Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Resolution and LAPG criticise decision to make CCMS compulsory

The Legal Aid Agency has today announced that all new civil Legal Aid applications must be made using the Client and Cost Management System from 1 April.

The announcement comes despite warnings from representative bodies that the system is not fit for purpose, including Resolution’s letter to the LAA last week.

The Agency have, however, conceded that practitioners are still experiencing significant technical difficulties that prevent them submitting applications on CCMS, and in these circumstances a paper application will be accepted.

Resolution and the Legal Aid Practitioners Group have today (30 March) released a statement in response to this announcement:
"The Legal Aid Agency have today announced that all providers making new civil Legal Aid applications must use the Client and Cost Management System (CCMS) from 1 April.

We are disappointed that, despite their claims, the LAA have not listened to users of the system, more than two thirds of whom reported regularly experiencing problems with CCMS in a recent survey.

We do welcome the introduction of contingency measures, which does allow for paper submissions in certain circumstances. This acknowledges the frustration felt by users, and delays and restrictions to access to justice suffered by some of the most vulnerable in society.

However, the guidance on how these measures will work will lead to even greater confusion, uncertainty, and frustration among the legal aid community.

The LAA defines a condition by which a paper application may be submitted as an ‘exceptional circumstance.’ Regrettably, the experience of our members is that regular problems and system failure is anything but exceptional. Just yesterday, we received many reports that people could not access the LAA portal.

We recognise that the LAA is keen to avoid another government IT failure. Unfortunately, if they plough ahead with CCMS – which 82% of users say is not ready for compulsory use - that is exactly what they will have.

Our call for a delay is not driven out of a dogmatic opposition to new systems – in fact, 71% of respondents to the survey said they welcome the concept of electronic working, and there are acknowledgements that improvements have been made since CCMS was first introduced.

However, our members have identified a number of further improvements which need to be made to CCMS before its use is made compulsory.

We call on the Legal Aid Agency to see sense, take a pragmatic approach, and not force people to use a system that is clearly not fit for purpose until these improvements have been made."

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

News Essentials: 29th March 2016

A brief summary of the essential family law news and cases from the last week:

Education Secretary unveils a new blueprint for adoption
New plan to see more children placed in loving, stable homes by ensuring adoption is always pursued where it is in a child’s best interest. Full story: Department for Education.

Legal aid cuts add to strain on divorcees
Nine out of 10 people forced to represent themselves in family court reported a negative impact, says Citizens Advice. Full story: The Guardian.

Rising numbers in child protection system ’down to cuts’, MPs told
Numbers of children entering the child protection system are on the rise because service designed to help them stay with their families are being “decimated”, MPs have been told. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

Resolution urges LAA to delay compulsory CCMS use
Resolution has this week written to the Legal Aid Agency, urging them to delay the compulsory use of the Client and Cost Management System (CCMS), which is due to take place from 1st April. Full story: Resolution.

Hammond criticises judge for stripping diplomatic immunity from Saudi billionaire
Diplomatic role for Sheikh Walid Juffali – facing divorce proceedings in UK – was ‘entirely artificial construct’, says judge. Full story: The Guardian. See Al-Juffali v Estrada, below.

FM (A Child) [2016] EWCA Civ 189 (23 March 2016)
Appeal by a mother against a special guardianship order in respect of her son. Full report: Bailii.

L (A Child) [2016] EWCA Civ 173 (22 March 2016)
Appeal from a committal order made on 18 January 2016, for breach of a collection order which had been made over eleven years previously. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Besharova v Berezovsky [2016] EWCA Civ 161 (22 March 2016)
Appeal by wife relating to the construction of a term of a consent order. Full report: Bailii.

Al-Juffali v Estrada [2016] EWCA Civ 176 (22 March 2016)
Appeal against order dismissing application of H to strike out W's claim for financial relief pursuant to Part III MFPA 1984 on the basis that H was entitled to diplomatic immunity. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Robertson v Robertson [2016] EWHC 613 (Fam) (08 March 2016)
Wife's claim for financial remedies, in which the central issue was how shares owned by the husband prior to the marriage should be treated, and to what extent the wife should share in their value. Full report: Bailii.

