Sunday, December 31, 2017

Old John's Almanac 2018


Without further ado, here are my predictions for 2018:

January - Family lawyers are at a loss as to how they should respond to a Court of Appeal judgment, after The Transparency Project fails to explain what the judgment really meant.

February - There is shock when a lawyer says that he actually learned something useful from a live-tweet from a family law conference.

March - Lawyers are splitting their sides at the antics of the new spoof Twitter legal personality "Ben Dover, the Court Security Officer'.

April - Ollie "Nosey" Nosworthy of fathers' rights group The Real Families Need Fathers 4 Justice begins a protest against the 'corrupt family courts', by chaining himself to the railings outside Watford Family Court. Unfortunately, he doesn't know the court closed last September.

May - As the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle takes place, law firm blogs across the country post about the benefits of pre-nuptial agreements.

June - In his last act as President of the Family Division Sir James Munby decrees that, to save money, all divorces will be outsourced to a call centre in Mumbai.

July
 - The new President of the Family Division Sir Cresswell Busybody tells reporters that changing everything every five minutes, like his predecessor, will not be good enough for him. He will be changing everything every two and a half minutes.

August - The Justice Secretary tells reporters that the result of the review into the legal aid cuts will be announced "Sometime in 2019, or possibly 2020. Definitely by 2021. Probably."

September - There is universal praise for Mr Justice Jacksie, when he writes a judgment in terms that the 2 year old child concerned could understand. It is just 9 words long: "Icol baby stay with mummy, see dada every Saturday."

October - Human Rights lawyers are concerned at new government proposals to recover unpaid child maintenance by bringing back debtors' prisons.

November - There is shock at the annual Family Law Awards when the Best Family Lawyer of the Year Award goes to someone who may not actually be better than every other family lawyer.

December - Lawyers are appalled at Curmudgeon & Co., the only law firm in the country not to tweet a picture of its office Xmas tree.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Getting personal


My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, comprised:

Lawyers are good for children - As confirmed by a recent survey of magistrates.

Blood from a stone: new initiatives to recover child maintenance - Well, anything must be worth a try...

A personal review of the year, part 1 - Part one of my review of the year.

A personal review of the year, part 2 - You guessed it, part two of my review of the year.

A personal review of the year, part 3 - Yes, it's the third part of my review of the year.

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

News Essentials: 18th December 2017


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

NEWS
Law Commission to consider the law of surrogacy
The UK law ‘is outdated and unclear and requires comprehensive reform’. Full story: Family Law Week.

MIAMs between July and September down 5% on a year ago
Mediation starts down 14%. Full story: Family Law Week.

Child maintenance consultation launched
Tough new powers to help tackle child maintenance arrears are being proposed in a consultation that launched today (14 December 2017). Full story: Department for Work and Pensions.

Care applications in November 2017
In November 2017, Cafcass received a total of 1,228 care applications. This figure represents a 5% decrease compared with those received in November 2016 but is the second-highest monthly total for a November on record. Full story: Cafcass.

Cafcass private law demand
In November 2017, Cafcass received a total of 3,811 new private law cases. This is a 9% increase compared with those received in November 2016 and is the highest demand for the month of November since 2012. Full story: Cafcass.

Family court statistics quarterly: July to September 2017
Statistics relating to family courts. Full story: Ministry of Justice.

CASES
B and C (Change of Names: Parental Responsibility: Evidence) [2017] EWHC 3250 (Fam) (12 December 2017)
Proceedings concerning 2 children, whose father is believed to be living in Iran.
Application by mother, who fears father may attempt to remove the children to Iran, for leave to change their names and restrict father's parental responsibility. Full report: Bailii.

HC v FW [2017] EWHC 3162 (Fam) (29 November 2017)
Financial remedies claim by wife, in which the issues included her capacity to litigate and the wealth of the couple was pre-acquired and/or inherited by the husband. Full report: Bailii.

W - C (Children) [2017] EWCA Civ 250 (28 February 2017)
Appeal by guardian against order authorising local authority to place child for adoption, as against long-term fostering. 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 15, 2017

Covering the bases


My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog covered many of the bases of family law, including finances, children, domestic abuse and legal aid:

Just within bounds: global maintenance orders and child support - The High Court case AB v CD (Jurisdiction Global Maintenance Orders).

The reality of domestic abuse - A picture of life on the ‘front line’.

Inequality of arms in a post-legal aid world - Welcome to family law in the 21st century.

Is equal parenting time the next big thing from America? - Possibly...

Have a good weekend.

