Thursday, October 18, 2018

Research project to assess if biased online legal advice is distorting access to justice in family cases


A new research project will examine whether vulnerable people representing themselves in child court cases find themselves and their children put at risk by misinformed or biased online legal advice.

Academics at Birmingham City University and the University of Leeds have launched the new project which will explore the quality, and types of advice handed out through legal advisors, online help forums or social media boards.

Cuts to legal aid have seen a major rise in the number of those acting as their own representatives in court, with over 80 per cent of family court cases seeing a least one party representing themselves – a practice known as Litigants in Person (LIPs).

Without affordable face-to-face legal advice, many LIPs turn to online sources or McKenzie Friends – litigation friends who help LIPs represent themselves on a voluntary basis or for a fee.

The legal community has raised serious concerns about the quality of information and advice provided online by McKenzie Friends or online forum facilitators.

The study - the first analysis of its kind – will examine the quality and accuracy of free legal support made available online, to see if children’s welfare is being put at risk by incorrect or biased information designed to further a prejudiced agenda.

Most LIPs have no previous legal background, knowledge or expertise, leaving them reliant on scouring the internet for support or information to help build their cases.

The research will be carried out by English linguistics specialist Dr Tatiana Tkacukova, Senior Lecturer in English Language at Birmingham City University, and legal expert Hilary Sommerlad, Professor of Law and Justice at the University of Leeds.

Dr Tkacukova said: “People representing themselves in court often find themselves at an immediate disadvantage because the language of law, the documentation and the processes are all geared towards those who have previous working knowledge of it.

“For people without any background in law it is very difficult to know where to look for relevant information, which legal concepts are applicable to their case or how to present their side of the story in an appropriate way, so often they will look for help, support or information online.

“Unfortunately a lot of the information which is out there is either incorrect or has been designed to further a specific viewpoint of how justice should or should not work. This can not only lead to people unwittingly be used to further propaganda, but more worryingly can have a serious impact on the way justice is delivered and the lives of children.

“What we want to do with this project is find out what information LIPs are seeking online and what advice they are provided with so that we are able to help drive change and support people in searching for legal advice they need.”

The study will focus specifically on public and private child cases – including those related to child protection and children’s living arrangements – to see if the information and current processes are putting LIPs and their children at risk.

It will look at the key words and search terms most often used by LIPs to access online advice, and assess the quality of information found in the top Google hits.

Over 100,000 words will then be analysed based on questions asked by LIPs and the advice they are given.

The analysis will focus on:
  • Type of information and advice LIPs are seeking
  • Communication strategies LIPs are using to describe the issues in their case
  • Quality of information and advice LIPs are provided with
  • The legal knowledge shown by LIPs and online forum facilitators
  • The understanding of judicial processes and legal strategies shown by online forum facilitators
The project aims to produce clear guidance to help people avoid being given unreliable information and improve LIP’s awareness of the choices they have when seeking legal advice.

The research will be split between English linguistics specialist Dr Tatiana Tkacukova, Senior Lecturer in English Language at Birmingham City University, and legal expert Hilary Sommerlad, Professor of Law and Justice at the University of Leeds.

Dr Tkacukova, who has been researching the opportunities available to Litigants in Person for over five years, will use specially devised tools to find and analyse the language used online.

Hilary Sommerlad, Professor of Law and Justice at the University of Leeds, will examine the quality of the legal advice found.

Professor Sommerland said: “Access to the law is vital if people are to realise their rights and defend claims brought against them. Yet the law is alien and intimidating to most lay people.

“With the removal of legal aid from most private law matters more and more people are obliged to navigate the law’s highly complex procedures and deal with its esoteric language unaided, and often at points in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable.

“As a result many turn to online sources including ‘McKenzie Friends’, that is those who offer representation themselves on a voluntary basis or for a fee.

“As an unregulated source of legal aid, the quality of information and advice provided is inevitably highly variable. This research into the online activities of McKenzie Friends will therefore be extremely valuable in assessing the dangers and benefits of this form of advice.”

 It is hoped the project will spark a change in the quality of information and support available to LIPs online through more official channels.

The project will also produce new research evidence base which can support legal reforms currently underway at HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

The project has been funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grants scheme.

Monday, October 15, 2018

News Essentials: 15th October 2018


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

NEWS
Cafcass publishes new assessment framework for private law cases
We have developed a new assessment framework to support our practitioners in assessing the harmful impact of a range of complex case factors on the children we work with in private law cases. Full story: Cafcass.

Judge condemns 'unacceptable' lack of secure accommodation for children
Judge Mary Lazarus had nowhere to send convicted 16-year-old involved in ‘county lines’ drug dealing. Full story: The Guardian. See O (A child : No Available Secure Accommodation), below.

