Saturday, December 31, 2016

Old John's Almanac 2017


Without further ado, here are my predictions for 2017:

January - As Donald Trump takes office, Sir James Munby moves his chambers to an underground nuclear bunker. The President (of the Family Division, that is) says the only thing it lacks is a view.

February - Fathers' rights group the Real Families Need Fathers4Justice stage a protest outside the home of Justice Minister Liz Truss. The entire legal profession joins in.

March - The Chancellor of the Exchequer has to amend his entire Spring Budget, when a couple in Rutland become the first to take advantage of the Government's married tax break.

April - The Ministry of Justice decides to raise revenue by charging admission fees to the family courts. All hearings will also have an intermission, when small tubs of ice cream will be sold.

May - The Child Maintenance Service determines that an 'effective' child maintenance arrangement is one in which the non-resident parent pays more than one farthing.

June - The Daily Mail blames an unexpected rise in the divorce rate on "out of touch, unelected judges".

July - The Ministry of Justice responds to the rising divorce rate by increasing the fee on a divorce petition to £5500.

August - Not to be out-done, the Child Maintenance Service trebles all fees for using the service.

September - The Ministry of Justice decides to save costs by closing all family courts save for the Barrow-in-Furness Family Court, which will henceforth be known as the 'Not-So-Central Family Court'.

October - Footballer's wife Chantelle Looney becomes the last ever litigant in the family courts to be represented by a lawyer.

November - At the annual Family Law Awards Eric Snogbottom wins the prestigious award for the family lawyer with the silliest name.

December - The Child Maintenance Service announces a 100% success rate, as it recovers all the maintenance for the last family who can afford to use the service.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The good and the bad...


There were some good bits and some bad bits in my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, which included:

The reality of the effect of child maintenance charging - Looking at the latest research documents from the DWP.

English courts can rule on child who will live in Greece - The case L (A Child).

Family law in 2016: The bad bits - Part one of my review of the year.

Family law in 2016: The good bits - You guessed it, part two of my review of the year.

And with that I conclude my Stowe posts for another year. Have an excellent Xmas and New Year break.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mini Book Review: Financial Remedies Practice, 2017 Edition


Financial Remedies Practice, 2017 Edition

The @eGlance Guide

£99.95 - Published by Class Legal: December 2016

I once more find myself receiving a review copy of the latest edition of Financial Remedies Practice at a point when I don't have the time to embark upon a full review (receiving it just a week before Xmas doesn't help!). Accordingly, I will once again limit myself to a a quick 'mini review'.

I confess that when it was first published in 2011 I was not sure that the family law market had room for Financial Remedies Practice, After all, there is at least one other eminent and well-established publication that covers most of the same ground, even if it also covers much else relating to the practice of the Family Court. Despite my misgivings, Financial Remedies Practice has now survived into its sixth edition, carving out a niche for itself as an essential purchase for many practitioners. Perhaps the reason for that is that it goes into greater detail, making itself the most useful one-volume text on the subject of financial remedies.

For those who don't know, Financial Remedies Practice "combines authoritative Commentary on financial remedies practice and procedure together with the full, up-to-date text of the relevant Family Procedure Rules and Practice Directions." The Commentary is written by an illustrious team comprising Sir Peter Singer, Mr Justice Mostyn, Lewis Marks QC and barristers Gavin Smith and Joshua Viney.

Changes for this edition include the usual updates covering amendments to the rules and PDs, despite what the authors describe as a "slackening trend in the pace of revisions to procedure in financial proceedings"over the last year. As they also say, "judicial outpourings have, however, continued unabated, leading to significant revisions to the Commentary". These changes may not seem like much, but they are enough to expand the main text of the volume from 731 pages last year to a whopping 876 this.

All of which is quite enough to justify the investment of the very modest (and unchanged) price of £99.95.

Financial Remedies Practice is available from Class Legal, here. It is supplemented by an online version at www.familyprocedure.com, which includes the full text of the Commentary linked to the primary sources cited. Access to the site is included in the price.

Monday, December 19, 2016

News Essentials: 19th December 2016


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

NEWS
Domestic violence legal aid applications rise
Relaxing time limits for reporting domestic violence may have contributed to the steep increase in legal aid applications from victims this year, latest government figures suggest. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

President's guidance on the allocation of work to section 9 judges
The President of the Family Division has issued new guidance on the allocation of work to section 9 judges. Full story: Family Law.