Monday, December 11, 2017

News Essentials: 11th December 2017


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

NEWS
Law Soc publishes behavioural research of consumers choosing divorce services
Price comparison particularly difficult in respect of family law disputes. Full story: Family Law Week.

Select Committee examines proposed HFEA order to remedy discrimination against single parents
Call for submissions on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (Remedial Order) 2018. Full story: Family Law Week.

Concern over adopter numbers as figures show ‘no continued decline’ in adoptions
Adoption decisions and placement orders have stabilised since landmark court judgements caused a slump, the Adoption Leadership Board has said. Full story: Community Care.

Financial Remedies Courts should lead to ‘greater predictability’
Legal experts believe new Financial Remedies Courts should provide claimants and respondents with greater predictability, when resolving financial claims on relationship breakdown. Full story: Family Law.

Justice minister pours cold water on growing calls to fund early legal advice
The government yesterday damped down hopes that it would consider funding greater access to early legal advice. Full story: Legal Futures.

MoJ scraps legal aid restrictions for victims of domestic violence
New rules removing time limit and allowing admission of fresh categories of evidence will come into force in January. Full story: The Guardian.

CASES
S v S [2017] EWHC 3184 (Fam) (12 July 2017)
Judgment in proceedings arising from the mother's removal of the child from Iran. Full report: Bailii.

AB v CD (Jurisdiction Global Maintenance Orders) [2017] EWHC 3164 (Fam) (06 December 2017)
Appeal by husband against financial remedies order considering, inter alia, whether the court had jurisdiction to make a global maintenance order for the benefit of the wife and the children. Full report: Bailii.

HRS Louis Xavier Marie Guillaume Prince of Luxembourg, Prince of Nassau and Prince of Bourbon-Parma v HRH Tessy Princess of Luxembourg, Princess of Nassau and Princess of Bourbon-Parma & Anor [2017] EWHC 3095 (Fam) (05 December 2017)
Application to vary reporting restriction order in ongoing financial remedy 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.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Past and future


My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog touched upon both the past and the future of family law. They included:

Attorney fails to have gift to wife ratified - The Court of Protection case Re PP.

Is divorce a sign of failure? - Short answer: no.

On the road again: divorce in the 21st century - With particular reference to the new Financial Remedy Courts.

Memories of family cases at Somerset House - A post with a (very slight) seasonal touch.

Have a good weekend.

Monday, December 04, 2017

News Essentials: 4th December 2017


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

NEWS
President's circular: Financial Remedies Courts
Circular released by the President on 1 December 2017 in which he proposes to pilot the FRC in three places starting in February 2018. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Children removed from family home over parents’ 'open' relationship
West Midlands social workers told court the parents each saw other people and found it hard to supervise their children. Full story: The Guardian. See Re PQR, below.

Practice Guidance: Standard Financial and Enforcement Orders
President ‘strongly encourages’ use of standard forms. Full story: Family Law Week.

30% of private law cases have been to court before: Cafcass research
Research investigates reasons for cases returning. Full story: Family Law Week.

Age limit of children attending FHDRAs at CFC
HHJ Tolson QC has agreed for this Note to be shared with practitioners. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Judge highlights 'wholly inadequate' care provision for troubled teen
Another High Court judge has used a ruling to highlight inadequacies in state provision for a troubled and dangerous teenager. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

CASES
D (A Child), Re [2017] EWHC 3075 (Fam) (29 November 2017)
Re-hearing of fact-finding in relation to the cause of injuries to a child then aged four months. Held that the injuries were non-accidental in origin and are likely to have been inflicted by the father in a momentary loss of self-control. Full report: Bailii.

PQR (Children), Re [2017] EWFC B86 (13 October 2017)
Care and placement proceedings in respect of three children. Full report: Bailii.

PW & Ors v Luton Borough Council [2017] EWHC 3028 (Fam) (06 September 2017)
Judgment concerning issue of whether costs were increased by the Legal Aid Agency failing to state whether the statutory charge relating to the costs of care proceedings will apply to the recovery of damages in claim arising from those proceedings. Full report: Bailii.

M (A Child : secure accommodation order) [2017] EWHC 3021 (Fam) (23 November 2017)
Application by local authority for a secure accommodation order in respect of a 15 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, November 27, 2017

Millions of couples at severe financial risk due to ‘common-law marriage’ myth


Millions of unmarried couples living together are unaware that they are at severe financial risk as a result of the current legal system, national family justice organisation Resolution has warned.

As the fastest growing family type in the UK, the number of unmarried couples living together – or cohabiting – has more than doubled from 1.5m in 1996 to 3.3m in 2017.

However, a new ComRes poll reveals a significant lack of understanding about the rights available to these couples should their relationship end.