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

To subscribe to the Family Lore Focus free weekly Newsletter (which includes links to all of the week's top family law news stories, cases, articles and blog posts), go here.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Vet charity PDSA launches nationwide Free Wills scheme

Veterinary charity PDSA, which provides care for sick and injured pets of people in need, has launched a nationwide Free Wills service for pet lovers and is seeking solicitors to join its programme.

The charity’s vets and nurses provide over two million treatments every year, helping 300,000 owners who would otherwise be unable to afford veterinary care for their pets. Two out of three treatments are funded by gifts in wills, making the charity one of the UK’s most popular beneficiaries among legators.

Ruth Lister, PDSA’s Legacy Development Manager, says: “Legacies make up a vital part of PDSA’s funding. When we piloted our Free Wills offer, we had a fantastic response from animal lovers who chose to leave a gift to us. This lasting legacy shows their love for pets by helping us provide our life-saving veterinary services across the UK.”

PDSA will pay participating solicitors a fee to write a simple or mirror will. Clients may then choose to leave a gift to PDSA in their will, although this is not compulsory.

“PDSA has been saving, protecting and healing pets for nearly 100 years and we are one of the most popular animal charities to offer this free will service,” said Ruth. “We hope solicitors will add us to their current list of free will charities, or work with us to provide free wills for the first time.”

PDSA’s offer of a simple will or codicil is available to individuals or couples over the age of 50, with solicitors able to build up ‘will banks’.

Dominic Mackenzie of Ison Harrison Solicitors, Leeds, said: “Partnering with PDSA on their Free Will offer has given us the opportunity to secure long-term business with clients who require executor and other services. It is also a great way to demonstrate our commitment to corporate social responsibility, supporting a charity that helps hundreds of thousands of pets each year.”

As well as a nationwide offering, PDSA’s Free Wills programme will be focusing its offer in the following areas in the coming months:
  • Essex
  • Oxford
  • East Kent
  • Southampton
  • Portsmouth
  • Liverpool
  • Birmingham
  • East Sussex
For more information about joining PDSA’s Free Will scheme, please visit or contact Ruth Lister on 01952 797 274 or

Fairer fees, non-matrimonial people and property

A short week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, but still one with plenty to talk about, including the scandalous court fee increase, an example of the hoops you have to go through to get to court if you didn't marry and a judgment concerning how assets owned prior to the marriage should be treated:

The great court fees scandal, and one way to make it fairer - An idea to counter the appalling increase in the divorce fee.

A tangled legal web for the unmarried - As demonstrated by S v J & Ors.

The distinction between matrimonial and non-matrimonial property - As argued over in Robertson v Robertson.

Have a good Easter weekend.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Resolution urges LAA to delay compulsory CCMS use

Resolution has this week written to the Legal Aid Agency, urging them to delay the compulsory use of the Client and Cost Management System (CCMS), which is due to take place from 1st April.

This letter comes in the light of the results of a survey run by Resolution of legal aid practitioners, which nearly 600 CCMS users completed. The survey was promoted by a range of other organisations who share a common interest in making sure CCMS works for everyone.

This revealed that, despite improvements to the system since it was first introduced, significant issues still remain which make CCMS unfit for purpose.

The survey found that an overwhelming majority of practitioners – 82% - did not believe CCMS would be ready for compulsory use from 1st April. This included users making Special Children Act applications, for whom CCMS use is already compulsory.

Resolution has been working closely with other representative bodies to persuade the LAA to make the improvements it has already made, and to delay the compulsory use of CCMS which was originally scheduled for February.

However, Resolution’s members believe time is running out, and the LAA need to make the sensible decision to delay compulsory use of CCMS until the many ongoing problems are resolved and they’ve made the improvements that are desperately needed.