Almost 17,000 newborn babies taken into care in England in past nine years
Many infants taken from their mothers in hospital within hours or days of delivery. Full story: The Guardian.

Family chief tells lawyers: 'The justice system won't collapse - you will'
The justice system may be 'under stress' but it will grind on - it is the people propping it up who will collapse, the president of the family division has warned. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

Banker’s wife may lose UK property worth £22 million
High Court dismisses challenge to unexplained wealth order. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
MB v TB [2018] EWHC 2035 (Fam) (31 July 2018)
Judgment in jurisdiction dispute between wife who had issued divorce proceedings in England and husband who had issued in Germany. Held, the English court was seised of the wife's petition and that seisin had not been defeated by a failure by the wife to take steps she was required to have service effected, as alleged by the husband. Full report: Bailii.

PM v CF [2018] EWHC 2658 (Fam) (03 October 2018)
Judgment in case in which, inter alia, father's parental responsibility was terminated, in the light of the risk he posed to the mother, and the children's need for protection. Full report: Bailii.

O (A child : No Available Secure Accommodation) [2018] EWFC B60 (08 October 2018)
Application for secure accommodation order. No placements available. 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, October 08, 2018

News Essentials: 8th October 2018


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

NEWS
New measures announced to combat forced marriage
Consultation will consider a duty on professionals to report forced marriage cases. Full story: Family Law Week.

Irish court sanctions return of child taken from council care
The High Court of Ireland has given Lincolnshire County Council an order for the return of a child taken out of the UK by its parents while in the council’s care. Full story: Local Government Lawyer.

Civil partnerships: Law to be changed for mixed-gender couples
Heterosexual couples in England and Wales will be able to choose to have a civil partnership rather than get married, Theresa May has announced. Full story: BBC News.

Judge to decide whether baby can be first in UK history to be born without a mother in landmark trans rights case
Transgender parent says being forced to register as the child’s 'mother' breaches his human right to respect for privacy and family life. Full story: The Independent.

CASES
T (A Child) [2018] EWCA Civ 2136 (04 October 2018)
Appeal relating to the exercise of the inherent jurisdiction when called upon to make orders which, but for a lack of capacity in the statutory system, would be made as secure accommodation orders under Children Act. Full report: Bailii.

B (A Child) [2018] EWCA Civ 2127 (04 October 2018)
Mother's appeal from a fact-finding decision given in care proceedings, concerning injuries sustained by one year old child. Full report: Bailii.

Rogan v Rogan [2018] EWHC 2512 (Fam) (21 September 2018)
Judgment summons application by wife, in relation to non-payment of spousal maintenance. 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, October 05, 2018

New by me this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog


My posts this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog included:

Husband prevented from pursuing appeal until he complies with costs order - The Hadkinson case De Gafforj.

Is it time to put an end to the MIAMs farce? - The latest figures, showing that they are now at just a third of pre-LASPO levels, suggest it may be.

Justice exists only for the wealthy - The impact of legal aid cuts.

Pay the maintenance… or go to jail? - Looking at the judgment summons case Rogan v Rogan.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

How easy it is to change accountants?

It’s easier than you might think to switch to one accountant from another. Every year, scores of self-employed people and business owners move to a new accountant without a hitch. Read on to find out more about how seamless the accountant-switching process can be.

Why switch accountants?

People decide to switch accountants for all sorts of reasons. Maybe you feel you are not getting enough value for money from your accountant, they have made mistakes or they don’t communicate with you as effectively as they could? Perhaps they are too slow to respond to your queries or don’t keep you in the loop with regards to how things are progressing? Some people decide to change their accountant because they have provided poor-quality advice or haven’t provided the tax-saving opportunities they talked about when they first signed up with them.

Leaving inefficient accountancy services

One common reason for people switching accountants recently is that they have been too slow to offer useful and convenient cloud accounting solutions. Many companies leave their accountant because their businesses have grown, and their current services provider cannot meet their needs. Before you go ahead and tell your accountant you no longer require their services, you need to check your agreement to ensure you are permitted to leave. The best time to move between accountants is when there isn’t much active business between you and your existing accountant, as this will ensure the change is a smooth, swift one.

What happens when you switch?

When you have found a new accountant and are ready to start working with them, your new accountant will write a letter to your old one to get professional clearance for managing your accounts and arrange the transfer of all relevant documents. In the letter, the new accountant will ask for a letter of disengagement from your old one. You will also need to use HMRC’s online authorisation service or sign a new 64-8 form, so your new accountant is legally able to manage your tax affairs. Your new accountant will conduct an anti-money laundering check on you and provide you with a letter of engagement.

