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, 21 October 2010


The long awaited judgment in Radmacher v Granatino has been handed down by the Supreme Court. 8 of 9 of the panel of Judges held that the pre-nup should be enforced. Only Lady Hale dissented, unhappy with the idea of putting a gloss on s25 MCA 1973 and of the court making law where that is more properly the role of Parliament.

You can find the judgment here, and FLW commentary here.

Other bloggers comment here: Family Lore, Marilyn Stowe, Afua Hirsch at The Guardian.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Washington Declaration on International Relocation.

On 23-25 March 2010, more than 50 judges and other experts from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Egypt, Germany, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States of America, including experts from the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, met in Washington, D.C. to discuss cross-border family relocation. The full text of the Declaration is here

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Fabricated illness: case management lessons

The judgment of HHJ Clifford Bellamy in Re X, Y & Z which we now know involved Coventry City Council covers a wide range of important points about case management, permission to withdraw proceedings and the duties of an expert asked to report on suggestions of fabricated illness. He summarises the lessons to be learnt as follows:

(a) An allegation of FII is a very serious allegation to make against a parent and one that should not be made lightly. Before making an allegation of FII a local authority should be rigorous in satisfying itself that the evidence available, if accepted by the court, is capable of establishing to the requisite standard that there has in fact been fabricated or induced illness.

(b) In reaching the decision to allege FII in circumstances where the allegation is of fabrication of signs and symptoms, it will rarely be appropriate for a local authority to rely exclusively upon the report of an independent expert. The local authority should normally also seek the views of health professionals involved in the care of the children. This should be achieved by convening a strategy discussion as recommended by the 2008 DCSF Guidance.

(c) When instructing an expert to prepare a report in a case of suspected FII the letter of instructions should make it clear that the expert is expected to have regard to 'Fabricated or induced illness by Carers (FII): A Practical Guide for Paediatricians' published by the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health in October 2009 and should also draw the expert's attention specifically to the guidance on 'Content of the Expert's Report' set out at paragraph 3.3 of the Practice Direction: Experts in Family proceedings Relating to Children.

(d) As stated by Charles J in Re R (Care: Disclosure: Nature of Proceedings), all those involved should consider and review the report of an expert when it is received and, where relevant, raise points with the expert and other parties relating to the performance of the expert's instructions, his or her reasoning, the factual basis of his or her views and the relevance of his or her views to the proceedings.

(e) In any case in which a local authority applies under FPR rule 4.5 to withdraw proceedings it should state whether or not it accepts that the child is a child in need for the purposes of s.17 Children Act 1989. If it does accept that the child is a child in need the application should be accompanied by a schedule outlining the needs that have been identified and detailing the support and services it proposes to make available to that child to meet those identified needs once the proceedings have been concluded.

To underline the messages the local authority were ordered to pay £50,000 towards the costs of each parent. The Judge estimated the total costs of the case at over £400,000 and it involved over 20 lever arch files.

I have recently come across something called 'abnormal illness behaviour'(AIB) (FII lite?) a term apparently coined by Pilowsky (as long ago as 1969) to characterize syndromes of excessive or inadequate response to symptoms, including hypochondriasis, somatization, and denial of illness. At least one expert uses this term as being synonymous with FII whereas Pilowsky himself focusses on maladaptive illness denial (ie there is an illness which is denied rather than there is not an illness but symptoms are invented) although he advocates these syndromes being grouped together. AIB is not itself a recognised specific diagnosis but refers to a cluster of somatoform disorders and is sometimes used to include FII. It is variously used to cover a symptom, syndrome or dimension. Approach with care!

Two important documents are referred to in the judgment:

Safeguarding Children in whom illness is fabricated or induced

Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health Guidance on Fabricated Illness

Should we perhaps coin a new term: abnormal or fabricated threshold criteria syndrome?

Children's experience of the care system

I have to confess that I am not normally one of Panorama's biggest fans but I was pleasantly surprised to watch the recent programme on Kids in Care which is still available for online viewing here.

Spotting abuse is child's play?

The Guardian reports on research by Action for Children who have found that 44% of children under 12 have seen other children who were dirty and smelly, while nearly two-thirds of children have seen suspected signs of neglect among their peers in classrooms, playgrounds, neighbourhoods and activity clubs. Its survey of over 3,000 eight to 12 year-olds revealed the scale of absenteeism. Just over 40% had noticed pupils being late or missing school, while 34% said they were aware of children not appearing to have friends. The charity has issued a press release and a media pack.

European court challenge to care proceedings

The Mirror reports on a group of parents taking a case to Europe challenging the UK care system. The group behind the class action has its own website: Freedom Advocacy & Law. The case seems to have been accepted - by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Excellent post by Marilyn Stowe summarising this subject and a recent case.