Friday, June 23, 2017

Government divorce policy failing: 6 out of 10 separating couples ignore law to go straight to court

Jane Robey
New headaches for justice Ministers follow flopped 2014 family legislation

Three years after it became compulsory for separating couples to consider mediating agreements before taking their cases to court, it has emerged that only four out of ten are complying with the landmark legislation.

Introduced in April 2014, the law made it compulsory for separating couples to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before they can apply for a court order to settle disputes over parenting, finance and property.

But figures obtained by National Family Mediation (NFM) show that in 2016 over 60 per cent of couples ignored the law. Of nearly 90,000 applications for private law proceedings to a family court, only 35,627 had followed the MIAM process.

NFM Chief Executive, Jane Robey, says: “By making the consideration of mediated settlements compulsory, the government’s aim was help tens of thousands of couples who separate each year save money, time and stress in making post-divorce arrangements.

“Only four out of ten couples are even attending the initial mediation awareness meeting, let alone following that route through to its conclusion.

“Ministers need to get to grips with what’s going on and explain these figures. Until they do so, the 2014 legislation, though well-intentioned, will be seen as a failure.

Box-ticking exercise

“Are solicitors finding their way around the law, encouraging their clients to exempt themselves from mediation, so that they can carry on with the case and carry on charging their clients? We are certainly seeing an increasing number of clients who have been told by their solicitor “go and see a mediator, get your form signed, and then we can go to court”. Those solicitors are treating the new law like a box-ticking exercise.

“The role of family courts is pivotal, and we need to know how rigorously they are monitoring applications and checking compliance. There is absolutely no evidence that courts are using their powers to direct people to attend a meeting with a mediator and instead the courts allow the system to remain clogged up when there are effective alternatives available.

“The government surely needs to be more instrumental in ensuring that the law is properly enforced so that much more mediation is delivered and many more families avoid high cost damaging litigation, achieving better outcomes for the whole family.

“At the very least Ministers need to provide more support to inform, educate and publicise the fact that MIAMs are compulsory so they ensure that the law is properly enforced and that much more mediation is delivered.”

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.

All about courts and finances


My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog were all about courts and finances:

A timely message from Lord Thomas - Like, I suspect, most lawyers, I was pleased to read what he had to say last week about the relationship between the courts and the State.

Is it time for the financial remedies rules to be simplified and clarified? - A thought that occurred to me after reading the judgment in Sharp v Sharp.

A quick look at the Judicial Office Business Plan - As the title says.

Unusual finding against husband of conduct affecting divorce settlement - In the case R v B & Ors.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Take action to avoid school summer holiday parenting nightmare, charity urges

If the May half term was a struggle as a separated parent, think what the summer holiday will bring

As children start to look forward to their long school holiday, staff at a national family charity are urging separated parents to head off summer nightmares by organising a Parenting Plan.

“The summer school holiday brings childcare headaches for separated couples, and for many those six weeks are a parenting nightmare,” says Jane Robey, Chief Executive of National Family Mediation.

She said that a number of factors force separated couples into crisis during the summer, including changes in established daily routines, and the expense of keeping family members entertained.

“Separated families often find the summer holiday is the time when parenting agreements imposed on them by courts prove to be unworkable.

“Arrangements that were imposed on them by divorce courts can be exposed as being in nobody’s interests. Pick-up, drop-offs and living arrangements that have been tolerable in term-time become inadequate when the long holiday comes.

“Resentments resurface, hostilities accelerate, and the child can be caught helplessly in the middle,” she adds.

She highlights lifeline help for parents facing a miserable summer: “A Parenting Plan is an agreement made by separated parents, covering how the children will be supported and cared for in the years after separation,” she says.

“Its value is that you both tailor it to suit your own circumstances. Over time, as the lives of separated families change, the Plan can be revisited. It’s not just the parents whose needs change; the children’s do too as they grow up."

To find out more, call NFM on 0300 4000 636 or visit www.nfm.org.uk.

Monday, June 19, 2017

News Essentials: 19th June 2017


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

NEWS
Court of Appeal determines that application of ‘sharing principle’ is unfair in short marriage
Julie Sharp has been successful in her appeal against the lower court's order which had awarded capital totalling £2.725 million to the husband, which represented exactly 50% of the total matrimonial assets of £5.45 million (after deductions and concessions). The award to the husband has been reduced to £2 million. Full story: Family Law Week. See Sharp v Sharp, below.

European court to decide whether to hear more evidence on ill baby
Charlie Gard, 10 months old, has been offered experimental therapy in US, but UK judges have ruled he must be allowed to die with dignity. Full story: The Guardian.

McKenzie Friends tread ‘fine line’ providing non-legal advice
What it means to conduct litigation is not clear, researchers find. Full story: Solicitors Journal.

Delinking of divorce & financial remedies to be rolled out nationally next week
Successful pilot sees national roll out from 19 June. Full story: Family Law Hub.

17% increase in private law cases received by Cafcass in May compared with 2016
3,707 new cases received. Full story: Family Law Week.

Care applications received by Cafcass in May rose 3% year-on-year
1,190 applications received. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
Quan v Bray & Ors [2017] EWCA Civ 405 (16 June 2017)
Appeal against an order declaring that assets held within a Mauritian trust were not, for the purposes of section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, a resource of either the husband or the wife. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Sharp v Sharp [2017] EWCA Civ 408 (13 June 2017)
Appeal by wife against award of half of the matrimonial assets to the husband, in short marriage/unequal contribution case. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

IH (Observance of Muslim Practice) [2017] EWCOP 9 (12 June 2017)
Applications relating to observance of religious custom and practice of 39 year old man lacking capacity, while in his supported care home. 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, June 16, 2017

Another mixed bag...