Why choose One Click Group?

One Click Group are able to help if you are unhappy with your current accountant and are ready to switch. We have more than 20 years’ experience in the contractor services industry and are wholly compliant with tax and employment legislation. We offer a vast range of payment solutions for experienced and new contractors and are able to provide dedicated account management services to all our clients. Free-cloud based software is available for all our clients, and we can even give you access to our award-winning One Click Rewards scheme.

Get in touch

Talk to us today if you’re interested in working with a client-driven accountancy and tax service that puts you at the forefront of everything it does. You can reach us today by sending a message through the form on our website or by calling on 0345 557 1287.

Monday, October 01, 2018

News Essentials: 1st October 2018


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

NEWS
MIAMs in last quarter down a further seven per cent on a year ago
Mediation starts remain stable. Full story: Family Law Week.

Family Court Statistics Quarterly: April to June 2018
Volume of cases dealt with by family courts over time, with statistics also broken down for the main types of case involved. Full story: Ministry of Justice.

Divorce rate for heterosexual couples hits 45-year low, figures show
Opposite-gender couples divorcing at lowest rate since 1973 after figure drops by 6 per cent in a year. Full story: The Independent.

New figures show welcome rise in men reporting domestic abuse to the police: ManKind Initiative
Reporting of incidents has doubled in five years. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
De Gafforj (Appeal: Hadkinson Order) [2018] EWCA Civ 2070 (20 September 2018)
Application by W for order preventing H from pursuing an appeal, on the basis that he is in contempt of court by having failed to comply with orders for maintenance pending suit, costs and a legal services payment order. Application granted. Full report: Bailii.

Hampshire County Council v C.E. and N.E. (Urgent preliminary ruling procedure - Jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgments in matters of parental responsibility - International child abduction - Judgment) [2018] EUECJ C-325/18PPU (19 September 2018)
Preliminary ruling on jurisdiction in case where parents removed children to Ireland in order to avoid them being taken into care. 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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers September/October 2018


The latest issue of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers is now published.
In this issue:
  • Blockchain – AndrĂ©s Guadamuz of the University of Sussex considers uses of blockchain for the management of copyright works
  • Legal design – Matt Terrell of Justis and Emily Allbon of City Law School explain the concept of legal design
  • Legal advice – Delia Venables asks practitioners whether they feel giving free legal advice is worthwhile
  • Websites – Stanley Dunthorne of Hallam Internet explains why multiple websites are not usually a good idea
  • Open data – Nick Holmes describes the state of open data in the UK: data that is free to use and republish
  • Surveillance – Alex Heshmaty of Legal Words describes the legal framework for government surveillance
  • Publications – We note a number of new internet-related publications

Monday, September 24, 2018

News Essentials: 24th September 2018


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

NEWS
Divorcing man told: You can’t pay your lawyers without paying your wife’s
The husband in a divorce dispute cannot pay his lawyers a pound without paying a pound to his wife’s solicitors, the High Court has ruled. Full story: Legal Futures. See LKH v TQA AL Z, below.

Domestic abuse victims turning to civil courts because police are failing to enforce law
Domestic abuse victims are increasingly turning to the civil courts for protection because the police are failing to enforce the law of coercive control, it has emerged. Full story: The Telegraph.

Male domestic abuse: Not enough support for victims, says charity
Male domestic abuse victims are suffering a lack of support despite a sharp rise in attacks, a charity said. Full story: BBC News.

“When a child won't see one parent”
Cafcass is developing a "High Conflict Practice Pathway" to help Cafcass practitioners to "systematically assess cases which feature adult behaviours associated with high conflict." Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
AH v CD & Ors [2018] EWHC 2322 (Fam) (19 July 2018)
Final hearing of application by father for the return to Spain of child abducted by mother in 2014. Return ordered. Full report: Bailii.

B-P (Children : adoption Or Fostering) [2018] EWCA Civ 2042 (20 September 2018)
Appeal from an order refusing a local authority's application for placement orders in relation to three very young children. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

LKH v TQA AL Z (Interim maintenance and pound for pound costs funding) [2018] EWHC 2436 (Fam) (24 July 2018)
Application by W under Part III MFPA 1984. Order, inter alia, injuncting H from paying any further money to his solicitors unless he pays an equal amount to the wife's solicitors. Full report: Bailii.

K (A Child : Threshold Findings) [2018] EWCA Civ 2044 (04 September 2018)
Care proceedings. Appeal against finding that threshold had not been made out. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

TP v PRBP [2018] EWHC 2433 (Fam) (26 July 2018)
Financial remedies application in which the issue of the capacity of the husband was raised. Full report: Bailii.

