Monday, September 30, 2019

News Essentials: 30th September 2019


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

NEWS
Supreme Court considers parental responsibility and deprivation of liberty
Majority decide parental responsibility cannot authorise a violation of a child’s fundamental human right. Full story: Family Law Week. See D (A Child), below.

Family Court Statistics Quarterly: April to June 2019
Quarterly data on the 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.

Transgender man loses court battle to be registered as father
Ruling in Freddy McConnell case is first legal definition of a mother in English common law. Full story: The Guardian. See R (on the application of TT) -v- The Registrar General for England and Wales and others, below.

Family judges must justify delaying final decisions – Court of Appeal
Judges have been warned by the Court of Appeal not to adjourn final decisions in family cases simply to 'press the pause button'. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

CASES
D (A Child) [2019] UKSC 42 (26 September 2019)
Appeal considering whether it is within the scope of parental responsibility to consent to living arrangements for a 16 or 17-year-old child which would otherwise amount to a deprivation of liberty within the meaning of article 5 ECHR, in particular where the child lacks the mental capacity to make the decision for himself. Full report: Bailii.

R (on the application of TT) -v- The Registrar General for England and Wales and others [2019] EWHC 2384 (Fam) (25 September 2019)
Judgment in case considering the issue: where a person, who was born female, but who has subsequently undergone gender transition and acquired full legal recognition as male, becomes pregnant and gives birth to a child, is that person to be registered as their child’s ‘mother’ or ‘father’? Full report: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary (PDF).

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Kinship carers left in the dark - without legal advice and representation


Three in four kinship carers say they:

  • Did not have enough information about their legal options when taking on the children to make an informed decision;
  • Are facing financial hardship as a result of doing right by the children

Family Rights Group has carried out an extensive survey of kinship carers - family and friends who take on the care of a child, who cannot remain at home due to tragedy or trauma. 845 kinship carers raising at least 1252 kinship children filled in the survey. The survey report - ‘The highs and lows of kinship care: analysis of a comprehensive survey of kinship carers 2019’ is published today.

The legal status of the kinship child has significant and lasting ramifications as to whether or not the child is entitled to support and the kinship carer to a financial allowance. However, the survey results reveal:

  • Three-quarters of kinship carers who completed the survey said they felt that they did not have enough information about legal options when they took on the care of the kinship child/children to make an informed decision
  • Four in ten kinship carers who have incurred legal costs, for example, to secure a legal order to provide the child with permanence, had to pay the costs entirely themselves. The survey found that kinship carers who paid out their own monies for part or all of the legal costs spent on average £5446.

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group said:

“There are now more children in the care system than at any time since 1985. The system has been described as being in crisis. A Care Crisis Review we facilitated in 2018 found that a culture of blame, shame and fear has permeated the child welfare and family justice system. This inhibits partnership working between the state and families, yet partnership working is in the interests of children. Today’s report illustrates how many kinship carers experience an environment in which they feel done to, cajoled and put upon, despite trying to do their best for the children.

The survey found, for example, that many kinship carers felt pressurised by local authorities into giving up work, even though this pushed them into poverty, or they felt coerced into agreeing to a particular legal order for the child, even though it led to a loss in support.

Whilst the children are often doing well in their care, this can be at the expense of kinship carers’ own finances, relationships and even health. However, kinship carers feel this is too rarely recognised by children’s services, public agencies or government. They love their kinship child or kinship children and they put their needs first, and in doing so they save the state significant amounts of monies, but the public agencies that should be there to help, too often make life more stressful.“

  • 54% of kinship carers, who had been in work, had to give up their job to take on the child, and a further 24% had to reduce their working hours.
  • Three-quarters of kinship carers stated that they were facing financial hardship as a result of taking on the children. A small but notable number had been affected by the bedroom tax (the under-occupation penalty), benefit cap or benefits sanctions, which had a very harsh impact, leading in some cases to debt and even homelessness.
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of kinship carers rated the help they had received from children’s services as poor or very poor. Only 15% rated it as good or excellent.
  • More than one in three (37%) kinship carers said they had received no help of any kind from children’s services.
  • 93% of kinship carers said additional support would have made/would make a difference, with only 7% stating that no additional support was needed. Examples of support that would make a difference included emotional support for them and the child, counselling or therapeutic support for the child, respite care, life story work for the child, help with managing family contact, and training courses. 

