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, 25 December 2011

Paternity Disputes

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Museum of Broken Relationships

Below is an interesting image from a charming and thoughtful exhibition of mementoes from failed relationships. Hailing from Croatia the exhibition can be seen at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden (38 Earlham Street) until 4th September.  At £3.50 for unlimited visits within the week is great value.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Legal Aid Announcement Expected

Twitter is awash with rumours that the long awaited Justice Bill will be announced tomorrow. The Guardian will be running a live blog on the topic. On twitter follow @GdnLaw or @justiceall or #legalaid. Tell the Ministry of Justice what you think by tweeting to @mojgovuk.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Cap on ISW fees

The LSC have confirmed that the cap on ISW fees (to Cafcass rates, I think £30 outside London, £33 in) only applies to new certificates issued after 9th May.  So that's alright then. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


So here is a link to the full list of silks.

A fabulous and imaginative bunch of appointments. I always feel for the deserving candidates who might not have made it through but we don’t know about them. I am just thrilled for a few people I know and am very happy to see their skills acknowledged.  There were 17 family practitioners appointed out of a total of 120.

In a particular order (understood only by me!) congratulations to –

Gwynneth Knowles

Rex Howling

John Wilson

Leslie Samuels

Sarah Morgan

Tim Bishop

Phillippa Kauffmann

Howard Shaw

Christopher Wagstaffe

Catherine Wood

Stewart Leech

Barbara Connolly

Tina Cook

Kate Davidson

Nkumbe Ekaney

Alistair MacDonald

Jeremy Weston

Non- family silks but still good people!

Tim Eicke

Manuel Barca

David Holland

A bunch of people who will make a difference in a good way.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


If you haven't been watching it you should do so!  It is fantastic fun.  And can be revisited on iplayer.

And I have the list for the real thing.  But I'm not going to tell you until tomorrow.  But is a bumper crop of goodies.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Experts assessments & observations of contact: haggling with the LSC

I posted recently about a local issue where the LSC are apparently refusing to fund any element of an expert assessement which involves an observation of contact.  The temporary local solution which has been adopted is for the court to make orders that the costs be borne by the public funding certificates and giving permission to the solicitors to refer the matter to court for hearing should the LSC refuse to meet the costs on assessment, with a direction that the LSC file evidence explaining why they are refusing and attend a hearing.

In the meantime I have checked the funding code amendments.

Legal Services Commission Manual, Volume 1 Part D

This provides that the following costs are irrecoverable:

The costs of or expenses relating to any activity to promote contact with a child directed by the court under Section 11A to 11G Children Act 1989. This includes all programmes, consideration of suitability under Section 11E and other work to or with a view to establishing, maintaining or improving contact with a child or, by addressing violent behaviour, to or with a view to enabling or facilitating contact with a child insofar as such costs or expenses are not recoverable under Funding Code paragraph 1.3 (see Funding Code Decision Making Guidance paragraph 2.5). Funding for assessments under Funding Code Criterion 11.4.1 as to whether mediation is suitable to the dispute and the parties and all the circumstances is not affected by this exclusion.

However, the guidance adds:

9. The exclusion of risk assessments does not extend to specialist assessments of risk which require professional expertise (not of a social work nature) which is beyond that held by Cafcass officers/Welsh family proceedings officers. Such assessments, for example from a psychologist or a psychiatrist, required to inform the decision of the court may be based on some observation of contact, supervised or not.

10. However, the purpose of the report must be to express an expert opinion on risk and/or safety of contact in principle rather than any assessment of supervised contact itself or suitability for a domestic violence perpetrator programme. Any contact centre costs or fees must be met elsewhere and not included as part of the costs of the expert assessment. The work undertaken must also be within the scope of funding more generally – and not be excluded within paragraph 1.3(i) and/or (ii) as well as being proportionate. Costs will be subject to cost assessment in the usual way and any claim (or application for prior authority) must include an appropriate breakdown of the work done (or which is proposed to be done), the relevant area(s) of expertise/qualifications and the rates applied.
I can see no justification whatsover for any refusal by the LSC to fund expert observation of contact performed by anyone other than a Cafcass Officer.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Special Guardianship Allowances

I will do a complete round up on this topic soon but a couple of preliminary thoughts.

The Regulations do not say that SG allowances can only be paid for 2 years - they say that the remuneration element of a foster care allowance cannot continue to be paid to a former foster carer beyond 2 years.

The payment of all residence/  kinship  / SG allowances are essentially dependent on council led policies and cannot be committed to for a child's minority.

Government guidelines on calculating SG allowances which have been adopted almost wholesale by many local authorities specifically state that if the SG is in receipt of income support the maximum allowance should be paid without the need for means testing.  Case law and current practice indicate that the same amounts should be on offer to a kinship carer, foster carer or SG (less the remuneration element).

The fact that a lay person, often unrepresented and unadvised, chooses to accept an amount offered by the LA does not remove the burden on the LA to assess their needs and apply their own policy to that person's situation.

I would be really interested in feedback about this to provide some definitive answers. This is a thorny topic and currently one it is difficult to deal with in court.  Potential SG's in particular and they are often grandparents do not realise what they might be entitled to and are hesitant about asking for it for fear that they are seen as mercenary or as not being able to cope on their current income.  I appreciate that there are policy issues to consider here: why should an SG carer or post care proceedings relative carer get more than the average single parent, for example. Why does a looked after child cost more?  But as long as the current policies exist they should be applied fairly and transparently.  I find myself baffled by the inconsistency of approach.  Some allowance decisions in LAs are being made at a panel level - perhaps we should be routinely asking for the minutes?  In any event you should be routinely asking for copies of the policy documents, not to mention the actual calculations applied to decide what amount should be paid to a particular carer.

LSC & contact: refusal to fund experts

In one particular area of the country the LSC's attitude on assessment of expert costs is causing much consternation.  I am being told that the Liverpool office of the LSC is declining to meet the costs of any assessment which incorporates an observation of contact.  For example, if an expert Psychiatrist is instructed and goes along to observe contact (even if supervised) the LSC will refuse to meet the costs of that session.  I cannot quite understand why there is any proper basis for this refusal since it is part and parcel of many assessments.  I could understand if funding was refused when an assessment report might be being used to ensure that funding is available to ensure contact is supervised by someone because the local authority / Cafcass are reluctant or unable to cover the costs or if it was a genuine contact activity situation  or work designed to improve the quality of contact.  But refusing the funding of an observation by an expert which is purely assessment and not therapy I cannot see the argument for.   For an individual solicitor refused such funding to the tune of £4/500 say, this is a significant loss of income but not so great that it might be worth challenging the LSC about.  For the LAs it could represent a significant cost if each case then costs them an extra £4/500 on top of the costs of supervision, provision of venue, transport costs etc and they are in no position to tackle the LSC directly.  At least one solicitor I know has been able to argue this out on assessment but it is yet another hassle for busy family practitioners.  I can think of some solutions - standardised submission letters to the LSC on the point, representations from user groups including judicial input to the LSC.  Is anyone else experiencing similar difficulties with other offices?  Any solutions you have found to take the sting out of this tail?