Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Online legal advisors are giving parents biased and potentially damaging advice, new research finds

Vulnerable people representing themselves in court are being given biased and misinformed advice by online legal advisors, new research has found.

A study carried out by Dr Tatiana Tkacukova, Senior Lecturer in English Language at Birmingham City University and Professor Hilary Sommerlad, Leeds Law School, assessed the quality of advice handed out by advisors on online forums and social media platforms.

It found that online advisors often delivered biased advice and suggestions reflecting personal anti-court and anti-social services viewpoints.

The research took in the advice handed out on 170 Facebook threads by 30 different McKenzie Friends – litigation friends who help advise those representing themselves in court (known as Litigants in Person or LIPs) on a voluntary or paid basis.

It showed instances of McKenzie Friends advising parents to ignore the advice of lawyers, suggesting courts were institutionally unfair and in some instances advising people to act against the advice of their lawyers while promoting the services of McKenzie Friends.

Words used to describe Family Courts and social services include ‘gender-biased’ and ‘disgrace,’ while social services are also accused of not delivering, asking ‘stupid’ questions and being incompetent.

The study found only one positive description of a judge in all of the posts analysed, and on three occasions parents were advised to write their own statement instead of following specialist legal advice.

It also showed the range of challenges facing parents who represent themselves in court with many reporting mental health issues, domestic violence and confusion over the legal system.

The research suggests that a framework should be in place to ensure transparency of McKenzie Friends and the advice they provide to help protect vulnerable people in court cases.

Dr Tatiana Tkacukova, Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Birmingham City University, said: “The increase in people representing themselves in court means that many parents are struggling to navigate the system while seeking to understand the way courts, social services and the legal system works.

“McKenzie Friends provide a much needed service to offer advice and support to those for whom the legal system and the language of law is completely alien.

“While there are many positive experiences, the unregulated environment online means that our research found several instances of worrying, biased and misleading advice.

“The negative portrayals of the courts and social services, alongside the advice to ignore specialised legal advice show a worrying trend towards personal viewpoints and agendas clouding impartial and objective support.

“To help protect the many vulnerable people in these cases, we need to see a move towards a more regulated environment with increased transparency to make sure that people know the information they are accessing and the legal qualifications of those advising them.”

Cuts to legal aid have seen a major rise in the number of those acting on their own behalf in court, with over 80 per cent of private family court cases seeing a least one party representing themselves.

The posts were analysed using specialist ‘corpus linguistics’ software which looks specifically at the use of words, language and tone in posts.

It found that of the 30 advisors online only two were ex-lawyers, with three being former Litigants in Person, 11 active fee-charging McKenzie Friends and 14 being McKenzie Friends moderators.

The research highlights the difficulties in understanding McKenzie Friends’ legal qualifications or personal agendas.

Monday, December 09, 2019

News Essentials: 9th December 2019


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

NEWS
Transparency order templates
The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary has published the following templates for the benefit of the judges and practitioners who will be making the template orders. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
R v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Disclosure of Asylum Records) [2019] EWHC 3147 (Fam) (18 November 2019)
Dispute concerning the correct legal principles to be applied and the correct procedure to be adopted where one party to private law proceedings seeks disclosure and inspection of documentation from the successful asylum claim of the other party, for use in the family proceedings. Full report: Bailii.

Neil v Neil [2019] EWHC 3330 (Fam) (22 November 2019)
Application by husband to set aside financial remedies order on the grounds of fraud. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
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Friday, December 06, 2019

Monday, December 02, 2019

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers November/December 2019

The latest issue of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers is now published.
In this issue:
  • Websites – Eduardo Ustaran of Hogan Lovells explains how to get cookie consent right, compliant and applying best practice
  • Online courts – Nick Holmes reviews Richard Susskind's Online Courts and the Future of Justice
  • Websites – Susan Hallam of Hallam Internet explains the optimum way to publish images on your website
  • Deepfakes – Kelsey Farish of DAC Beachcroft explains what deepfakes are and how the landscape has developed
  • Data misuse – Alex Heshmaty of Legal Words on how the misuse of data legitimately acquired is being tackled
  • Artificial intelligence – Katharine Stephens of Bird & Bird answers the question who owns an AI-generated invention?
  • Access to justice – Nick Holmes looks at the various providers of access to justice through technology
Image is the European Commission’s cookie consent dialogue on Europa; see https://ec.europa.eu/info/cookies_en.