The poll of over 2,000 British adults was commissioned by Resolution, which represents 6,500 family practitioners and campaigns for a fairer family justice system.

The ComRes poll found that:

  • Two-thirds of people in cohabiting relationships are unaware that there is no such as thing as ‘common-law marriage’ in this country;
  • Four in five cohabitants agree that the legal rights of cohabiting couples who separate are unclear;
  • Seventy-nine per cent of the public agree that there is a need for greater legal protection for unmarried couples upon separation;
  • Eighty-four per cent of the public agree that the Government should take steps to ensure unmarried cohabiting couples are aware that they don’t have the same legal protection as married couples.

Resolution chair Nigel Shepherd says the law needs to change, as these result show it “is falling desperately behind the times”.

“Today’s poll shows that many still believe in the myth that they will get financial rights through ‘common-law marriage’. This means millions of cohabiting couples are unaware that they don’t have automatic claims, for example on the property they live in, if they split up. This makes it less likely they’ll take steps to protect themselves.

“In many cases, this lack of protection affects women more than men, as they are still more likely to have taken time off work to raise children.

“The Government must listen to the public, legal professionals and a growing number of politicians who all agree that we need reform to provide basic rights to cohabiting couples should they separate.

“Society has changed – it’s time for our laws to catch up.”

Under current law it’s possible to live with someone for decades and even have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner if the relationship breaks down.

This call for reform to extend rights to cohabiting couples is backed by a number of influential individuals and organisations, including Lord Hope of Craighead (former Deputy President of the Supreme Court), Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, the Law Society, Relate, OnePlusOne and the Family Law Bar Association.

Nigel Shepherd added:

“Family lawyers across the country are witnessing an increase in the number of cases involving cohabiting couples, and 98% of Resolution members report having worked with a couple who they have been unable to help due to the lack of legal protection.

“This is frustrating for us as professionals, but that frustration is nothing compared to the potential pain and heartache experienced by someone who thought they were protected by the mythical common-law marriage.”

Yvonne had five children with her partner of 17 years. She said:

“I was shocked to find out, that after five kids together and being with my partner for more than a decade that I was entitled to nothing when the relationship broke down. I was no longer just dealing with a break up – but with the fallout of not being legally entitled to share in any of what I thought were our joint assets.

“I had given up work to raise our children and fill the “traditional” role of mother and wife, as many do, but didn’t know that without being married or having a cohabitation agreement I was completely unprotected. Now, when my youngest finishes university I will have to move out of the family home, but I have no independent funds and no pension.

“I’m devastated to have been left in this situation, and think it’s wrong that the law is unable to provide people like me with any support whatsoever.

“I know lots of other women are in similar situations, but for some reason no one is talking about this. Yet tragically, so many people who may one day be affected are completely unaware.”
Nigel Shepherd said:

“Unfortunately, Yvonne’s story is just one of thousands that family lawyers see every year. The sad truth is that, unless they’re prepared to go through a lengthy and potentially expensive court process, many people are simply unable to access a fair settlement. Even if they’re emotionally or financially strong enough to do this, they may still be entitled to nothing.”

Until the law is updated, Resolution is urging anyone in a cohabiting relationship to take steps to protect themselves. These steps could include drawing up a cohabitation agreement which sets out intentions for finances, property and care of any children if the relationship breaks down. They also advise couples to consider taking out life insurance, and drawing up a will.

“The most important thing is to be aware that you might not have the automatic rights you think you have,” added Mr Shepherd. “Look at the information out there, know your rights, and get yourself protected.”

News Essentials: 27th November 2017


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

NEWS
Millions of couples at severe financial risk due to ‘common-law marriage' myth
Millions of unmarried couples living together are unaware that they are at severe financial risk as a result of the current legal system, national family justice organisation Resolution has warned. Full story: Resolution.

Ten years since the 2007 Child Support Convention
There are now 38 Contracting Parties. Full story: Family Law Week.

Domestic abuse: 10% of young women affected - ONS
More than 10% of women aged between 16 and 19 in England and Wales say they have experienced domestic abuse in the past year, research suggests. Full story: BBC News.

Budget gives divorced couples exemption on stamp duty surcharge
Divorcing couples who faced paying higher stamp duty rates will be given reprieve in a moved which reversed one of the unintended consequences of previous legislation. Full story: The Telegraph.

MoJ warns on reliability of old forensic tests in family cases and issues guidance for concerned clients
Warning concerns cases carried out by Trimega between 2010 and 2014. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Man who murdered adopted daughter was 'Jekyll and Hyde' character
Family court judge raises concerns about how injuries sustained by Elsie Scully-Hicks were dealt with. Full story: The Guardian. See report, below.