M (A Child) [2018] EWCA Civ 2043 (04 September 2018)
Father's application for permission to appeal against order requiring him to secure return of child from Thailand. Application refused. 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, September 21, 2018

New by me this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog


My posts this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog included:

What’s not to like about the no-fault divorce consultation? - A few thoughts.

So what about the arguments against no-fault divorce? - A few more thoughts.

The cost of mediating, or not - Commenting upon a report that a couple had spent more than £50k on mediation. Hmm...

The power of the court to deal with the failure to obey orders - As in injuncting the husband from paying his lawyers unless he pays a similar sum to his wife's lawyers. LKH v TQA AL Z.

Have a good weekend.

Monday, September 17, 2018

News Essentials: 17th September 2018


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

NEWS
Justice Secretary confirms plans to reduce conflict in divorce
Couples wishing to divorce will soon benefit from a less confrontational process, under proposals confirmed by the Justice Secretary David Gauke. Full story: Ministry of Justice.

Care applications fall 5.7 per cent over two years
The number of applications for children to be taken into care is continuing to fall, official statistics show. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

Council apologises to mother over unlawful restrictions on contact with children
Cumbria County Council has apologised to a mother who had unlawful restrictions placed on her level of contact with her three children, it has been reported. Full story: Local Government Lawyer.

CASES
Bhusate v Patel & Ors [2018] EWHC 2362 (Ch) (13 September 2018)
The claimant was the third wife of the deceased (who died in 1990) and was making three primary claims: (1) that she was now the sole beneficial owner of the property; (2) in the alternative, that she and the defendants (the deceased's children from his first marriage) became equitable co-owners of the property; (3) in the further alternative, she said that she was entitled, as against the deceased's estate, to her statutory legacy and a capitalised life interest, plus interest at 6% per annum since the date of his death. Full report: Bailii, via Family Law Hub.

Z (A Child - Care Proceedings - Separate Representation) [2018] EWFC B57 (29 June 2018)
Care proceedings concerning 14 year old child. Judgment dealing with issue of whether child should instruct his own solicitor, he disagreeing with guardian as to appropriate outcome. 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, September 10, 2018

News Essentials: 10th September 2018


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

NEWS
Couples Will Be Allowed No-Fault Divorces In Plans To Be Unveiled By The Government
Couples will be allowed no-fault divorces and spouses will lose the right to contest the breakdown of a marriage under proposals for an historic overhaul of the law being drawn up by the government. Full story: BuzzFeed News.

Court of Protection costs ordered after conduct 'verging on arrogance'
A Court of Protection judge has taken the unusual step of ordering costs against local authorities that caused a woman to be trapped in limbo for years waiting for her case to be resolved. Full story: Law Society Gazette. See reports, below.

CASES
R v K [2018] EWFC 59 (04 September 2018)
Judgment in financial remedy proceedings, in which the central issue was whether the husband and his business associates had fabricated or exaggerated the husband's liabilities, in an attempt to defeat the wife’s claim. Full report: Bailii.

London Borough of Lambeth v MCS & Anor [2018] EWCOP 20 (31 August 2018)
Costs hearing in proceedings relating to the repatriation of a Colombian woman lacking capacity, who had been kept in hospital for over 3 years. Costs orders made against both Local Authority and Clinical Commissioning Group. Full report: Bailii.

London Borough of Lambeth v MCS & Anor [2018] EWCOP 14 (31 August 2018)
Proceedings relating to the repatriation of a Colombian woman lacking capacity, who had been kept in hospital for over 3 years. 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, September 03, 2018

News Essentials: 3rd September 2018


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

NEWS
Unmarried NI mother wins access to widowed parent's allowance after death of her partner
Mother's appeal against a Court of Appeal decision that s39A of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 was not incompatible with article 14 read with article 8 ECHR or the protection of property rights in Article 1 of the First Protocol (A1P1) was allowed. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Emma Thompson film prompts independent advocacy call
Today's release of the film adaptation of author Ian McEwan's novel The Children Act, starring Oscar-winning Emma Thompson as a High Court judge, has prompted a children's charity to call for the mandatory provision of independent advocates for children. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

Legal bloggers allowed to report on family proceedings
Five years after former family division president Sir James Munby highlighted a pressing need for greater transparency in the family justice system, the government and judiciary are to allow certain 'legal bloggers' to report on proceedings. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

CASES
Green v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (CSM) [2018] UKUT 240 (AAC) (18 July 2018)
This case analyses regulation 71 of the Child Support Maintenance Calculation Regulations 2012 (diversion of income) and how it operates in relation to the transfer of an asset that was not generating any income at the time of transfer. Full report: HMCTS (PDF).