Commenting on the letter and the survey, Elspeth Thomson, who co-chairs Resolution’s Legal Aid Committee, said:

"The Legal Aid Agency needs to see sense and delay the compulsory use of a system which is clearly not fit for purpose.

"We have had an overwhelming response from legal aid lawyers on the ground, who are working with some of the most vulnerable members of society to help them get access to justice. They are telling us that CCMS is not working as it should or, on some days, working at all.

"When the government announced last month that 86 courts were to close across England and Wales, we were told that savings would be used to modernise remaining courts, including greater use of technology. On the evidence of CCMS, together with the Form E fiasco late last year, practitioners are not exactly brimming with confidence about this prospect.

"Our call for a delay is not driven out of a dogmatic opposition to new systems – in fact, 71% of respondents said they welcome the concept of electronic working, and there are acknowledgements that improvements have been made since CCMS was first introduced.

"But anyone looking at the true picture across the country can see that this is yet another failing government IT project that risks further restricting access to justice for those dwindling numbers still eligible for legal aid.”

Monday, March 21, 2016

News Essentials: 21st March 2016

A brief summary of the essential family law news and cases from the last week:

A bad budget for children, say children’s charities
Concerns that budget does not address child poverty. Full story: Family Law Week.

FPR strike-out provision amended from 6th April 2016
Further amendments to The Family Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2016 relate to attachment of earnings, charging and stop orders. Full story: Family Law Week.

MoJ set to impose 34% divorce fee hike next Monday
The Ministry of Justice has slipped out an announcement of a 34% hike in divorce fees expected to take effect next Monday, despite strong opposition from family lawyers. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

S v J & Ors [2016] EWHC 586 (Fam) (14 March 2016)
Application by former cohabitee for declarations as to the ownership of four properties in which either or both parties had an interest during their former relationship. Full report: Bailii.

C v V [2016] EWHC 559 (Fam) (15 March 2016)
Hague wrongful retention case brought by a mother living in Spain against a father living in England. Full report: Bailii.

Hammerton v. The United Kingdom - 6287/10 (Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) : Court (First Section)) [2016] ECHR 272 (17 March 2016)
Claim by applicant alleging that his committal to prison for civil contempt, and the subsequent civil proceedings by which he sought to obtain redress, violated his rights under Articles 5 and 6 of the Convention. Full report: Bailii.

BD v FD (No 2) [2016] EWHC 594 (Fam) (17 March 2016)
Judgment determining wife's financial remedy application, in case where there was a substantial disparity between the parties' assessment of the wife's needs. Full report: Family Law.

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

To subscribe to the Family Lore Focus free weekly Newsletter (which includes links to all of the week's top family law news stories, cases, articles and blog posts), go here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hague cases, men as victims of abuse and the importance of professional advocacy...

This week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog I looked at two recent Hague Child Abduction Convention cases, the issue of men being the victims of domestic violence and a judgment by Mr Justice Baker that demonstrates once more the benefit to the court of professional advocacy, a benefit stripped away with the abolition of legal aid:

Child’s objections insufficient to prevent his return to Ireland - A detailed look at the case FK v ML (Child's Objections).

Bringing Hague proceedings to an early conclusion - The President's judgment in D (Children).

Changing attitudes towards domestic abuse against men - The subject of men being victims of domestic violence is back in the news.

The importance of professional advocacy in family proceedings - As demonstrated in the case Re C, D & E (Children).

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Resolution condemns 'stealthy implementation' of divorce fee hike

Commenting on today’s revelations that the MoJ are to hike divorce court fees on Monday, Jo Edwards Chair of Resolution, said:

“The stealthy implementation of the hike in divorce fees, from £410 to £550 (after an increase only 2 years ago) is scandalous and not backed up by a proper impact assessment. As a result of the steep increase, many people currently in the process of separating will have received incorrect information as to the charge for lodging a divorce petition and, in reality, won't have time to get their petition in before the fee increase takes effect.