CASES
T (A Child) [2017] EWCA Civ 1889 (23 November 2017)
Appeal concerning the extent to which a family court may exercise its jurisdiction to grant a non-molestation injunction under FLA 1996 to protect a child who is the subject of a care order. Full report: Bailii.

NA (A Child), Re [2017] EWHC 2902 (Fam) (03 October 2017)
Application by mother for permission to appeal against an order that child should continue to live with her father. Permission refused. Full report: Bailii.

DO & BO (Temprorary Relocation to China), Re [2017] EWHC 858 (Fam) (12 April 2017)
Application by mother for permission to take children to China for a holiday. Permission refused. Full report: Bailii.

B (Children) [2017] EWCA Civ 1635 (23 August 2017)
Care proceedings. Appeal by local authority against the making of an interim child arrangement order for one child, placing her in the care of her paternal grandmother, under an interim supervision order. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

The County Council of the City and County of Cardiff -v- Scully-Hicks & Ors [2016] EWFC B (16 December 2016)
Fact-finding hearing in care proceedings, relating to the death of the child's sibling. Full report: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

*      *      *
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, November 20, 2017

News Essentials: 20th November 2017


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

NEWS
Potential client met with top family law solicitor “to conflict him out” of acting for other side
A leading family law solicitor’s meeting with a potential client was for the purpose of conflicting him out of acting for the other side, the High Court has said as it rejected an application to stop him from doing just that. Full story: Legal Futures. See S v S, below.

Surrogate mother who changed her mind must hand baby to gay couple, court rules
A surrogate mother has lost custody of her child after a court ruled he would be better placed with the gay couple who arranged for her to have the baby. Full story: The Telegraph. See H (A Child : Surrogacy Breakdown), below.

Divorcing parents could lose children if they try to turn them against partner
Measures being trialled to prevent ‘parental alienation’ feature penalties including permanent loss of contact with child. Full story: The Guardian.

Court hears transgender woman's appeal over access to her Jewish children
Lower court previously ruled the children risked greater psychological harm by being ostracised than if direct contact ceased. Full story: The Guardian.

Review to examine rise in care order applications and number of children in care
A sector-led review of the rise in applications for care orders and the number of children in care has been announced. Full story: Local Government Lawyer.

Don't abandon separating families in Brexit, say legal groups
Three influential family law bodies have today warned that a lack of progress on Brexit negotiations could leave tens of thousands of families and children in limbo. Full story: Resolution.

Domestic violence 'masks' other threats to children, Cafcass finds
Domestic abuse can 'mask' other risk factors faced by children, an analysis of serious case reviews by Cafcass has found. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

Judges reject challenge over adoption and special guardianship for half-brothers
The Court of Appeal has dismissed a case brought against Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council over whether a child should be adopted when his older half-brothers, who lived with the same couple, were to be the subject of a special guardianship order. Full story: Local Government Lawyer. See Re T (A Child: Adoption or Special Guardianship).

CASES
S -v- S (Application to Prevent Solicitor Acting) [2017] EWHC 2660 (Fam) (24 October 2017)
Application by husband for an order that the wife's solicitor be debarred from acting for her in divorce proceedings, on the basis of a conflict of interest. Full report: Bailii.

Radseresht v Radseresht-Spain [2017] EWHC 2932 (Fam) (13 October 2017)
Application by husband for, inter alia, declaration recognising divorce granted in Dubai. Full report: Bailii.

H (A Child : Surrogacy Breakdown) [2017] EWCA Civ 1798 (17 November 2017)
Appeal by surrogate mother and her husband against orders made following the breakdown of an intended surrogacy arrangement. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

R (A Child : whether to revoke Placement Order) [2017] EWHC 2924 (Fam) (09 November 2017)
Application by mother for permission to revoke placement order. Full report: Bailii.

Re X (A Child) (Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order) (Restrictions on Travel) [2017] EWHC 2898 (Fam) (15 November 2017)
Case involving concerns over about the possibility of a 14 month old child suffering female genital mutilation should she be taken to Egypt. Full report: Family Law Week.

A Local Authority v M & Ors [2017] EWHC 2851 (Fam) (13 November 2017)
Final welfare decision concerning four children, three of whom are, or have been, severely radicalised. 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, November 17, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Don’t abandon separating families in Brexit, say legal groups


Three influential family law bodies have today warned that a lack of progress on Brexit negotiations could leave tens of thousands of families and children in limbo.

Resolution, the Family Law Bar Association and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, have published a paper, “Brexit and Family Law,” which sets out the options for family law following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The warning comes as Parliament continues to consider the EU Withdrawal Bill in committee stage today (Wednesday).