Latest family court statistics confirm recent surge in public law applications
The Ministry of Justice has released statistics on activity in the family courts of England and Wales for the period of July to September 2016. Full story: Family Law Week.

Law Commission publishes report on enforcement of family financial orders
In a report published today, the Law Commission recommends a package of reforms to make the law governing the enforcement of family financial orders more effective, accessible and fair. Full story: Family Law.

Cafcass private law demand
In November 2016, Cafcass received a total of 3,586 new private law cases. This is a 7% increase on November 2015 levels. Full story: Cafcass.

Care applications in November 2016
In November 2016, Cafcass received a total of 1,262 care applications.  This figure represents a 22% increase compared with those received in November 2015. Full story: Cafcass.

CASES
L (A Child) [2016] EWCA Civ 1297 (16 December 2016)
Appeal against an order dismissing aunt's application for child arrangements order. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

C (A Child), Re [2016] EWHC 3171 (Fam) (08 December 2016)
Application by Secretary of State for the Home Department for discharge of a disclosure order seeking information about any extremist or radicalised conduct by the adults in the family. Application dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Magiera v Magiera [2016] EWCA Civ 1292 (15 December 2016)
Appeal against refusalto dismiss or stay proceedings brought in relation to a London house under TLATA, on the basis of lack of jurisdiction. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Scatliffe v Scatliffe (British Virgin Islands) [2016] UKPC 36 (12 December 2016)
Appeal by husband against ancillary relief order. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
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, December 16, 2016

Coram International unveils new website showcasing its global work protecting and promoting children’s rights


Coram International, part of Coram Children’s Legal Centre, today launched a new dedicated website: coraminternational.org, to showcase its global work in protecting children’s rights.

Designed with a fresh new look and user-friendly navigation, the new website is updated with the latest information about Coram International’s research and consultancy work around the world with governments, UN bodies, intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations.

Coram International has over 18 years of experience working on international consultancies in the field of child rights, having completed projects in over 65 countries worldwide. Its lawyers and social and legal researchers specialise in the following areas: sexual and reproductive rights, armed conflict and counter-terrorism, violence against children, child protection systems, child rights governance, gender equality, justice for children, youth and adolescents, and harmful traditional practice.

The launch of the new website has also provided Coram International opportunity to promote its newest resource, a free training resource for professionals working with children in residential care, detention facilities or in justice settings (for example in court proceedings).

Called Unlocking Children’s Rights, the programme is co-funded by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union and involves partners from ten European countries.

As well as helping professionals and practitioners to strengthen their skills and knowledge of children’s rights and communicate effectively and sensitively with children and young people, the programme also enables children and young people to express their views and participate meaningfully in decisions affecting them.

Unlocking Children’s Rights has been successfully piloted across Europe. The resource comprises four modules: introduction to child rights, introduction to child development and communication, communication skills and the child-friendly justice guidelines.

For more information and to download the training resources, please visit coraminternational.org.

A failing system, a judge's plea and more...


The topics covered by my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog included a damning insight into the realities of our child support system, dealing with the curse of torrential emails from litigants in person, a Privy Council case and preventing a party from defeating a financial claim by disposing of assets:

The reality of our failing child maintenance system - Some home truths from an anonymous caseworker at the CMS.

Getting tough on torrential emails - Lady Justice King's plea in Agarwala v Agarwala.

Husband fails in financial appeal to Privy Council - The opinion of the Board in Scatliffe v Scatliffe.

How do I stop my ex from disposing of property to defeat my claim? - A look at s.37 MCA.

Have a good weekend.

Monday, December 12, 2016

News Essentials: 12th December 2016


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

NEWS
1.8 million adults said they were victims of domestic violence in last year
There were in England and Wales an estimated 1.8 million adults aged 16 to 59 who said they were a victim of domestic abuse in the year ending March 2016. Full story: Family Law Week.

Men killed 900 women in six years in England and Wales, figures show
Government urged to protect long-term funding for domestic abuse services as study reveals scale of deadly male violence. Full story: The Guardian.

Divorce rate continues to fall in latest ONS figures
The number of people divorcing in England and Wales decreased by 3.1 per cent in 2014, according to the latest statistical bulletin published today (5 December 2016) from Office for National Statistics (ONS). Full story: Family Law.

Claims for financial orders on divorce do not vest in trustee in bankruptcy
The judgment has been published in the dismissal of a claim by the trustee in bankruptcy under sections 23 and 24 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 where the bankrupt was deceased. Full story: Family Law Week. See Robert v Woodall.