My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog once again covered a wide range of topics, including:

The sad end of a family - Not, perhaps, much to do with family law, but a tragic tale that I had to tell.

What will our new Lord Chancellor mean for family law? - A few thoughts on the question.

Sorting out the McKenzie friend problem isn’t rocket science - Thoughts following the Bar Council's research into fee-charging McKenzie friends.

Wife still married at husband’s death, despite short marriage - The unusual case HJB and MK (declaration as to marital status).

Have a good weekend.

Monday, June 12, 2017

News Essentials: 12th June 2017


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

NEWS
David Lidington appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
Fourth successive non-lawyer appointed to office. Full story: Family Law Week.

Supreme court rejects appeal in Charlie Gard case
Parents had hoped to persuade judges their baby should be kept alive to receive treatment in US for rare genetic condition. Full story: The Guardian.

CCLC publishes guide on legal routes to status and permanence for undocumented children
Coram Children's Legal Centre has today published an updated guide called Securing permanent status: existing legal routes for children and young people without leave to remain in the UK. Full story: Family Law Week.

Child Support Agency case closures: June 2014 to March 2017
Quarterly experimental statistics on the progress of the Child Support Agency case closure programme from June 2014 to March 2017. Full story: Department for Work and Pensions.

Judge agrees natural father should not be given notice of care proceedings
A natural father need not be given a copy of a notice of care proceedings where this would create a risk for the mother, HHJ Bellamy has ruled in the Family Court. Full story: Local Government Lawyer. See CD (Notice of care proceedings to father without parental responsibility).

Unreasonable behaviour petitions ‘far more acrimonious’ since Owens v Owens
Resolution will advise members to keep seeking constructive solution. Full story: Solicitors Journal.

CASES
F v L [2017] EWHC 1377 (Fam) (09 June 2017)
Appeal by mother against refusal of application to relocate to Italy with child. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

B (A 14 Year Old Boy), Re [2017] EWFC B28 (11 May 2017)
Application by father for direct contact with his 14 year old son, in case involving allegations of parental alienation. Application refused and s.91(14) order made. Full report: Bailii.

AH v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Child Support Agency) [2017] EWFC B27 (20 January 2017)
Appeal against a final Lump Sum Deduction order made in respect of arrears which had accrued under a child support assessment. Appeal dismissed for being 3 days out of time. Full report: Bailii.

U (Children : Residence order) [2016] EWCA Civ 1332 (20 October 2016)
Appeal by mother against residence order in favour of father. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Yates & Anor v Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children NHS Foundation Trust & Anor 2017] EWCA Civ 410 (23 May 2017)
Appeal by parents against decision allowing NHS Trust to withdraw artificial ventilation from brain damaged child. Appeal dismissed. 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, June 09, 2017

Money, poverty and acrimony


I suppose it would be a bit cynical to say, but those words sort of sum up family law work, as evidenced by my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, which included:

The tragic myth of the ‘gold digger’ - How a stereotype may have left many wives in poverty.

Should family firms refuse legal aid work if it is uneconomical? - Now that the Law Society have given the go ahead for criminal practitioners to do just that.

The return of acrimony to divorce proceedings - The inevitable consequence of Owens v Owens.

The perils of the litigious litigant - As demonstrated by the Irish High Court case R.K.A. -v- P.T.P..

Have a good weekend.

Monday, June 05, 2017

News Essentials: 5th June 2017


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

NEWS
International family law arbitration scheme announced
Scheme will avoid forum litigation. Full story: Family Law Week.

New guidance on changes in the use of Cafcass professional time
New guidance has been issued by the chief executives of Cafcass and Cafcass Cymru, dealing with changes in the use of Cafcass professional time to bring most benefit to children within the resources available. Full story: Family Law.

About 350,000 children benefiting from 2012 child maintenance scheme
Intake of cases increases by 15 per cent over the last year. Full story: Family Law Week.

Serious case review criticises ‘incident-focused’ social work response to domestic abuse
A review into the death of a four-week-old baby also criticised 'subtle hierarchies' between local agencies. Full story: Community Care.

Children accommodated in secure children's homes: 31 March 2017
Statistics on approved placements by type, gender, age and length of stay. Full story: Department for Education.

Great Ormond Street Hospital -v- Yates and Gard
UKSC to hear arguments on permission to appeal in Charlie Gard case on 8 June. Full story: Supreme Court.

CASES
CD (Notice of care proceedings to father without parental responsibility) [2017] EWFC 34 (24 May 2017)
Care proceedings in respect of 3 children. Application by local authority for an order that the father of one of the children, who does not have parental responsibility, should not be served with notice of the proceedings. 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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Is Your Partner Cheating?

Are you suspicious of your partner? Perhaps you’re in a long relationship that was once very happy, but something has changed. You’re nervous of approaching them in case you’re misreading the situation, but you’ve got a nagging doubt in the back of your mind. Are they? Aren’t they?

If you’re worried your partner has been unfaithful, here are a few indicators that your suspicions may be warranted.

Fried Brain
Your previously ‘oh so organised’ other half keeps going off on one, behaving unpredictably and clearly thinking too hard before every sentence they utter. This could indicate they’re trying to remember which lies they’ve told you and whether they’re about to contradict themselves. If they’re not trying to hide something there’s no risk in opening their mouth, but if they are, one false word could be devastating.

