Monday, April 30, 2018

News Essentials: 30th April 2018


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

NEWS
Revised protocol published for referrals of families to child contact centres by judges and magistrates
Protocol endorsed by the President of the Family Division. Full story: Family Law Week.

Guidance on the Capacity to Litigate in Proceedings Involving Children – April 2018
This guidance has been produced to assist judges in the Family Court to resolve mental capacity issues concerning parties to family law proceedings. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

Guidance on Financial Needs on Divorce: Edition 2 – April 2018
The FJC has now published the second edition of this useful guide for the family judiciary, courts and legal advisers. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

Divorce blame game leads to futile court battles, new study finds
Nuffield Foundation says outdated law needs a no-fault divorce option. Full story: The Guardian.

Queen approves appointment of President of the Family Division
HM The Queen has approved the appointment of The Rt Hon Sir Andrew McFarlane as the President of the Family Division. Full story: Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street.

President’s interim guidance: defective divorce petitions/decrees
On 23 April 2018 the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, issued interim guidance in respect of defective divorce petitions/decrees. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
M-A (A Child), Re [2018] EWCA Civ 896 (25 April 2018)
Appeal by mother against order that child should live with his father, who lives in Canada, and spend holidays with his mother, who lives in England. Full report: Bailii.

Akhmedova v Akhmedov [2018] EWFC 23 (Fam) (19 April 2018)
The wife was seeking to enforce financial provision orders totalling over £450million in a case where the husband had taken elaborate steps to conceal his wealth and evade enforcement of the judgment. Full report and press summary: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, via Family Law Hub.

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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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mini Book Review: At A Glance 2018-2019


At A Glance

Essential Tables for Financial Remedies

FLBA

£70 - Published by Class Legal: April 2018

As I've explained here previously, I don't have time these days to do full book reviews, so this will be short. Still, that is not such a problem, as At A Glance must surely already be well known to pretty well all family lawyers, most of whom no doubt already have at least one previous edition in their library.

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

This year's edition is of course fully updated. Unusually, there are no new tables this year, but the blurb on the back intriguingly tells us: "New this year - Winds of Change". If you want to find out what that is about, you will have to purchase a copy from Class Legal, here.

Monday, April 23, 2018

News Essentials: 23rd April 2018


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

NEWS
Pensions Advisory Group publishes long-awaited reports
Two reports published for consultation covering the legal issues of pensions on divorce and the use of valuation and experts. Full story: Family Law Hub.

LASPO review unlikely to be released this year
The government’s long-awaited review into its controversial legal aid reforms is unlikely to be published this year, the Ministry of Justice has suggested - despite lord chancellor David Gauke stressing that he does not want the review to slip into 2019. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

Controlling girlfriend 'first woman convicted' of new domestic abuse offence
A university graduate is believed to be the first woman convicted under new domestic abuse laws after scalding her boyfriend with boiling water, stabbing him and keeping food from him. Full story: The Telegraph.

Alfie Evans case: Court rules against parents again
Court of Appeal judges have rejected an bid by the parents of terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans to overturn a decision over who has control of his life support. Full story: BBC News. See reports, below.

CASES
KA v MA (Prenuptial Agreement: Needs) [2018] EWHC 499 (Fam) (13 March 2018)
Application by wife for financial remedies, and cross-application by husband seeking an order reflecting the terms of a prenuptial agreement. Full report: Bailii.

Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust v Evans & Ors [2018] EWHC 818 (Fam) (11 April 2018)
Judgment endorsing care plan constructed by NHS Trust, setting out the provisions for the end of child's life. Full report: Bailii.

Proles v Kohli [2018] EWHC 767 (Ch) (17 April 2018)
Judgment in Inheritance act claim, dealing with preliminary issue of whether the deceased was domiciled in England at the date of his death. Full report: Bailii.

S v S [2018] EWHC 627 (Fam) (23 March 2018)
Appeal by husband against orders made in financial remedy proceedings, in which the judge had declined to re-open findings made against the husband, after the husband had produced new evidence. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Hermens v Hermens & Anor [2017] EWHC 3742 (Fam) (15 December 2017)
Application by the Queen's Proctor to dismiss a divorce petition and set aside a decree of divorce. Full report: Bailii.

Evans & Anor v Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust & Anor [2018] EWCA Civ 805 (16 April 2018)
Appeal by parents against order declaring that it would be lawful for artificial ventilation, which is currently being provided to child, to be withdrawn at the date and time specified in the order. Full report: Bailii.

