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.

*      *      *
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 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.

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, April 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.

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, April 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.

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, April 07, 2017

Government plans to reduce parental conflict are welcome, says charity

Commenting on the publication of Improving Lives: Helping workless families by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Jane Robey (CEO of National Family Mediation) said:

“We welcome the commitments contained in this report to help reduce parental conflict, and are especially pleased by the plans to expand the role and improve the services to families provided by JobCentre Plus.

“As England and Wales’ largest provider of family mediation we look forward to further developing our relationship with the DWP in general, and with JobCentre Plus in particular.

“We have long known that divorce and separation creates many of the problems the DWP has identified in its new paper. Indeed worklessness is a frequent side effect of relationship breakdown and we feel that joining up the relevant services offers the DWP an opportunity to improve its own outcomes across a number of government departments including increasing the transfer of money through child maintenance so that it rightly reaches those who need it.”

The DWP report can be found here.

Everyone has their limit...


...and sometimes the system pushes them beyond it. This was one of the topics I explored in my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, which included:

A sad tale of a father pushed to the limit - As the title says.

Hague case “a very real and humanly painful dilemma” - The case being T (A Child : Hague Convention proceedings).

Don’t expect much sympathy from the court if you don’t obey its orders - As in Assoun v Assoun [No 1].

Celebrating fifty years of freedom in relationships - When I'm sixty-four (and it ain't long now...).

Have a good weekend.

Monday, April 03, 2017

News Essentials: 3rd April 2017


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

NEWS
Resolution says no fault divorce mustn't be shelved by Brexit
Warning comes as 600 people every day “running the gauntlet” of a divorce system that encourages conflict, says top family lawyer. Full story: Resolution.

MoJ publishes legal aid statistics for October to December 2016
MIAMs and mediations both down on a year ago. Full story: Family Law Week.

Average time for disposal of care cases in 2016 falls to 26.9 weeks
The Ministry of Justice has published statistics on activity in the family courts of England and Wales in 2016 and the fourth quarter of 2016 (October to December). Full story: Family Law Week.

Parents' court fight over taking son, 5, to country suffering terror attacks
A father insisted on taking his five-year-old son to a conflict-riven country to visit relatives in defiance of the child’s mother, who was terrified he would be placed at serious risk. Full story: The Telegraph. See W (A Child: Temporary Removal From the Jurisdiction), below.

Watchdog finds £3bn in child support arrears may never be collected
Results follow National Audit Office’s examination of winding up former Child Support Agency and its replacement by new Child Maintenance Service. Full story: The Guardian.

CASES
H-W (Child), Re [2017] EWCA Civ 154 (30 March 2017)
Appeal by father against order limiting his contact with child to indirect contact only. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

MH (A Child), Re [2017] EWHC 691 (Fam) (13 March 2017)
Application by mother for permission to appeal against order regulating holiday trips with the child to her native Poland. Full report: Bailii.

Re D and Others (Children) [2017] EWHC 284 (Fam)
Judgment on the issue of costs arising from an application under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Full report: Family Law Week.

D (A Child) [2017] EWCA Civ 196 (29 March 2017)
Appeal by local authority against the dismissal of application for a care order, in which the central issue was whether the child had suffered a shaking/shaking impact injury whilst she had been in the sole care of her father. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Z (A Child) [2017] EWCA Civ 157 (28 March 2017)
Appeal concerning issue of who should bear the costs of translating documents in public law proceedings. Full report: Bailii.

Assoun v Assoun [No 2] [2017] EWCA Civ 179 (28 March 2017)
Application by husband for permission to re-open appeal against Hadkinson Order, to amend his grounds of appeal and to rely upon further evidence. Application dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Assoun v Assoun [No 1] [2017] EWCA Civ 21 (28 March 2017)
Appeal by husband against Hadkinson Order prohibiting him from proceeding with application to vary maintenance order whilst he was in breach of that order. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Hand and another v George and another [2017] EWHC 533 (Ch) (17 March 2017)
Inheritance – Adopted children – Will written in 1946 – Domestic law did not include adopted children within the term ‘children’ for the purposes of this will – Whether the Art 14 and Art 8 rights of the grandchildren could be upheld. Full report: Family Law.

