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, 30 October 2008

News Roundup

The Audit Commission has concluded that children's trusts are not making the contribution to child protection that was hoped for them when they were set up post the Climbie enquiry, according to the Guardian .

Community Care carries a piece on the view of Foster Care Link that it may be more important for Muslim children to be placed with Muslim foster carers than for ethnic matching to be prioritised.

Frances Gibb in the Times considers the possibility of seeking court approval for decisions ratified by Sharia courts.

Family Bubble is getting off the ground with a new section in the library with links to articles of interest to Family Lawyers on other websites including articles on adoption versus special guardianship, Barder, children & financial applications, shared residence, overturning settlements etc. Family Bubble also has a feed of the new articles on Family Law Week.

Rather ironically, adoption figures have fallen by 16% in the last 3 years as Children & Young People Now reports (you have to register to read the full article but registration is free.

The same publication reports that over a 1000 children went missing from care last year, an increase of 110 from the previous year: see this article .

The Family Justice Council hosted a debate on the participation of children in family proceedings as reported here . A summary of the debate and accompanying podcast will be published on the site soon.

And finally I am sure no one will want to miss one of today's statutory instruments: The Cat & Dog Fur (Control of Import, Export & Placing on the Market Regulations) 2008 . Raining cats and dogs will clearly now be a criminal offence.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

In the news

The Daily Mail runs a piece on the difficulties facing grandparents in getting contact after parents split up.

In the same paper an article about a perhaps surprisingly compassionate approach to a mother who threw her baby out of a window.

The Times has a feature on CMEC and the seven year timetable for cases to be transferred to the new agency from the CSA. The same topic was covered in a piece on Woman's Hour (you can listen to this piece online). It was emphasised that parents on benefits will no longer be forced to go via the CSA. No comment was made about the fact that one of the main intentions of the CSA was to make the non-resident parent contribute to the upkeep of their children or that the problem with this was that the resident parent on benefits rarely received any additional money as a result since it was all about recouping the money to the public purse. See also John Bolch's comment on CMEC and links on Family Lore .

This BBC feature covers the first celebrity civil partnership split up and Anne Kay of Boodle Hatfield summarises the legal approach to civil partnership dissolution.

The Guardian comments on the House of Lords comments in the case of EM (Lebanon) to the effect that Sharia law is incompatible with human rights legislation. Their Lordships were particularly concerned that in the Lebanon, according to Sharia law, the mother's 7 year old child would be placed in the custody of his father automatically without any consideration of the interests of the child or without her even having a right to contact (do parents have one here? Discuss).

The Guardian also suggests that more parents are using lawyers to secure their children places in schools here .

Community Care assesses recent research on the link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to children. The research concluded that though there seems to be a link between domestic violence and cruelty to animals the link to cruelty to children is not well evidenced.

Community Care also reports on
* Beverley Hughes' concerns about the impact of the credit crunch on children's services ;
* children still being placed in multiple care placements ; and
* the Fostering Network's concerns about lack of support for foster carers' natural children .

Raina Sheridan comments in the Guardian about the negative impact of children being forced out of foster homes when they reach 18.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

News roundup

Woman's Hour on Thursday featured a discussion about reforming the family courts by opening them up to media scrutiny, involving interviews with Camilla Cavendish and Ian Johnson of BASW. You can listen again here . John Hemmings celebrates the impending open access according to the Birmingham Post

On Wednesday Channel 4 News showed a piece on cost cutting and the family justice system which you can watch again here

The Law Society has written to Jack Straw about the court service budget cuts - see the Law Society Gazette and the full letter here as a pdf file.

Even the President, Sir Mark Potter, is worried about cost cutting and its impact on the family justice system according to the Times

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Adapting adoption procedures

I am grateful to Stuart Fuller, my colleague in Chambers, for the following:

The President has at long last issued guidance as to how to deal with the dogs' breakfast served up by Rule 31 FP(A)Rules 2005 (which requires all parties to be given notice of the "final hearing" in adoption proceedings). The problem was of course as follows.

In the good old days one could have a "dispensing hearing" to deal with parental consent and then, preferably after the appeal period had expired, a "final hearing" at which applicants and child would attend, order would be made and late and much lamented Bracewell J would give the child a teddy bear dressed in judicial garb. Notice of that hearing would not be given to the birth parents. Under the new Rules, however, that second hearing has become the "final hearing" and the birth parents have to be notified.

Different courts have come up with different ways of resolving the situation. We now have the official solution as set out in the attached President's Guidance - we will henceforth have a dispensing hearing, then presumably a final hearing at which the order will be made (or maybe that can now be done at the conclusion of the dispensing hearing, with the child's attendance being dispensed with?) and then, yippee, a "celebratory event." Is this the first time the President has given guidance about a celebratory event?

Trouble is, it's unlikely we'll now get to take the photos any more.
Does the President realise he's depriving the family bar of one of its few opportunities to witness a happy event in court?

Ah well, back to the coalface.

The text of the Practice Directions is available on the main FLW site

More haste less speed?

Mr Justice 'global warming' Coleridge announced to the Central London Collaborative Law Forum that the PRFD would offer access to the urgent without notice applications list for litigants wanting approval for consent orders according to the Solicitors Journal . He added that the new procedure was subject to the consent of the urgent application judge, and could only be used where every aspect of the documentation was agreed, the hearing was not expected to last for more than ten minutes and documents were with the judge the night before the hearing. The rroposal found favour with the collaborative lawyers. I don't wish to pour cold water on the idea but I wonder just how much time it will save to hang around waiting for the Judge of the Day rather than waiting patiently for the post to arrive?

