Tuesday, May 30, 2017

News Essentials: 30th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Call to separate divorce processes from money disputes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Biggest Little Blog Posts in the World

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend, and Spring bank holiday.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Review: At A Glance 2017-2018

At A Glance

Essential Tables for Financial Remedies


£65 - Published by Class Legal: May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

News Essentials: 22nd May 2017

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

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.

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.

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

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:

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.

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.

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Monday, May 08, 2017

News Essentials: 8th May 2017

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

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.

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:

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.

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.