Friday, June 30, 2017

Break a few rules...

So said the late, great, Ian Dury. It may come as a surprise to some, but that excellent piece of advice can also apply to family law cases, as explained in one of my posts this week on  Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, which included:

Tigers, tsunamis and trusts: lessons from Quan v Bray - Which can be found here.

Is the Transparency Guidance experiment over? - My figures suggest that it is.

It is no surprise that parents are getting away with child maintenance avoidance - As reported by single parent charity Gingerbread

Breaking the rules in children cases - The two cases being A Local Authority v The Mother & Anor and CS & Anor v PD.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Resolution teams up with Personal Finance Society for new financial adviser report

Resolution, who represent 6,500 family justice professionals, has published a report highlighting the growing need for specialist financial advisers in family law. The report has been published in partnership with the Personal Finance Society, the professional body for the UK financial planning profession.

The report, authored by a group of financial advisers and planners, highlights that there are currently only 42 financial adviser specialists accredited in family law, which is just one for every 5,000 people that divorce each year.

As well as exploring this demand for skilled financial advisers in family law, the report also sets out the long-term sustainability for financial advisers, and the skills required for success within this field.

Nigel Shepherd, national chair of Resolution, said:

“We know from talking to financial planners and advisers who are already Resolution members that the world of financial advice is changing.

“What clients want is sound guidance and trusted support. This is especially true in times of change or upheaval, and they do not come much more unsettling than a divorce or separation.

“Advising those going through a divorce or separation is a very specialist area. There are real opportunities for those financial advisers that are able to position themselves as experts in the field, and by being part of Resolution they have great access to a large, unsaturated market.”

Keith Richards, Chief Executive of the Personal Finance Society, added:

“In high stress situations, such as divorce or the loss of a partner, emotions can make focusing on the practical aspects of personal finance decisions extremely difficult. Having access to trusted financial advice as part of an integral and supportive professional network at such a key stage in life can be invaluable.

“Professional financial planning gives consumers peace of mind that their personal finances are aligned with their future aspirations and goals.”

Financial advisers are crucial in every aspect of a family case, and Resolution members are “crying out” for specialist advisers.

One Resolution member - a family lawyer, said:

“99.9% of our cases are about the financial needs for the separating couple - how much they require to buy a house, what their mortgage capacity is. It’s about what they need in terms of an income.

“This involves looking at investments to see what income this can provide for them.  And importantly, it’s also about what they’re going to need at retirement. It’s very rare I see a case where financial input isn’t needed at some stage.”

There are a number of different professions – solicitors, mediators, family consultants and barristers – that all come under the family justice banner and work regularly with financial advisers. According to Resolution, all these professions acknowledge that there is a shortage of financial advisers in this field.

One family mediator says in the report “I would like to involve financial advisers more in all my cases, but at the moment there just aren’t enough of them working in this area. I have two or three that I am close to… but they are really, really busy!”

Through this report, Resolution hopes more financial advisers will see the benefits of working in the divorce and separation market, stating they are well-placed to help new entrants build their business.

Nigel Shepherd, national chair of Resolution, said:

“At Resolution, we already have a network of 6,500 family justice professionals that all share the same positive values and principles about divorce and separation. We have the right infrastructure to help financial advisers meet the right family lawyers.”

Monday, June 26, 2017

News Essentials: 26th June 2017

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

Mrs Justice Roberts gives comprehensive summary of the law regarding sham trusts
Trust disclosed in Form E found to be genuine. Full story: Family Law Week. See ND v SD, below.

Government announces draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill
Queen’s Speech includes draft legislation to transform approach to domestic violence. Full story: Family Law Week.

Divorces in 2015 fell by 9 per cent compared with previous year
Fall in divorces is consistent with decline in new marriages. Full story: Family Law Week.

The Transparency Pilot: A note from the Vice President of the Court of Protection
On 20 June 2017 Mr Justice Charles, Vice President of the Court of Protection, issued the following note. Full story: Family Law Week.

Life support must continue for baby at centre of legal battle
Terminally ill Charlie Gard to remain on life support for three weeks while European court of human rights considers case. Full story: The Guardian. See this Supreme Court judgment.