Shameless plug: but it is for charity

Following on our success in the British 10K, 4 Brick Court has put together a running team to take part in the Great South Run (10 miles in Portsmouth on 26th October) on behalf of a favourite charity and your support would be greatly appreciated by the many children who have come to depend on VOICE. VOICE is a charity entirely dedicated to giving support advice and assistance to the 60,000 children in care in the UK at any one time.

The team from chambers includes myself, Louise MacLynn, Francis Cassidy, Lee Pearman and Paul Carver. We are being joined by my husband, John Sullivan, his friend David Parkinson and my lovely friends Carolyn & Tim Cobbold.

You can log on to our Just Giving website and translate our pounding the pavements of Portsmouth in to pounds for this charity.

Alternatively we will be happy to receive cheques made out to Voice at 4 Brick Court (Temple London EC4Y 9AD)

Click to find out more about

Monday, 20 October 2008

Open sesame

Frances Gibb today reports the apparent plans of Jack Straw to open up the family courts in the Times and again here in a slightly longer piece. No details on what this might actually mean!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

News roundup

Bit of a Madonna fest this week with endless speculation about the reasons for their divorcing ranging from no sex, gym before sex life, third parties, her involvement with Kaballah, Guy not being able to cope with Mrs Madonna bla bla bla.

Helen Ward for Guy Ritchie goes into battle against Fiona Shackleton for Madonna according to the Lawyer .

The Sunday Times reports on the plea by the natural father of her adopted child that his son should not be brought up by a single mother.

The Times puts the likely settlement on Guy Ritchie at £60 million.

The Independent's estimate was £100 million.

The Mirror says that Guy will do a deal at £15 million to avoid any imitation of the Macca / Mucca scenario.

That's enough Madonna stories, ed ...

The BBC reports that a child rescued from a burning home will stay in care whilst investigations are completed.

The Times covers a 'leaked' document from the MoJ about the slashing of the justice system budget (do I see a kite flying past).

Blog roundup

At the cutting edge of technology as usual is John Bolch who has recorded a video blog piece on recent cases . Other interesting posts on Family Lore cover the Madonna / Ritchie breakup, his regular answers to questions suggested by those searching for his blog, and a comment on Whithouse v Piper .

Pink Tape has covered the Law Society Press Release on advocacy rates in family cases and splitting child benefit.

Marilyn Stowe has written about gigolos and her very personal take on families and forgiveness (not in the same blogpost as the one about gigolos!), the credit crunch divorce and why clients seek second opinions.

The Benussi Blog deals with chance encounters with your ex and adultery (it's not good for you).

Laws of Love finds an interesting action against God in ... America, where else, and comments on the leak about public funding cuts and why that would be a bad thing.

Family Bubble (formerly the Editorial) has started up again with an interesting mission statement and a blog about Nick Holmes' Free Legal Web project.

Judith's Divorce Blog blogs about the credit crunch and the likely impact on divorce (up) and Soul Mating, a useful resource site for those going through divorce.

McKenzie Friends: Revised Guidance

In light of a recent case of Munby J's the President has issue revised guidance on the use of McKenzie friends. The complete guidance is here (as a pdf file) .

The amended paragraph is as follows:

While the court should be slow to grant any application under s.27 or s.28 of the Act from a MF, it should be prepared to do so for good reason bearing in mind the general objective set out in section 17(1) and the general principle set out in section 17(3) of the Act and all the circumstances of the case. Such circumstances are likely to vary greatly: see paragraphs 40-42 of the judgment of Munby J. in Re N (A child) (McKenzie Friend: Rights of Audience)[2008]EWHC 2042(Fam) .

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Public Funding

Responses to the proposals to amend the public funding scheme for barristers are published by the MoJ here .

Some particularly interesting analysis of the same subject and the apparent fallout between the Law Society on the Bar Council from Pink Tape .

Monday, 6 October 2008

Sexual abuse: physical findings

Recent research reported in the Archive of Disease in Childhood 2008 93 851-856 by Professor Watkeys concludes:

Pubertal and post-pubertal girls are more likely to have significant genital signs if they are examined within 7 days of the last episode of sexual abuse. Our findings suggest that abnormal anal signs are more likely to be present in the acute phase. This study indicates that children should be examined as soon as possible following a referral. This will have implications for clinical practice. Regardless of the lack of accurate history it will always be important to examine the child as soon as possible after disclosure.

Thanks to the NSPCC for alerting me to this research.

The ARchive of Disease in Childhood is a BMJ publication and as the name suggests publishes a number of articles which may be helpful to family lawyers.

The no-compensation culture?

The Guardian investigates some recent cases involving claims for past childhood sexual abuse which seem to have been handled with a lack of sensitivity by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. The article features an interview with the Treasurer to the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL) .

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Contact does work after all?

There have been a host of stories and web pieces about the research by the Oxford Centre for Family Law & Policy which apparently concluded that most court disputes over contact result in contact being secured (only 14% of case resulting in no contact).


Ministry of Justice announcement

Download the full study results from this page

Frances Gibb in the Times when the research results were first announced

Frances Gibb reporting the fathers' groups reactions

John Bolch's take in Family Lore

Rather to my surprise (not) there is not much comment on the web within the fathers' group communities as John Bolch's earlier post predicted given its apparent conclusions.

Footnote: see this interesting post on Pink Tape

JR challenge on court fee increase

Community Care has a story about judicial review proceedings being brought by 4 local authorities against the Government in respect of the care cases fees hike and the lack of central government funds devolved to them to cover it. The case will be heard from 23rd October apparently.