“Divorce is not a ‘choice to litigate’ - it’s a necessary part of the legal process to bring a relationship to an end. Whether people mediate, negotiate their own outcome or go to court, they have to pay the divorce petition fee. The actual cost of the administrative process has been shown to be £270, meaning that at new rates the MoJ is making a profit of more than 100% - in effect, levying a divorce tax.

“The 34% increase may lead to people unable to afford the fee remaining legally and financially tied to their former partner long after the relationship has ended. Increasing fees will disproportionately impact women, who constitute two-thirds of those initiating divorce proceedings. The extent of the rise could, as the judiciary and others have warned, lead to women being trapped in unhappy or violent marriages.

“The Government should have waited until the Justice Select Committee, who are currently holding an inquiry into court fees, had published their findings. Instead, the way in which this has been gone about, with no formal consultation or announcement, demonstrates a shocking lack of transparency from government. The manner in which they’re implementing this increase, by calling courts today and instructing them to charge more from Monday, is not how a responsible government department should act.

“This will lead to confusion, hardship, and avoidable additional pain for separating couples."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ker-ching! Is there any excuse for charging £550 to issue a divorce?

Question: Is there any excuse for charging £550 to issue divorce proceedings, as will be the case from next Monday, despite the actual administrative cost of divorce being just £270?

Answer: No.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers March/April 2016

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

In this issue

  • ODR – Graham Ross of the Mediation Room reviews ODR developments: no longer an alternative but in the mainstream
  • Technologies – Nick Holmes introduces the blockchain which is likely to have a profound effect on legal practice
  • Digital rights – Dr Eoin O'Dell of Trinity College Dublin on how the blockchain could be applied to the sale of digital goods
  • Legal education – Emily Allbon of City Law School describes how her Lawbore site makes learning the law fun
  • Law libraries – Adam Woellhaf on how Middle Temple Library has adapted to the internet age
  • Barristers practice – Stephen Ward describes how Clerksroom Direct is used to deliver Public Access services
  • Technologies – Alex Heshmaty of Legal Words explains Big Data, the legal issues arising and legal applications

Access the Newsletter online

News Essentials: 14th March 2016

A brief summary of the essential family law news and cases from the last week:

Court ruling piles pressure on government to release funding for representation in deprivation of liberty cases
Judge places responsibility on health secretary Jeremy Hunt and justice secretary Michael Gove to find workable solution to representation issues. Full story: Community Care. See also Re J and Re VE, below.

Guidance given in child support cases where a parent is fearful of attending hearing because of intimidation
The Upper Tribunal has provided guidance as to how the First-tier Tribunal should exercise case management powers in child support cases where a parent expresses concern about attending a hearing because of fear of intimidation by the other parent. Full story: Family Law Week. See WA v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, below.

Court rules transgender teenager can cut off contact with adoptive parents
Judge says best chance of future reconciliation is to respect boy’s current wish to shun parents who kept using his old name. Full story: The Guardian. See PD v SD, below.

New private law cases received by Cafcass in February up 10% on a year ago
In February 2016, Cafcass received a total of 3,237 new private law cases.  This is a 10% increase on February 2015 levels. Full story: Family Law Week.

Care applications hit record high
The number of applications for children to be taken into the care system in England has hit an all-time high. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

Re VE (Deprivation of Liberty) [2016] EWCOP 16 (10 March 2016)
Case seeking welfare orders to authorise deprivation of liberty, where Rule 3A representative available. Full report: Family Law.

Re J and Others (Deprivation of Liberty) [2016] EWCOP 15 (10 March 2016)
Five cases seeking welfare orders to authorise deprivation of liberty. Full report: Family Law.

In the matter of D (Children) (Child abduction: practice) [2016] EWHC 504 (Fam) (10 March 2016)
Application by father for return of children to USA. Father successfully challenged ex parte order in USA allowing mother to remove children from USA. Father given permission to withdraw Hague proceedings. Full report: Bailii.

PD v SD & Anor [2015] EWHC 4103 (Fam) (26 August 2015)
Application by looked after 16 year old for declaration that his adoptive parents should not receive any information about his day-to-day life, nor about his assessment and possible treatment at the Tavistock Clinic or other medical facility. Full report: Bailii.

WA v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions & Anor (Child support : tribunal practice) [2016] UKUT 86 (AAC) (14 January 2016)
Appeal raising the issue of how the FTT should exercise its case management powers to ensure that, in a child support case, a parent is not prevented from attending a hearing due to fear of intimidation. Full report: Bailii.

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

To subscribe to the Family Lore Focus free weekly Newsletter (which includes links to all of the week's top family law news stories, cases, articles and blog posts), go here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Two child support cases, and more thoughts on the future of family law

My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog  began with a couple of interesting child support decisions, and ended with further thoughts on the future of the justice system, a theme that seems to be occupying the minds of our senior judiciary:

The child support claimant who feared intimidation - A situation that, I suspect, is not uncommon. WA v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions & Anor (Child support: tribunal practice) demonstrates how it should be handled.

A Kafkaesque child support decision - The Upper Tribunal sorts out an absurd situation in SB v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and & Anor (Child support: calculation of income).

What exactly are the family courts for? - To administer the law, or to solve society's problems?

“Justice has no second class: even in an age of austerity” - At least, that's how it should be. Sir Ernest Ryder's speech The Modernisation of Access to Justice in Times of Austerity.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Resolution urges MPs to support principle of no fault divorce

Tomorrow (11 March 2016) Richard Bacon MP’s No Fault Divorce Bill is on the Order Paper to receive its Second Reading in the House of Commons.

Leading family law organisation Resolution is urging MPs to support the principle of no fault divorce if they are serious about reducing family conflict and the ongoing impact of divorce.

Resolution chair Jo Edwards says:

“We know that our current fault-based divorce system achieves nothing besides escalating conflict during divorce. It does not act as a deterrent, nor does it help couples to salvage their marriage. The latest data from the Office of National Statistics shows that 114,720 people divorced in England and Wales in 2013, despite fault-based petitions.”

“We are pleased to see Richard Bacon’s bill having a second reading. If MPs are serious about reducing family conflict and the trauma that can be caused by divorce, I would urge them to support the bill as a welcome step towards removing the requirement of fault from divorce.”

“Removing the blame from divorce, as proposed in Richard Bacon’s bill, would help couples who both wish to bring their relationship to a dignified conclusion and move on with their lives without the need for accusatory mud-slinging. This outdated system needs urgent revision – a civilised society deserves a civilised divorce process.”

Recent research published by Resolution shows that the fault-based nature of divorce in England and Wales, which requires one person to accuse the other of adultery or unreasonable behaviour to have their divorce granted within two years of marriage breakdown, is driving over a quarter (27%) of divorcing couples to make false allegations to the court.

Resolution’s research, carried out by YouGov (June 2015), found that:

  • 52% of divorce petitions were fault-based alleging either unreasonable behaviour or adultery.

  • 27% of divorcing couples who asserted blame in their divorce petition admitted the allegation of fault wasn’t true, but was the easiest option.

Resolution has campaigned for many years for the introduction of no-fault divorce, which was provided for in the Family Law Act 1996 but never implemented.

Resolution’s Manifesto for Family Law, endorsed by leading relationship and legal organisations including Relate, One Plus One, Only Dads and the Family Law Bar Association, calls for the removal of blame from the divorce process, bringing England and Wales into line with other modern jurisdictions including the United States, Australia and Spain.

Monday, March 07, 2016

News Essentials: 7th March 2016

A brief summary of the essential family law news and cases from the last week:

Court of Protection draft Case Management Pilot published
A pilot Practice Direction has been published in draft, in advance of a case management pilot commencing in the Court of Protection in June 2016 to allow practitioners to prepare for a significant change in case management practice. Full story: Family Law.

