About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

News roundup

The silly season still being with us and no one quite back at work the pickings are fairly sparse.

The Telegraph reports on the potential use / misuse of the ContactPoint child protection database. The paper also reports on the introduction of chemical castration for paedophiles .

The Guardian reports on the demand by grandparents for a charter dealing with issues such as child care expectations which is being promoted through Grannynet . Perhaps we will soon be seeing grandparents making applications for 'no contact' orders?

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Blast from the past

At court today I was being told about a new Judge who was objecting to representatives in family cases adopting as their opening gambit - Good Morning Your Honour - about which they were rather puzzled. This is a Judge whose background seems to be in something other than family cases. I explained what one rather waspish Judge who objected to the same practice had once said to me - we are here for a court hearing, not a social occasion! Ever since which I have stuck religiously to 'May it please, Your Honour' so that it now trips off my tongue as if it is plain English and perfectly normal. There are many such traditions and idiosyncracies which family lawyers are a little less observant about than in other disciplines. I would not mind betting that this same Judge will not take kindly to the use of first names or casual references to mum, dad etc. Another Judge recently had to remind Counsel not to ask a leading question, although as he acknowledged this was a breach more honoured in the observance in our line of work. I remember being very puzzled by objections to bags being visible in court (I cannot even remember what is behind this) and being told to make sure the Judge is not left alone in the court room unless s/he has specifically given permission to the advocates to withdraw (which permission should never be requested - you should wait for the invitation). Barristers are also not supposed to shake hands with one another (because shaking hands is a way of showing you are not carrying a weapon and barristers can, of course, be trusted not to do so (HHJ Roger Connor who was recently in the headlines for wielding a knife in court is a former solicitor). A book I found of great assistance in understanding some of these curious traditions was Brothers in Law by Henry Cecil (a former County Court Judge who wrote a series of lovely books about the legal profession - this one was also made into a film) and the book is back in publication and can still be bought from Amazon. It is compulsory reading for all of my pupils.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Pensions guide for clients

Our friends on the Ancillary Actuary blog, run by Bradshaw Dixon Moore have recently posted a blog highlighting their free Pensions in Divorce Guide for Clients. The 15 page guide, which explains the process and terms involved in clear language, is available for download on via the blog site here so you can hand it out to you clients.

Sex, social networking and splitting up

43% of all divorce cases are caused by sex according to John King of Derbyshire firm Wolley & Co. A report on the thisisderbyshire website carried the results of an analysis of his firm's files and the reasons for the relationships breaking down. It turned out that 43% of their cases were directly linked to sex, 37% were due to "lifestyle" reasons with money way down the list at 11%.

What was more surprising was the impact that technology was having on his caseload. According to John,

"What is definitely apparent is the fact that the internet and text messages are
increasingly contributing factors in a relationship breakdown.

It might be that one of the parties has got in touch with an old flame via a social
networking site, or explicit text messages are being exchanged.

So while new technology is helping people keep in touch more easily, it is also making it easier for people to stray."

Phil Collins and Forum Shopping

News of Phil Collins most recent divorce payout of £25m to his 3rd wife emerged via the accounts of his management company according to a report in The Times. The newspaper used this story to then consider the issue of forum shopping quoting James Turner QC as saying that
"I’m aware of cases where wives have tricked their husbands into living in the
UK for a few months and then sprung divorce proceedings on them, .....It also
helps that prenuptial agreements are not binding in this country.”

The Lawyer has also published a piece on the difficulties of forum shopping by Julian Lipson and Clare Blakemore of Withers. The key point of the article is that attempts to reduce forum shopping have instead created a minefield of legislation.

Monday, 25 August 2008

The OS case goes to Europe

The OS case featuring John Hemmings MP goes to Europe .


The excellent John Bolch has added to his already excellent blog a series of Podcasts - child support, ancillary relief, the Children Act & divorce are already covered.

Bloody relations

I have received an accolade! My other blog - Bloody Relations has been named as one of the top UK legal blogs in the Times . Maybe they hadn't twigged the connection given my posts here about their family injustice campaign! But I was intending to continue on that theme with a more sympathetic treatment anyway so you can rest assured that when I do it will not be because I have been biassed by their blatant attempts to curry my favour!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Repossessions holding up family proceedings?

The Times has run a report on the increased workload in county courts caused by a surge in repossessions. In the report District Judge Stephen Gerlis is quoted as saying that
"The only way that extra cases can be accommodated is by squeezing out less
urgent ones"

He also points out that the two days reserved for family and small claims matters are now dominated by repossession work.

Read more on this story on The Times website

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

CAMHS Review interim report

The DCSF has published the interim report of the CAMHS review .

Paternity testing

The Guardian reports on figures released by the CSA suggesting that nearly 20% of mothers identify the wrong man as father of their children.

Incidentally, the updated list of accredited testing organisations is on the Ministry of Justice website with links to each of the accredited bodies.

Domestic Violence

A crop of interesting points on domestic violence.

The Times picks up on the findings of an Ofsted inspection in the South Yorkshire region, which highlighted the neglect of private law cases (as opposed to public law) and the inadequate attention being paid to cases involving allegations of domestic violence.

The Guardian picks up on a Refuge campaign aimed at promoting awareness of the early warning signs of domestic violence. The campaign is also covered by Sky News .

The Sheffield Telegraph features a podcast on Domestic Violence from Martin Loxley, Head of Irwin Mitchell's Sheffield Family Law Department.

The Hemeltoday website covers a new Hertfordshire police initiative on tackling domestic violence.

This Guardian piece by Vera Baird (Labour MP for Redcar & Solicitor General) discusses the proposals for reforming the law on murder including the 'domestic violence' defence. The proposals have also been covered in the Independent , & critically by Erin Pizzey in the Daily Mail .

Also of interest is the Guardian's coverage of the national crime map by local authority .

Duty to house

Thanks to the Nearly Legal blog for this post on a recent case in which the Court of Appeal considered the local authority's duties in respect of accommodation under s 20 . Apparently there is a valid distinction in the service that must be offered if the local authority decides that a child needs help with accommodation as opposed to requires accommodation. Nearly Legal is more convinced by the dissenting judgment.

The full text of the judgment is now available on the main Family Law Week site

Private fostering arrangements

The Times carries a story on private fostering suggesting that the notification scheme is not picking up the vast majority of cases. Community Care covers the same issue, with quotes from BAAF also raising concerns.

European case on incapacity

The case of X v Croatia has been reported on Bailii. The European Court of Human Rights considered the situation of a mentally ill mother who had been excluded from the adoption process. The nub of the decision was as follows:

"Despite the fact that there had at no stage been a decision expressly divesting the applicant of her parental rights, her daughter was freed for adoption and the adoption proceedings were eventually completed without the participation of the applicant in any form, save for a telephone call as maintained by the Government. The Court has not overlooked the fact that the applicant was divested of the capacity to act. However, the Court has difficulty in accepting that every person divested of the capacity to act should be automatically excluded from adoption proceedings concerning his or her child, as the applicant was in the present case. The Court finds that it was not sufficient for the applicant to be only summarily informed by the relevant domestic authorities, while her parental rights were still intact, that adoption proceedings had been instituted in respect of her daughter. The Court considers that she should also have been given an opportunity to be heard in those proceedings and thus the possibility of expressing her views about the potential adoption of her daughter."

Although the procedures employed in Croatia are not on all fours with those in the UK when parents are represented by the Official Solicitor, the case certainly has resonance with the recent UK decision in relation to the OS and may well provide fuel for a further challenge of UK procedures.