Grow Up
Most of us change and grow together when we’ve been in a relationship for a while. But this could means things start to become a little routine. Wild nights out become a distant memory, as you find your relationship becoming stagnant. There’s little that invigorates the soul like a new relationship. The spark of youth returns and suddenly, out of the blue, they want to go out and see the latest band. Who’s given them this new sense of excitement?

Since When Did You Listen to That Band?
Your partner has suddenly developed an enthusiasm for a band or style of music that’s completely out of character. You never expected them to like that! Sometimes, a change in taste could have an external factor behind it. Why is your dull, easy listening partner suddenly into death metal?

Mind Your Language
How about their language? New catchphrases and expressions can point to an affair. After all, we all get into a rut with our language. You can probably write down twenty of your partner’s favourite sayings, but all of a sudden they’re picking up new ones. Smell a rat?

A Break in the Routine
You’ve always wished your partner would be less predictable, but what on earth is happening? The lunchtime phone call that used to be at 12:13 is now all over the shop. ‘Oh, busy with work’, they say. Then they come home and take a shower, when they’d always picked up the newspaper and switched on the telly. You want to return to the time when this sort of behaviour would’ve had you checking your watch.

Guilt Overdrive
This is the clincher. Are they giving you surprise flowers for no good reason? Bringing home little gifts. Of course, this could be a romantic gesture, but equally it could be that they’re on a guilt trip and trying to make up to you for their little indiscretions elsewhere.

Do You Want Certainty about Your Partner’s Perceived Cheating?
There could be perfectly innocent explanations behind all of these situations, but it’s only natural you want certainty about your relationship. You have two options. Ask them outright, but accusations, if false, can be hugely destructive. Alternatively, hire a private investigator to check them out discreetly before confronting them. That’s where Insight Investigations can help you out. To find out more, contact us today.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

News Essentials: 30th May 2017


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

NEWS
Charlie Gard doctors can stop providing life support, court rules
Appeal court judges back earlier ruling in case of nine-month-old boy whose parents wanted to take him to US for treatment. Full story: The Guardian.

Teenager's parents made him think he was dying, says judge
In welfare case hearing at high court in London, sick boy’s parents are criticised for misreporting his medical symptoms. Full story: The Guardian. See Westminster City Council v H, below.

The impacts of abuse and neglect on children; and comparison of different placement options: Evidence review
The Department for Education has recently published an evidence review examining the effects of abuse and neglect on children, and whether different placement types affect their outcomes. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

Child Support Agency quarterly summary of statistics: March 2017
Statistics from the Child Support Agency on the 1993 and 2003 statutory child maintenance schemes. Full story: Department for Work and Pensions.

Canada signs up to child protection & child support conventions
Now signatories to 1996 Child Protection and 2007 Child Support Conventions. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Judge refuses to hear cases where alleged domestic abusers cross-examine complainants
Practice is ‘a stain on the reputation of our family justice system’, says Mr Justice Hayden. Full story: Solicitors Journal. See A (A Minor : Fact Finding; Unrepresented Party).

CASES
Marr v Collie [2017] UKPC 17 (25 May 2017)
Appeal concerning the beneficial ownership of certain property, following the breakdown of a personal relationship. Appeal allowed, in particular as no proper examination of the actual intentions of the parties had taken place. Full report: Bailii.

Westminster City Council v H [2017] EWHC 1221 (Fam) (19 May 2017)
Further hearing in care proceedings concerning 15 year old boy with a connective tissue disorder and orthostatic tachycardia, including consideration of behaviour of journalist who visited him in hospital. Full report: Bailii.

L v L (Child : Arrangements Following Treatment) [2017] EWHC 1212 (Fam) (19 May 2017)
Application by father for child arrangements order in respect of 14 year old child currently being held for treatment under s 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983. Full report: Bailii.

H v K (Return Order) [2017] EWHC 1141 (Fam) (11 May 2017)
Application by father for summary return of children to Hawaii. Return ordered. 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, May 26, 2017

Call to separate divorce processes from money disputes


A leading family charity has welcomed “refreshing” comments by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court, calling for divorce process to become completely separated from money disputes.

Sir James’ comments would mean a reduction in pressures on family courts by unlinking “administrative and bureaucratic” divorce work from the more complicated legal arguments about dividing assets following marriage breakdown.

Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, said: “It is refreshing and overdue to know that the judiciary is looking more closely at just how much ‘legal’ input is actually needed when a couple divorces.

“The court forms that separating couples are expected to use belong to a bygone age. The arcane language that talks about ‘plaintiffs’, ‘respondents’ and so on is hardly fit for the late 20th century, let alone the 21st.

“It’s true that, as Sir James says, divorce is largely “bureaucratic and administrative”, but this is often the starting point for sending divorcing couples down the legal route, which almost always comes at huge personal cost.

“Couples separate. It’s always been that way. But it’s high time to start demystifying the processes involved so we can help people help themselves through the divorce maze.

“That’s what family mediators have been doing for years. Mediation empowers people to take charge of their affairs and feel in control of the decisions that need to be made, whereas the legal route fosters the sense of helplessness that often accompanies the emotional turmoil of a divorce.”

Sir James Munby made his “unequivocal and emphatic” comments in his 17th View from the President’s Chambers.

The Biggest Little Blog Posts in the World


Well, maybe not, but I certainly got a large amount of enjoyment writing my posts for Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog this week, which included:

Going to Reno - Once the Divorce Capital of the World.