Online online divorce applications could start as early as 2017 says President
Prediction contained in his speech to the FLBA Annual Dinner. Full story: Family Law Hub.

New Forms D650 and D651 to tackle HMCTS errors in Forms E and E1
Following consultation with the President of the Family Division two specific forms have been created to deal with applications by any parties who are concerned their proceedings may have been affected by the problem. Full story: Family Law.

L (Case Management: Wasted Costs), Re [2016] EWFC B8 (04 March 2016)
Care proceedings. Judgment concerning wasted costs relating to adjournment of fact-finding hearing. Full report: Bailii.

JL, Re [2016] EWHC 440 (Fam) (03 March 2016)
Judgment concerning two cases involving babies born to mothers from Eastern Europe but relinquished at birth for adoption. Full report: Bailii.

M and K, Re (temporary leave to remove to non-convention country) [2015] EWFC B229 (26 November 2015)
Application by Malaysian mother to discharge an order restraining her from leaving the jurisdiction with the children, to enable her to take them to Malaysia on holiday. Full report: Bailii.

S, Re [2016] EWFC B7 (26 January 2016)
Final hearing of care proceedings in respect of two disabled children of Indian nationality, whose parents are in India and indicated that they would only return to the UK to collect the children and return them to India. Full report: Bailii.

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

To subscribe to the Family Lore Focus free weekly Newsletter (which includes links to all of the week's top family law news stories, cases, articles and blog posts), go here.

Friday, March 04, 2016

The future of the family justice system

The uncertain future of the family justice system was firmly in view in my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, which included the following:

Even Richard III looked after the justice system better than this government - An unheeded lesson from history.

Is greater transparency inevitable? - Right or wrong, that may be the case.

Family justice system faces a permanent state of change - The vision of our reforming President, as outlined in his speech to the FLBA.

Some thoughts on reforming the courts’ approach to McKenzie Friends - Looking at the JEB's proposals to reform the guidelines on MFs.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Book Review: Dictionary of Financial Remedies, 2016 Edition

Dictionary of Financial Remedies

Hess, Duckworth & Max

£50 - Published by Class Legal: February 2016

Now in its third edition, the Dictionary of Financial Remedies seems to be settling into a pattern of annual updates every February. (For my reviews of the first and second editions, see here and here.)

What is new in this edition? Well, this time there are no new entries, but we are told that several entries (on companies, confidentiality and foreign assets) have been substantially rewritten, and that the 'efficient conduct' entry (covering Mostyn J's Efficient Conduct of Financial Remedy Final Hearings statement) has been enhanced with a new section on allocation by complexity. Further, as one would expect, the Duxbury, tax, inflation and life expectancy tables have all been updated with the latest figures, new cases from the last 12 months (no  fewer than 60 of them, including Wyatt v Vince, Prest, Sharland and Gohil) have been referenced and  all other entries have been 'fully reviewed and updated where necessary'. The net result of all of this is that the Dictionary has expanded, from 87 to 93 pages. Its price has not, however, increased, remaining at £50, the same sum as the first edition.

In their introduction the authors express the belief that the Dictionary "is becoming an indispensable tool for practitioners and judges in this area, commonly taken to court for ready use." They also point out that it was cited by the President (who has once again added a new foreword) in the case CS v ACS & Anor (see paragraph 15).

No longer practising, I can't say whether the Dictionary is becoming an indispensable tool for practitioners. However, I am sure that for those who have invested in it it has already become a very handy point of first reference, providing concise summaries of many of the financial remedy points that are likely to come up in practice, and saving the time that might otherwise be spent delving into less succinct tomes. Of course, like any reference it must be up to date, but for such a modest annual outlay a new copy each year is a no-brainer that is likely to be repaid many times over.

Dictionary of Financial Remedies can be purchased from Class Legal, here. Once again, a digital edition is also available via Class Legal's website.