Tattersall v Tattersall [2018] EWCA Civ 1978 (26 July 2018)
Husband's appeal in respect of 3 orders made in relation to the enforcement of a financial remedy order made in December 2012. Full report: Bailii.

Banfield v Campbell [2018] EWHC 1943 (Ch) (24 July 2018)
Claim by cohabitant of deceased for reasonable financial provision from estate. Full report: Bailii.

B (A Child: Immunisation) [2018] EWFC 56 (22 August 2018)
Application by mother for specific issue order to permit her to arrange for child to be immunised. Full report: Bailii.

AW v KJ [2018] EWHC 2229 (Fam) (25 June 2018 )
Application by the father for the return of child from Russia. Application refused. 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, August 20, 2018

News Essentials: 20th August 2018


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

NEWS
Financial order reforms set to boost unfairly treated former partners and families
The Government has agreed to improve the enforcement of financial orders, in response to a Law Commission report. Full story: Law Commission.

Civil partnerships in England and Wales: 2017
Annual statistics on formations and dissolutions of civil partnerships analysed by the sex, age, and previous marital status of the couples and the place of registration. Full story: Office for National Statistics.

CASES
W (A Child) [2018] EWCA Civ 1904 (15 August 2018)
Appeal by father against order setting aside previous order requiring mother to return child to Spain. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Sparkasse Koln Bonn v Cutts & Anor [2018] EWHC 1879 (Ch) (30 July 2018)
Determination of beneficial interest in a claim for an order for sale pursuant to a final charging order. Full report: Family Law Week.

*      *      *
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, August 13, 2018

News Essentials: 13th August 2018


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

NEWS
New pilot scheme announced for easier court entrance for legal professionals
The Ministry of Justice has announced a new pilot scheme for practising legal professionals which will allow for them to get direct entrance to courts without the need to be searched. Full story: Family Law.

Child maintenance: new steps to improve compliance and to allow arrears to be written off
The House of Commons library has written a useful summary of recent changes to child maintenance enforcement. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Supervision orders unsuccessful in a quarter of cases, research finds
Review of 26-week care proceedings reforms underlines impact of Re B and Re B-S case law and raises questions around decision-making. Full story: Community Care.

Paediatricians as Expert Witnesses in the Family Courts in England and Wales: Standards, competencies and expectations
Produced by the Family Justice Council and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, this guide directs the reader to discipline specific information with regards to paediatricians as expert witnesses. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

CASES
F v M [2018] EWHC 2106 (Fam) (03 August 2018)
Appeal by father against refusal to register Russian order that child reside with him. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Kliers v Schmerler & Anor [2018] EWHC 1350 (Ch) (30 April 2018)
The applicant was claiming declarations as to the beneficial ownership of a property, the registered legal ownership of which was her brother. He had obtained a mortgage to buy the property on behalf of the applicant and her then husband as their credit rating was not sufficient. The declarations were granted. Full report: Bailii, via Family Law Hub.

EF and GH (Children) [2018] EWHC 1960 (Fam) (23 May 2018)
Proceedings relating to two children whose mother requested the local authority to accommodate them, following a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Judgment dealing with issue of whether threshold criteria satisfied. 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, August 10, 2018

New by me this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog


My posts this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog included:

Reform opportunities may be slipping away - Looking at the seventh annual report on the implementation of Law Commission recommendations.

Father fails to overturn order for no direct contact - In the case PA v CK & Ors.

Intimidating victims to have domestic abuse charges dropped - A recent report suggests that many defendants in domestic abuse cases are intimidating their victims into not appearing at court.

Financial provision for a child after a transfer of residence - The case C (A Child) Schedule 1 Children Act Variation.

Have a good weekend.

Monday, August 06, 2018

News Essentials: 6th August 2018


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

NEWS
Solicitors' phase of online divorce pilot given green light
The solicitors' application of the online divorce pilot has been approved to go live. Full story: Family Law.

English law applies to Islamic marriage, judge rules in divorce case
Husband tried to block divorce petition, arguing couple were married only under sharia law. Full story: The Guardian. See Akhter v Khan, below.

Sir Andrew McFarlane becomes President of the Family Division
Sir Andrew McFarlane has been appointed President of the Family Division, following the retirement of Sir James Munby. Full story: Family Law.

Financial consent orders can now be filed online
On Monday 6 August 2018 the family courts will take another step towards becoming digital. From that date applications for consent orders in family court financial proceedings can be filed online rather than delivery to a physical court office. Full story: Family Law.

CASES
Akhter v Khan (Rev 2) [2018] EWFC 54 (31 July 2018)
Judgment considering issue of whether an Islamic marriage ceremony creates an invalid or void marriage in English law. Full report: Bailii.

Ubbi & Anori (Minors) v Ubbi [2018] EWHC 1396 (Ch) (27 July 2018)
Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 case where the infant children of the deceased husband and his extra-marital partner claimed that his will (which pre-dated their births) did not make any provision for them after he left everything to his wife. Full report: Bailii, via Family Law Hub.

X (A Child : FGMPO) [2018] EWCA Civ 1825 (31 July 2018)
Appeal by father against provision in FGM protection order forbidding removal of child from jurisdiction. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, August 03, 2018

New by me this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog


My posts this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog included:

Courts modernisation programme could fail to deliver expected benefits - The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee's report on HMCTSs £1.2 billion programme to modernise the courts.

Munby throws out some ideas at final press conference - Including mobile courts and Skype-ing the judge.

Financial Remedies Court Pilot extended - The President’s Circular: Financial Remedies Court Pilot Phase 2.

Separated children case to be dealt with in Alaska - The case being Ford v Halil.

Sir James apologises for his ‘failures’ in ‘Voice of the child’ speech - "Because it is the right thing to do".

Have a good weekend.

Monday, July 30, 2018

News Essentials: 30th July 2018


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

NEWS
President’s Circular: Financial Remedies Court Pilot Phase 2
Following the successful initiation of the Financial Remedies Court project in the West Midlands (part), centred at Birmingham, I am pleased to announce a further roll-out of the pilot, albeit for the time being in modified form. Full story: Family Law.

Pilot Practice Direction 36I – Procedure for online filing of certain applications for consent orders for a financial remedy in connection with matrimonial proceedings
This Practice Direction supplements FPR Part 36, rule 36.2 (Transitional Arrangements and Pilot Schemes). Full story: Family Law.

Practice Direction Amendments to PD9A, PD12B and PD27A
The Ministry of Justice have published a Practice Direction Amendment which makes three minor changes to existing practice directions. Full story: Family Law.

Practice Guidance: Children Arbitration in the Family Court
This Guidance concerns the interface between the Family Court and Arbitrations where the parties to a private law dispute relating to the welfare of a child have agreed to submit the issues in dispute for decision by an arbitrator. Full story: Family Law.

President’s Guidance: Addition to Compendium of Standard Family Orders
The links to the three new orders (numbered 22.1, 22.2 and 22.3) to be added to the compendium of Standard Family Orders can be found below. Full story: Family Law.

Supreme Court rules woman ‘must stay married' as family law experts warn of ‘divorce crisis.'
Supreme Court rules woman ‘must stay married’ as family law experts warn of ‘divorce crisis.’ Full story: Resolution. See report, below.

New Judicial Protocol for Children’s Cases in Scotland, and England and Wales
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division in England & Wales, and Lord Carloway, head of the Scottish judiciary, have agreed a new judicial protocol, which will provide for the direct exchange of information between judges in intra-UK cross-border cases involving children. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

President’s Guidance: Arrangements for adoption visits
Guidance from the President of the Family Division. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

CASES
PS v BP [2018] EWHC 1987 (Fam) (27 July 2018)
Appeal by father against orders and findings following a fact-finding hearing, including judicial observations upon issue of father cross-examining mother. Full report: Bailii.

M v F [2018] EWHC 1949 (Fam (04 July 2018)
Application by mother for permission to relocate with the children to Uganda. Full report: Bailii.

Harris v Harris [2018] EWHC 1836 (Fam) (03 July 2018)
Appeal by husband against order capitalising spousal maintenance and increasing child support. Full report: Bailii.

A (Children) [2018] EWCA Civ 1718 (25 July 2018)
Appeal by local authority against dismissal of application for care orders in respect of five children. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41 (25 July 2018)
Appeal by wife against dismissal of divorce petition. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Lancashire County Council v A, B and Z (A Child : Fact Finding Hearing: Police Disclosure) [2018] EWHC 1819 (Fam) (02 July 2018)
Fact-finding hearing in care proceedings concerning a girl aged 22 months.The hearing was beset by problems arising from the late disclosure of material held by the police. Judgment includes suggested solutions as to how such problems may be avoided. 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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Owes v Owens: Appeal dismissed


Lord Wilson gives the judgment of the Supreme Court

BACKGROUND TO THE APPEAL

The Appellant, Mrs Owens, and the Respondent, Mr Owens, were married in 1978 and have two adult children. Mrs Owens had been contemplating a divorce since 2012 (when she consulted solicitors who prepared a draft divorce petition for her) but it was not until February 2015 that she left the matrimonial home. The parties have not lived together since her departure. In May 2015 Mrs Owens issued the divorce petition which is the subject of the current proceedings. It was based on s.1(2)(b) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, and alleged that the marriage had broken down irretrievably and that Mr Owens had behaved in such a way that Mrs Owens could not reasonably be expected to live with him. It was drafted in anodyne terms but when it was served on Mr Owens he nevertheless indicated an intention to defend the suit, arguing that the marriage had largely been successful.

