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.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

What the papers say: News round up

Several notable family law stories have been reported over the past week in the mainstream national media.

The Times published a piece by a retired judge concerning his fight to get contact with his grandchildren following the death of his son. The same paper has also published an editorial piece by campaigning lawyer,Sarah Harman calling for greater transparency of expert opinions

The Telegraph took the more gossipy approach with a report from the Court of Appeal on the Grubb Case where a wealthy landowner sought to appeal an occupation order turfing him out (temporarily) of his family home. (The full judgment is now on the main Family Law Week site)

Finally, The Observer ran a piece on a US "marriage" calculator devised by Betsey Stevenson of the Wharton school at Pennsylvania University. The calculator is designed to estimate the likelihood of the marriage ending in divorce and according to Stevenson results show that

"The lowest divorce rates are among people who marry late with more education; the highest ones are among those who marry young with less education"

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


I am increasingly frustrated by the seeming inability of local authorities to organise any kind of therapeutic help for children in care, but particularly puzzled by the insistence within the local authority of 'exhausting' the CAMHS option before making any other kinds of referral. It has been my universal experience that CAMHS will refuse to offer any kind of service to families as long as proceedings are on foot on the basis that therapy - or at least the therapy they offer - is best embarked on when children are settled in placement. Furthermore CAMHS will never provide reports for court purposes and are not usually willing even to provide oral feedback to independent experts. I am sure there are all sorts of good reasons for the CAMHS approach but my point is that it is a well known one and LAs seem to waste an awful lot of time asking them to take a different approach which they must know will meet with refusal. Is it really not possible to identify some kind of therapeutic resource which can be offered to children at least to help them through the (increasingly long) period of time that they are in the care system before decisions about permanence can be made?

Cafcass: London & National Issues

Further to my earlier post about the problem solving strategy of Cafcass in London (allocate all cases whether anyone can actually do the work or not) I am now told that Cafcass in London has run out of money to pay any self-employed Guardians for the rest of this year.

I have also recently been involved in a case when an employed Guardian gave evidence to the court that she did not see it as part of her role to make visits to the family as that was for social services to do. It is difficult to see what added value there is in an independent professional simply reading the papers. Whatever happened to the eyes and ears of the court?

Having said that I have also been recently impressed by a Guardian expressing an entirely independent view from the local authority having gone to the trouble of assessing the family members for herself and observing contact.

I would be interested to know what your experience of the waiting list problems are and whether the President's trouble shooting ideas are being implemented anywhere? I understnad that on the Northern Circuit there is an office duty scheme in operation. Is it helping?

Monday, 14 September 2009

Appeals from magistrates

In case you missed it ....

The Access to Justice Act 1999 (Destination of Appeals) (Family Proceedings) Order 2009 SI 2009 No. 871 came into force on 6th April 2009

The full commentary can be found on Family Law Week at:

The effect of this Order is that, from 6th April 2009, appeals against decisions of magistrates’ courts in family proceedings shall lie to a county court instead of to the High Court.

Articles 2 and 3 and 6 to 9 amend the statutory provisions giving rights of appeal from decisions of magistrates’ courts. The amendments provide for the appeals to lie to a county court instead of to the High Court and make consequential changes.

Article 4(2) provides that an application to have a case stated for the opinion of the High Court under section 111 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 may not be made in relation to family proceedings. Family proceedings are defined as—
(a) proceedings which, by virtue of section 65 of the 1980 Act, are or may be treated as family proceedings for the purposes of that Act; and
(b) proceedings under the Child Support Act 1991.

A new section 111A is inserted into the 1980 Act by article 4(3). The new section provides that in family proceedings a person may appeal to a county court on the ground that a decision is wrong in law or is in excess of jurisdiction. This appeal to a county court replaces the procedure for making an application to have a case stated as it is not appropriate for a county court to hear such an application.

Friday, 11 September 2009

PRFD news

I have been spending a lot of time in the PRFD in the last couple of weeks so thought I would share with you a couple of points.

There are often large queues to get into the building - security seems to be being hypervigilant at the moment - possibly arising out of some sort of incident - so you need to allow extra time to get in particularly for hearings starting at 10 or 2 or when coming back in after lunch. It has been taking me as much as 20 minutes to get in on a bad day but quite frequently 10 minutes. Secondly, security will not currently allow in any glass bottles - including any bottles of perfume or make up etc. I am not sure whether aerosal sprays are also being retained. If you take any of these items in along with all the other usual suspects such as knives, guns & cameras you will have to sign them in and collect them at the end of the day.

For barristers, you may also wish to be aware that the office will no longer seal your SIP for you after the event so you must make sure to get the form stamped by the clerk in court.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Community Based Assessments: London & SE

I have finally tracked down the contact information for Coral Community Assessments who can be found at 81 Oxford Street, London W1D 2EU (tel 020 7903 5118). Coral is staffed by some ex-Jamma staff. Jamma Umoja itself continues to offer community based assessments.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Domestic Forum Shopping?

Pannones, the Manchester law firm, have carried out research to confirm that regional variance in divorce awards does exist, according to a piece in The Times.

The research trawled 1,500 cases handled by its own lawyers since 2007 and also drew on findings from divorce lawyers at 20 roadshows in England and Wales, where Andrew Newbury, a matrimonial partner at the firm, a hypothetical divorce. He concluded

"There was a very clear difference. Generally in the North judges tended to favour a clean break or limited maintenance, taking the view that the wife could stand on her own two feet.”

but added that this was not because judges are making incorrect rulings but becasue of the wide discretion they enjoy.

The full story can be found on the The Times website.