The kinship carers described the love they felt for the children they were raising but also the battles they face to get help and support for the children:

  • Half the kinship carers who completed the survey said that one or more of the kinship children they are raising have special needs or disabilities. Four-fifths of these children are described as having emotional and behaviour problems and four in ten having learning disabilities.
  • 20% of kinship children of school age have been temporarily excluded from school and 5% permanently excluded.
  • 70% of the kinship children have a sibling who is not living with them.

A quarter of the kinship children had been placed with an unrelated foster carer (i.e. a foster carer who is neither their family member nor friend of the family) before going to live with the kinship carer. Some kinship carers commented that the children could have avoided multiple placements, including with strangers, if the local authority had started working with the child’s family earlier to identify and support the kinship placement where the child was now living.

The report sets out a series of recommendations aimed at:

  • Enabling more children, who cannot live safely with their parents, to be raised by loving family and friends rather than be removed from their family network.
  • Ensuring that kinship children and their carers have the support they need for the children to thrive.

The recommendations include a call on the Government to:

  • Introduce a new legal duty on local authorities to ensure that potential placements with kinship carers are always explored and assessed for suitability before a child becomes looked after in the care system, unless there is an emergency.
  • As a matter of urgency, adequately fund Family Rights Group’s specialist legal advice service for kinship carers post-March 2020.
  • Implement the Care Crisis Review’s Options for Change, including a new Government ring-fenced fund for local authorities to help them work with their partner agencies, young people and families to safely avert children having to enter or remain in the care system.
  • Introduce a period of paid employment leave and protection to kinship carers, equivalent to paid adoption leave, to enable the child to settle in with them and help avoid the carer having to give up work.
  • Exempt kinship carer households from the benefit cap and bedroom tax.
  • Introduce a new Kinship Care Bill that includes a duty on local authorities to establish and commission kinship support services (and provide adequate funding to local authorities to deliver this).
  • Provide automatic settled status to children being raised in kinship care under a legal order and those who are in the care system or are care leavers, whose ability to remain in the UK could be at risk following Brexit.

News Essentials: 23rd September 2019


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

NEWS
First domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales revealed
The first domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales is "relieved" the prime minister has pledged to re-introduce a new law on the issue. Full story: BBC News.

Paralegal’s contempt conviction found to be ‘manifestly unfair’
Judges in the Court of Appeal have quashed a paralegal’s conviction for contempt after finding significant procedural mistakes in how the case was handled. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

CASES
S-L (Children : Adjournment) [2019] EWCA Civ 1571 (19 September 2019)
Appeal by local authority against decision to adjourn applications for care and placement orders in respect of two young children. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

Ogunware v Ogunware [2019] EWHC 2428 (Fam) (25 July 2019)
Application for declaration that purported marriage entered into in Nigeria was not valid. Application dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

R-B (A Child) [2019] EWCA Civ 1560 (02 July 2019)
Appeal by mother against care and placement orders made in relation to a 13 month old child. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

E (Through Her Children's Guardian) & Anor v A Mother & Anor [2019] EWCA Civ 1557 (12 September 2019)
Appeal by local authority and children's guardian against an order refusing an application for a placement order in respect of a 10 month old child. Appeal allowed. 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, September 18, 2019

Divorce reform in ‘freeze-frame’ mode, says campaigning family charity


Dispute resolution experts have expressed frustration at the ‘freeze-frame’ status of long-awaited divorce reform.

Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, likens the suspension of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, due to Parliament being prorogued, to football’s VAR.

In a new article for Family Law, Jane Robey says: “With the decision to prorogue Parliament, the Prime Minister halted a Bill that would have made life so much easier for couples who just want to get on with their divorce, making a fresh start as quickly and painlessly as possible.

“Having passed its second reading in the House of Commons it moved to Report Stage.

“But its further progress has been put into ‘freeze-frame’ mode by the Prime Minister’s controversial and contentious decision. And so the waiting goes on.

“The impact on this new law of Parliament’s prorogation - and the associated court cases questioning legality of the PM’s decision - is like the effect of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) upon Premier League football matches.