W (A Child: Temporary Removal From the Jurisdiction) [2016] EWFC 45 (20 April 2016)
Judgment in proceedings concerning the temporary removal of a child to a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on child abduction. 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.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Aaron & Partners unveils AaronBot – the artificial intelligence partner for law firms


Innovative robot has been created to replace underperforming law firm partners and can replicate partner behaviours

UK law firm Aaron & Partners LLP today announces the launch of AaronBot – an innovative artificial intelligence (AI) robot designed to replace underperforming law firm partners.

Following on from the success of its ‘Expel Your Partner’ app – launched exactly two years ago today – AaronBot’s complex AI algorithm allows it to quickly recognise and replicate standard partner behaviours, such as shouting at trainees, never making tea or coffee in the office and taking credit for other people’s work.

AaronBot also features the latest in speech recognition software and has been programmed to respond positively to any questions or criticism, whilst common law partner traits such as impatience, cynicism and petulance have all been left out of the robot’s hardwiring.

“Non-performing law firm partners are a problem for many legal companies in the UK but up until we created our Expel Your Partner app there was no quick-fix solution,” said Mark Briegal, who heads up Aaron & Partners’ Partnership Law team. “Technology has moved on somewhat since then and that’s why we are continuing to lead the way in partnership automation with the creation of AaronBot.

“It gives exasperated law firm partners the opportunity to substitute an underperforming partner with a more reliable replacement. And when placed into performance management mode, the robot can operate in conjunction with the management team to inspire improved performance or, if that fails, can even suggest the need for intervention and the possibility of expulsion with a direct connection to our “Expel Your Partner” App."

The official launch date for AaronBot is still to be announced, but law firm partners wanting to be kept up to date with the latest news and updates from Aaron & Partners can sign up to the firm’s newsletter by emailing marketing@aaronandpartners.com.

“Being a robot, there’s also the added benefit that AaronBot has absolutely no rights whatsoever when it comes to the business,” added Mark.

“Under Robot Law, a machine isn’t currently entitled to any shares, profit or decision-making powers, so you can rest easy in the knowledge that the robot is there for all the right reasons. It also fits comfortably on a desk, won’t require its own parking space, has no holiday entitlement and won’t drink all the wine at the office Christmas party, so it really is the perfect partner.”

To find out more about the services that Aaron & Partners offers visit www.aaronandpartners.com.

Friday, March 31, 2017

600 people every day “running the gauntlet” of a divorce system that encourages conflict, says top family lawyer

Nigel Shepherd
Family lawyers have today demanded that Parliamentarians do not allow Brexit negotiations to stop the momentum that is building for no fault divorce.

At a major national gathering, members of the family justice organisation Resolution highlighted steps they are taking to ensure this and other family law issues do not get forgotten, as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

Speaking in front of 600 family lawyers in Birmingham, Nigel Shepherd, the national chair of Resolution, highlighted that no fault divorce has received increasing levels of support from the public and leading members of the family law community.

Mr Shepherd pointed to the recent judgment in the Owens v Owens case –  which effectively forced a woman to remain in a marriage she does not want to continue – as a situation that underlines the need for no fault divorce. He said:

“It’s simply wrong in this day and age that someone should be forced to stay in a loveless marriage because the behaviour in the divorce petition wasn’t deemed ‘unreasonable’ enough”.

Nigel Shepherd said it is time to “end the blame game” and said the Government must not let Brexit get in the way of it acting quickly to ensure there are no more cases like Owens. Mr Shepherd said:

“In the face of this overwhelming support for a change in law to allow for no fault divorce, it does beg the question, what is the Government waiting for?

“There are more than 110,000 divorces each year – every day the government delays, more than 300 couples get a divorce. That’s 600 people, every day, running the gauntlet of a system that actively encourages conflict and blame”.

Nigel Shepherd said the issue of no fault divorce was made more critical in the context of Government reductions in funding for legal aid, which leave more people to deal with their legal issues “with minimal or often no support from professionals”.

Mr Shepherd also paid tribute to Resolution members and their commitment to reducing conflict and helping parents to put their children first. He said the recent lobby of Parliament, which saw 150 Resolution members travel to Parliament to talk to MPs about the need for no fault divorce, was “a testament to the true strength and collective power of our membership”.

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

History, behaviour, a translation and temporary removal


My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog were on an assortment of topics, drawn from the mixed bag that is family law. They included:

If you’re going to complain about the family justice system, get your facts right - A short history lesson, on the subject of the 'natural guardian' of a child.

