Friday, April 29, 2016

Pressing the case for no fault divorce, and more...


My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog began with the hope that we might persuade the government to bring in a divorce system where neither party has to point the finger of blame, and ended with examples of how previous government policies have not been so productive:

What do we have to do to get the message across about no fault divorce? - Why it need to happen...

Further thoughts on putting the case for no fault divorce - ...and a couple of ideas that might help it happen.

The facts behind the reduction in the number of law firms - Why it is happening, and what it means for the public.

Smoke and mirrors from the government on child maintenance - Or, how to cover up an embarrassing problem.

Have a good May Day bank holiday weekend.

Monday, April 25, 2016

News Essentials: 25th April 2016


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

NEWS
New Resolution chair aims for no fault divorce
New Resolution national chair Nigel Shepherd used his first speech in the role to issue a rallying cry for family lawyers to continue to call for no fault divorce. Full story: Family Law,

Muslim man loses high court bid to have sons circumcised
Father went to court after mother of the boys, aged four and six, objected to the procedure at a young age. Full story: The Guardian, See law report, below.

Court takes stand against 'divorce tourism' in case of millionaire barrister and artist ex-wife
An Appeal Court judge has taken a stand on so-called "divorce tourism" in a dispute between a millionaire QC and his former wife who agreed a settlement in Australia. Full story: The Telegraph,

Senior childcare lawyer warns of pressures from “remorseless” rise in cases
A significant rise in public law children cases is putting more pressure on social workers and child care lawyers, all of whom are experiencing significant budgetary cutbacks, a senior local authority lawyer has warned. Full story: Local Government Lawyer,

CASES
I (A Child), Re [2016] EWHC 910 (Fam) (18 April 2016)
Care proceedings relating to 15 year old boy. Judgment concerning whether information he imparted to a social worker should be disclosed to the other parties by the local authority. Full report: Bailii.

Spencer v Anderson (Paternity Testing: Jurisdiction) [2016] EWHC 851 (Fam) (15 April 2016)
Proceedings raising the issue of whether the Court can direct scientific testing of the DNA of a person who has died for the purpose of providing evidence of paternity. Full report: Bailii.

L And B (Children : Specific Issues : temporary Leave To Remove From the Jurisdiction; Circumcision) [2016] EWHC 849 (Fam) (05 April 2016)
Applications by father of two children in relation to the amount of time they should spend with each parent, whether he should be permitted to remove the children from the jurisdiction for the general purposes of foreign travel and whether it is in the children's best interests to allow them to be circumcised. 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.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

FGM toolkit for family lawyers launched


At its annual conference in Gateshead, family law organisation Resolution has published a new screening toolkit on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in response to new laws designed to protect victims of FGM, so that members are better equipped to identify and support vulnerable girls and women.

Despite FGM being a criminal offence in the UK since 1985, it’s believed there are up to 23,000 girls under 15 at risk of FGM in England and Wales, and nearly 60,000 women potentially living with the consequences of FGM.

The Resolution toolkit aims to support family lawyers in raising the issue of FGM with their clients. It tells its members a ‘potential victim may only have one chance to ask for help’ and identifies key questions and issues to discuss in order to help victims access the dedicated support services available.

Speaking at the Resolution National Conference, the organisation’s new chair, Nigel Shepherd, said:

“Resolution members can play an important role in supporting victims of FGM. This toolkit is a valuable addition to the many resources we make available to our members to support them across a range of issues of concern to their clients, including guidance on how to help victims of abuse and forced marriage."

Cris McCurley, from Resolution’s Domestic Abuse Committee, who produced the toolkit, said:

“Sadly there are still thousands of women and girls in the UK who are at risk of FGM. Family lawyers can often be the only person FGM victims feel able to discuss their injuries with.
“In my experience, you never know when a disclosure of FGM might happen, so the toolkit is something I’d urge all family practitioners to have to hand, whether or not they consider themselves people who deal with issues around FGM.