Mother ordered to return children to US after blatant abduction - The case H v K (Return Order).

Is it the duty of the family courts to support families? - As suggested by the Tory manifesto.

The broken record of commenting - An (almost certainly futile) attempt to raise the standard of commenting, aimed at those who abuse the privilege.

Have a good weekend, and Spring bank holiday.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Review: At A Glance 2017-2018


At A Glance

Essential Tables for Financial Remedies

FLBA

£65 - Published by Class Legal: May 2017

For the very few who do not already know, At A Glance is an annual publication, comprising a number of tables which contain, as the subtitle says, essential information for financial remedies practitioners, ranging from interest rates, to Duxbury calculations, to statutory materials, and much more. The book is A4 sized and of modest length, making it easy to slip into the briefcase on the way to court.

What is different from last year's edition? Well, obviously, all of the tables have been updated where necessary. Otherwise, I have found one omission and one addition. The omission is the table for new car prices (no great loss, I suspect) and the addition is a new section entitled Leading Citations, which Class Legal describes as "a nutshell accompaniment to Leading Cases, which succinctly sets out the basic principles which have emerged in the 16 years since White." A handy aide-memoire, I think.

I should also mention that this year's edition also contains a summary of the important but as yet unreported case T v T (A intervening) [2017] EWFC 0104. As I have already pointed out on Twitter, this alone is worth the price of admission.

What else is to be said that hasn't already been said about At A Glance? A search for synonyms of the word 'essential' comes up with 'crucial', 'indispensable' and 'necessary'. Yes, it is all of those, and if you don't yet have the latest edition in your library (or do we now call it 'Knowledge Services'?), then get a copy.

At A Glance can be purchased from Class Legal, here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

News Essentials: 22nd May 2017


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

NEWS
President calls for the de-linking of divorce and money claims
In his 17th View from the President's Chambers Sir James Munby has called for a "complete de?linking – separation – of divorce and 'money', so that they are started and pursued by completely separate processes, albeit, of course, that the timeline for ancillary relief is determined by the progress of the divorce". Full story: Family Law Week.

Countries with reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders
The Official Solicitor's office has published an updated list of countries where parents can apply to enforce or change a child maintenance decision made in UK courts. Full story: Family Law Week.

Judge blasts 'astonishing' £2.7m legal fees in millionaire's divorce battle
A multi-millionaire businessman and his wife have been criticised by the judge overseeing their divorce battle for paying an “astonishing” £2.7million to lawyers. Full story: Evening Standard. See Christoforou v Christoforou, below.

16,900 children are benefiting from effective family-based child maintenance arrangements
The Department for Work and Pensions has published its latest report on children benefiting from effective family-based child maintenance arrangements after contacting the Child Maintenance Options service. Full story: Family Law.

Afghan boy found at Heathrow Airport 'should go to council care'
An Afghan boy found alone at Heathrow Airport must go into council care in England, the High Court has ruled. Full story: BBC News. See Hillingdon Council v SM & Ors.

CASES
Assoun v Assoun [2017] EWCA Civ 370 (18 May 2017)
Application by wife for payment-out of £30,000 that was ordered to be paid into court by way of security for the wife's costs of husband's failed appeal against Hadkinson Order. Application allowed. Full report: Bailii.

A, Re [2017] EWHC 1178 (Fam) (02 May 2017)
Adoption application by aunt, in respect of her 18 year old niece, who is a citizen of Pakistan. Full report: Bailii.

Christoforou v Christoforou [2016] EWHC 2988 (Fam) (22 November 2016)
Judgment determining wife's financial remedy application, in long marriage case involving assets worth in the region of £50/55 million. 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.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers May/June 2017


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

In this issue

  • Legal services – Delia Venables reviews the 50 plus companies (as distinct from law firms) selling legal documents and services online
  • Tribunals – Jamie Anderson of Trinity Chambers reviews the Employment Tribunals Decisions now on GOV.UK
  • Websites – Sue Bramall of Berners Marketing looks at mistakes to avoid in commissioning a website
  • Intranets – Helen Dewar describes the process of commissioning a new intranet for Leigh Day
  • Technology – Alex Heshmaty of Legal Words explains what smart contracts are and the current and potential uses
  • Publications and events – Nick Holmes rounds up the latest lawtech publications, launches and events

Access the Newsletter online

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Coram Children’s Legal Centre has won an important case on legal costs in tribunal proceedings


MG v Cambridgeshire County Council (SEN) [2017] UKUT 0172 (AAC)

CCLC brought a successful appeal to Upper Tribunal* on costs incurred in First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability**) against a local authority.

The Upper Tribunal judge’s decision is important because the judge has carefully set out the law and procedure which should apply to these sorts of applications for costs in the First Tier Tribunal and also offered guidance on best practice.

The decision is also significant for legal aid lawyers who have cases before the First Tier Tribunal and will possibly have broader application in other areas of law which are dealt with by the First Tier Tribunal - such as immigration and asylum and welfare benefits. We hope it will deter local authorities from prolonging appeals which they have no prospects of defending, thereby avoiding further delay to the child or young person accessing necessary provision for their special educational needs.

The judge said: “it may be helpful if I were to give some guidance on the approach to be taken by the First-tier Tribunal in assessing the amount of costs under rule 10 of the 2008 Rules.”

The case involved CCLC’s Legal Practice Unit’s acting for a parent of a child with special educational needs. The case is important because having successfully appealed against various sections of the child’s education, health and care plan before the First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability), we made an application for costs against the respondent local authority for our costs. This is the issue that ultimately became before the Upper Tribunal for a decision.

We argued that the local authority’s conduct was such that it justified making an order for costs because their conduct led to us having to incur significant and unnecessary costs in continuing to deal with the First Tier Tribunal appeal case.

The main focus of our work was the child’s education, health and care plan and our work in supporting the parent to bring an appeal to the First Tier Tribunal in order to secure the right special educational provision for the child. However, costs in the First Tier Tribunal are rare and we believed that the local authority had acted unreasonably in defending the appeal, which is why we applied for costs.

Read more about the case here and read the full decision here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

News Essentials: 15th May 2017


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

NEWS
Woman married to millionaire for 23 months gets £4.25m payout after split
A woman who was married to a multi-millionaire more than 25 years her senior for 23 months has been given a £4.25 million payout by a family court judge. Full story: Aol.News. See FF v KF, below.

Estranged wife gets £453m in one of biggest UK divorce settlements
Judge awards almost half of £1bn marital assets to former wife of oil and gas trader non-resident in UK. Full story: The Guardian. See AAZ v BBZ, below.

7% decrease in new private law cases received by Cafcass in April compared with a year ago
3,219 cases received. Full story: Family Law Week.

Care applications to Cafcass in April fell by 16% compared with last year
Third fall in last six months. Full story: Family Law Week.

Judge criticises council for acting unfairly in offering child for adoption
Essex County Council acted unfairly in offering a child for adoption while acting in a way that prevented the mother from applying to revoke the placement order, a High Court judge has ruled. Full story: Local Government Lawyer. See EL, R (On the Application Of) v Essex County Council, below.

CASES
FF v KF [2017] EWHC 1093 (Fam) (12 May 2017)
Appeal by husband against lump sum award to wife, on the basis that the judge had gone beyond an assessment of the wife's needs. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

AAZ -v- BBZ and others [2016] EWHC 3234 (Fam) (15 December 2016)
Final hearing of wife's financial remedies application, in case involving total assets exceeding £1 billion. Full report: Bailii.

EL, R (On the Application Of) v Essex County Council [2017] EWHC 1041 (Admin) (08 May 2017)
Application by mother for judicial review of decision to place child for adoption, in such a way as to prevent the mother from applying to revoke the placement order. Full report: Bailii.

B v B (Maintenance Regulation -Stay) [2017] EWHC 1029 (Fam) (09 May 2017)
Final hearing of application by wife for enforcement of financial order, including dealing with issue of jurisdiction, the husband having issued an application in the Italian court to vary the maintenance provisions of the order. Full report: Bailii.

B (change of residence; parental alienation), Re [2017] EWFC B24 (22 March 2017)
Application by father for change of residence in respect of 9 year old child. 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.

Monday, May 08, 2017

News Essentials: 8th May 2017


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

NEWS
No 'judicial consent' needed for MI5 to quiz 'ward of court' teens, judge rules
MI5 agents and anti-terror police have been given the go-ahead to question teenagers placed under the control of family court judges as a result of radicalisation fears. Full story: The Telegraph. See Re A Ward of Court, below,

Resolution calls for pledges on family justice from party leaders ahead of General Election
Nigel Shepherd, National Chair of Resolution, has called on the major political parties to commit to modernising family justice in their manifesto. Full story: Family Law.

President’s guidance: Judicial Cooperation with Serious Case Reviews
Guidance issued by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division on 2 May 2017. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

Child Maintenance Service inquiry report published
The Work and Pensions Committee Child Maintenance Service (CMS) inquiry was published today, following its launch in July 2016. Full story: Family Law.

CASES
A Ward of Court, Re [2017] EWHC 1022 (Fam) (04 May 2017)
Judgment concerning issue of whether an officer of the Security Service should seek the prior authority of the court before approaching someone who is a ward of court. Full report: Bailii.

MS v MN [2017] EWHC 324 (Fam) (02 February 2017)
Appeal by mother against contact order. Appeal allowed, on grounds that judge had failed to consider PD 12J, or relevant cases where there had been domestic violence. Full report: Bailii.

Roxar v Jaledoust [2017] EWHC 977 (Fam) (28 April 2017)
Appeal by husband against order varying periodical payments order for wife, the husband seeking a clean break. Full report: Bailii.

Great Ormond Street Hospital -v- Yates and Gard [2017] EWHC 972 (Fam) (11 April 2017)
Application by NHS Trust for an order that it is lawful and in best interests of child with brain damage for artificial ventilation to be withdrawn, and for his treating clinicians to provide him with palliative care only. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
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Friday, May 05, 2017

Brexit is important but it’s time to focus on a different Divorce bill, charity urges

Jane Robey
£48 billion annual family breakdown costs must be tackled, party leaders told

With Brexit dominating the general election campaign, politicians of all colours are being urged by a leading charity to explain how they will tackle a divorce bill that’s much closer to home: the £48 billion annual cost to the UK economy of family breakdown.

Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, has written to the leaders of the main political parties asking them to set out their plans to address the nation’s family breakdown bill, which has gone up by nearly a third in the last eight years.

“Family breakdown costs the UK economy £48 billion per year,” she says. “That’s a cost to each and every taxpayer up and down the land of £1,820 a year.