M (Children), Re [2018] EWCA Civ 607 (28 March 2018)
Applications by mother for permission to appeal against a finding of fact in private law proceedings and, in care proceedings, against refusal to admit expert evidence and to re-open fact-finding hearing. Full report: Bailii.

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

The ‘mystical quality’ of the divorce process confuses and defeats people in crisis

Jane Robey
There is an inbuilt ‘resistance’ in our legal system to separating couples having an informed liberty to manage their own affairs, says a leading family charity.

 Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, says couples need to be trusted to shape their own futures unfettered by jargon, so-called legal expertise, and outdated divorce laws.

In a new article focusing on the need to modernise divorce legislation, she says: “Getting a divorce should be far, far simpler than it currently is.

 “It’s much too tangled up in legal processes, acquiring a mystical quality that serves to confuse and defeat those who are, after all, undergoing the biggest crisis of their lives.”

 She says that from a family mediator’s perspective “the huge majority of people going through private law proceedings find it over-complicated and much too time-consuming. It feels like that’s an inbuilt and endemic characteristic of the system.

 “Those who come to mediation quickly realise they are perfectly capable of managing the process themselves. Yet it feels like there is a resistance in our legal system to people having an informed liberty to manage their own affairs, to being trusted to shape their own futures unfettered by jargon and so-called legal expertise.

 “Our expert mediators play an important role, working with both parents, recognising they play an equal part in future arrangements over parenting, money and property – often helping them successfully move from being warring exes to equal players in a post-divorce ‘business relationship’.

 “But the true power and ability to shape the future lies with the individuals involved, not with professionals sitting outside the process. Legal processes drain these individuals.”

 The full article is below.

Modernising divorce means trusting separating families to shape their own futures

Not for the first time, the President of the Family Division made waves last month when, in a wide-ranging speech, he argued for the modernisation of a number of areas of family law.

Sir James Munby is due to retire later this year and, typically, didn’t mince his words when speaking to the Edinburgh Law School. Divorce is ‘very badly in need of reform’, he said, drawing renewed attention to the notorious case of Owens- v – Owens, whose Court of Appeal case he oversaw, repeating his assertion that “the law which the judges have to apply and the procedures which they have to follow are based on hypocrisy and lack of intellectual honesty,” and that “the law is badly out-of-date, indeed antediluvian.”

Like Sir James, National Family Mediation has long argued for the modernisation of divorce laws.

Getting a divorce should be far, far simpler than it currently is. It’s much too tangled up in legal processes, acquiring a mystical quality that serves to confuse and defeat those who are, after all, undergoing the biggest crisis of their lives.

Our experience tells us that the huge majority of people going through private law proceedings find it over-complicated and much too time-consuming. It feels like that’s an inbuilt and endemic characteristic of the system.

As family mediators we see time and time again that those who come to mediation quickly realise they are perfectly capable of managing the process themselves. Yet it feels like there is a resistance in our legal system to people having an informed liberty to manage their own affairs, to being trusted to shape their own futures unfettered by jargon and so-called legal expertise.

Our expert mediators play an important role, working with both parents, recognising they play an equal part in future arrangements over parenting, money and property – often helping them successfully move from being warring exes to equal players in a post-divorce ‘business relationship’. But the true power and ability to shape the future lies with the individuals involved, not with professionals sitting outside the process.

Legal processes drain these individuals. Mediation empowers them. That’s why the numbers of separating couples attending family mediation need to be boosted.

Instead, they’re falling fast. New MOJ / LAA figures this month showed the number of MIAMS in the last quarter of 2017 were down by an eighth on 2016. And mediation starts dropped by 15 per cent. Currently standing at around 1,500, these figures represent the lowest quarterly number of starts since the implementation of the LASPO Act.

That’s worth reflecting on for a moment, given increasing mediation numbers was supposed to be a strategic priority for the UK government. In a 2014 speech, the then-Family Justice Minister, said “What we really want to see is more people progressing on to mediation and agreeing their own way forward, resolving disputes away from court,” and outlined a number of commitments to promote the process. But it’s gone the other way.

I don’t like the phrase ‘We told you so’, but we warned the Legal Aid Agency and others repeatedly in the run up to the 2014 changes that this would not be effective in increasing take-up.

It would actually not be difficult, or complicated, or expensive to tackle this slump, even with our current outdated divorce laws in place. The powers exist. They need to be enforced, and Ministers should be leading the way, leading the judiciary to maximise the powers they already have. Whatever cases come before the family courts should be adjourned by the judge as part of the contact activity, to meet a mediator who will help the families affected take it from there.