The paper states that current reciprocal agreements between the UK and other EU members states, which have evolved over decades, bring vital assurances to families across the EU. It ensures orders made in one country can be enforced in another, for example, as well as harmonising the rules for where a case can be heard.

The three organisations say this reciprocity must be maintained after Brexit, in order to provide safeguards and reassurance to those families and their children affected by divorce or separation, and involved in cross-border EU-UK family or child protection cases.

There are approximately 140,000 international divorces and 1,800 cases of child abduction within the EU each year. If family law remains unaddressed, the bodies warn, it would leave British citizens facing these issues in a position of significant vulnerability and confusion, and would lead to unfair outcomes.

Daniel Eames, who chairs Resolution’s International Committee, said:

“Families needing to go to court must know that whatever court they end up in, in whatever country, that decision will be respected by other courts.

“EU instruments which affect UK family law deal primarily with procedural rather than substantive family law - sovereignty is not the issue here - but they require full reciprocity to work.

“Without reciprocity there is a risk of a ‘one way street’ – the UK would continue to apply EU family law and be obliged unilaterally to recognise and enforce decisions of other EU member states – whereas EU member states would not be obliged to recognise and enforce our decisions.

“This is a crucial issue for tens thousands of families in the UK, and the rest of the EU. If unresolved, these families could be left in limbo.

“Our concern is that family law will go unnoticed among all the talk of trade deals, immigration and internal party politics. It may not top the government’s priorities for Brexit, but the impact of inaction would be felt by families and their children for many years to come.

Monday, November 13, 2017

News Essentials: 13th November 2017


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

NEWS
Cafcass private law demand
In October 2017, Cafcass received a total of 3,916 new private law cases. This is a 16% increase compared with those received in October 2016 an is the highest monthly demand since October 2013. Full story: Cafcass.

Care applications in October 2017
In October 2017, Cafcass received a total of 1,198 care applications. This figure represents a 4% increase compared with those received in October 2016 and is the highest monthly total for an October on record. Full story: Cafcass.

ONS statistics show cohabiting couple families are on the rise
The Office of National Statistics has released its Families and Households in the UK 2017 report. Full story: Family Law.

Parents’ alcohol abuse damaging the lives of 700,000 teenagers
The Children’s Society calls on government to address the £2bn funding gap for local children’s services. Full story: Family Law Week.

Grandmother Had To Fight Without A Lawyer To Stop Her Grandchild Being Put Up For Adoption
Gloucestershire County Council attempted to stop journalists naming the authority, but this was successfully challenged in court by BuzzFeed News and two other news outlets. Full story: Buzzfeed News. See Re ABC, below.

Munby sets aside divorce petitions because of fraud by disbarred barrister
The president of the Family Division has set aside 21 fraudulent divorce petitions produced by a disbarred barrister. Full story: Legal Futures. See Grasso v Naik, below.

Increase in number of children on protection plans
The number of children placed on protection plans is continuing to rise, government figures show. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

CASES
Shand, (A Child), Re London Borough of Barking & Dagenham v Richards [2017] EWHC 2863 (Fam) (08 November 2017)
Application by local authority for committal of child's grandmother for alleged breach of collection order. Application dismissed for procedural irregularities. Full report: Bailii.

T (A Child: Adoption or Special Guardianship), Re [2017] EWCA Civ 1797 (10 November 2017)
Appeal by guardian against making of placement order rather than special guardianship order. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Richardson-Ruhan v Ruhan [2017] EWHC 2739 (Fam) (09 November 2017)
Judgment in complex financial remedy proceedings, dealing with findings of fact, i.e. computation, rather than distribution. Full report: Bailii.

Hayes v Hayes [2017] EWHC 2806 (Ch) (18 October 2017)
Appeal by ex-wife against dismissal of application to set aside statutory demand in respect of various debts pursuant to a number of court orders in proceedings between her and her former husband. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Grasso v Naik (twenty-one irregular divorces) [2017] EWHC 2789 (Fam) (08 November 2017)
Applications by the Queen's Proctor to dismiss 21 divorce and also, in several of the cases, to set aside decrees obtained, in consequence of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Full report: Bailii.

ABC (A child), Re [2017] EWFC B75 (30 October 2017)
Special guardianship order made in favour of grandmother, who was dissatisfied with the way she had been treated by LA, and wished to make her story known. Judgment dealing with issue of whether LA should be named. 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, November 06, 2017

News Essentials: 6th November 2017


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

NEWS
Report published on progress towards ratifying Istanbul Convention
Government to introduce Domestic Abuse Bill. Full story: Family Law Week.

Court of Protection Rules 2017 set out consolidated practice and procedure of CoP
2007 Rules revoked and replaced from 1 December 2017. Full story: Family Law Week.

Divorced women are missing out on £5bn in pension payments every year, says Scottish Widows
Nearly three-quarters of divorced people did not discuss pensions during divorce proceedings. Full story: Family Law Week.

Civil news: funding in international child rights of access cases
Clarification of funding arrangements in Article 21 of 1980 Hague Convention for cross-border disputes about rights of access to a child. Full story: Legal Aid Agency.

New FPR Part 3A - Vulnerable Persons: Participation in Proceedings and Giving Evidence
A new Part 3A to the Family Procedure Rules 2010 has been published, which comes into force on 27 November 2017. It makes provision in relation to vulnerable persons (parties and witnesses), including protected parties, in family proceedings. Full story: Family Law.

Daughters of brain-damaged woman win case for removal of feeding tube
Children of Mrs P have been embroiled in legal battle with patient’s sisters over the ongoing care of 72-year-old following a fall in February. Full story: The Guardian. See Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust v Mrs P & Anor, below.

Divorce law in England and Wales increases conflict and suffering for separating couples and their children, encourages dishonesty, and undermines the aims of the family justice system
New research published today by the Nuffield Foundation shows that divorce law in England and Wales is incentivising people to exaggerate claims of ‘behaviour’ or adultery to get a quicker divorce. Full story: Nuffield Foundation.

CASES
MA v RA [2017] EWHC 2744 (Fam) (27 October 2017)
Application by father for return of child to America, where mother may have defence, but second child resides with father and mother will have to return to America to resolve position. Full report: Bailii.

N v J (Power to Set Aside Return Order) [2017] EWHC 2752 (Fam) (03 November 2017)
Application by mother to set aside order requiring her to return children from the USA. Full report: Bailii.

ES v OS [2017] EWHC 2735 (Fam) (31 October 2017)
Application by father for return of children to Lithuania. Application adjourned for father to attend, he having on a previous occasion failed to keep a promise not to take the children from the mother upon her return. Full report: Bailii.

S (Child As Parent: Adoption : Consent) [2017] EWHC 2729 (Fam) (02 November 2017)
Adoption of child of 14 year old mother, raising issue of whether the mother was competent to consent to the adoption. Full report: Bailii

Akyuz v Akyuz & Anor [2017] EWHC 2726 (Fam) (25 October 2017)
Application by woman of Turkish heritage for a declaration of parentage, essentially to establish whether a man who died in Turkey in 2016 was her genetic or biological father. Full report: Bailii.

D (A Child) [2017] EWCA Civ 1695 (31 October 2017)
Appeal in proceedings concerning issue of deprivation of liberty of 16 year old placed in a residential unit. Full report: Bailii.

J (A Minor : Revocation of Adoption Order) [2017] EWHC 2704 (Fam) (30 October 2017)
Judgment revoking adoption order, in case in which there was "a complete absence of due process and a wholesale abandonment of correct procedure and guidance". Full report: Bailii.

LG (Re-opening of Fact-finding), Re [2017] EWHC 2626 (Fam) (03 October 2017)
Appeal by mother in private law proceedings against refusal of application for the reopening of findings made by magistrates earlier in the proceedings. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust v Mrs P & Anor [2017] EWCOP 23 (30 October 2017)
Application to declare the best interests of a 72 year old woman who, following a fall in December 2016, now lacks the mental capacity to communicate her own wishes and feelings in respect of life sustaining medical treatment. Full report: Bailii.

GP (A Child) [2017] EWCA Civ 1677 (30 October 2017)
Appeal by mother against order that child should be returned to Italy, following her wrongful abduction. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Charity: Who will consider Brexit’s impact on separating families & children?

The impact of Britain’s exit from the EU on divorced and separating families and children has ‘barely registered at government level’, says a national family charity.

Jane Robey
Whilst lawyers have already had an opportunity to share concerns with the government about the legislative fall out of Brexit, National Family Mediation says no consideration has been given to the perspective of the ‘ordinary citizen’.

Jane Robey, the charity’s CEO, says: “UK residents have come to view the free access to the whole of the EU as simple and straightforward. They can choose to go and live in Europe for work, or for a different lifestyle. Most don’t consider themselves to be emigrating, or being very far from their extended families. Cheap and easy access to flights makes staying in contact easy. But Brexit is set to change all that. 
 
“The Justice Select Committee’s inquiry ‘Implications of Brexit for the justice system’ was right to invite comment from legal professionals. But moving forward it will be crucial to consider the perspective of ‘ordinary’ citizens too. 
 