"We may only have one chance to help so it’s vital that we’re prepared and I’m delighted that Resolution is supporting our members to do so with the publication of this toolkit."
FGM is usually arranged through the woman or girl’s parents or extended family. Some of the reasons given for the continued practice of FGM include the protection of family honour, preservation of tradition, ensuring a woman’s chastity, cleanliness and as a preparation for marriage.

According to the Home Office, the UK communities that are most at risk of FGM include Kenyan, Somali, Sudanese, Sierra Leonean, Egyptian, Nigerian and Eritrean. Non-African communities that practise FGM include Yemeni, Afghani, Kurdish, Indonesian and Pakistani.

Friday, April 22, 2016

New Resolution chair aims for No Fault Divorce

Nigel Shepherd
New Resolution national chair Nigel Shepherd used his first speech in the role to issue a rallying cry for family lawyers to continue to call for no fault divorce.

Speaking in front of 400 family lawyers at Resolution’s annual conference in Gateshead, Mr Shepherd said “it’s wrong – and actually bordering on cruel – to say to couples: if you want to move on with your lives…. one of you has to blame the other”.

It is the latest in a growing number of calls from Resolution, who represent 6,500 family lawyers in England and Wales, for reform to divorce law to allow for no fault divorce. Earlier this year Resolution’s outgoing chair Jo Edwards wrote to the Prime Minister asking for a commitment towards no fault divorce to be made in the upcoming Queen’s Speech.

Mr Shepherd pointed to recent polling by Resolution that found a quarter of all divorcing couples falsify blame on their petition in order to complete the separation, and said Resolution and its members would continue to press Government ministers on the case for change. He said: “The blame game needs to end, and it needs to end now. We will continue to make the case to Government, supported by charities, the judiciary and the many others who support no fault divorce”.

He further signalled his intention to be an active challenger of the Government by labelling the current legal aid system “a bloody disgrace” and said, to the applause of the conference, that the Government must carry out its review into the impact of LASPO at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr Shepherd, who was previously Chair of Resolution in 1997, also paid tribute to Resolution’s members and their commitment to reducing family conflict and helping parents to put their children first. He said that he was “proud of the work our members do to protect the vulnerable and abused”.

Jo Edwards, the outgoing Chair of Resolution, received special praise for the achievements of her two years in post. Ms Edwards, he said, had taken Resolution from “strength to strength” and been a great ambassador for the organisation and for family justice.

The Resolution conference is an annual two-day event for its members to come together and discuss the latest developments in family law and identify practical ways to support people going through separation.

Naming children, ill thought-out legal aid reforms and more...


My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog included a look at three different but interesting cases, and confirmation of what we already knew about the government's legal aid reforms:

The labyrinthine technicalities surrounding a child’s name - Lady Justice King treads a route through the legislative maze in the "Preacher and Cyanide" case C (Children).

A Court of Protection case for our times - Re Z & Ors.

The Supreme Court decision proves what we already knew about the legal aid reforms - Michael Gove's proposed residence test was ill thought-out.

Court authorises DNA test of deceased person - My take on the case Spencer v Anderson (written, incidentally, before I had seen anyone else's post on it).

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Either lawyers are regulated, or they aren't

No MFs here...

As I commented elsewhere just the other day, when the government abolished legal aid for most private law family matters in 2013 it essentially offered nothing in its place. OK, it did try to patch up the gaping wound with the sticking plaster of mediation, but that policy has failed, as many of us knew it would. It also offered an even smaller plaster in the form of money for advice providers, but the amount was so little as to have no noticeable effect upon the patient.

Obviously, most people with a legal problem would like to have some advice and assistance in dealing with the problem. Equally obviously, if the less well-off in society are denied access to professional lawyers, then they will look elsewhere for legal help. Hence, since 2013 there has been a significant increase in the number of people outside the profession who are offering their services to those who would have previously had legal aid, in particular McKenzie friends.

Now, before I proceed I want to emphasise something that I have said on a number of occasions previously: there are clearly some very good McKenzie friends out there, helping those in need (and, indeed, the courts). This has been acknowledged by the judiciary. I also obviously accept that there is a desperate need for legal help and assistance for those who can't afford a lawyer.

However, there is an elephant in the room.