If it was made much easier for people to have their first appointment with a mediator, they would be in a stronger position to then make an informed choice about taking things forward, and take control of their own futures.

If – and when – it finally comes, modernising divorce law will be a multi-faceted task, but honouring Ministers’ long-held commitments to family mediation must play a significant part in the process.

Published by Family Law, April 2018

Scare stories


My posts this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog:

ECJ case illustrates family law issues raised by Brexit - The case being Valcheva (Concept of ‘rights of access’ – Applicability to grandparents – Opinion).

Mother wins human rights case after Chechen court grants father residence - The ECHR case Magomadova v Russia.

Refusal to grant him residence did not breach father’s human rights - Another ECHR case, also involving Russia and the issue of a child’s residence, but with a very different outcome: Leonov v Russia.

Definitely not how to deal with a children dispute! - A bad idea from a father, prompted by too many scare stories about the family justice system.

Have a good weekend.

Time to end the divorce blame game, say hundreds of legal professionals


Hundreds of family lawyers are gathering to highlight the urgent need to introduce no-fault divorce. The call for change takes place at the annual conference of Resolution, the national family justice organisation.

This comes less than one month ahead of the controversial Owens v Owens hearing at the Supreme Court, where Mrs Owens is appealing the decision not to grant her a divorce. Her divorce was originally rejected because the examples of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ she provided – required under current law – were deemed not ‘unreasonable’ enough.

Founded to promote a non-confrontational approach to family issues, Resolution says now is the time for no-fault divorce to be introduced. This would allow couples to divorce without one partner having to blame the other for the relationship’s breakdown, which Resolution says would help separating families minimise arguments and conflict.

Resolution has long campaigned for no-fault divorce, which it says would bring us in line with countries like Australia and the US and go a long way in reducing the acrimony from divorce and its subsequent impact on children. Wider support has been steadily growing, including from successive Presidents of the Family Division, Supreme Court Judge Lord Wilson of Culworth and President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale.

Margaret Heathcote, National Chair of Resolution, said “It is ridiculous that, in the twenty-first century, Mrs Owens has had to go to the highest court in the land in order to try to get her divorce.

“Resolution will be at the Supreme Court next month as interveners, showing our support for Mrs Owens and countless others like her who are either trapped in a loveless marriage and unable to get on with their lives; or forced to assign blame in order to do so. It’s outdated, it’s unfair and it’s time for things to change.”

Monday, April 16, 2018

News Essentials: 16th April 2018


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

NEWS
Sir Ernest Ryder speaks on the Role of the Justice System in Decision-making for Children
Sir Ernest addresses the principles underpinning judicial decision-making and the evidential requirements in a changing environment. Full story: Family Law Week.

Care applications received by Cafcass in March 2018 down by 4%
Annual total of care applications falls slightly. Full story: Family Law Week.

New private law cases received by Cafcass in March 2018 down 5% on a year ago
Annual rate running at 3% above previous twelve months. Full story: Family Law Week.

'Meal ticket for life' bid backfires as divorcee loses £175,000 a year from ex-husband
An attempt by a divorcee to have a “meal ticket for life” backfired after a High Court Judge ruled her maintenance payments should cease after just three years. Full story: The Telegraph. See Waggott v Waggott, below.

Plaudits for judge's plain speaking in adoption case
A judge has been praised for the way she has explained her decision to allow a baby boy to be adopted so that the child's father, who has a learning disability, can understand. Full story: Law Society Gazette. See Jack (A Child : care and placement orders), below.

Listing Final Hearings in Adoption cases
This Guidance is issued with the purpose of clarifying the legal requirements and practical arrangements for final hearings in adoption applications and adoption visits. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

President’s Guidance: Family proceedings: Parents with a learning disability
"My primary purpose in issuing this Guidance is to bring to the attention of practitioners and judges, and to commend for careful consideration and application by everyone, the very important “Good practice guidance on working with parents with a learning disability” issued by the Working Together with Parents Network and the Norah Fry Centre in September 2016." Full story: Family Law.

Average time for disposal of care cases continues to creep upwards
Little change in overall number of new cases started in family courts in 2017. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
L (A Child), Re [2017] EWHC 3707 (Fam) (22 December 2017)
Care proceedings. Fact-finding hearing to ascertain cause of death of child. Suggested guidance given relating to future police disclosure in cases involving a death of a child or children and/or an alleged serious assault against a child or children. Full report: Bailii.