CASES
A, B, C (Children), Re [2016] EWHC 2700 (Fam) (21 September 2016)
Judgment setting out agreement between parties in case concerning three children brought to this country from Belgium. Full report: Bailii.

T v E (Refusal to Order Return) [2016] EWHC 3148 (Fam) (05 December 2016)
Application by father for return of child to Turkey. Application refused, on basis of Art 13(b) defence. Full report: Bailii.

F (Children), Re [2016] EWCA Civ 1253 (07 December 2016)
Appeal against order setting aside orders for the return of three children to Hungary. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

T (A Child) [2016] EWCA Civ 1210 (06 December 2016)
Contact application by father. Appeal by mother against discharge of an order for a fact-finding hearing in relation to allegations of abuse against the father. Full report: Bailii.

W (Adoption: Contact), Re [2016] EWHC 3118 (Fam) (02 December 2016)
Cross-applications by adopters for an adoption order and by the paternal grandparents for a special guardianship order. Full report: Bailii.

AB (A Child), Re [2016] EWHC 3115 (Fam) (23 August 2016)
Hearing in on-going proceedings regarding father's application for contact, including consideration of whether the mother should be ordered to return the child from Poland and whether an order for a fact-finding hearing should be discharged. Full report: Bailii.

Devon County Council v Kirk [2016] EWCA Civ 1221 (05 December 2016)
Appeal against the imposition of a six month prison sentence for contempt of court imposed by the Court of Protection. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
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, December 09, 2016

The blame game...


My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog were dominated by the concept of blame, not just for marriage breakdown but also for courts not making the decisions you want them to make. They included:

Could blame in divorce actually reduce conflict? - As has been suggested recently.

A few thoughts on the election of judges - I chip in to the debate about accountability.

What are we to make of the falling divorce rate? - Looking at the latest ONS figures.

Chancery Division confirms what we already knew: financial claims end on death - The case Robert v Woodall.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Family Law Reduced Fees Scheme Launched To Help People In A “Jam”



A new scheme is being launched this month offering a more affordable legal advice service to people who are “just about managing” financially – or “Jams.”

The hourly rate under this scheme is set at around £125 per hour (plus VAT), and is available to people with income of less than £20,000 per annum and under £20,000 of accessible savings.

The scheme is accessible through the OnlyMums & OnlyDads’ Family Law Panel and operated and delivered by family solicitors who are members of Resolution, the national family law organisation.

OnlyMums & OnlyDads is a registered not-for-profit Community Interest Company and has been running their Family Law Panel for 3 years. The Panel consists entirely of members of Resolution, who sign up to a service level agreement. This offers individuals coming through OnlyMums & OnlyDads an initial free conversation, with the aim of outlining the options available to best overcome particular legal issues and problems.

Bob Greig, Co-Director of OnlyMums & OnlyDads said:

“The reduced fees scheme is timely; a number of people - the so-called “Jams” - often struggle to pay full commercial rates. We know that many parents are looking to perhaps use professional advisors to take on particular bits of work on their individual cases and a figure in the region of £125 an hour is clearly more manageable than £250 (or more) an hour. We will be encouraging organisations nationwide to signpost to this scheme.”

OnlyMums & OnlyDads CIC was founded nine years ago by Rebecca Giraud and Bob Greig. As the name suggests, it helps and supports both mothers and fathers through the divorce and separation. Rebecca said:

“Getting away from talk of rights and instead providing people with information that is both professional and objective is central to our work. Most people coming through our websites have legal concerns – both before and during court proceedings – and the Family Law Panel is doing a great job in listening and offering suggestions on the options available to people.

“Giving people options and choices to make is, above all, empowering.”

Solicitor Lucy Mead, Partner and Head of Family at David Gray and a member of the Family Law Panel said: “we have signed up to this scheme as we want to make it easier for everyone to be able to access expert advice when they need it. we are delighted to be working with Only Mums and Only Dads to deliver more affordable legal help.”

Nigel Shepherd, Chair of Resolution, said: “We fully support this important initiative and are delighted that the Family Law Panel has chosen to work exclusively with Resolution members, who are all signed up to our Code of Practice. This commits them to working with separating families in a constructive, non-confrontational way.

“In an environment where legal aid is very limited for independent legal advice and representation in family cases, Resolution members across the country have been looking for innovative solutions to help families with limited means. This new scheme is a great way to bring some of these members together and make them easier to find for separating couples.”