News Essentials: 2nd December 2019


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

NEWS
Criticism deterring medical specialists from being expert witnesses
Criticism from lawyers, judges and the press may be deterring health professionals from being expert witnesses in family cases, a working group looking into a chronic shortage has said. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

Divorce rate falls for heterosexual couples in England and Wales
Applications backlog partly blamed for drop to lowest level in 50 years, while same-sex couple figure rises. Full story: The Guardian.

LiP support unit shuts branches
The president of the Family Division has called on lawyers to help fund a support scheme for litigants in person. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

Almost 2.5 million in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in last year
ONS publishes statistics on domestic abuse in England and Wales for year ending March 2019. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
Orphans From Syria, Re [2019] EWHC 3202 (Fam) (22 November 2019)
Wardship proceedings concerning British children who were in Syria and who are orphans. Full report: Bailii.

Akhmedova v Akhmedov [2019] EWHC 3140 (Fam) (22 November 2019)
Application by wife in respect of certain documents which had been, or may have been, illegitimately obtained. Full report: Bailii.

A Local Authority v M & F & Ors [2019] EWHC 1447 (Fam) (07 June 2019)
Care proceedings. Rehearing of fact-finding investigating the cause of death of a ten-year-old girl. Full report: Bailii.

F v M (Appeal: Finding of Fact) [2019] EWHC 3177 (Fam) (21 November 2019)
Appeal by father against finding of fact in child arrangements proceedings. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
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Monday, November 25, 2019

News Essentials: 25th November 2019


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

NEWS
Financial Remedies Courts: Structure document and Good Practice Protocol published
An Overall Structure of the Financial Remedies Courts and the Role and Function of the Lead Judge has been published for the Financial Remedies Courts. Full story: Family Law Week.

Marriage between woman and trans man is void
Gender Recognition Certificate had not been obtained at date of ceremony. Full story: Family Law Week. See P (Transgender Applicant for Declaration of Valid Marriage), below.

Research on the effect of the PLO and Re B-S on care proceedings published
Child protection in Court: Outcomes for Children reports the findings of research by the Universities of Bristol and East Anglia on reforms to care proceedings in 2013-14, and their impact on children. Full story: Family Law Week.

Press attacks on family courts should be assessed - McFarlane
The president of the family division has called for independent research to be carried out on cases reported by the press to see if courts are making mistakes and failing to protect victims and children. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

CASES
B (Secure Accommodation Order) [2019] EWCA Civ 2025 (21 November 2019)
Appeal by local authority against an order refusing the authority's application for a secure accommodation order in respect of a 15-year-old girl. Full report: Bailii.

P (Transgender Applicant for Declaration of Valid Marriage) [2019] EWHC 3105 (Fam) (20 November 2019)
Application for declaration that marriage conducted in 2009 was valid, where applicant had undergone gender re-assignment surgery, but had not obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate. Full report: Bailii.

W (A Child), Re [2019] EWCA Civ 1966 (18 November 2019)
Appeal by great-aunt against care and placement orders made in relation to two year old boy. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

C (A Child) (Interim Separation), Re [2019] EWCA Civ 1998 (18 November 2019)
Appeal by mother against interim care order separating four month old child from mother. 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, November 18, 2019

News Essentials: 18th November 2019


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

NEWS
Judge allows inter-country adoption to proceed despite failure to comply with pre-adoption requirements
An application for an inter-country adoption should not fail because of inconsequential errors made by the intending adopter, a High Court Family Division judge has ruled. Full story: Local Government Lawyer.

Practice Guidance: Placements in unregistered children’s homes in England or unregistered care home services in Wales
The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has issued a new practice guidance to explain the registration and regulation structure applicable in England and, separately, in Wales for residential care facilities for children and young people. Full story: Family Law Week.

CASES
X v Y (Child Arrangements Order) [2019] EWHC 2872 (Fam) (14 August 2019)
Application by father for permission to appeal against interim child arrangements order. Permission granted. Full report: Bailii.