Professional lawyers are required to be trained, are strictly regulated and are required to have professional indemnity insurance. We must ask the simple question: why are they subject to these requirements? The answer, of course, is equally simple: to protect the public. The requirements ensure, so far as possible, that professional lawyers know what they are doing, that they follow certain standards, and that their clients do not suffer loss if things go wrong.

Those who offer legal services from outside of the profession are not subject to these requirements, and yet they can offer a very similar service to professional lawyers. What we seem to be saying, therefore, is that the better off members of the public who can afford a lawyer deserve protection, but the less well-off do not.

That cannot be right: either the public requires protection or it doesn't; either lawyers are all regulated, or they are not. If lawyers can do the job without the enormous investment of time and money required by regulation, then why bother getting qualified, complying with rules and paying for insurance? If no one really cares about whether or not the public are protected, then let's just scrap all the regulation, and have a free-for-all.

We really need to decide: should the public be protected from the possibility that they may suffer serious loss from charlatans posing as lawyers/legal advisers, or not?

The legal profession is often compared to the medical profession, which is subject to a similar level of strict regulation. Would we ever contemplate doing away with regulation of the medical profession? Of course we wouldn't - what the medical profession deals with is too important. Now, the work of the legal profession is not usually a matter of life and death (but it can happen), so I am obviously prepared to accept that the same level of protection for the public may not be required when it comes to lawyers. However, lawyers do deal with extremely serious matters, that are of the utmost importance to their clients. Family lawyers, for instance, deal with matters relating to arrangements for children, distribution of assets on divorce and even where the parties should live. Are we to say that such matters are so trivial that the public don't need protection from the charlatans?

The idea for this post arose from an email I received from Nicola Ingram, who practises as a paid McKenzie friend. She has written a post of her own, commenting upon the Judicial Executive Board's recent consultation paper proposing reforms to the Practice Guidance on McKenzie friends. She asked me to either share her post (which I have now done) or give my opinion upon it. I have, in fact, already commented upon the consultation here. Apart from what I have said there and above, I haven't really got any more to add, save that I would take issue with Nicola's assertion that the recent closure of several solicitors' practices by the SRA is an indication that regulation does not work: surely, it is the opposite - an indicator that regulation can weed out the bad apples, to protect the public from them in future.

Monday, April 18, 2016

News Essentials: 18th April 2016


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

NEWS
68% of local authorities show a year-on-year increase in the rate of care applications
Cafcass have today released statistics showing the number of care applications received per 10,000 child population – the rate of care applications – by each local authority in England during 2015-16. Full story: Family Law.

Powys mum banned from naming daughter Cyanide by court
A mother has been banned from naming her baby Cyanide after the poison which Adolf Hitler took before shooting himself. Full story: BBC News. See C (Children), below.

Supreme Court rejects attenuated welfare test: Re N (Children) [2016] UKSC 15
Re N (Children) [2016] UKSC 15 unanimously allowed the appeal from an order transferring the care proceedings pursuant to Art 15 of Brussels IIa. Full story: Family Law. See law report below.

Cafcass private law demand
In March 2016, Cafcass received a total of 3,287 new private law cases.  This is a 4% increase on March 2015 levels. Full story: Cafcass.

Care applications in March 2016
In March 2016, Cafcass received a total of 1,221 care applications.  This figure represents a 14% increase compared to those received in March 2015. Full story: Cafcass.

Deprivation of liberty court cases triple but fall short of Cheshire West predictions
Ministry of Justice figures reveal 1,499 deprivation of liberty cases reached Court of Protection last year, up from 525 in 2014. Full story: Community Care.

112,000 private law applications but fewer than 5,000 MIAMs in 2014/15
National Family Mediation unearths figures through Freedom of Information request. Full story: Family Law Hub.

CASES
C (Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 374 (14 April 2016)
Appeal by mother against order preventing her from registering children's names of her choice. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Mutch v Mutch [2016] EWCA Civ 370 (13 April 2016)
Appeal against order setting aside order varying periodical payments order. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

N (Children), Re [2016] UKSC 15 (13 April 2016)
Appeal against order for transfer of care proceedings relating to two children born in England to Hungarian parents, to Hungary. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

E-R (Child Arrangements) [2016] EWHC 805 (Fam) (08 April 2016)
Re-hearing of cross-applications by father and family friends for child arrangement orders in respect of child whose mother had died. Full report: Bailii.

I, Re (Human Fertilisation And Embryology Act 2008) [2016] EWHC 791 (Fam) (12 April 2016)
Application by partner of mother of child born as a result of IVF treatment for a declaration that he is the child's legal parent. 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, April 15, 2016

An online court, an observatory and more...


The topics covered by my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog included further evidence of the scope of the issues faced by our family courts, a concern about the proposed online court, the proposed 'family justice observatory' and the thorny issue of costs in children cases:

Two anorexia judgments demonstrate scope of family casesRe W (Medical Treatment: Anorexia) and Re Z (Recognition of Foreign Order).

Is excluding lawyers a design goal of the online court? - Or, should lawyers lose sleep over the online court?

What on Earth is a ‘family justice observatory’? - I hack my way through the jungle of jargon, searching for the answer.

The delicate issue of costs in children cases - As illustrated by the case E-R (Child Arrangements).

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In the matter of N (Children): Appeal allowed


Lady Hale gives the judgment of the Supreme Court

BACKGROUND TO THE APPEAL

This question in this appeal is whether the courts of England or Hungary should have jurisdiction to determine proceedings concerning the future welfare of two young girls. They are Hungarian nationals but were born and have been resident in England all their lives. Under article 8(1) of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility (known as ‘Brussels II Revised’) the primary rule is that jurisdiction lies with the courts of the member state where the child is habitually resident. The issue is whether the exception to this rule, found in article 15, permitting the transfer of certain proceedings to a court in another member state if it is ‘better placed’ to hear the case and this would be in the best interests of the child, should apply in this case.

The parents of the girls are Hungarian nationals, who moved to England in 2011. The older girl (‘Janetta’) was born in January 2012. She came to the attention of the UK authorities when the mother gave birth to the younger girl (‘Ella’) in May 2013. Due to the conditions of extreme squalor in which Janetta was found to be living, and the absence of medical attention for Ella’s birth, both girls were removed from their parents that day and have been living with foster carers ever since. Care proceedings were issued in January 2014 and the local authority made enquiries regarding the availability and suitability of family members in Hungary to care for the girls. It was in touch with the Hungarian Central Authority (‘HCA’) which proposed the transfer of the girls to Hungary and maintained that only the Hungarian authorities had the right to adopt Hungarian citizen minors. The mother returned to Hungary in 2014 and has since given birth to a third child. She applied for the care proceedings in respect of the girls to be transferred to Hungary pursuant to article 15 of Brussels II Revised. The local authority concluded that there was no viable family placement in Hungary and applied for a placement order for the adoption of the girls, possibly by their foster parents in England, without parental consent.

The High Court granted the mother’s application (supported by the HCA) to request the transfer of the proceedings under article 15. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal brought by the Children’s Guardian and local authority. The Children’s Guardian appeals to the Supreme Court. The issues were the proper approach to the assessment of the child’s best interests for the purposes of article 15 and the correctness of the decision to transfer in this case.

JUDGMENT

The Supreme Court unanimously allows the appeal, setting aside the request for a transfer of the proceedings to Hungary and returning the case to the High Court. Lady Hale gives the only judgment.

REASONS FOR THE JUDGMENT

The context in which the question of jurisdiction arises is important. Free movement of workers and their families within the EU has led to many children residing in states of which they are not nationals. Inevitably some of them require protection from ill-treatment or neglect, or the risk of it. In every case it is necessary for the court to consider whether the case should be transferred to another state [2]. It is particularly important where the English court might exercise its power to place children for adoption without parental consent, on the basis that the welfare of the child requires this, as this power is unavailable in many other member states [3].

Although the question of the applicability of article 15 to public law care proceedings is currently the subject of a pending reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union in a case from Ireland, the Supreme Court proceeds on the assumption that article 15 is capable of applying and reviews the decisions of the courts below on their merits, rather than making a further reference. The best interests of the girls requires a decision on their future without yet further delay [35, 54]. As for the correct approach to article 15, the language is simple and clear and the court can apply it to the facts of this case without awaiting the outcome of the reference [57].

The principal issue is the nature of the ‘best interests’ assessment in article 15 and whether it is limited to questions relevant to the choice of forum, as the judge had found. The addition of the best interests test is intended to be an additional safeguard for the child, consistent with the rights of children found in article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union [41-42]. While a number of factors will be relevant both to the question of whether a court is ‘better placed’ to hear the proceedings and of whether transfer is in the ‘best interests’ of the child, these are separate questions and must be addressed separately. The answer to the second does not inexorably follow from the first [43]. The question is whether the transfer (rather than the eventual outcome) is in the child’s best interests but the impact of the transfer on the welfare of the child and on the choices available to the court deciding the eventual outcome must be considered [44].

In the present case, the short term effect of the transfer would be to remove the girls from the home where Ella had lived for virtually her whole life and Janetta for most of hers, where they were happy and settled, to an unfamiliar foster placement in Hungary; and the long term effect would be to rule out one possible option for their future care and upbringing, which was to remain in their present home either through adoption, or a special guardianship order or ordinary residence order. This is not necessarily the outcome which the court should eventually decide, as questions of maintaining links with the girls’ extended family in Hungary and ethnic background will also be important factors [45- 46]. But the judge failed to consider whether the English court could achieve the same outcomes in Hungary as the Hungarian courts, without the need to transfer the case, which would also preserve the options to keep the girls in their present home [48-49]. The English court was also better placed to decide the outcome as it had already heard all the evidence that those involved wished to put before it [50]. These were crucial factors which had been left out of account [51].

The judge had been wrong to apply article 15 to the placement order proceedings but this did not in itself vitiate his decision to transfer the care proceedings. He had the power to stay the placement order proceedings under the wide case management powers of the court and, if it had been right to uphold the transfer, then it would clearly have been right to stay the placement order proceedings [53].

The case is therefore returned to the High Court to determine the future arrangements for the girls, with updated evidence. The full range of outcomes will be open to the court, not simply the stark choice between closed adoption and a foster placement in Hungary, and the judge will apply the extended guidance given by the Court of Appeal in this case [61].

References in square brackets are to paragraphs in the judgment, which can be found here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Government divorce policy failing as 95% of separating couples heading straight to court

Divorcees shun ‘compulsory’ mediation meetings

As the second anniversary of a landmark divorce law change approaches, new figures obtained by a leading family charity show government policy aimed at promoting mediation as the preferred way of settling disputes over parenting, finance and property has failed.

On 22 April  2014 a law change made attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) compulsory before a separating couple could apply for a court order in divorce proceedings.

But figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice show that in 2014/15 only one in 20 applications for private law proceedings to a family court followed the new ‘compulsory’ route - fewer than 5,000 MIAMs out of over 112,000 private law applications.

National Family Mediation has discovered the figures. Its Chief Executive, Jane Robey, says:

“By requiring separating couples to attend a mediation awareness meeting, the government’s aim was to introduce a cheaper and less confrontational alternative to court. But with fewer than one in 20 of couples even attending the initial meeting, let alone following that route through to its conclusion, the law has failed.

“We genuinely welcomed the law change requiring couples to explore mediation as an alternative to combative court proceedings. We knew it could not transform the culture of divorce on its own, but these figures suggest even this small government step has flopped.

“National Family Mediation and the mediation community alone cannot change the entrenched culture of adversarial and expensive court proceedings in divorce cases. More government support is needed to inform, educate and publicise the fact that MIAMs are compulsory in order to ensure the law is properly enforced and much more mediation is delivered.

“It’s not just that this is a law, the truth is that settlements negotiated through mediation offer a brighter future for separating families up and down the land.

“And given the well-publicised crisis of the clogged up family courts, one would think judges would have welcomed the changes and exercised their powers to take best advantage of the changes. That does not appear to be the case.”

The ‘traditional’ route for divorce sees a solicitor’s office and the court room as the first stop for separating couples looking to make arrangements over property, finance and children. Mediation enables and empowers families to take control over their own destiny, rather than handing it over to a family court judge.

National Family Mediation’s expert professionals help separating couples agree settlements on property, finance and parenting issues without the need for a courtroom drama. They achieve full agreement in over 80 per cent of cases.

News Essentials: 11th April 2016


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

NEWS
Supreme Court to rule on applicability of art 15 of Brussels IIa to care proceedings
Court considers assessment of children’s best interests on applications for transfer of proceedings. Full story: Family Law Week.

Domestic violence evidence requirements for legal aid
LAA responds to Court of Appeal judgment. Full story: Family Law Week.

Family Justice Council: Help with sorting out finances on divorce
The Family Justice Council has launched a new financial guide to help people going through a divorce without a lawyer. Full story: Family Law.

Report reveals wide variation in charging for divorce services
Most firms offer fixed fees for simpler, uncontested cases. Full story: Family Law Week.

Guidance issued on s. 20 Children Act amid fears councils could misinterpret law
Cafcass, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and ADSS Cymru have published guidance aimed at clarifying the expectations on local authorities for children looked after under s.20 of the Children Act 1989. Full story: Local Government Lawyer.

Court of Appeal gives guidance in committal cases
Mrs Justice Theis sets out checklist of considerations. Full story: Family Law Week. See L (A Child).

CASES
Z (Recognition of Foreign Judgments), Re [2016] EWHC 784 (Fam) (08 April 2016)
Judgment considering the exercise of the court's powers under the inherent jurisdiction to recognise and enforce orders concerning the medical treatment of children made by courts of another member state of the European Union. Full report: Bailii.

C (Children), Re [2016] EWCA Civ 356 (07 April 2016)
Appeal by mother against orders made in care proceedings concerning her two children. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

G, Re (Human Fertilisation And Embryology Act 2008) [2016] EWHC 729 (Fam) (06 April 2016)
Application by biological mother of twins born as a result of IVF treatment for a declaration that she is their legal parent. Full report: Bailii,

Liden v Burton [2016] EWCA Civ 275 (02 March 2016)
Appeal against a ruling that the circumstances in which the ex-partner of the owner of a property had paid £500 a month for several years as a contribution towards the expenses of running and maintaining the property gave rise to a proprietary estoppel. The appeal was dismissed. Full report: Bailii, via Family Law Hub.

Y (Children) (No 3) [2016] EWHC 503 (Fam) (07 March 2016)
Judgment following finding of fact hearing in two cases concerning applications for EPOs where it was feared that children might be taken to Syria to join ISIS. 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, April 08, 2016

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Resolution response to the publication of the Family Justice Council’s guide for LiPs


Speaking in response to the publication of the Family Justice Council’s guide for LiPs, “Sorting Out Finances on Divorce,”  Resolution Chair Jo Edwards said:

79% of family cases now involved at least one unrepresented party, so this new guide from the Family Justice Council is a useful, timely and welcome resource for the increasing number of people who have no choice but to represent themselves in court

"However, I think the FJC would be among the first to say that there’s no substitute for well-timed, tailored legal advice. Unfortunately, since the cuts to legal aid, more and more people are forced to face what can be a complex legal process without any support.

"That’s why guidance like this is so important, and it’s why Resolution has put so much free information for the public on our website, including our guide for separating parents.

"We will continue to work with Government, the judiciary and our members to look at new and innovative ways that separating couples can get support in the aftermath of sweeping legal aid cuts."

Monday, April 04, 2016

What You Need to Know About Jury Service

One of the cornerstones of our British judicial system is the right of all citizens to receive a trial by a jury of their peers. It’s one of the primary civic duties that any adult in the UK between the ages of 18 and 70 can be called upon to perform. If you've received a summons to serve on a jury, here’s a handy guide as to what the process involves.

Image source
General Overview:

First of all, do be aware that jury service is not optional and unless you can get a deferral (more on that later), you must attend when summoned. Failure to attend can lead to a fine of up to £1000. Your service will always take place as close as possible to your home in order to keep travel to a minimum.  At the end of your service, you can claim for expenses incurred as well as for any loss of earnings.  In general, jury service can last up to 10 days, however it can be significantly longer depending on the case.

Taking Time Off Work:

All employers are duty bound to allow their staff to take time off work for jury service, but they may also ask you to delay your service if they feel your absence will have a serious impact on business.

Your employer does not have to pay you as normal during your time away, but you can claim back for any loss of earnings from the court. If you are refused time off you can bring it before an employment tribunal, and if you are sacked then you can claim for unfair dismissal. However if your employer has asked you to delay your service (where possible) and you have refused, you may not be eligible.

What Expenses Can You Claim?

You can claim back from the court for any expenses incurred from travel, food and refreshments, loss of earnings and child care. Likewise if you claim any sort of benefits, such as jobseekers allowance, this is unaffected for the first 8 weeks of any trial. There are maximum daily amounts you can claim, for example in the case of loss of earnings, for the first 10 days  if you  serve for under 4 hours per day, the maximum is £32.47 and if over 4 hours, £64.95. Then, from day 11 through to day 200, under four hours is £64.95 and over 4 hours £129.91. Further details on these limits can be found here:  https://www.gov.uk/jury-service/what-you-can-claim

Can You Delay Your Jury Service?

As mentioned above, you can request that your jury service be delayed. As well as requesting this on the grounds that your absence from work would prove highly detrimental, there are several other legitimate grounds which may be considered. These include issues such as if you already have a holiday booked, if you have exams coming up, you’re a teacher and it’s in term time, or you are due to have an operation of some kind. Note however that you can only defer on jury service once, and when you do so, you must provide times when you are available over the next 12 months as well as providing a genuine reason as to why you are unavailable at any stage.

You may find that you ineligible for jury service for several reasons. For example, anyone who has served time in prison in the last ten years is automatically disqualified; anyone who holds certain jobs within the judicial system is ineligible, as are people serving in the armed forces, medical practitioners, dentists, nurses and midwives.

Are You Allowed to Discuss the Trial?

As I'm sure most of us have gathered from years watching TV, it is forbidden to discuss details of your case with anyone other than your fellow jury members and even then only within the deliberation room. This applies even when the case is over and includes any posts on social media. You may face a hefty fine or even jail time if you ignore this rule.

If you have any further questions on jury service, contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau for further details:
Jury Central Summoning Bureau
jurysummoning@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: 0300 456 1024
Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm
Friday 9am to 3pm

Postal Address:
Jury Central Summoning Bureau
Pocock Street
London
SE1 0BJ

For more specific legal advice, you can also contact FBCMB, Solicitors in Shrewsbury, who are experts in the issues discussed above.

News Essentials: 4th April 2016


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

NEWS
Number of MIAMs continue to fall
The latest legal aid statistics published today (31 March 2016) show that the number of MIAMs are continuing to fall. Full story: Family Law.

Average time for the disposal of care applications is 28 weeks
The Ministry of Justice has published quarterly statistics for the family courts of England and Wales covering the period of October to December 2015. Full story: Family Law Week.

Rise in special guardianship orders made by courts
The number of children placed with special guardians each year has passed the 5,000 mark for the first time. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

Resolution and LAPG criticise decision to make CCMS compulsory
The Legal Aid Agency has today today announced that all new civil Legal Aid applications must be made using the Client and Cost Management System from 1 April. Full story: Resolution.

Court of Protection plans to shift more costs onto deputies
The Court of Protection is considering giving judges more power to make family members cover the legal costs in disputes over an incapacitated person’s property, affairs or care. Full story: Law Society Gazette.


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Friday, April 01, 2016

Mainly about litigants in person...


My posts in another short week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog were mainly about the problems faced by litigants in person, but did also include an interesting Court of Appeal decision:

The plight of the litigant in person - Looking at the report by Citizens Advice Standing alone: going to the family court without a lawyer.

The fine line between defective and inadequate parenting - As trodden by the court in FM (A Child).

Pitfalls for the litigant in person - As demonstrated by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal decision H v H.

Have a good weekend.