the right direction. The latest person to step in to fulfil that need is Mr Justice Mostyn, who has produced guidance on standards for financial remedy financial hearings before a High Court judge. Rush over to Family Law to get your copy.

As for the case, I wanted to mention one that has no legal significance, and will certainly not make it into any text book, or be referred to in future as a precedent. It is L (A Child: Rehabilitation to Care of Mother), a care case in which the mother had made 'great strides' and the local authority therefore only sought a supervision order. Judge Clifford Bellamy explained why he chose to publish the judgment thus:
"It is, in my opinion, important that the judgments published are not restricted to those handed down in cases of complexity or where there is some notable or unusual feature or where the court makes criticism of social workers or other professionals. There are many other cases, of which this case is one, which are illustrative of high quality and sympathetic social work practice, of local authorities working in partnership with families to try to support them in caring for their children. In my respectful opinion, cases in which there is evidence of good practice leading to positive outcomes for children and families are just as newsworthy as those which are more problematic."
It would be nice to think that this might be picked up by the media, but alas I doubt it will.

Before I go I wanted to mention the posts I have written this week for Marilyn Stowe's Family Law & Divorce Blog:

Once again, have a good weekend.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Thursday Review: Slow news week

You can always tell it's a slow news week when national newspapers run stories emanating from 'leading lawyers', usually about some terribly interesting new phenomenon they have come across. Of course, the motivation of said lawyers is to inform the public and not at all to whore a bit of free publicity. Anyway, this is one such week, and I will leave it to you to decide what story or stories I am referring to.

Whilst there may not have been much in the way of real family law news, there have been one or two cases of note, including the following:
  • A Father v SBC & Ors - A case that I tweeted about yesterday, and that Andrew Pack has covered with his usual panache over on suesspiciousminds. Apparently, a consequence of the drive to reduce the time taken to complete care proceedings is that there has been an increase in the numbers of care cases being concluded with a final care order on the basis of the child remaining at home. If this is so, there will inevitably be an increase in the number of cases where the local authority concludes that a child should subsequently be removed. Mr Justice Baker gives guidance (at paragraph 49), approved by the President, for dealing with such cases. The case also highlights the nonsense that whilst parents in care proceedings get automatic public funding, where, as here, the local authority proposes the removal of a child living at home under a care order and the parents apply to discharge that order and for an interim injunction under s.8 HRA, they are not automatically entitled to legal aid, despite facing an equally draconian outcome.
  • B v B - Which concerned a father's application for the summary return of his daughter to Lithuania. Mr Justice Mostyn ordered such a return, but interpreted the term 'forthwith' in Article 12 of the Hague Convention to mean 'within three weeks'. He also made an order prohibiting the father from approaching within 100 metres of the mother's flat in Lithuania. As Sanchia Berg questioned on Twitter, quite how such an order is to be enforced is not entirely clear - presumably the court in Lithuania will be able to enforce it, if it does not make a similar order itself in any event.

Elsewhere, I wanted to mention a couple of things happening on other family law blogs:
  • Firstly, Lucy Reed over on Pink Tape has come up with the interesting proposal of a not for profit organisation providing reporting of family law cases for the public. Lucy is happy to receive comments, criticisms or contributions. For details, see this post.
  • Secondly, Marilyn Stowe has put out a call for examples of the difficulties faced by people no longer able to get legal aid, in connection with a television programme investigating the human impact of the UK Government’s decision to cut its legal aid budget. If you think you can help, contact Marilyn.

Finally, I was gratified to note that my @familylaw Twitter feed recently passed 9000 followers. If you are not already one of them, @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.

I may be back tomorrow, but if not, have a good weekend.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Violence is violence, no matter who it's aimed at

This video from the ManKind Initiative, a charity providing help and support for male victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence, has certainly grabbed some attention, with over six and a half million views since it was published on YouTube on the 22nd of May:

(Hat-tip to whoever mentioned this on my Twitter timeline yesterday - I'm afraid I can't find the tweet.)

Understanding family mediation

The Ministry of Justice has updated its guide to mediation video: