Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Family Hubs can empower families to help themselves, says charity

Community-based Family Hubs have the potential to empower families across the country to help themselves, by offering them a transformative set of options, says a leading family charity.

In an article for Family Law, National Family Mediation CEO Jane Robey explains the background to ‘Family Hubs’, an idea currently being trialled in parts of the country, which would offer a number of community-based family-focused services.

But she argues that Family Hubs need to be shaped with fresh thinking, avoiding simply being a repeat of Sure Start Children’s Centres.

“The Children’s Centre offer is limited to health and development, and services tend to be focused on families at risk,” she says. “To provide more universal appeal Family Hubs need to become a community resource that is not in any way stigmatised, with the service net cast further and wider than by Children’s Centres. They need a template offering with expert emotional, practical, financial, and legal information and services available.

“Strengthening families has to be about helping families to help themselves. If designed wisely Family Hubs have the potential to ‘hand up’ to families across the country a truly transformative set of options.”

 The full article is available online using this link.

Monday, March 19, 2018

News Essentials: 19th March 2018

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

Council kept boy, 9, in care for whole of his life, judge reveals
Herefordshire council used section 20 orders to keep children in care without seeking court approval. Full story: The Guardian.

Millionaire jailed for contempt of court over divorce deal
Property developer, 83, given 14-month sentence for refusing to obey company handover order. Full story: The Guardian. See the reports of Hart v Hart, below.

Consultation on regs to allow a single person to apply for a parental order following a surrogacy arrangement
Consultation closes on 20 April 2018. Full story: Family Law Week.

Family court secrecy lets judges get away with mistakes, senior judge says
Secrecy in family courts could be allowing judges to get away with mistakes, the most senior family judge in England and Wales has said. Full story: The Telegraph.

Government will legislate to replace Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards
Ministers broadly accept Liberty Protection Safeguards system proposed by Law Commission and pledge to legislate when parliamentary time allows. Full story: Community Care.

Sexual relationship not necessary for a valid marriage, says Munby
Sexual relations are not required for a marriage to be valid for the purposes of parental orders in surrogacy cases, the president of the family division has said, before granting an order to a couple where one of the partners is gay. Full story: Law Society Gazette. See X (A Child : foreign surrogacy), below.

Judge orders husband in bitter divorce case to stop emailing wife’s solicitor
A High Court judge has issued a restraining order to stop a man in a long-running divorce case from contacting his former wife’s solicitor on her private email address. Full story: Legal Futures. See Maughan v Wilmot, below.

Practice Guidance: Case Management and Mediation of International Child Abduction Proceedings
Fresh guidance issued by The President, 13 March 2018, covering procedure, case management and mediation in international child abduction cases. Full story: Family Law Hub.

New batch of Standard Family Orders out for consultation
Comments on 74 orders covering children and other non-financial matters required by 18th April. Full story: Family Law Hub.

Government launches post-implementation review of LASPO
Findings will be published later this year. Full story: Family Law Week.

Y v H & Anor [2017] EWHC 3698 (Fam) (22 December 2017)
Judgment considering issue of whether the courts of England and Wales have jurisdiction over child in respect of matters of parental responsibility or whether jurisdiction now rests with the courts of Northern Ireland. Full report: Bailii.

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

Hart v Hart [2018] EWHC B111 (Fam) (23 February 2018)
Application by wife for husband's committal for contempt in relation to implementation of financial remedies order. Full report: Bailii.

Hart v Hart [2018] EWHC B000 (Fam) (15 March 2018)
Sentencing judgment following finding that husband had been in contempt in relation to implementation of financial remedies order. Full report: Bailii.

Northamptonshire County Council v AB & Anor [2017] EWHC 3695 (Fam) (31 July 2017)
Care and placement proceedings in relation to 4 children. Care plan for children to be rehabilitated to the mother, following admission by parents that there had been serial domestic abuse by the father of the mother. Full report: Bailii.

French v The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions & Anor [2018] EWCA Civ 470 (13 March 2018)
Appeal by father against decision in the Upper Tribunal that his income from gambling was earnings from gainful employment such that it could be part of a child support assessment. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii, via Family Law Hub.

Maughan v Wilmot [2018] EWHC 273 (Fam) (25 January 2018)
Further judgment in long-running financial remedy proceedings dealing, inter alia, with variation of a child maintenance order and enforcement of arrears. Full report: Bailii.

X (A Child : foreign surrogacy) [2018] EWFC 15 (13 March 2018)
Application for a parental order following a foreign surrogacy arrangement, considering issues of the applicants' platonic relationship and the fact that they lived in separate households. Full report: Bailii.

Mensah v Mensah [2018] EWHC 484 (Fam) (09 March 2018)
Appeal by wife against registration of French divorce order, on the basis that she did not receive proper notice of the French divorce. Appeal dismissed. 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, March 12, 2018

News Essentials: 12th March 2018

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

Government takes action to tackle domestic abuse
The government has launched a consultation on domestic abuse, seeking new laws and stronger powers to protect and support survivors. Full story: Home Office and Ministry of Justice.

Domestic abuse still under-reported in England, says Women's Aid
The charity says its figures underline the need for continued support of refuges. Full story: The Guardian.

Cobb J reviews law on interim orders for sale of parties' former matrimonial home
Wife’s appeal against interim order for sale allowed. Full story: Family Law Week.

Adopted children should remain close to birth families, study suggests
Adoption law should be overhauled to ensure children can retain close contact with their birth families, the British Association of Social Workers has said following the findings of an academic study. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

RS v LS & LMP [2018] EWHC 449 (Fam) (07 March 2018)
Application by wife to set aside judgment for costs obtained by her former solicitors, who acted for her in the context of financial remedy proceedings. Full report: Bailii.

X and Y (Children) [2018] EWHC 451 (Fam) (08 March 2018)
Care and placement proceedings concerning two teenage girls. Applications by local authority concerning what role, if any, the girls' father should play in the proceedings. Full report: Bailii.

DAM (Children), Re [2018] EWCA Civ 386 (08 March 2018)
Appeal by mother against care orders in relation to two of three children. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

AG and AB (Children) [2018] EWHC 381 (Fam) (28 February 2018)
Appeal against order that children habitually resident in Canada and that court had no jurisdiction to determine father's application for a child arrangements order. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Habberfield v Habberfield [2018] EWHC 317 (Ch) (23 February 2018)
Application by daughter claiming entitlement to the entirety of the family farm, owned by her deceased father, or such lesser sum as the court thought fit. The claim was brought against her mother in proprietary estoppel and alternatively under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. 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.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Book Review: Dictionary of Financial Remedies, 2018 Edition

Dictionary of Financial Remedies

Hess, Duckworth, Max & Kisser

£55* - Published by Class Legal: March 2018

As I have said here before, I'm afraid I don't have time these days to do full book reviews. I will therefore keep this short.

As I have explained before, the Dictionary of Financial Remedies is an A4 paperback (or digital edition, see below) book comprising (in this edition) 104 pages with some 71 entries, in alphabetical order, on various topics relevant to financial remedies, ranging from Add-Backs (you'll have to read the book if you don't know what they are) through such things as the Compensation and Sharing Principles, to Variation of Settlements. The publishers describe it as " a unique reference guide to the key concepts, cases and practice of financial remedies."

The Dictionary is updated each year. In addition this year it has new entries on the aforementioned Add-Backs, Chattels, Hadkinson Orders, International Enforcement, Jurisdiction, Special Contribution and Stockpiling Orders, all of which obviously makes it even more useful than before.

The Dictionary provides a handy and portable aide-memoire for anyone involved in financial remedies work. If you already have it, then you'll need the latest edition. If you don't have it, try it out - as I also said last year, you may just find it becoming an essential addition to your library.

Dictionary of Financial Remedies can be purchased from Class Legal, here. As usual, a digital edition is also available.

* If you get in quick and pre-order, the price is £45.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Good ideas, bad ideas

My posts this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog were all about ideas, whether good or bad:

Some good ideas contained in pending family law Bills - Even if most of them will never pass...

A salutary tale about the implementation of a financial order - Contained in the case O’Connell v Lovell (divorce : property).

Father fails with child maintenance argument on Sark - The Privy council case A v R (Guernsey).

Is adult adoption a good idea? - I consider the question.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Tens of thousands left in legal limbo as government backtracks on legal aid review

Nigel Shepherd
In response to today's comments from the Justice Minister to further postpone the review of legal aid, and alongside the announced changes to the cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses, Resolution Chair Nigel Shepherd said:

"It is now nearly 5 years since the government’s devastating cuts to the legal aid system in England and Wales. In that time we’ve seen the number of people without legal representation in the family courts sky-rocket, countless more are unable to access even basic early legal advice and there has been a fall off in the referrals to family mediation that before the cuts came primarily from family lawyers.

Vulnerable people are still finding it harder to access legal support to help them escape abusive relationships than they did before 2013 .

The government committed to reviewing the impact of LASPO by April this year. And more than a year ago, we were told that this review process had begun. It seems bizarre that, at a time when Government is trying to increase efficiencies in the court system, they’re unwilling to take steps to address the growing number of litigants in person in family courts – a direct result of these cuts and one that comes with a financial and emotional cost and the risk of real injustice.

Whilst we welcome the consultation on other long-awaited measures to protect victims of domestic abuse, it is unacceptable that that there is still no clear timetable to introduce the urgently needed legislation to allow family court judges to prevent perpetrators of abuse (alleged or otherwise) from cross-examining their victims in person.

Today’s announcement sends a very clear, and very stark, message: while ministers continue to drag their feet, tens of thousands are left in legal limbo each year."

Monday, March 05, 2018

News Essentials: 5th March 2018

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

First surrogacy guidance published for England and Wales
Guidance on how to start a family using a surrogate has been published for England and Wales for the first time by the government. Full story: BBC News.

President issues fresh guidance on jurisdiction and allocation in the Family Court
The President seeks to clarify the position, which is the cause of "considerable confusion". Full story: Family Law Hub.

Latest ONS marriage figures underline need for legal reform
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has published Marriages in England and Wales: 2015, reporting on the number of marriages that took place in England and Wales in 2015. Full story: Family Law.

Number of councils using Family Drug and Alcohol Courts to expand
The new authorities join 15 others that operate the specialist courts across the country. Full story: Community Care.

Solicitor loses appeal against order to give evidence on Russian client’s assets and not tip him off about it
A solicitor compelled to give evidence about a billionaire Russian client’s assets, and forbidden from revealing his court appearance to the client, has lost his appeal against those orders. Full story: Legal Futures. See Kerman v Akhmedova, below.

Rudd urged to prevent cross-examining by domestic abusers
Charity calls on home secretary to end practice in family courts as she unveils proposals for bill. Full story: The Guardian.

Divorce costs £3,800 a year in retirement income, says Prudential
Expected annual income for divorcees retiring in 2018 is £17,600. Full story: Family Law Week.

A v A [2018] EWHC 340 (Fam) (28 February 2018)
Appeal by husband against order varying terms of consent order made in 2011, on the basis of a change in circumstances. Appeal allowed in part. Full report: Bailii.

G (A Child) [2018] EWCA Civ 305 (28 February 2018)
Appeal against provision in child arrangements order in favour of artificial insemination donor where child's parents are civil partners, allowing contact with donor's parents. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

WS v HS (appeal - sale of matrimonial home) [2018] EWFC 11 (28 February 2018)
Application for permission to appeal against interim order for the immediate sale of a former matrimonial home. Permission granted, and appeal allowed, on the basis that there was no application before the DJ on which he could make such an order. Full report: Bailii.

Kerman v Akhmedova [2018] EWCA Civ 307 (27 February 2018)
Appeal by solicitor against order made on application of wife in financial remedy proceedings requiring him to attend court to give evidence. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, March 02, 2018

Snow joke

The country may have fallen under the spell of the Beast from the East this week, but that didn't stop me posting on the Stowe Family Law Blog (well, someone has to keep things running), where my posts were generally of a rather serious nature. They included:

“Unpalatable” for a McKenzie friend to cross-examine alleged abuse victim - The judgment of the Court of Appeal in J (DV Facts).

Come on, surely we can do better than the child support system? - Thoughts provoked by the recent case MJ v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and FD, not to mention the even more recent case P v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and P. In both cases, the child support claims were still grinding on, despite the children being well into their twenties!

Domestic abuse sentencing guidelines contain lessons for all - Some thoughts on the new guidelines from the Sentencing Council.

No special rules or indulgences for litigants in person - As confirmed by the Supreme Court in Barton v Wright Hassal LLP.

Have a warm weekend.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Problem-solving Family Drug and Alcohol Courts expand across London

Families in nine London boroughs can now access Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC), improving the lives of London children who face removal from their families because of the risk posed by a parent’s substance misuse and other complex needs.

The new pan-London service is launched today (February 28) at a special event hosted by Croydon Family Court, with Judges, parent graduates, charities, and local authority representatives in attendance.

A partnership of nine London boroughs, led by the London Borough of Merton, commissioned the expansion of the London FDAC service, awarded to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

Families in these nine boroughs will now have the option of ordinary care proceedings, or being referred to Central London Family Court, Croydon Family Court, and West London Family Court so their case can proceed through FDAC.

The FDAC service, delivered by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, gives parents more intensive support than they normally get when they are involved in care proceedings, with hearings (without lawyers) led by dedicated, specially-trained judges who provide frequent encouragement and challenge as parents work on their recovery.

Under FDAC, the judge works closely with a specialist, multi-disciplinary team attached to the court, who collaborate with local services to offer parents a personalised package of support and treatment that gives them the chance to overcome their problems and show that they are capable of caring for their children.

Latest research (2016) demonstrates families receiving FDAC are significantly more likely than families in standard care proceedings to be reunited with their children and for the parents to have ceased misusing substances.

FDAC families are also 3 to 4 times more likely than families receiving standard care proceedings to be doing well 3 years after the proceedings came to an end:
  •  A significantly higher proportion of FDAC than comparison reunification mothers (58% v 24%) were estimated to sustain cessation over the five-year follow up, and
  •  A significantly higher proportion of FDAC than comparison mothers who had been reunited with their children at the end of proceedings were estimated to experience no disruption to family stability at 3-year follow up (51% v 22%).
The nine London boroughs join fifteen other local authorities around the country in operating a FDAC, with further expansion planned across the UK later in 2018.

Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Our problem-solving Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) model is tried and tested. We know it works better than standard family proceedings in addressing the complex problems of trauma, substance misuse, mental ill health and domestic violence that families involved in care proceedings often face, and I’m delighted that families across London will now have the option of accessing a FDAC service.”

Steve Bambrough, director of the FDAC National Unit, said:

“FDAC achieves better outcomes for parents, better outcomes for children, and better value for money and we applaud these local authorities, the courts, and the judges for taking an innovative, compassionate and evidence-based approach to family justice in the capital.”

A mother who has been through FDAC said:

“I feel passionately about the role FDAC plays in family courts, and the unique support they offer to parents in a terrifying situation. The holistic and individualised approach FDAC takes is in stark contrast to standard child protection proceedings.

“Instead of viewing my situation in black and white, they found the shades of grey and supported me to be strong and brave enough to face my addiction. I was challenged to gain insight and to become strong both as an individual and as a mother.”

Monday, February 26, 2018

Should be on the shelf in every family law library: Financial Remedies Practice (2018)

Financial Remedies Practice, 2018 Edition

The @eGlance Guide

£99.95 - Published by Class Legal: February 2018

Financial Remedies Practice, now in its 7th annual edition, has become firmly established as an essential reference for all family financial remedies practitioners.

Cited and used in the courts every day, this unique book combines in a single portable volume authoritative Commentary on financial remedies practice and procedure together with the full, up-to-date text of the relevant Family Procedure Rules and Practice Directions.

The Commentary is written by the team responsible for both At A Glance and @eGlance so you can be confident that the guidance is current, trusted and insightful.

Crucially, and unlike other books on the topic, Financial Remedies Practice provides unrivalled coverage of myriad decisions and developments under the CPR that now mirror many of the key aspects of financial remedies practice, such as injunctions, relief from sanctions, costs and general case management.

This 7th edition has been fully revised to incorporate the key developments affecting financial remedies practice and procedure over the past 12 months, with analysis of cases drawn from both the family and civil courts covering topics such as vulnerable witnesses, strike out, set aside, proportionality, undertakings and more.

The book is supplemented by an online version at familyprocedure.com which includes the full text of the Commentary linked to the primary sources cited so that you can more easily find the relevant case and statutes direct from the Commentary. Access to the site is included in the price.

Financial Remedies Practice is available from Class Legal, here.

News Essentials: 26th February 2018

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

Mother faces £20,000 costs bill despite successfully challenging care order
Local authorities should not have to cover legal aid funding deficiencies, the Court of Appeal has said, despite upholding a mother's challenge against a placement order. Full story: Law Society Gazette. See M (A Child), below.

Domestic abuse: Guidelines recommend tougher sentences
People convicted of domestic abuse offences in England and Wales will be more likely to go to prison in future, under new sentencing guidelines. Full story: BBC News.

Parents lose legal fight to keep Liverpool toddler on life support
High court rules in favour of doctors who said continuing to treat Alfie Evans was ‘inhumane’. Full story: The Guardian. See report, below.

A v B [2018] EWHC 328 (Fam) (06 February 2018)
Appeal by mother against refusal of application for permission to take child out of the jurisdiction to live with her in Poland. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Kent County Council v A, M & Ors (Hair strand testing) [2017] EWFC B104 (01 December 2017)
Fact-finding hearing in care proceedings in relation to 8 year old boy who suffers from Down’s syndrome and epilepsy, including consideration of concerns about the impact of and interpretation of hair strand testing. Full report: Bailii.

L (A Child) [2018] EWCA Civ 238 (21 February 2018)
Applications by mother and grandparents for permission to appeal against care orders made in respect of two children. Permission refused. Full report: Bailii.

Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust v Evans & Anor [2018] EWHC 308 (Fam) (20 February 2018)
Application by NHS Trust for a declaration that continued ventilatory support is not in child's best interests, and in the circumstances it is not lawful that such treatment continue. Full report: Bailii.

Buehrlen v Buehrlen [2017] EWHC 3643 (Fam) (24 November 2017)
Appeal by husband against dismissal/refusal of application to instruct an employment expert, to give evidence as to the wife's earning capacity. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

M (A Child) [2018] EWCA Civ 240 (20 February 2018)
Appeal by mother against dismissal of application to discharge care order. 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.

Monday, February 19, 2018

News Essentials: 19th February 2018

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

Supreme Court ruling highlights complexities in family 'abduction' cases
The Supreme Court has highlighted the complex nature of issues that lower courts have to grapple with in relation to family cases involving the Hague Convention on civil aspects of international child abduction. Full story: Law Society Gazette. See C (Children), below.

Public law cases received by Cafcass in January up 3% on a year ago
Highest monthly total for a January on record. Full story: Family Law Week.

New private law cases received by Cafcass in January up 11% on a year ago
3,590 new cases received. Full story: Family Law Week.

Supreme Court to hear s.20 Children Act accommodation case this week
The Supreme Court will this week consider the lawfulness of a London borough’s accommodation under s.20 of the Children Act 1989 of eight children who had been taken into police protection. Full story: Local Government Lawyer.

R (Children) [2018] EWCA Civ 198 (16 February 2018)
Appeal by father against finding that he had "used unreasonable force and unlawfully killed the mother", dealing with issue of the extent to which, if at all, the Family Court should import elements of criminal law into a fact-finding determination within child care proceedings. Full report: Bailii.

Re J [2018] EWFC 8 (13 February 2018)
Application by father to appeal against adoption order made in 2013 in favour of step-father. Appeal allowed and order set aside, on basis that father had not been a party to the proceedings, the mother having stated that she did not know the father's identity. Full report: Family Law Week.

M (A Child) [2017] EWCA Civ 245 (19 December 2017)
Appeal from a finding of fact made in care proceedings involving six children. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

M (A Child) [2017] EWCA Civ 2356 (13 December 2017)
Appeal by father against order that mother could relocate with child to Columbia. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

In the matter of C (Children) [2018] UKSC 8 (14 February 2018)
Appeal by mother against decision of Court of Appeal to allow father's appeal against refusal of application for summary return of children to Australia, dealing with issue of "repudiatory retention". Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

DB v CB [2017] EWHC 3559 (Fam) (06 November 2017)
Application by father for summary return of child to Switzerland. Application dismissed, on the basis that the child was habitually resident in England and Wales. 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.

Largest study of its kind finds 83% of looked after children and young people feel being in care has improved their lives but younger children need more support

Published today (19 February), the largest study of its kind measuring the subjective wellbeing of 2,263 looked after children and young people across 16 local authority areas has revealed that 83% feel being in care has improved their lives, and that the longer children and young people have spent in care, the more likely they are to have moderate to high levels of wellbeing.

 However, whilst the majority of young people are positive about their experiences of care, the findings highlight where improvements are needed. Of the youngest children surveyed (4-7 year olds), over half (53%) thought it not had been fully explained to them why they were in care, and almost a quarter (23%) were unsure of who their social worker was. In addition, almost a fifth (19%) of 8-10 year olds do not feel listened to or included in decisions made about them.

 The ‘Our Lives Our Care’ study, published by the charity Coram Voice and the University of Bristol is part of the Bright Spots programme which enables local authorities to find out directly from young people in care what wellbeing means to them and what areas need to be improved. The programme is highlighted in the Department for Education’s recent Fostering Stocktake report, with a recommendation that “all local authorities use Bright Spots, or similar to survey approaches regularly and systematically to measure all children’s experience of fostering.”

 The latest government figures show there are over 72,000 children in care in England, with the largest majority in care due to parental abuse and neglect. Whilst official data is published on areas such as placement moves and educational and employment outcomes, the Bright Spots programme is the first to focus on how children feel themselves about their wellbeing and their lives in care including relationships, opportunities and support received. It is also the only study of its kind to survey children as young as four.

 The study consists of online surveys for children aged 4-7 years, 8-10 years and 11-18 years, and results show that, compared to young people in the general population, a larger proportion of children in care feel safe where they are living and felt their carers were interested in their education. In addition, the majority (92% of 11-18 year olds, 93% of 8-10 year olds and 89% of 4-7 year olds) felt their carers noticed their feelings. One young person wrote: “I feel I have a proper family who care about me and value my opinions. I feel loved and cared for.”

 Children and young people emphasised the importance of having a trusted adult in their lives. However, almost a third (31%) of 11-18 year olds reported that they have had three or more social workers in the past year, and one young person commented: “I think that social workers shouldn’t move around as much because they just get to know your life story…how can you trust them when you don’t even know them or have hardly ever met them?” 8% of 11-18yrs had no contact with either parent and 20% had lived with five or more foster carers since entering care.

 Some children and young people also felt that changes of placement and school had negatively affected their friendships, and one in ten 11-18 year olds reported not having a good friend (compared to just 3% of 14 year olds in the general population).

 Furthermore, some young people reported ‘feeling different’ to others because of their experiences in care, and almost a third (30%) of 8-10 year olds were afraid to go to school because of bullying. One young person wrote: “Being in care is a struggle because you get bullied or picked on for being special and this can bring my mood down.” 16% of children also thought they were not given opportunities at school to show they could be trusted.

 Professor Julie Selwyn CBE, Director of the University of Bristol’s Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies and lead author of the study said:  “The results of the survey show that most children and young people are flourishing in care but about 18% of young people (11-18yrs) are not. Young people with low well-being did not feel settled and felt that they were being moved from placement to placement.  The detrimental impact of a lack of a trusted adult in these children’s lives cannot be over-estimated.”

 Dr Carol Homden CBE, CEO of Coram said: “It is encouraging to hear that such a large majority of children and young people in care feel their lives are improving and that for most, the care system is providing them with the safety, support and opportunities they need to thrive.

 “However the results show us that we can and must take action to address the avoidable losses of care so that children feel “normal” and are able to do the same things as their friends, have an understanding of why they are where they are, and a part to play in decisions that affect them.”

 The study also uncovered that girls and children with black or mixed ethnicity reported lower wellbeing. Happiness with appearance is an especially significant factor in predicting girls’ wellbeing, along with being given opportunities to be trusted, liking their bedrooms, doing the same things as friends, having a trusted adult, feeling safe and not being afraid to go to school because of bullying.

 In comparison with young people of other ethnicities, a larger proportion of the mixed ethnicity group had experienced five or more placements, disliked school, did not understand why they were in care and were the least positive about their future.

 Brigid Robinson, Managing Director of Coram Voice said: "In addition to the 16 covered in this report, since last year, a further 15 local authorities in England and Wales have become involved in the Bright Spots programme, showing that they can really see the potential benefit for their services. We are able to work with even more authorities this coming year and urge anyone interested to get in touch with us to find out more.”

 Find out more about the Bright Spots programme at www.coramvoice.org.uk/brightspots.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Drama and pathos: the world of family law

I've often said that you never know what you're going to come across when following the world of family law, and that was certainly true this week, as demonstrated by my posts on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog, which included:

Woman granted injunction to prevent alleged blackmail by former partner - The case Ho v Bragg.

A different but better family justice system? - There is a fundamental problem with such a thing.

Appeal against order authorising DNA test of deceased person dismissed -  The Court of Appeal judgment in Anderson v Spencer.

Tearful father withdraws contact application after seven year dispute - The sad case Re J (A Child - Intractable Contact).

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

In the matter of C (Children): Appeal allowed

Lord Hughes gives the judgment of the Supreme Court


This matter centres around a married man and woman who, until 2015, had been living together in Australia with their two children. By the end of 2014 the marriage was in difficulties. The mother, who holds British citizenship, wanted to make a trip to England with the children before returning to work from maternity leave. The father agreed to an eight-week stay. The mother and the children came to England on 4 May 2015 where they have since remained. Discussions between the mother and father resulted in the father agreeing to an extension of the eightweek visit up to a year. Based on the extension, the mother gave notice to her employer and looked for work in England.

In September 2015, the mother enrolled the older child at a local pre-school. Without telling the father, on 2 November 2015, she applied for British citizenship for both children who had entered England on six-month visitor visas. Her solicitors wrote a letter to the immigration authorities on her behalf indicating that she and the children could not return to Australia for fear of domestic abuse.

In continuing correspondence, the father pressed the mother on the children’s expected date of return. The mother indicated that she did not know what her plans were but made clear that she would not be returning in May 2016. In June 2016, she expressed her intention to remain in the UK.

The father made an application in the High Court under the Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Abduction Convention”). The issue of when the mother had decided not to return to Australia was in contention. The mother’s own case was that by April 2016 she had felt she and the children would not be returning. The arguments before the Court meant that, on any view, there was a decision not to return to Australia before the expiry of the agreed year. The judge held that the children were habitually resident in England and Wales by the end of June 2016 so that mandatory summary return was unavailable under the Abduction Convention. But he accepted mother’s evidence that she did not have the intention, in November 2015, or before April 2016, not to return to Australia.

The mother now appeals against the Court of Appeal’s decision. The issues in the appeal are: (1) what is the effect on an application under the Abduction Convention if a child has become habitually resident in the destination state before the act relied on as a wrongful removal or retention occurs; and (2) if a child has been removed from their home state by agreement with the left-behind parent for a limited period can there be a wrongful retention before the agreed period of absence expires (so-called “repudiatory retention”)? The father cross-appeals on the issue of habitual residence.


The Supreme Court allows the appeal and dismisses the cross appeal. Lord Hughes gives the lead judgment with whom Lady Hale and Lord Carnwath agree. Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson each give judgments concurring on the two points of principle but dissenting on the outcome of this case on its facts.


Issue 1

When considering the general scheme of the Abduction Convention, the construction that summary return is available if, by the time of the act relied on as a wrongful removal or retention, a child is habitually resident in the state where the application for return is made is unpersuasive. That construction is inconsistent with the operation of the Abduction Convention since 1980 and its treatment by subsequent international legal instruments. [19]

The Abduction Convention is designed to provide a summary remedy which negates the pre-emptive force of wrongful removal or retention and to defeat forum-shopping. [21] The point of the scheme adopted by the Abduction Convention was to leave the merits to be decided by the courts of the place of the child’s habitual residence. If the forum state is the habitual residence of the child, there can be no place for a summary return to somewhere else, without a merits-based decision. This understanding of the scheme of the Abduction Convention is reflected in the provisions of both the Revised Brussels II Regulation and the 1996 Hague Convention on Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children. [23]

The Abduction Convention cannot be invoked if by the time of the alleged wrongful act, whether by removal or retention, the child is habitually resident in the state where the request for return is lodged. In such a case, that state has primary jurisdiction to decide on the merits, based on the child’s habitual residence, and there is no room for a mandatory summary decision. [34]

Issue 2

Repudiatory retention has been recognised in some jurisdictions, but no generally accepted international practice or authority exists on the point. [39] The desirability of inducing a prompt change of mind in the retaining parent is an argument for recognising a repudiatory retention when and if it occurs. The 12 month time limit for seeking mandatory summary return runs from the point a repudiatory retention occurs and that period may pass before an applicant is aware of the repudiatory retention. However, it is not a limitation period but a provision in the child’s interest to limit mandatory summary return. Once elapsed it renders a summary return discretionary. The concern that repudiatory retention would make Abduction Convention applications longer and more complicated is a point well made. However, Family Division judges are used to managing applications actively and controlling any tendency to spill outside the relevant issues. Further, if repudiatory retention requires an overt act or statement, this lessens the danger of speculative applications. [46-48]

Repudiatory retention is possible in law. The objections to it are insubstantial, whereas the arguments in favour are convincing and conform to the scheme of the Abduction Convention. It would be unwise to attempt an exhaustive definition of proof or evidence. An objectively identifiable act of repudiation is required, but it need not be communicated to the left-behind parent nor does an exact date need to be identifiable. [50-51]

On the present facts there could not have been a wrongful retention in April 2016 as the mother’s internal thinking could not by itself amount to such. If she had such an intention in November 2015, the application to the immigration authorities could have amounted to a repudiatory retention. But it was open to the judge to believe the mother’s evidence that she did not possess this intention in November. [55] There is no basis in law for criticising the judge’s decision as to habitual residence. [57]

Lord Kerr dissents on the outcome of this case on its facts. He expresses misgivings about repudiatory retention requiring an overt act by the travelling parent. [63] The judge’s finding that wrongful retention did not arise in this case could not be reconciled with his statement that the mother had concluded by April 2016 that she and the children should remain in England. [68] Moreover, the judge’s conclusion that the mother had not formed any intention to retain the children in England in November 2015 is insupportable as he failed to address the question of what bearing the letter of November 2015 had on her intention. [72]

Lord Wilson also dissents on the outcome of this case on its facts. The solicitor’s letter to the immigration authorities in November 2015 represented a major obstacle to any finding that the mother had not by then intended to keep the children in the UK indefinitely. The judge’s finding as to the mother’s intention in November 2015 was flawed and the Court of Appeal were correct to order a fresh inquiry into her intention. [91-92]

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

News Essentials: 12th February 2018

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

Court of Protection: SRA regulation allows for immediate approval of trust corporations
Trust corporations wanting to act as property and affairs deputies for incapacitated people must be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to gain immediate approval, the Court of Protection has ruled. Full story: Legal Futures.

Supreme Court to decide whether ‘anticipatory retention’ is recognised under the 1980 Hague Convention
Judgment in appeal against C (Children) [2017] EWCA Civ 980 to be given on 14 February 2018. Full story: Family Law Week.

CCLC report calls for effective access to justice for all children
A Coram Children’s Legal Centre report has found that the narrowing in scope of provision of legal aid by LASPO has resulted in thousands of children being left without access to free legal advice and representation each year. Full story: Family Law.

Foster care in England report published
Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers's independent review of the fostering system in England with recommendations to the government about improving foster care. Full story: Department for Education.

An NHS Trust v S & L (A Child) (Witholding Life Sustaining Invasive Treatment) [2017] EWHC 3619 (Fam) (10 November 2017)
Application by NHS Trust for declarations relating to the continued treatment of a young child suffering from a terminal condition. Full report: Bailii.

Anderson v Spencer [2018] EWCA Civ 100 (07 February 2018)
Appeal against order directing that DNA extracted from a deceased man should be tested against a bodily sample to be taken from the Respondent, to establish whether the deceased was or was not the Respondent's biological father. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

J (Children) [2018] EWCA Civ 115 (06 February 2018)
Appeal by father against no contact and indirect contact only orders in respect of two children. Appeal allowed, but no other order made, as it was considered too late to contemplate a re-hearing. 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.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Online divorce demystifies the process when people are at crisis point

Jane Robey
The largest provider of family mediation for divorce in England and Wales has welcomed an announcement from HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) that a fully online divorce application process is now being tested.

 Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, said: “Facing a divorce is one of the biggest crisis points in anyone’s life, so it’s particularly important that the process is as simple and straightforward as possible.

 “The last thing people need at this time is to have to get to grips with a new set of legal jargon – words like ‘affidavit’. ‘plaintiff’ and ‘respondent’ - simply in order to move on with their lives.

 “The excellent digital work being developed by HMCTS promises to help demystify the process and simplify things, bringing divorce into the 21st century, using a language we can all understand.

 “Bringing divorce processes online makes them much more accessible which by definition can provide better access to justice and swifter resolution to seemingly-complicated procedures.”

 For more information about the HMCTS pilot use this link.

Monday, February 05, 2018

News Essentials: 5th February 2018

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

Register Islamic marriages under UK law, sharia review says
Report endorses civil marriage alongside religious ceremony to give women legal protection. Full story: The Guardian.

Russian billionaire's ex-wife seeks record UK divorce payout
Farkhad Akhmedova yet to pay ‘a penny’ in appeal against settlement, high court hears. Full story: The Guardian.

Computer says nisi: digital divorce application on test
The government has announced it is piloting a fully online divorce application process across England and Wales which it hopes will make the process less stressful for families. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

Judge 'at wits’ end' over secure unit shortages for young people
Boy suffering racial abuse cannot be moved nearer home because of lack of places. Full story: The Guardian. See K (A Child).

Isaiah Haastrup: Baby's life-support 'can be stopped'
Doctors can stop life-support treatment to a brain-damaged 11-month-old against parents' wishes, a High Court judge has said. Full story: BBC News. See report, below.

ELO v CLO (recognition of a Nigerian adoption order) [2017] EWHC 3574 (Fam) (08 December 2017)
Application by adoptive parents for recognition of Nigerian adoption order in relation to their five year old daughter. Full report: Bailii.

B v P (Children's Objections) [2017] EWHC 3577 (Fam) (21 December 2017)
Application by father for the summary return of two children to the jurisdiction of Hungary. Application dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

A-F (Children) [2018] EWHC 138 (Fam) (31 January 2018)
Test cases relating to seven children, raising various substantive and procedural questions in relation to the interface between care proceedings and the requirements of Article 5 of the Convention. Full report: Bailii.

Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust -v- Thomas and Haastrup [2018] EWHC 127 (Fam) (29 January 2018)
Application by NHS Trust for a declaration that the provision of life sustaining treatment is no longer in child’s best interests. 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.

New report from Coram Children’s Legal Centre highlights devastating impact of legal aid cuts on children

A new report published today by the Coram Children’s Legal centre (CCLC) demonstrates that, without funding for legal advice or representation as a result of changes to legal aid in 2013, some children have been left without the home, legal status, education or family access to which they are entitled.

The report Rights without remedies: legal aid and access to justice for children draws on evidence from CCLC’s legal advice services, which provide free advice and help to 20,000 children, young people or families every year. Focusing on family, education and immigration law, the report demonstrates the ways in which, without swift and reliable access to legal aid, children’s rights can be undermined. It calls for urgent changes to the government’s exceptional funding ‘safety net’ for vulnerable individuals, and for legal aid for all children in the care of local authorities or where children’s services are involved in private law family proceedings
Rights without remedies finds that the removal of vital areas of family, immigration and education law from the scope of legal aid has created risk of miscarriages of justice for thousands of children. This has exacerbated family breakdown, the costly and often unlawful exclusion of children from education, and destitution amongst migrant children, which places them at greater risk of exploitation.

Dr Carol Homden said:

“Since the changes to legal aid in 2013, all too many children have been unable to access the legal advice necessary for them to secure their futures. Coram Children’s Legal Centre has worked tirelessly to ensure that children have meaningful access to justice. But charities cannot, nor can they be expected to, fill the gaps left by limitations to a statutory service. We welcome the government’s review of the impact of those changes, and urge the government to take concrete steps to ensure all children and young people in the UK can be certain of access to the legal help they need.”

Elizabeth Durosinmi-Etti, a young person working with Coram who struggled to address her immigration issues because of the lack of legal aid, said
It is absolutely illogical to say that children are the future but to put barriers in the way of them accessing justice. There has to be a legal system put in place that works to the benefit of children and young people. Until there is, all the system will have created are children and young people who are unable to take their places in society and fulfil their potential.”

Friday, February 02, 2018

Everybody's doing it...

...talking about family law, that is. My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog were a guide to what they're saying. They included:

Has Lady Hale already decided the Owens appeal? - tl;dr: No.

The bailiwick shows us the way on divorce reform - Will Jersey have no-fault divorce before the mainland?

Is it right that a spouse who contributed nothing should get half? - Well, not exactly nothing (usually).

How to spot fake family law news (and where to find the truth) - It's not rocket science...

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers January/February 2018

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

In this issue:
  • 2017 review – Nick Holmes and several contributors consider what we learned in 2017 about trolling and fake news, Big Tech regulation, AI in law, social media, algorithms, machine learning and the courts
  • Data protection – Eduardo Ustaran of Hogan Lovells provides some pointers on how Brexit will affect data protection
  • Transcription – Delia Venables and guests on transcription, voice recognition, document generation and AI
  • Web links – Nick Holmes looks at the law relating to web links, likely problem areas and linking good practice
  • Irish software – Delia Venables reviews the key legal software and technology suppliers in Ireland
  • Cybercrime – Alex Heshmaty explains what cybercrime is, its consequences and how it can be prevented

Access the Newsletter online

Monday, January 29, 2018

News Essentials: 29th January 2018

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

CoA clarifies when proposed adopters’ merits may be considered on making placement order
Exception made to Re T (A Child) (Early Permanence Placement). Full story: Family Law Week.

Ineffectual written agreements in domestic abuse cases amount to victim blaming
Eleanor Schooling has called for a discussion about the use of written agreements after inspectors found they weren't effective in many domestic abuse cases. Full story: Community Care.

Judge backs ‘short-term’ fix to backlog of deprivation of liberty cases
Court of Protection can use general visitors to protect human rights of service users in deprivation of liberty cases lacking Rule 3A representatives. Full story: Community Care.

Latest View from the President’s Chambers
The on-going process of reform – Financial Remedies Courts. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

Domestic abusers told to say sorry to partner by police
Police are dealing with domestic abuse cases by simply making the abuser say sorry to their partner on the doorstep, a Fawcett Society report has found. Full story: The Telegraph.

Practice Guidance: Standard Financial and Enforcement Orders – Update
Addendum issued by the President of the Family Division. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

Z (A Child) (FGMPO : Prevalence of FGM) [2017] EWHC 3566 (Fam) (06 November 2017)
Applications by mother for orders forbidding father from taking child abroad, and specifically to Guinea to protect her from genital mutilation. Full report: Bailii.

DMM, Re (Alzheimer's : power of attorney) [2017] EWCOP 32 (26 July 2017)
Proceedings concerning issue of whether a man suffering from Alzheimer's disease had the capacity to revoke a power of attorney and to marry. Full report: Bailii.

DMM, Re (Alzheimer's : marriage : power of attorney ) [2017] EWCOP 33 (2 October 2017)
Further judgment in proceedings concerning issue of whether a man suffering from Alzheimer's disease had the capacity to revoke a power of attorney and to marry. Full report: Bailii.

E (A Child) [2017] EWFC 101 (6 March 2017)
Application for a care order in respect of a child born in August 2016, identifying a number of shortcomings in the child protection arrangements in North Wales. Full report: Bailii,

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Thursday, January 25, 2018

UK’s first children’s charity calls for eight priorities for change to secure children’s rights and welfare for the next generation

New Respected and Protected report launched at Speaker’s House at the House of Commons

On Monday 22 January, Coram launched the report Respected and Protected: Securing a Better Future for All Children at a parliamentary event, opened by The Speaker of the House of Commons, The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, and closed by The Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP and chair of the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights.

Coram published the report to mark the 350th birthday of its founder Thomas Coram, whose groundbreaking drive, vision and commitment started a shift in the way England protected and regarded children.

The report outlines eight priorities for action, which draw on Coram’s expertise across law, social work, health, education and policy, to help ministers, civil servants, local authorities, opinion formers and policy makers take a shared view on what is needed. These are matched by a clear commitment from Coram on what the charity will contribute in each area.

The priorities include strengthening the legal framework for children, ensuring the voices of children are always heard on decisions that matter to them, providing secure loving families for all children who need them, and tackling educational exclusion.

Dr Carol Homden CBE, Chief Executive of Coram said: “Our call for change highlights some of the challenges facing children today and the improvements we want to see to ensure that children have the best possible chance in life.

“As the first children’s charity and the birthplace of children’s social care, we are committed to developing new ways to help children thrive, and that ensuring that services and society enable them to face new challenges. We will not rest until every child is respected and protected with the safety, love, education and equality of opportunity to which they are entitled.”

The Rt Hon John Bercow MP said: “For me, the event has a special relevance. Arthur Onslow, the longest serving Speaker of the House, was a founding governor of the charity and was regarded as a powerful visionary, in the same way as Thomas Coram.

“There are still far too many children and young people who need access to support. It is a great pleasure to echo Arthur Onslow’s support and launch Coram’s call for change so that all children can be respected and protected.”

The Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP said: “Thomas Coram believed that every single child has a worth and value that should be respected. It’s a different era but the same important principles remain.

“I’m very proud to support Coram’s pledge - now is the moment for parliament to work cross-party so that every child is safe, supported and can get their rights.”

During the event, Coram launched an online campaign for people to pledge their support for every child to be respected and protected. To find out more please visit pledge.coram.org.uk.