In October 2015 the matter came before a recorder for a case management hearing. In light of Mr Owens’ defence, the recorder granted Mrs Owens permission to amend her petition so as to expand her allegations of behaviour. The recorder also directed that the substantive hearing of the dispute would take place over the course of a day (Mrs Owens had originally suggested a half-day would suffice) and that there would be no witnesses other than the parties themselves. Mrs Owens duly amended her petition so as to include 27 individual examples of Mr Owens being moody, argumentative, and disparaging her in front of others, but at the one-day hearing her counsel ultimately focussed on only a very few of these.

The judge found that the marriage had broken down, but that Mrs Owens’ 27 examples were flimsy and exaggerated, and that those relied on at the hearing were isolated incidents. Accordingly, the test under s.1(2)(b) was not met and Mrs Owens’ petition for divorce was dismissed. Mrs Owens appealed against this decision to the Court of Appeal, but her appeal was also dismissed. She now appeals against the Court of Appeal’s decision to the Supreme Court.

JUDGMENT

The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the appeal, with the result that Mrs Owens must remain married to Mr Owens for the time being. Lord Wilson gives the majority judgment, with whom Lord Hodge and Lady Black agree. Lady Hale and Lord Mance each give a concurring judgment.

REASONS FOR THE JUDGMENT

It is important to bear in mind the legal context to this dispute, namely that defended suits for divorce are exceedingly rare. While the family court recognises that s.1 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 must be conscientiously applied, it takes no satisfaction when obliged to rule that a marriage which has broken down must nevertheless continue in being [15]. The expectations are that almost every petition under s. 1(2)(b) will succeed, that the evidence before any contested hearing will be brief, and that the judgment of the court in such a hearing will almost certainly result in the pronouncement of a decree [17]. This is the background to the contested hearing in this case, and explains why Mrs Owens’ advisors agreed to a short hearing with no external witnesses to corroborate her evidence [14-15].

When applying s. 1(2)(b) the correct inquiry is: (i) by reference to the allegations of behaviour in the petition, to determine what the respondent did or did not do; (ii) to assess the effect which the behaviour had upon this particular petitioner in light of all the circumstances in which it occurred; and (iii) to make an evaluation as to whether, as a result of the respondent’s behaviour and in the light of its effect on the petitioner, an expectation that the petitioner should continue to live with the respondent would be unreasonable [28]. This test has been applied for many years but the application of the test to the facts of an individual case is likely to change over time, in line with changes in wider social and moral values [30-32]. The most relevant change over the past forty years is the recognition of equality between the sexes, and of marriage as a partnership of equals [34].

At the hearing, the judge gave himself the correct self-direction; he understood he was applying an objective test, but with subjective elements [39]. The majority nevertheless have concerns about other aspects of the judge’s analysis. In particular, they have an uneasy feeling about the summary despatch of a suit which was said to depend on an authoritarian course of conduct, when the judge had scrutinised only a few individual incidents of Mr Owens’ behaviour [42]. However, uneasy feelings are of no consequence in an appellate court. A first-instance judge has many advantages in reaching the relevant conclusions, and Mrs Owens’ complaints about the judgment have already been rehearsed and dismissed by the Court of Appeal. In such circumstances it is most unlikely for it to be appropriate for the Supreme Court to intervene [43]. However, the majority invite Parliament to consider replacing a law which denies Mrs Owens a divorce in the present circumstances [44-45].

Concurring judgments

Lady Hale agrees with Lord Wilson as to the legal analysis, but has several misgivings about the judge’s judgment [47-48]. Her gravest misgiving relates to the fact that this was a case which depended upon the cumulative effect of a great many small incidents (which were said to be indicative of authoritarian and demeaning conduct over a period of time), yet the hearing before the judge was not set up or conducted in a way which would enable the full flavour of such conduct to be properly evaluated [50]. In light of her misgivings, she considers that the proper disposal is to allow the appeal, and send the case back to the first-instance court to be tried again. However, this is not a disposal which Mrs Owens is actually seeking, and Lady Hale is therefore reluctantly persuaded that the appeal should be dismissed [53-54].