Is the act of refusing a divorce itself unreasonable behaviour? - A thought on the Owens case.

Father denied contact claims violation of his right to respect for family life - The ECHR case Endrizzi v Italy, as translated by Google.

Father allowed to take son to non-Convention country - Mr Justice Peter Jackson’s judgment in W (A Child: Temporary Removal From the Jurisdiction).

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Alarming write-off of £3 billion uncollected child maintenance arrears

Jane Robey
Commenting on a new National Audit Office report (28 March) indicating some £3 billion in child maintenance arrears is considered "uncollectable", National Family Mediation CEO, Jane Robey, said:

"The scale of proposed write-off of unpaid child maintenance payments is alarming.

"Thousands of children up and down the country are deprived of a better quality of life as a result.

"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 government Ministers - 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.

"The government is again missing a trick by not promoting greater use of family mediation, which would help save hundreds of thousands of pounds of precious taxpayers' money."

The National Audit Office report, Child Maintenance: Closing cases and managing arrears, can be found here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

News Essentials: 27th March 2017


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

NEWS
Interim research findings on divorce law published
Interim findings from research exploring how the current divorce law works in practice have been published today (24 March 2017). Full story: Family Law.

Expert representation essential in CoP – Bourns
Vulnerable people must always have expert representation in welfare cases, the Law Society has said, unveiling a mental capacity accreditation scheme for solicitors serving the Court of Protection. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

‘Desperately unhappy’ Mrs Owens refused divorce
Munby P laments ‘hypocrisy and lack of intellectual honesty’ of current law. Full story: Solicitors Journal. See report, below.

Family court transparency plans fall short: new research from Cardiff University
Judges struggle to find time to publish judgments safely. Full story: Family Law Week.

Impact of Brexit on legal services “a cause for concern”, justice committee says
The justice select committee has described the impact of Brexit on legal services as “a cause for concern, but not hyberbole”, in a report published today. Full story: Legal Futures.

CASES
Owens v Owens [2017] EWCA Civ 182 (24 March 2017)
Appeal by wife against refusal of judge to grant decree nisi of divorce, even though he had found as a fact that the marriage has broken down. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

HB v A Local Authority & Anor (Wardship - Costs Funding Order) [2017] EWHC 524 (Fam) (21 March 2017)
Judgment considering issue of whether High Court has power, under its inherent jurisdiction, to make costs funding order against local authority requiring it to fund legal advice and representation for parent in wardship proceedings brought by the local authority, where that parent has lawfully been refused legal aid. 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, March 24, 2017

"Do your kids a favor – don’t have any."


It could have been a quote from a family lawyer, but it is actually by American Comedy writer Robert Orben. It seemed apt in relation to my posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, which were all about children, primarily the problems that their parents (in the widest sense) can cause them:

Convicted father precluded from having contact with his children - The case ZX, R (on the application of) v The Secretary of State for Justice.

Family law and the ‘non-conventional’ family - As in Re B.

Child benefit and the ending of child support liability - The case DJ v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and TJ (CSM) (Child support - receipt of benefit).

Can a parent be forced to have contact? - I answer the oft-asked question.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Family court transparency plans fall short as judges struggle to find time to publish judgments safely

New research from Cardiff University’s School of Law and Politics suggests that guidance given to judges to routinely publish their judgments is not being consistently followed, leaving the public with a patchy understanding of the family justice system in England and Wales. 

Issued in 2014, the guidance was intended to address perceptions, especially in the media, of ‘secrecy’ and ‘justice behind closed doors’ when important decisions are made about children in family courts. These claims arise from the way that court rules ensure most family cases are held in private, to protect children and other vulnerable parties, and are subject to reporting restrictions preventing such parties being identified.

The guidance requires judges to send fully anonymised versions of their judgments in certain types of case to BAILII, a freely accessible legal research website. The intention was to enable both the press and the public to have a better understanding of the family justice system, by making it more transparent.

However, following concerns expressed about poor anonymisation and some risks of jigsaw identification, and also observations that relatively few cases seemed to be appearing on BAILII, an evaluation of the effects of the guidance was undertaken by Cardiff University’s School of Law and Politics, funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Analysing 837 judgments that were published in the first two years following the guidance, the research found that only 27 judges and 12 courts sent in more than ten cases each to BAILII during this period, revealing significant local variations in following the guidance. As a result, the media and the public are able to read more about judicial and social work decision making in certain parts of England and Wales than others.

