Monday, November 27, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

The ComRes poll found that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nigel Shepherd added:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Essentials: 27th November 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*      *      *
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For more cases, see here.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

News Essentials: 20th November 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*      *      *
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For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

News Essentials: 13th November 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*      *      *
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For more cases, see here.

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

Monday, November 06, 2017

News Essentials: 6th November 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*      *      *
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.