I-L (Children) (1996 Hague Child Protection Convention : Inherent Jurisdiction) [2019] EWCA Civ 1956 (15 November 2019)
Appeal by father against order made under inherent jurisdiction requiring the parties' two children to be returned to Russia. Full report: Bailii.

AY v AS [2019] EWHC 3043 (Fam) (14 November 2019)
Mother's application for permission to relocate child permanently to Kazakhstan. Full report: Bailii.

A (No. 2) (Children: Findings of Fact) [2019] EWCA Civ 1947 (14 November 2019)
Care proceedings. Appeal by parents against findings of fact. Appeal allowed, and matter remitted for rehearing. 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, November 11, 2019

News Essentials: 11th November 2019


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

NEWS
Russian billionaire succeeds in having wife’s MFPA Pt III claim dismissed
If claim allowed, there would be 'no limit to divorce tourism'. Full story: Family Law Week. See Potanin v Potanina, below.

First registrations of opposite-sex civil partnerships set for New Year’s Eve
Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019 approved by Lords. Full story: Family Law Week. You can find the Regulations here.

Concerns raised about Calderbank offers being used to assess litigation conduct
Reservations have been expressed about plans to change the rules for determining costs at the end of family proceedings. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

CASES
Potanin v Potanina [2019] EWHC 2956 (Fam) (08 November 2019)
Application by husband to set aside grant of leave to wife to apply for financial relief pursuant to Part III MFPA 1984. Application granted. Full report: Bailii.

H (Children: Relocation), Re [2019] EWHC 2881 (Fam) (30 October 2019)
Application by father for permission to relocate children to the Netherlands. Full report: Bailii.

TY (Preliminaries To Intercountry Adoption) [2019] EWHC 2979 (Fam) (07 November 2019)
Application by maternal aunt to adopt nephew, issued three days before his 18th birthday. 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, November 07, 2019

When Do I Know It’s Time to Contact an Insolvency Practitioner?

When Do I Know It’s Time to Contact an Insolvency Practitioner?

An insolvency practitioner can provide essential support, guidance and advice when you are facing financial issues, whether as a business or an individual.

However, what might not be clear, is when the right time is to contact an insolvency practitioner.

It is important to understand that an insolvency practitioner is not simply a financial emergency service, that you call in only when all other avenues appear closed to you.

The common misconception surrounding this service is that is only applies as a last resort.

Insolvency Practitioner Advice Has Value

The role of an insolvency practitioner includes giving expert advice. This advice can be helpful at various stages, not just when a company is considering liquidation, or an individual is facing difficult debts.

Advice has value.

Consequently, there are certain situations where an insolvency practitioner can offer advice where companies are still solvent.

For example, where a business is facing temporary cash flow problems, or where a creditor is threatening it with legal action, an insolvency practitioner may provide professional advice which can make a difference to the outcome.

Serious financial situations do not all need to end in liquidation.

The lesson is to act earlier rather than later.

A proactive, approach to seeking professional advice early on can mean a wider range of potential options to help a business find the best possible solution given the circumstances.

These options may include:

  • Company restructure
  • Sale of assets to help bring in cash
  • Selling the business as a going concern.

These may ensure the business’s survival. However, even if these options are not explorable, then having the support of an insolvency practitioner is still essential if the business goes into voluntary liquidation.

Issues can suddenly arise that put you on the back foot financially, such as an unexpected bill, or a key customer or supplier themselves becoming insolvent.

Other issues can affect businesses, such as market downturns or wider economic changes.

Practical Support from an Insolvency Practitioner

Whatever solution a business or individual requires, whether it is some form of corporate recovery or business insolvency, or a personal insolvency, the insolvency practitioner is there to provide practical support and help.

An insolvency practitioner can negotiate with creditors professionally, to help restore confidence in the company.

They can also intervene on a client’s behalf in dealing with HMRC and navigating the often complex paths of rules and regulations.

A Question of Timing and Protection

Should a company need to go into liquidation, the question of timing is crucial. It can make a huge difference to directors, employees and creditors.

An insolvency practitioner will look at this strategically. The swifter the action, the more likely it is that there can be a more positive outcome.

They can provide advice on the best time to wind down a business, which will work for the individuals involved but also help satisfy creditors by maximising the available funds for them.

An insolvency practitioner is there to help protect you and your business when you face financial issues, obstacles and difficulties.

You do not need to wait until these things seem too colossal or overwhelming. If something financial is gnawing away at you, get in touch now.

Irwin Insolvency have been established for many years as insolvency practitioners, delivering expert advice on both personal and corporate insolvency. For more information, call 0800 009 3173 or send an email to mail@irwinuk.net.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Grant award will improve support for separating families


Increasing demand for family mediation is recognised this week with a grant award to England and Wales’ leading provider of the service.

National Family Mediation (NFM), a registered charity which delivers mediation services in over 500 community locations, has received the award from Therium Access, the not-for-profit arm of Therium Group Holdings Limited, one of the world’s leading providers of litigation, arbitration and specialty legal finance. (www.theriumaccess.org).

The grant will enable NFM to employ an additional call handler to provide early advice and arrange mediation for families going through divorce or separation.

NFM’s CEO, Jane Robey, said: “Demand for our call handlers has increased significantly over the past year. They do a fantastic job, and each call to our office represents a family needing assistance to manage their separation.

“We are delighted with this grant award, which will help us provide an even more responsive service to support separating families through our telephone helplines. 

“NFM is grateful to Therium Access for recognising the value of early advice, good quality information, and mediated agreements.

“The work we do impacts upon the whole of the family legal process. It keeps people out of the court system in a pre-emptive way by providing them alternative means to resolve disputes. This enables them to reach settlements in a more streamlined, simpler, non-confrontational way.

“Legal aid cuts mean we support many more people who are self-funding, with no access to professional legal advice.  Early support and guidance can transform the separation journey undertaken by these people, helping them reach just and fair settlements.”

Monday, November 04, 2019

News Essentials: 4th November 2019


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

NEWS
Judge criticises council for breaching duty of disclosure when making streamlined application for authorisation of deprivation of liberty
A council has been criticised by a Court of Protection judge for breaching the duty of full and frank disclosure when it made an application under the streamlined procedure for authorisation of a deprivation of liberty. Full story: Local Government Lawyer.

President of the Family Division: Guidance as to reporting in the Family Courts
The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has issued the latest guidance for reporting in the Family Courts. Full story: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

CASES
S (A Child: Adequacy of Reasoning), Re [2019] EWCA Civ 1845 (31 October 2019)
Appeal following fact finding hearing in care proceedings. Appeal allowed, on the basis that the judge's conclusions as eventually expressed were inadequately reasoned. Full report: Bailii.

NY (A Child), Re [2019] UKSC 49 (30 October 2019)
Appeal by mother against order made under inherent jurisdiction requiring her to return child to Israel. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

FRB v DCA [2019] EWHC 2816 (Fam) (28 October 2019)
Application by wife to strike out husband's claim for damages in respect of W's deceit in maintaining that he was the father of W's child. Full report: Bailii.

Begum v Ahmed [2019] EWCA Civ 1794 (28 October 2019)
Appeal against refusal of application to make inheritance claim out of time. 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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Re NY (A Child): Appeal allowed


Lord Wilson gives the judgment of the Supreme Court

BACKGROUND TO THE APPEAL

This appeal concerns a father’s application for an order for the immediate return of his daughter from England and Wales to Israel. The issue raised is whether the Court of Appeal, having determined that such an order could not be granted under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 (‘the Convention’), was nonetheless entitled to grant it under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to make orders in relation to children (‘the inherent jurisdiction’).

The child’s parents are Israeli nationals who married in 2013. She is their only child and is now aged almost three. Her parents lived at first in Israel but moved to London in November 2018. There the marriage broke down. The father returned to Israel, but the mother refused to do so, and remained in London with the child. The father applied under the Convention, which is set out in Schedule 1 to the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985 (‘1985 Act’), for a summary order for the child’s immediate return to Israel. The allegation underpinning his application was that, on 10 January 2019, when the marriage broke down, the mother had wrongfully retained the child in England.

The High Court granted the father’s application. On appeal, the Court of Appeal ruled that it had not been open to the judge to make an order under the Convention and set his order aside. It held that there had been no grounds for concluding that the mother’s retention of the child in England had been wrongful, and so the Convention had not been engaged. However, it then referred to passing observations made by the High Court judge to the effect that, if he had found that the child had been habitually resident in England, he would have reached the same decision to order the child’s immediate return under the inherent jurisdiction as he had under the Convention. Relying on those observations, the Court of Appeal made a summary order for the child’s return under the inherent jurisdiction. The mother appealed to the Supreme Court.

JUDGMENT

On 14 August 2019, the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal and set aside the Court of Appeal’s order. Owing to the urgency of the decision, a judgment giving reasons was not issued at that time. Lord Wilson now gives the unanimous judgment of the court setting out its reasons.

REASONS FOR THE JUDGMENT

The appeal raises two questions. First, was the inherent jurisdiction available to the Court of Appeal in principle? Second, if so, was the exercise of it flawed? The answer to both questions is “yes” [2-3].

Inherent Jurisdiction Available
The mother argued that the inherent jurisdiction had not been available to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that a summary order (i.e. an order made without a full, conventional, investigation) for the child’s return outside the Convention could only have been made as a ‘specific issue order’ under the Children Act 1989 (‘the 1989 Act’) [26]. A specific issue order is an order made to decide a question connected with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child: had it been appropriate on the facts to make such an order here, it would have been open to the Court of Appeal to do so [27-28].

Before the introduction by the 1989 Act of specific issue orders, summary orders for the return of a child abroad could be made under the inherent jurisdiction [29-30]. Such orders continued to exist alongside orders under the Convention after it was introduced into domestic law by the 1985 Act, since differences between the inherent jurisdiction and the Convention mean that an order for a child’s return may, in some circumstances, be required under the former, but not the latter, legal framework [31]. But did the 1989 Act do away with the inherent jurisdiction to order a child’s return [32]?

The mother argued that para 1.1 of Practice Direction 12D, supplementing the Family Procedure Rules 2010, showed that the 1989 Act did have that effect: for it instructs that the inherent jurisdiction should only be invoked where the issues ‘cannot be resolved under the 1989 Act’ [33-36]. However, practice directions have no legal authority to the extent that they state the law incorrectly [37-38]. There is no statutory basis for the instruction in para 1.1, and the case-law indicates that an order can be made under the inherent jurisdiction even where a specific issue order would also have been available [39-43]. Therefore the instruction in para 1.1 goes too far. However, if an order is available by both routes and a party chooses to invoke the inherent jurisdiction, the judge will need to be persuaded early in the proceedings that that choice was reasonable [44]. Nor does the court accept the mother’s argument that an application for a summary specific issue order requires a different inquiry from an analogous application under the inherent jurisdiction. The same approach is required under both frameworks, as both are based on the principle that the child’s welfare is paramount [45-50].

Exercise of Inherent Jurisdiction Flawed
The Court of Appeal did not inquire into whether the child’s welfare required a summary order for her return, as it considered that the High Court had made that determination and had not erred in doing so [51]. Yet the judge had not made a determination under the inherent jurisdiction [52]. Nor could his determination under the Convention stand as one under the inherent jurisdiction: for the Convention, unlike the inherent jurisdiction, is not based on the paramountcy of the child’s welfare [53].

The fact that the father had not invoked the inherent jurisdiction did not prevent the Court of Appeal from making an order under it. But it did place a duty on the Court of Appeal to ask whether the mother had had sufficient notice of its intention to use the inherent jurisdiction to allow her to seek to oppose it [54]. The Court of Appeal should also have considered eight further questions before making its order under the inherent jurisdiction, including whether the evidence before it was sufficiently up to date, and whether the High Court judge had made findings sufficient to justify the order [55-63]. Its failure to consider any of these questions is what led the Supreme Court to uphold the appeal [64].

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

Monday, October 28, 2019

News Essentials: 28th October 2019


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

NEWS
District judge ‘sarcastic and shaking with rage’ in flawed family hearing
The Family Court has overturned a district judge’s care ruling after finding she ‘crossed the line’ during the hearing, creating a hostile atmosphere and alienating everyone appearing before her. Full story: Law Society Gazette. See C (A Child) (Judicial Conduct), below.

Children in care warning from justice commission in Wales
Children's interests are being neglected in court cases that decide who looks after them, a major report has warned. Full story: BBC News.

Assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases
Progress update on the public call for evidence on how the family courts protect children and parents in private law children cases concerning domestic abuse and other serious offences. Full story: Ministry of Justice.

Government confirms councils' duty to support domestic abuse victims
Councils will have a statutory duty to provide safe accommodation for victims of domestic abuse and their children from 2021, the government has confirmed. Full story: Children & Young People Now.

CASES
C (A Child) (Judicial Conduct) [2019] EWFC B53 (16 October 2019)
Appeal against care and placement orders. Appeal allowed. Conduct of district judge in court below criticised. Full report: Bailii.

G (Children) [2019] EWCA Civ 1779 (09 October 2019)
Appeal by local authority against an order discharging a care order in respect of six children. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

C (A Child) [2019] EWCA Civ 1777 (22 October 2019)
Care proceedings. Appeal by mother from an order reversing a decision to reopen a finding of fact. 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, October 21, 2019

News Essentials: 21st October 2019


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

NEWS
The Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments (Civil and Family) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
These Regulations are made in order to address failures of retained EU law to operate effectively and other deficiencies in retained EU law arising from the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. Statutory Instrument.

Queen’s Speech: Johnson puts law and order issues at forefront
Crime and justice policies [including divorce reform] were placed at the centre of the government’s agenda today as the Queen’s Speech set out its legislative priorities. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

‘One lawyer is enough’: family judge issues court guidance
Solicitors with cases being heard at Central Family Court have been told they do not always have to turn up with their barristers. Full story: Law Society Gazette.

CASES
C (A Child) (Schedule 2, Paragraph 19, Children Act 1989) [2019] EWCA Civ 1714 (17 October 2019)
Appeal by Local Authority against refusal to give the court's "approval" to the Local Authority arranging for child to live in Scotland in a residential home in which he had been placed. Full report: Bailii.

O (Committal: Legal Representation) [2019] EWCA Civ 1721 (17 October 2019)
Appeal against committal, following breach of order made in family proceedings. Appeal allowed, on basis that appellant wished to be represented, but was not. Full report: Bailii.

RH (Parental Alienation) [2019] EWHC 2723 (Fam) (03 October 2019)
Application by father to transfer care of 12 year old child to him. Application granted, following finding that mother had alienated child from his father. 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, October 15, 2019

Legal aid reforms trigger huge increase in parents seeking help from child contact centres


The number of parents self-referring directly to child contact centres has drastically risen in the last ten years, according to new figures released by the National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC).

Self-referrals from separating parents have risen astronomically from 3.7% of total referrals in 2009/10 to 35.8% in 2018/19, in the same period, referrals from solicitors have reduced from 67.8% to 21.9%. [1]

The stats released today are a clear indication of the consequences of legal aid reforms for families experiencing separation. 

The consultation process for legal aid reforms started in 2011 and came into force in 2013. Since then, legal aid for family law has only been available for a limited range of cases including domestic violence and international child abduction.[2]  

The NACCC accredits 350 centres nationwide run by around 4,000 volunteers and 1,000 staff. Over 17,000 children benefited from accredited services in the past year.

NACCC collected referral data from centres nationwide and found that in 2018/19, 3,879 self referrals were made out of a total referral number of 10,825 (35.8%) while solicitor referrals accounted for 2,375 (21.9%). This compares to 372 (3.7%) self referrals and 6,729 (67.8%) solicitor referrals in 2009/10 from a total of 9,925. [3]

Elizabeth Coe, Chief Executive, National Association of Child Contact Centres
said: 

“Parenting shouldn’t end when relationships do and we know many parents who separate feel the same way, which explains why the assistance from child contact centres is in such demand.

“We have noticed a huge change in source of referrals since legal aid reforms led to a reduction in provision for most family cases. Families who are going through a separation now often need to negotiate the family law system without the support of a legal professional. 

“Our centre staff and volunteers are trained to support families through this process but the potential of increased stress and anxiety for parents is significant and the implications of reduced support is having an impact beyond child arrangements.”

Sarah Avery, Cheltenham Child Contact Centre Manager added: 

Child contact centres enable parenting to continue after a relationship ends, ensuring children feel supported and are safe. Our role is to work with families to help them build trust and resolve issues so that children can continue to have contact with both their parents.

“We know that family separation is stressful for everyone involved and many parents now have the additional challenge of managing legal processes without support from a solicitor. The emotional strain this puts on individuals can be huge.” 

As well as providing safe spaces where children can meet the parents they don't live with, NACCC centres support families by promoting the use of mediation and other services so that separating parents don’t need to go to court to arrange contact with their children.

Monday, October 14, 2019

News Essentials: 14th October 2019


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

NEWS
Cafcass backs renewed focus on pre-proceedings work in public law children cases - but rejects direct role
Cafcass has said it supports a renewed focus on pre-proceedings work and managing risk in public law children cases, with more emphasis on gaining and recording the wishes and feelings of children at that stage. Full story: Local Government Lawyer.

Welsh council criticised after couples became embroiled in ‘nightmare’ adoption case
Social services bosses at a Welsh council have come under fire from a High Court judge after two couples became embroiled in “nightmare” litigation when a woman changed her mind about giving up a baby daughter for adoption. Full story: Care Appointments. See report, below.

CASES
Dorset Council v A (Residential Placement: Lack of Resources) [2019] EWFC B53 (10 October 2019)
Judgment in care proceedings concerning 15 year old girl, highlighting the resource issues that local authorities face looking after young vulnerable people at risk of harm. Full report: Bailii.

B v A [2019] EWHC 2613 (Fam) (07 October 2019)
Appeal by father against dismissal of application for a prohibited steps order prohibiting child's removal from this jurisdiction, in case where mother had sought permission to temporarily remove the child to Iraq. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Foster carers v A, B & A Welsh Local Authority [2019] EWFC B52 (27 June 2019)
Applications by foster carers for wardship and permission to make an adoption application. Full report: Bailii.

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Monday, October 07, 2019

News Essentials: 7th October 2019


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

NEWS
Tafida Raqeeb: Brain-damaged girl can go abroad for treatment
The parents of a brain-damaged girl will be allowed to take her abroad to continue her treatment, the High Court has ruled. Full story: BBC News. See report, below.

Court has no power to require Cafcass to undertake work with non-subject child, judge rules
A court has no power to require Cafcass to appoint one of its officers, whether a children's guardian or otherwise, to undertake any work with or play any role with a non-subject child, a High Court judge has concluded. Full story: Local Government Lawyer. See report, below.

Survey finds hundreds of children in care being forced to see abusive parents
Hundreds of children in care are being “marched back” to visit their abusive parents and a majority of foster families want to see the practice made illegal, research suggests. Full story: Care Appointments.

CASES
Tafida Raqeeb -v- Barts NHS Foundation Trust and others [2019] EWHC 2531 (Admin) and [2019] EWHC 2530 (Fam) (3 October 2019)
Judgment upon applications by parents for judicial review of decision of NHS Trust not to agree to child being transferred to a hospital in Italy for continued medical treatment and by Trust regarding the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. Full report: Bailii.

A County Council v Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) [2019] EWHC 2369 (Fam) (20 September 2019)
Care proceedings. Judgment considering issue of whether court has power to to request Cafcass to undertake an assessment of a child not the subject of the proceedings. 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.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Internet Newsletter for Lawyers September/October 2019

The latest issue of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers is now published.
In this issue:
  • Surveillance – Chrysilla de Vere of Clarkslegal explains the issues surrounding use of facial recognition in public spaces
  • Regulation – Alex Heshmaty of Legal Words looks at the debates around the regulation of big data companies
  • Cryptocurrencies – Alex Haffner of Fladgate explains Facebook's Libra and considers the legal issues arising
  • Legal practice – Andrew Thornton of Erskine Chambers introduces Juriosity, the new online platform for lawyers
  • Websites – David Kerr and Chris Davidson of Moore Legal Technology provide the ultimate checklist for websites
  • Regulation – Updates from Alex Heshmaty on digital services tax, Privacy Shield and GDPR fines