Lord Mance also agrees with Lord Wilson as to the wider legal analysis, however he does not share the concerns expressed by Lord Wilson and Lady Hale about the judge’s judgment. Lord Mance considers that the judge did not misdirect himself at any stage, and that the judge properly concluded that there was nothing in the case overall [57, 59]. Moreover, although the hearing of the defended divorce petition was listed for a relatively short period, this was how the judge was invited to decide the matter. It would be inappropriate for the Supreme Court to interfere at this stage and say it was not possible in the circumstances for the judge to have reached a fair determination [58].

References in square brackets are to paragraphs in the judgment, which can be found here.

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers July/August 2018


The latest issue of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers is now published.

In this issue

  • Collaboration – Paul Magrath of ICLR describes many useful apps for working remotely with others
  • Privacy – Alex Heshmaty of Legal Words brings us up to date on the right to be forgotten
  • Cloud suppliers – Delia Venables and guests explain types of cloud system and points to consider when changing supplier
  • Ebooks – Nick Holmes reviews how law publishers have responded to the demand for ebooks
  • Legislation – Nick Holmes looks at how legislation.gov.uk is finally bringing the statute book up to date
  • Privacy – Alex Heshmaty of Legal Words considers the various ways we can be tracked online
  • Open law – Nick Holmes describes the state of open law in the UK and what more is needed to achieve it

Access the Newsletter online

Monday, July 23, 2018

Standard Family Orders Handbook: Volume Two - Children and Other Orders


Standard Family Orders Handbook

Volume 2 - Children and Other Orders

HHJ Edward Hess, HHJ Martin Dancey & Edward Devereux QC

£60 - Published by Class Legal, in association with the FLBA: July 2018

"They [i.e. the authors] would be delighted if you decided to review it in Family Lore." They said.

Well actually, I will not be reviewing it. Because I don't need to.

The reason for that is quite simply that I have already not reviewed the Standard Family Orders Handbook, Volume 1, covering Financial and Enforcement orders and, apart from the fact that Volume 2 covers children and other orders (a fact that I'm sure you will already have gathered), everything you need to know about Volume 2 is in that earlier non-review, which you can find here.

I need say nothing more because if you are a family law practitioner you will already be aware that you simply have to have this volume, nestling next to its companion, on your bookshelf.

The Handbook can be purchased from Class Legal, here. Note that pre-orders are only £45.

News Essentials: 23rd July 2018


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

NEWS
New pilot PD 36H for FGM and Forced Marriage Protection Orders
The Ministry of Justice are launching a new pilot Practice Direction 36H on Moday 23 July, applying to FGM and Forced Marriage protection orders (and variation, extension and discharge thereof). Full story: Family Law.

Private Members Bill seeks to force review of divorce law
Baroness Butler-Sloss, former President of the Family Division, is sponsoring the Bill. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Supreme Court decision in Owens v Owens to be handed down next week
Judgment in wife's high profile appeal against refusal to grant a divorce on behaviour grounds will be handed down Wednesday 25th July. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Husband wins Supreme Court appeal against order to pay all wife’s rental costs
First instance judge was entitled to decline to vary periodical payments order. Full story: Family Law Week. See Mills v Mills, below.

Accommodation under s 20 agreement was lawful without parents’ informed consent
Parents’ appeal fails in Supreme Court. Full story: Family Law Week. See Williams & Anor v London Borough of Hackney, below.

Joint call for urgent ban on cross-examination of domestic abuse victims by alleged perpetrators
Resolution, The Law Society and Women’s Aid have issued a joint call to the Government to urgently bring forward promised legislation banning the cross-examination of domestic abuse victims by alleged perpetrators in the family courts. Full story: Family Law.

CASES
ABCDE, Re [2018] EWHC 1841 (Fam) (16 July 2018)
Application by a local authority for permission to withdraw care proceedings in respect of five children, including consideration of costs order against local authority. Full report: Bailii.

D (A Child) (Temporary Relocation) [2018] EWHC 1571 (Fam) (23 May 2018)
Appeal against order allowing mother to remove child temporarily to Japan. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Mills v Mills [2018] UKSC 38 (18 July 2018)
Appeal by husband against order increasing spousal maintenance, on the basis that the increase took into account the wife's housing costs, which had already been provided for in the capital settlement. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Williams & Anor v London Borough of Hackney [2018] UKSC 37 (18 July 2018)
This appeal considered the lawfulness of the accommodation of the appellants’ children by the respondent under the Children Act 1989, s 20. Full report: Bailii.

Barker v Winter [2018] EWHC 1785 (QB) (09 July 2018)
Claim for damages after the claimant cohabitee claimed that she had been deceived by the defendant in spending her divorce settlement money on a lavish lifestyle after he promised to pay her back and buy her a house when his own divorce had concluded. Full report: Bailii, via Family Law Hub.

*      *      *
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.