President of Family Division circular: Amendment to Practice Direction PD12D – Interviewing Wards of Court
On 4 May 2017 I handed down judgment  In the matter of a Ward of Court [2017] EWHC 1022 (Fam). Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

A Local Authority v HB (Alleged Risk of Radicalisation and Abduction) [2017] EWHC 1437 (Fam) (26 May 2017)
Applications by local authority under inherent jurisdiction and for care orders in respect of two children who were believed to be at risk of being radicalised. Full report: Bailii.

ND v SD & Ors [2017] EWHC 1507 (Fam) (21 June 2017)
Preliminary hearing in financial remedies proceedings, dealing with issue of whether a trust was genuine or, as the wife claimed, a sham. Full report: Bailii.

GP (Wrongful Removal) [2017] EWHC 1480 (Fam) (20 June 2017)
Application by father for return of child to Italy, in a case in which the mother had been sentenced to 1 year in prison for the removal of the child by the Italian court. Full report: Bailii.

R v B & Ors [2017] EWFC 33 (17 March 2017)
Hearing of husband's financial remedies application, including finding that the husband had engaged in conduct that it would be inequitable to disregard. 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.

Fate of children and young people brought up in the UK who are unable to secure permanent status

A new report from leading children’s rights organisation Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) highlights the fate of hundreds of thousands of children and young people who, despite having been brought up in the UK, are trapped in precarious situations because they are unable to secure permanent status in the UK.

Entitled This Is My Home and highlighted in this evening’s (Monday 26 June) episode of Dispatches on Channel 4, CCLC’s report explores the challenges on young people’s lives of living with uncertain immigration status and the impact on this group of children as the UK leaves the EU.

Approximately 120,000 children in the UK are undocumented, 65,000 of whom were born here. Without documentation, a young person cannot work, open a bank account or access sources of support such as housing, and is cut off from college and university. They are left vulnerable to poverty and at risk from exploitation.

Obstacles to children achieving permanent status which This Is My Home highlights include lack of free and quality legal representation, unaffordable application fees with very limited fee waivers, and complex law and policy.

The report’s author and CCLC’s Head of Policy and Programmes, Kamena Dorling, said: “Thousands of undocumented children and young people will have grown up in the UK, have been educated here, and will think of themselves as British.  Even if they manage to make an immigration application, they will usually only be granted 2 ½ years leave and will have to wait ten years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

“During this period they have to make five further applications, and face over £8,000 in fees and charges, while living in a state of insecurity.  They are prevented from legally participating in and contributing to the communities in which they live and, in many cases have lived, all their lives.”

Recommendations to improve the lives of undocumented children and young people outlined in This Is My Home include:
  • A shorter route to permanent status for long resident children and young people and lower application fees
  • Better Home Office decision making on children and young peoples’ long residence cases in line with established law
  • An urgent review of children and young people’s needs for legal services and at least the reinstatement of legal aid for separated children’s immigration status
  • Information for social workers and improved local authority practice through training and designated social care leads.

Dr Carol Homden, CBE and Chief Executive of Coram said: “The rights of all children should be protected and an upheld without exception.  As Brexit negotiations commence, and we wait to fully understand the fate of EU children in the UK, it is more important than ever to ensure that children who have grown up here are able to have secure status and build their futures in this country.”

Friday, June 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box-ticking exercise

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

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

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

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

The ‘traditional’ route for divorce sees a solicitor’s office and the court room as the first stop for separating couples looking to make arrangements over property, finance and children. Mediation enables and empowers families to take control over their own destiny, rather than handing it over to a family court judge. National Family Mediation’s expert professionals help separating couples agree settlements on property, finance and parenting issues without the need for a courtroom drama. They achieve full agreement in over 80 per cent of cases.

All about courts and finances

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To find out more, call NFM on 0300 4000 636 or visit

Monday, June 19, 2017

News Essentials: 19th June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Another mixed bag...

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend.

Monday, June 12, 2017

News Essentials: 12th June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, June 09, 2017

Money, poverty and acrimony

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend.

Monday, June 05, 2017

News Essentials: 5th June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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