“Attention during this general election campaign is understandably targeted on the negotiations and the cost of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

“But whilst estimates about the costs of Brexit range from £15 billion to £50 billion, politicians would be plain daft to overlook the escalating £48 billion annual family breakdown bill. They need to set out what plans they have to reduce it.

“Family mediators understand better than most people that the primary impact of divorce and separation is the stress and pain felt by those whose families are undergoing break-up – especially the children. But simply ignoring the bill the taxpayer is expected to foot cannot be an option.

“It would be folly to overlook the effect that badly managed family breakdown has on our UK economy, and taxpayers’ pockets.”

When The Relationships Foundation first researched the cost to the economy of family breakdown in 2009, it stood at £37 billion per year. The Foundation’s latest update in 2016 shows it has rocketed to £48 billion.

“Unless the government – whatever its political colour - takes control the bill will just rise and rise,” Jane Robey added. “And there will be still less in the public purse for the things we expect our tax to pay for, like health, education, defence and tackling crime.

“Politicians are continually quizzed about explaining how they’ll pay for the promises they unveil on those very issues at election time, so it’s only fair that the public should expect the parties to explain their strategy to reduce the family breakdown bill they are expected to meet from their hard-earned taxes."

She outlined the huge potential of alternative means of resolving family disputes.

“When a couple separates, there are huge issues to address surrounding things like parenting, property and money. It’s sadly become the norm for couples to go to a lawyer, and spend huge sums of a court battle that sees them and their children end up much poorer.

“Family mediation is a short, time-limited intervention that helps people resolve all the legal and emotional aspects of a divorce or separation. It helps couples sort their differences much more quickly, much more cheaply and much less stressfully. Effective government backing for the process is long overdue.

“It’s a proven no-brainer, but successive governments have failed to properly support the family mediation model. It’s time for that to change.”

Plenty to say...


Another short week, but no shortage of things to say on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, where my posts included the following:

A timely reminder: don’t open your spouse’s mail! - It just ain't worth it...

The family courts: looking after the best interests of the young and old - Examples of this from a couple of recent cases.

Extended duration children orders - When should orders be made to last beyond the child's 16th birthday? The Northern Ireland case Fergus v Marcail sheds some light on the question.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Resolution calls for pledges on family justice from party leaders ahead of General Election


Nigel Shepherd, National Chair of Resolution, has called on the major political parties to commit to modernising family justice in their manifesto.

Resolution, which represents around 6,500 family justice professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes and issues, makes four proposals, which it claims “will make a huge, positive difference to the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people that separate each year”.

In a letter to each of the major parties, Mr Shepherd calls on them to make a commitment in the next Parliament to:
  1. Allow couples to divorce without blame.
  2. Give cohabiting couples, who make up 10% of the population, some basic legal rights.
  3. Ensure there is fair access to the family justice system.
  4. Give people more financial clarity on divorce.
Resolution has been leading recent calls in Parliament and the media for no fault divorce, including a major Lobby Day in Westminster last November.

In his letter, Mr Shepherd states that “current divorce law does not encourage couples to divorce amicably” and that “people often have to cite unreasonable behaviour or adultery on the divorce petition”.

Resolution claim this situation leads to unnecessary conflict, makes an amicable separation less likely, and reduces the chances of reaching agreement on children and financial issues.

Mr Shepherd proposes that current legislation is changed to allow for a divorce to be “finalised where one or both of the parties to a marriage give notice that their marriage has broken down irretrievably and one or both of them are still of that view after six months.” He adds that “separating couples would be supported by information to help them explore whether the marriage can be saved and/or on the different process options available to them, as well as parenting information.”

In the letter, Resolution cite public support for a change in the law to allow for no fault divorce – a  recent YouGov poll that found 69% agreed that people should be allowed to divorce without blame.

Mr Shepherd said:

“It’s time to end the blame game. A new Parliament is a perfect opportunity for politicians to finally act on no fault divorce, regardless of the outcome on June 8th.

“This is why I have written to all major parties calling on them to make a clear commitment to modernise family law on this and other key issues for our members, such as rights for cohabiting couples, fair access to the justice system and financial clarity on divorce.

“For too long, the family justice system and family law has been out of step with modern society. These measures would not only bring make the law fit for purpose in the 21st Century, they would also make an immeasurable difference to hundreds of thousands of people who face divorce and separation each year – as well as any children they may have.

“As parliamentary candidates now head out to knock on doors, Resolution encourages anyone working in the family justice sector to ask them to support our call for change. Together we can send a clear message to the next Parliament that it’s time to modernise family law.”

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

News Essentials: 2nd May 2017


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

NEWS
Children and Social Work Act 2017
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 has received royal assent and introduces a number of significant changes. Full story: Family Law.

Administrative De-linking of Financial Remedy Applications from Divorce Proceedings
On 2 May 2017, a pilot will see the administrative de-linking of financial proceedings from divorce so that the main divorce proceedings can remain in the specialist centre and staff and judiciary at the local hearing centres can work independently on the contested financial proceedings. Full story: Family Law.

Munby lambasts council over "profoundly concerning" adoption case
The president of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has made scathing criticisms of Brighton & Hove City Council’s conduct in a complex adoption case. Full story: Local Government Lawyer. See Re W (A Child).

Baby removed from parents over 'abuse' is found to have rare bruising condition
A baby who was removed from her parents when they were accused of abusing her has a rare condition which causes "easy bruising". Full story: ITV News. See
Buckinghamshire County Council v Andrew & Ors, below.

Mrs Owens takes divorce refusal to Supreme Court
Petitioner’s silk hopes justices find workable solution that reflects modern thinking. Full story: Solicitors Journal.

CASES
W (A Child) (No 2), Re [2017] EWHC 917 (Fam) (17 April 2017)
Application by father for permission to appeal adoption order and for stay. Full report: Bailii.

An NHS Trust v SK (Best Interests Decision - Palliative Care) [2016] EWHC 2860 (Fam) (04 November 2016)
Judgment concerning the treatment of an 11-year-old boy suffering from end stage high grade recurrent osteosarcoma and metastatic lung disease. Full report: Bailii.

JZ v FZ [2017] EWHC 750 (Fam) (14 March 2017)
Application for permission to appeal by a father against a child arrangements order and a specific issue order relating to choice of schools, made in Children Act proceedings concerning his two children. Full report: Bailii.

Buckinghamshire County Council v Andrew & Ors [2017] EWFC B19 (26 April 2017)
Application by local authority for permission to withdraw application for a care order, following finding that child suffered from Ehlers Danloss Syndrome, which could have accounted for her injuries. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
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Friday, April 28, 2017

Inside and outside the system


My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog covered a spectrum from the depths of the system, through to those who think it best to be outside of it. There was also a bleak look into the future. The posts included:

Encouraging parties not to engage with the court is irresponsible - Sadly, there are many who think this is a good idea.

Wife not liable for husband’s loan - The case  Armstrong v Onyearu & Anor and (shudder) the equity of exoneration.

Court system faces bleak outlook - As outlined by a well-respected former District Judge.

The narrative of victimhood - ... and those who seek to use it to attract business.

Have a good weekend and Early May bank holiday.

Monday, April 24, 2017

News Essentials: 24th April 2017


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

NEWS
Prisons and Courts Bill dropped
The Prisons and Courts Bill was today dropped ahead of the dissolution of Parliament as MPs prepare for June’s general election. Full story: Legal Futures.

Paid McKenzie Friends “play on uncertainty and victimhood” of separating fathers
‘Professional’ paid McKenzie Friends associated with fathers’ rights groups play on their “uncertainty and sense of victimhood” to attract business, academic research has found, saying that there needed to be a code of conduct and a greater role for law school clinics in their place. Full story: Legal Futures.

Child abuse victims 'let down by system' children's commissioner claims
Children who are the victims of child abuse are being let down by the system, with professionals often failing to pick up signs of abuse, England's children's commissioner has said. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

High degree of variation in adoption decision-making across country
Number of approved adopters has almost halved in last three years. Full story: Family Law Week.

Care applications in March 2017
In March 2017, Cafcass received a total of 1288 care applications.  This figure represents a 4.3% increase compared with those received in March 2016. Full story: Cafcass.

Cafcass private law demand
In March 2017, Cafcass received a total of 3,907 new private law cases. This is a 16% increase on March 2016 levels. Full story: Cafcass.

Judges reject US banker's claim to be a genius in divorce case
Randy Work must pay ex-wife Mandy Gray half of their fortune after the appeal court backs initial ruling that his contribution to the marriage was not exceptional. Full story: The Guardian. See Work v Gray, below.

Charlie Gard case: Doctors can withdraw baby's life support
Doctors can withdraw life support from a sick baby with a rare genetic condition against his parents' wishes, a High Court judge has ruled. Full story: BBC News.

Samantha Baldwin 'gave children drugs'
A mother who fled with her two sons drugged them with sedatives and made allegations of abuse against their father, a judge has said. Full story: BBC News.

CASES
B (Child), Re [2017] EWCA Civ 264 (12 April 2017)
Appeal by mother against dismissal of application for leave to oppose adoption. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Work v Gray [2017] EWCA Civ 270 (11 April 2017)
Appeal by husband against decision that he and the wife were entitled to an equal share of the marital wealth, rejecting the husband's case that he had made a special financial contribution which justified an unequal division of that wealth in his favour. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Giggs v Giggs [2017] EWHC 822 (Fam) (17 February 2017)
Application within financial remedy proceedings for exclusion of media and reporting restriction order. Full report: Bailii.

Chai v Peng & Ors [2017] EWHC 792 (Fam) (06 April 2017)
Final hearing of wife's application for financial remedies, in case involving a 'kitty' of £205 million. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
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Friday, April 21, 2017

A short but enjoyable week


I have thoroughly enjoyed writing my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog. I hope that those who read the posts also enjoy the experience. The posts included:

The great pro bono debate: is it a good or a bad thing? - Should lawyers stop doing pro bono work, to allow the system to descend into chaos, thereby forcing the Government to reinstate legal aid?

You can’t circumvent the system - Just because you are aggrieved by a decision of the family justice system does not entitle you to circumvent it.

Family law can be better - The Sensible Party's manifesto for Election 2017.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Parliamentary child maintenance inquiry kicked into long grass

National Family Mediation made a submission to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee inquiry into Child Maintenance, that was scheduled to begin on 26 April 2017. Following the announcement there will be a general election on 8 June, the Committee cleared its programme on inquiries.

Jane Robey, CEO of NFM, said "On behalf of families up and down the country we are naturally disappointed that, following the decision to call a general election, a great deal of important government work in the field of family law is again being kicked into the long grass.

"It looks likely that, whatever the outcome of the election, there will be changes in Ministerial positions which tends to make it hard for new Ministers to speedily pick up the thread of work that’s been developed in the recent past, lengthening delays to change."