“The joy of a goal being scored is muted when the VAR call is made. TV freeze frames are deployed. Nobody knows for sure whether the goal is going to be allowed to stand - until the ultimate VAR arbiters have cast judgement. And so it is that at the time of nobody knows when, or if, divorce reform will finally come into play. What a frustrating time.”

She pledges that after years campaigning for the change, NFM and others “will continue to press for these important reforms to be introduced as soon as possible, so that divorcing couples will at last be able to settle their divorce or separation in a more mature and adult fashion than the current arcane system allows.”

National Family Mediation (NFM) was the original provider of family mediation, and its network of accredited services now delivers in over 500 locations across England and Wales. The charity helps families resolve all the practical, legal, emotional and financial issues that arise from separation, helping families make long-lasting arrangements that benefit everyone in the family, especially their children.

Monday, September 16, 2019

News Essentials: 16th September 2019


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

NEWS
6,000 became homeless in three months following domestic abuse
Women’s Aid publishes No Woman Turned Away report 2019. Full story: Family Law Week.

Johnson pledges to reintroduce domestic abuse legislation
Boris Johnson has responded to pressure from women's groups and confirmed that he will reintroduce legislation to protect the estimated two million people who suffer domestic abuse a year. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

Population estimates by marital status and living arrangements, England and Wales: 2018
Annual estimates of population by legal marital status and cohabitation status by age and sex for England and Wales. Full story: Office for National Statistics.

Justice bills fall overnight as parliament shuts down
Legislation covering divorce and domestic abuse was killed off in the early hours of this morning as parliament was closed for five weeks. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

CASES
Nasrullah Mursalin, Re [2019] EWCA Civ 1559 (03 September 2019)
Appeal by paralegal against suspended committal order imposed after he erroneously placed a number of documents relating to a client’s family case in the bundle which went to an immigration judge. Appeal allowed. 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.

Monday, September 09, 2019

News Essentials: 9th September 2019


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

NEWS
Domestic abuse proposals expected to be revived in Queen’s Speech, MPs hear
New proposals to protect domestic abuse survivors are expected to be “revived very quickly” in the new parliamentary session, a Cabinet minister has said. Full story: Care Appointments.

Nagalro raises concern about Cafcass undermining the role of Children’s Guardians
Nagalro is concerned that Cafcass public statements have disseminated inaccurate information on its website, which appear to dilute the role of the Children's Guardian and minimise their legal obligations. Full story: Family Law Week.

Civil Justice Council launches consultation on vulnerable witnesses and parties in civil proceedings
The Civil Justice Council has launched a consultation on its report and recommendations for change in respect of vulnerable witnesses and parties in civil proceedings. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
Wakefield Metropolitan District Council & Anor v DN & Anor [2019] EWHC 2306 (Fam) (05 September 2019)
Case concerning capacity and accommodation of 25 year old man suffering from various mental disorders. Full report: Bailii.

Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council v PR & Ors [2019] EWHC 2305 (Fam) (05 September 2019)
Final judgment in proceedings relating to a capacitous but apparently vulnerable adult, further examining the circumstances in which interim orders under the inherent jurisdiction were made, and whether injunctive-type orders could and/or should have been made against the adult for whom protection was sought. 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.

Monday, September 02, 2019

News Essentials: 2nd September 2019


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

NEWS
Parliament shut-down puts justice bills under threat
Boris Johnson’s intention to prorogue parliament could lead to a halt on divorce, court and domestic abuse reform. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

Domestic abuse: Killers 'follow eight-stage pattern', study says
Men who kill their partners follow a "homicide timeline" that could be tracked by police to help prevent deaths, new research suggests. Full story: BBC News.

CASES
Moher v Moher [2019] EWCA Civ 1482 (21 August 2019)
Appeal by husband against financial remedies order, considering issue of whether a judge is required to evaluate the scale of undisclosed wealth, by providing a figure or a bracket of figures. Full report: Bailii.

H (A Child) [2019] EWHC 1509 (Fam) (24 May 2019)
Application by father for summary return of child. Application by father for disclosure of mother's asylum file. Application refused. Full report: Bailii.

GC v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions & AE (CSM) (Child support - other) [2019] UKUT 199 (AAC) (14 June 2019)
Appeal by NRP dealing with issue of whether his son by previous relationship who lives in Denmark should be taken into account in child support calculation. 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.