Monday, December 05, 2016

ONS divorce stats release: Resolution response

Nigel Shepherd
The Office of National Statistics’ latest figures on divorce in England and Wales show there were 111,169 divorces in England and Wales in 2014, a drop of 3.1% compared to 2013. The divorce rate has also fallen by 5.3% from 2013 to 2014, to 9.3 divorces per thousand men and women.
 
Analysis of the 2014 figures shows that roughly 60% of all divorces in England and Wales cite either adultery or unreasonable behaviour (66,588).
   
Responding to the data, Nigel Shepherd, National Chair of campaigning family law organisation Resolution, said:
 
"The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that both divorce numbers and the divorce rate have fallen. As the ONS highlight, this could be due to both the rise in the number of cohabiting couples, and the reduction in the number of weaker relationships progressing to marriage as a result.
 
"For those 111,169 of couples that did divorce however, we know that nearly two-thirds will have apportioned blame – whether they wanted to or not. At Resolution, we believe in a better way for separating couples that allows them to divorce without blame, conflict or argument. Over 90% of our members support a move to No Fault Divorce, and last week 150 family lawyers gathered in Parliament to meet with MPs and lobby for change.
 
“We are pleased with the positive reception our calls for no fault divorce received among MPs and we will continue our call for this much required, widely supported legislative change.
 
"Other statistics recently released shows that the number of cohabiting couples has also risen - this means it is even more important that they have some basic rights under the law should they separate."

News Essentials: 5th December 2016


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

NEWS
Lawyers overwhelmingly hostile to settlement conferences in care proceedings
Family lawyers have turned overwhelmingly hostile to settlement conferences in public law cases but are equally largely in favour of the process in private law children cases. Full story: Solicitors Journal.

Lord Chief Justice concerned by number of LiPs in the family courts
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, has expressed concern over the number of LiPs involved private family law disputes. Full story: Family Law Hub.

150 Resolution members gather in Parliament to call for No Fault Divorce
The Government will come under increasing pressure to introduce ‘No Fault Divorce’ today (Wednesday 30 November), as 150 family lawyers and other professionals come to Parliament to meet with MPs and Peers on the subject. Full story: Resolution.

Court hears rare treatment withdrawal application for minimally conscious patient
Mr Justice Charles criticises Legal Aid Agency for advancing any argument ‘to avoid paying legal aid’. Full story: Solicitors Journal.

Cobb J sets out core principles for conducting re-hearings
Court re-hears fact-finding into life-threatening injuries to child. Full story: Family Law Week. See Re AD and AM (Fact-finding: Rehearing).

Resolution introduces new Code
Resolution has launched a new Code of Practice for its members. Full story: Family Law.

CASES
A (A Child : permission to permanently relocate) [2016] EWHC 2691 (Fam) (23 September 2016)
Application by mother for permission to permanently relocate with child to USA. Application granted. Full report: Bailii.

V (A Child), Re [2016] EWFC 58 (01 December 2016)
Private law proceedings regarding arrangements for 7 year old child. Judgment concerning the role and practice of local authorities when involved in allegations of abuse by one parent against another. Full report: Bailii.

RD & Ors (Duties and Powers of Relevant Person's Representatives and Section 39D IMCAS) [2016] EWCOP 49 (04 August 2016)
Five joined cases considering how RPRs and s.39D IMCAs should decide whether to bring an application to the Court of Protection under s.21A of the MCA to challenge a standard authorisation under Schedule A1. Full report: Bailii.

Robert v Woodall [2016] EWHC 2987 (Ch) (25 November 2016)
Trustee in bankruptcy was seeking to renew his application for permission to appeal against an order striking out his claim for a lump sum or a property adjustment order under ss.23 & 24 MCA. Cross-appeal to set aside an order in so far as it gave the Trustee permission to appeal against the decision striking out his claim that the payments were transactions at an undervalue pursuant to s.339 of the Insolvency Act 1986. Full report: Bailii, via Family Law Hub.

*      *      *
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, December 02, 2016

Never mind the width, feel the quality...


Or something. Hopefully, you will find my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog were of a reasonable quality. They included:

Section 91(14) orders: restricting children applications - Barring orders, and the guidelines for making them,

It’s not the amount of contact it’s the quality - Are some non-custodial parents more concerned with achieving parity of time with their children, rather than the quality of the time they spend with them?

Has the Resolution Code of Practice passed its sell-by date? - A few thoughts...

What is a clean break, and why is it important? - I attempt to answer the questions.

Have a good weekend.