Leicestershire County Council v AB & Ors [2018] EWHC 539 (Fam) (16 March 2018)
Care proceedings concerning three children, in which both the father and the mother of two of the children were convicted of offences of Modern Day Slavery. Full report: Bailii.

Waggott v Waggott [2018] EWCA Civ 727 (11 April 2018)
Appeal by wife against financial remedies order, on the basis that the judge failed to award her a fair share of the husband's post-separation earned income. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Family Law Week.

P (A Child), Re [2018] EWCA Civ 720 (11 April 2018)
Appeal against care order, arguing that the process had been fatally compromised by the court's inability to produce adequately precise findings. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Jack (A Child : care and placement orders) [2018] EWFC B12 (27 March 2018)
Judgment in care and placement proceedings, written to be understandable by parents. Full report: Bailii.

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fork Aces*


My posts this week on the Stowe Family Law Blog were all about four cases:

Bulgarian man wins ECHR paternity case - The case Doktorov v Bulgaria.

A judgment written to be understood by non-lawyers - The excellent judgment in Jack (A Child : care and placement orders).

Man fails with 1959 property claim - The case Constandas v Lysandrou & Ors.

Children to remain with mother despite finding that she had emotionally abused them - The case P v C & Ors.

*Oh, and for anyone mystified about the title to this post, I would refer you to one of the funniest sketches the Two Ronnies ever did (I love Corbett's expression):



Have a good weekend.

Monday, April 09, 2018

News Essentials: 9th April 2018


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

NEWS
Mediation starts at their lowest since LASPO introduction
Quarterly legal aid statistics published. Full story: Family Law Week.

Cohabitant entitled to slice of partner’s £1.5m estate, judge rules
The High Court has ruled in favour of a woman who received nothing from her late partner’s £1.5 million estate, in a judgment that will again spark debate about the law on inheritance. Full story: Law Society Gazette. See Thompson v Ragget, below.

The Family Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2018
These Rules amend the Family Procedure Rules 2010, in particular making provision in relation to the “fast-track” and “standard” procedures for resolution of certain applications for a financial remedy. Statutory Instrument.

FPR Practice Direction 36G: Pilot Scheme, Procedure for Using an Online System to Generate Applications in Certain Private Law Proceedings Relating to Children
The FPR Committee has issued a new Family Procedure Rules Practice Direction 36G (Pilot Scheme, Procedure for Using an Online System to Generate Applications in Certain Private Law Proceedings Relating to Children). Full story: Family Law.

Family court statistics quarterly: October to December 2017
A statistical bulletin presenting statistics relating to the family courts in the fourth quarter of 2017, October to December. Full story: Ministry of Justice.

High Court hears how squabbling barristers turned family hearing into “shouting match”
There is a “concerning tendency on the part of the advocates simply to interrupt each other in an effort to advance their competing submissions”, a High Court judge has said as he reviewed a hearing that turned into a “shouting match”. Full story: Legal Futures.

CASES
Constandas v Lysandrou & Ors [2018] EWCA Civ 613 (27 March 2018)
Appeal against dismissal of TOLATA claim to a half share in a property on the grounds that when it was bought in 1959 the claimant paid a deposit of £100 and a further £500 as a down payment, which comprised half the purchase price. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Family Law Week.

Thompson v Ragget & Ors (Rev 1) [2018] EWHC 688 (Ch) (29 March 2018)
The claimant claimed reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 out of the estate of her late partner, who had left her nothing. An order was made which transferred one of the properties to her. Full report: Bailii, via Family Law Hub.

W, Re [2018] EWCA Civ 664 (27 March 2018)
Appeal by mother against provision requiring return of children to USA even if she is refused a visa. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

B (Children) [2018] EWCA Civ 614 (27 March 2018)
Appeal against dismissal of application by mother for summary return of children to Spain. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

T (A Child), Re [2018] EWCA Civ 650 (28 March 2018)
Appeal by paternal grandmother against order placing child for adoption. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Lukjanenko v Medway Council [2018] EWCA Civ 612 (27 March 2018)
Appeal by father of child taken into care against committal order for breach of RRO and POHA order. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

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

Friday, April 06, 2018

Easter Funday


I hope readers appreciate that I gave up my Easter Monday to write the first two of my posts on the Stowe Family Law Blog this week, which included:

Delving a little deeper into the latest Family Court statistics - As the title says.

Mother succeeds on visa point in Hague abduction appeal - The Court of Appeal decision in Re W.

A quick look at the new “fast-track” financial remedies procedure - Again, as the title says.

Have a good weekend.