NFM's submission to the Committee's suspended inquiry is included below


National Family Mediation (NFM) is the largest provider of family mediation in England and Wales, with over 35 years’ experience helping separated families make settlements over parenting, finance and property issues.

Our work involves engaging with many of the same families profoundly and adversely affected by the years of central government mishandling of child maintenance issues.

NFM considers the scale of the proposed write-off of unpaid child maintenance payments, outlined in the National Audit Office report, to be alarming. Thousands of children up and down the country are deprived of a better quality of life as a result.

We are now in the third reinvention of child maintenance and all incarnations have involved writing off huge sums of money that should have been transferred to children, helping stave off poverty and taxpayer waste.

As family mediators we consider that family based arrangements are by far the best answer when a relationship ends. But government intervention, by the way of child maintenance arrangements, is far less necessary than many people including Ministers appear to believe.

Agreements can be made in family mediation, and we know they are much more likely to work for everyone involved, because parents themselves have had control of the vital finance decisions that shape so many aspects of their future lives. Parents who work together after separation focus their efforts on helping their children prosper despite their separation.

We have been talking with various incarnations of child maintenance service provision since 2005. All have agreed mediation would be a good thing but none have been able to do anything tangible about moving forward the agenda. We are of course hugely frustrated by the apparent lack of central understanding about how mediation can help families and taxpayers.

And are we really going to see another generation of children deprived of their entitlements because government departments can’t get it right?

Engaging better with the family mediation process could and should have an immediate impact on the numbers of children receiving child maintenance, resulting in better longer term prospects as a result. The benefits of this to government department finances and performance would be transformative.

We are aware that the Public Accounts Committee’s primary remit is to monitor the use of taxpayers’ money and in conclusion would add that we consider greater government engagement with and promotion of mediation processes would help save hundreds of thousands of pounds of precious taxpayers' as well as helping separated families up and down the land.

Jane Robey
CEO
National Family Mediation
April 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Outdated divorce laws create bidding war of couples’ anger: charity

Jane Robey
Outdated divorce laws which mean someone has to be proved ‘at fault’ - even when a couple agrees on the need to separate – creates a ‘bidding war’ of resentment and anger, says a leading family charity.

As new research indicates courts can actually create conflict and encourage litigation, National Family Mediation (NFM) is renewing calls on Ministers to reform family law by introducing ‘no fault’ divorce.

“The current legal need to prove a spouse’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’ itself fuels bad feeling between a couple,” says Jane Robey, NFM’s CEO.

Referring to the new research from The Nuffield Foundation, she says “For anyone who’s worked in family law, or has been through a divorce, it’s a case of ‘tell us something we didn’t already know.’

“We know from experience that very often a couple that has decided to separate just wants to get on with it, so they can make a fresh start. Yet outdated laws that mean someone has to be proved at fault creates a bidding war which then often escalates to a full-blown courtroom battle.

“This is a huge issue. Over 100,000 couples divorce each year. For each and every adult involved, let alone the children, the stress, time and expense involved is staggering.”

Noting the Queen’s Speech is likely to take place next month, she points out previous failed attempts to reform divorce law because legislation has been introduced privately, without the weight of government backing that would see it reach the Statute Book.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. If the government took the opportunity to bring forward its own legislation for no-fault divorce, time would be allocated and the Bill would be passed.

“For Ministers it’s not a question of the volume of people affected, or the impact of legislative change. That’s undeniable. It’s one of will. It’s high time for Ministers to take long-awaited steps to divorce reform,” she concludes in a new article for Huffington Post.

You can read the article in full here.

News Essentials: 10th April 2017


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

NEWS
Laura Ashley boss to pay ex-wife divorce settlement of £64m
Khoo Kay Peng and Pauline Chai were involved in long-running divorce row following split after 42 years of marriage. Full story: The Guardian.

Adoption order numbers drop for second successive year
Government figures show the number of final adoption orders made by judges has fallen by over 300 in the past year. Full story: Community Care.

Council wins Court of Appeal case on translation costs in public law proceedings
The cost of translating court documents served in family public law proceedings may fall on one or other party depending on the circumstances and cannot be decided in a blanket manner, the Court of Appeal has said. Full story: Local Government Lawyer.

New Family forms in use from 6 April 2017
New and amended forms include those covering declaration of parentage, enforcement and protective orders. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Court of Appeal endorses Mubarak test for Hadkinson applications
Husband’s appeal dismissed for ‘abject failure to abide by the principles’ of court’s procedural rules. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
Re M (Child) [2017] EWCA Civ 228 (06 April 2017)
Appeal against child arrangements order in respect of a child born as a result of a surrogacy arrangement. Full report: Bailii.

Mickovski v Liddell [2017] EWCA Civ 251 (05 April 2017)
Application by husband for permission to appeal against refusal of application to vary periodical payments order. Permission refused. Full report: Bailii.

AK (a child)(role of the IRO), Re [2017] EWFC B13 (14 January 2017)
Care proceedings concerning 5 year old girl of Lithuanian origin. LA sought approval of plan to leave her in the care of her foster carer under the auspices of a SGO. Plan not approved by IRO. Full report: Bailii.

N-A (Children), Re [2017] EWCA Civ 230 (05 April 2017)
Appeal by father against refusal of permission to take children to live permanently in Iran. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

T (A Child : Hague Convention proceedings) [2016] EWHC 3554 (Fam) (16 December 2016)
Application by father for summary return of child to El Salvador. Application refused, on the basis of settlement and harm/intolerability. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
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