“Who will get into the minds of the average separating couple to see the impact of Brexit from their perspective? Their first thought when their family disintegrates won’t be “Would I get a better settlement if I were to file for divorce in the UK or Belgium?” They are more concerned with the issues immediately at hand:

“Shall I stay here or return to my country of origin?”
“Can I work where I am to support myself and the children?”
“Will we be able to share our finances until we get this sorted out?”
“Will the rent or mortgage be paid?”
“How will I still be able to see the children when I am in a different country in a disjointed Europe?”
 
“Whilst we’re in the EU, when a relationship breaks down they may make decisions for one person to return home to the UK with the children, viewing the maintenance of good post-separation parental relationships as fairly straightforward.
 
“But what happens after Brexit? Changing boundaries and jurisdictions will create unforeseen obstacles. Will those families still enjoy the simplicity of maintaining their separated relationships and, more importantly, their relationships with their children?

“It’s possible that children living in countries that remain in the EU will face significantly more challenges and barriers to maintaining contact with their UK-based parents as we disentangle from the EU.
 
Setting us back to pre-Children Act days

“Advances in the way British family courts manage applications for contact and residence for children mean there is now more emphasis on the children’s rights to see both parents. But Brexit could set family life back to pre-Children Act days. 

“Will we see 21st century living taking place elsewhere, with UK families plunged back to a 1950s-type insular existence, regretting the loss of our colonial loss of power? 

“Will it narrow and limit the next generation’s opportunities to travel relatively freely to access different cultures and work opportunities?
 
“There’s a genuine danger we could see children thrown back to a time where access to one of their parents is much reduced, with immigration red tape a prohibiting factor to helping those children keep in touch. It could mirror the situation families currently face where the children have been removed to non-EU and non-Hague Convention countries. Absence of legal reciprocity means that too often children effectively lose one of their parents.
 
“Law makers have myriad issues to contend with as the Brexit minefield is negotiated. But on the face of it the impact on separating families, particularly children, seems to have barely registered at government level. It’s time for the government to start considering the impact of Brexit on divorcing and separated families.”

Monday, October 30, 2017

News Essentials: 30th October 2017


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

NEWS
Clampdown on child maintenance cheats
New powers to stop parents avoiding paying child maintenance that they owe have been announced. Full story: Department for Work and Pensions.

President invites FJC to consider covert recording of conversations for use in family proceedings
Detailed analysis of the rules of admissibility needed. Full story: Family Law Week.

HMCTS sets course for online financial remedy applications
CEO Susan Acland-Hood outline plans in her latest blog post. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Two useful briefing notes on 2012 child maintenance scheme published
The House of Commons Library has recently published two useful, and free, briefing notes explaining the calculation and rules relating to the 2012 statutory child maintenance scheme. Full story: Family Law Week.

Consultation launched on revised ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’
Guidance changed to reflect Children and Social Work Act 2017. Full story: Family Law Week.

Police recorded domestic abuse continues to rise
4,246 offences of coercive control recorded in year ending March 2017. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
Alireza v Radwan & Ors [2017] EWCA Civ 1545 (12 October 2017)
Appeal by W against financial remedies order, considering whether the judge was right to regard her future inheritance from her father as a resource that she was likely to have in the foreseeable future; and whether she had been wrong in making an order granting W an occupational interest in the former matrimonial home rather than ordering H to pay a lump sum to W sufficient to enable her to buy a property of her own. Full report: Family Law Week.

Kent County Council v A,B,C and D (children) (Weight to be attached to evidence of child after flawed ABE interviews) [2017] EWFC B72 (01 March 2017)
Care proceedings concerning 4 children, in which the police had failed to observe ABE guidelines whilst interviewing one of the children. Full report: Bailii.

The Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames v SK (A Child) & Ors [2017] EWHC 2636 (Fam) (31 January 2017)
Application by local authority for, inter alia, a special guardianship order in respect of a child of unknown age and parentage. Full report: Bailii.

The London Borough of Brent v D & Ors (Compliance with Guidelines on Judges Meeting Children) [2017] EWHC 2452 (Fam) (05 July 2017)
Final hearing in care proceedings concerning 3 children, in which the issue of compliance with guidelines on judges meeting children was raised. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
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Make no fault the default, national family justice organisation urges Government

Nigel Shepherd
Resolution, the national family justice organisation, has welcomed the publication of landmark new research which highlights the inherent problems in our current fault-based divorce system.

Finding Fault, written by Professor Liz Trinder and published by the Nuffield Foundation, is the culmination of a piece of academic research into the state of current divorce law in England & Wales. The research took place over two years and heard from over a thousand divorcees, as well as family lawyers and judges.

Resolution has campaigned for the introduction of no fault divorce for decades, and today hailed the research as “a wake-up call for politicians.”

Speaking ahead of the report’s launch in Parliament tonight (30 October), Resolution’s Chair Nigel Shepherd said:

“This authoritative, academic research should eliminate any doubt from government that the law needs to change. Fault-based divorces don’t reflect the reality of relationship breakdown for the majority of couples and do nothing to help them deal constructively with the consequences – indeed they often have the adverse effect of inciting additional conflict between separating partners.

“It’s time to make no-fault the default.”

“The current system, which is unchanged since the beginning of the 1970s, encourages a charade at best, and at worst actively drives a wedge between couples who might otherwise be able to remain on good terms during a divorce. This is bad for them and bad for their children. It is also wholly at odds both with government rhetoric, and with the approach Resolution members take under our Code of Practice.

“At present, many divorcing couples are forced to play the ‘blame game’ – citing examples of unreasonable behaviour or adultery, long after the relationship has broken down, simply to satisfy an archaic requirement on the divorce petition which has its roots in laws drawn up more than a generation ago.

“As the report rightly says, this is an often painful, and sometimes destructive, legal ritual with no obvious benefits for the parties or the state.”

The study adds further weight to the recent calls for no fault divorce from senior figures such as the new President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Family Division, the Chair of the Marriage Foundation, and the Family Mediation Task Force.

It also comes almost a year after Resolution’s Lobby Day, which saw 150 family lawyers bring the campaign for no fault divorce to Parliament.

Nigel Shepherd added:

“Last year I joined with Resolution members from across the country to highlight to MPs from all parties the need for change. We were delighted by the almost universal positive response we received.

“It is a source of great pride that so many have joined the clarion call to remove fault from the process. It is also a source of much frustration that we are still here calling for change.

“The question is: in the face of such overwhelming support, what is the government waiting for?

“With tens of thousands of couples divorcing each year, every day the government delays will see hundreds more forced into a conflict-driven and often destructive divorce system.

“Until this changes, there is a real risk of lasting damage being done to those individuals and – crucially – any children they may have.”

Friday, October 27, 2017

Cutting relationship support funding would be folly, hitting taxpayers’ pockets

A leading family charity is urging the Chancellor to boost, not cut, relationship support services, as he prepares for his Autumn Budget next month.

There has been widespread speculation that Phillip Hammond will cut funding for relationship counselling when he outlines his plans to MPs on 22 November.

But National Family Mediation, a network of dispute resolution experts across England and Wales, has set out serious concerns to the Chancellor. The charity’s CEO, Jane Robey, has written to Mr Hammond, pointing out that the annual cost to the UK economy of family breakdown is conservatively estimated at £48 billion, representing a cost to each and every taxpayer of £1,820 a year.

In this context, she says, “Funding to help reduce the cost of family breakdown represents a shrewd investment.

“As the holder of the UK’s purse strings it would be folly for you to brush aside the effect that badly managed family breakdown has on our economy, and taxpayers’ pockets.

“The hidden costs to the public purse of family breakdown include things that often result from divorce, including:
•             Tax credits
•             Lone parent benefits
•             Housing benefit and council tax benefit
•             Emergency housing following domestic violence
•             Physical and mental health
•             Social services and care
•             Children in care
•             Police and prisons
•             Courts, legal services and legal aid
•             Child maintenance
•             Educational provision following disciplinary and behavioural issues
•             Free school meals
•             Educational maintenance allowance
•             Tertiary education drop out
•             Young people not in education, employment or training”

Disproportionate impact on women

She also draws attention a further dynamic: the gender differential: “Women in particular face huge challenges in family breakdown relating to the child’s wellbeing and their own. The average woman’s income falls by more than a fifth post-separation, remaining low for years, whilst a father’s income rises.

“Funding for counselling and marriage guidance is key if we are to limit these costs – helping pay for relationship support both to prevent divorce and, where divorce does occur, to ensure amicable and sustainable settlements through interventions such as family mediation."

She stresses that NFM doesn’t directly benefit from relationship counselling budgets. But her letter includes a request for the Chancellor “to retain and indeed increase them, rather than bow to the temptation to cut them.”

She adds: “Investment is also needed to ensure that families that have definitely decided to separate are able to reach settlements on parenting, money and property in an amicable and constructive way, which puts the futures of the children involved first. Helping these couples shape agreements is vital to everyone’s future prosperity and wellbeing, so that adults and children alike can face a settled future, and flourish.”