Dr Julie Doughty, Cardiff University’s School of Law and Politics, who led the research said: “The judgments now published provide more information about the role of the family courts than was available prior to the guidance, but there are inconsistences in the way courts have responded which can present a confusing and not necessarily representative picture of the system as a whole.”

The research team also gathered views from some judges, journalists, organisations and representative groups with an interest in family justice, about the operation of the guidance and the effect it has had on them and on public understanding of family courts.

Dr Doughty added: “The overwhelming message we received in this study was that judges’ workloads, and lack of administrative support, did not allow them the time they needed to write clear, useful and safely anonymised judgments for publication that they could feel confident had minimised any risk of identifying the children and families involved.”    

The publication of this report is timely, in the context of a senior family court judge recently emphasising the importance of public legal education and making family court processes more transparent, thereby reducing complexity and time spent on cases at later stages, as well as improving access to justice.

The report, Transparency through publication of family court judgments: An evaluation of the responses to, and effects of, judicial guidance on publishing family court judgments involving children and young people, by Julie Doughty, Alice Twaite and Paul Magrath, is available to read in full here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Resolution welcomes Justice Select Committee report on the implications of Brexit for the justice system


Daniel Eames, Chair of Resolution’s International Committee, gave oral evidence to the Justice Select Committee and welcomed the recommendations made in the report. He said:

“Resolution is pleased to see the Justice Select Committee have taken on board many of the points we made during their inquiry. MPs have listened to the legal profession and recognised that the vision put forward in the Government’s white paper won’t work for British families.

“Incorporating EU law into domestic legislation on its own won’t work as we need to have reciprocity and cross border recognition. Without reciprocal rules, there can be no legal certainty in outcomes with all the ensuing complications, delays and potential costs for families and children. There must also be suitable transitional provisions in case not all negotiations are concluded before the UK has formally left the EU.

“We accept that family law will not be the highest priority for this Government during the Brexit negotiations. However, for the thousands of UK citizens that are married and living overseas, and EU citizens that are married and living in the UK, issues concerning cross-border family law will be of critical importance should their relationship come to an end.

“We therefore urge the Government to take the Justice Select Committee recommendations on board and provide much needed confidence and certainty for families and children as Britain leaves the European Union”.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Families need government to shake off policy paralysis, says national family charity

Another ‘Groundhog Day’ family policy report

A national charity is urging Ministers to address the ‘Groundhog Day’ of government inaction that greets the publication of family policy research. But National Family Mediation (NFM) fears the dominance of Brexit in government thinking could simply lead to further stalling.

The charity says a recent Social Mobility Commission report, ‘Helping parents to parent’ is just the latest in a string of reports and research over recent years which reach similar conclusions about the need to reform family policy - to bring better outcomes for families and to save taxpayers’ money.

NFM’s Chief Executive Jane Robey says action on report findings are hardly ever acted upon and fears that in light of Brexit, a ‘policy paralysis’ has gripped the government.

“Brexit understandably dictates government thinking. But the divorce we face from the EU mustn’t blind Ministers to the wide-ranging benefits of well-managed family divorces in achieving better outcomes for families,” she says in a new article for Huffington Post.

“They shouldn’t forget that the sums that stand to be saved in the long-term for the public purse from shrewd investment in the conclusions that keep on coming are eye-watering.”

Since taking up her role 13 years ago, she says “there have been several White Papers, backed by expensive research findings and recommendations.  These covered topics as widespread as parental separation, children’s rights, and parents’ responsibilities. Then there was Breakdown Britain and the sequel, Breakthrough Britain. Most recently we had Early Intervention Foundation research funded by the Department for Work and Pensions.”

Commenting on The Social Mobility Commission report she adds: “Amongst its 80 pages are some conclusions which, were I not such an old-hand, I might feasibly consider the starting gun to reforming policy-making.

“But we knew these things already, so this is another report that has looked at various government research on similar themes, and brought us the usual conclusions.

“For me and my fellow relationship professionals, the key question is ‘does this latest report move us forward?’ I fear not. It really is time for Ministers to join up the dots of the various research findings, to see the pattern and act on it.”

To read the article in full use this link: http://huff.to/2nswUNF

The Social Mobility Commission report, ‘Helping parents to parent’ can be found here: