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Posted by John Bolch

Jane Robey
New headaches for justice Ministers follow flopped 2014 family legislation

Three years after it became compulsory for separating couples to consider mediating agreements before taking their cases to court, it has emerged that only four out of ten are complying with the landmark legislation.

Introduced in April 2014, the law made it compulsory for separating couples to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before they can apply for a court order to settle disputes over parenting, finance and property.

But figures obtained by National Family Mediation (NFM) show that in 2016 over 60 per cent of couples ignored the law. Of nearly 90,000 applications for private law proceedings to a family court, only 35,627 had followed the MIAM process.

NFM Chief Executive, Jane Robey, says: “By making the consideration of mediated settlements compulsory, the government’s aim was help tens of thousands of couples who separate each year save money, time and stress in making post-divorce arrangements.

“Only four out of ten couples are even attending the initial mediation awareness meeting, let alone following that route through to its conclusion.

“Ministers need to get to grips with what’s going on and explain these figures. Until they do so, the 2014 legislation, though well-intentioned, will be seen as a failure.

Box-ticking exercise

“Are solicitors finding their way around the law, encouraging their clients to exempt themselves from mediation, so that they can carry on with the case and carry on charging their clients? We are certainly seeing an increasing number of clients who have been told by their solicitor “go and see a mediator, get your form signed, and then we can go to court”. Those solicitors are treating the new law like a box-ticking exercise.

“The role of family courts is pivotal, and we need to know how rigorously they are monitoring applications and checking compliance. There is absolutely no evidence that courts are using their powers to direct people to attend a meeting with a mediator and instead the courts allow the system to remain clogged up when there are effective alternatives available.

“The government surely needs to be more instrumental in ensuring that the law is properly enforced so that much more mediation is delivered and many more families avoid high cost damaging litigation, achieving better outcomes for the whole family.

“At the very least Ministers need to provide more support to inform, educate and publicise the fact that MIAMs are compulsory so they ensure that the law is properly enforced and that much more mediation is delivered.”

The ‘traditional’ route for divorce sees a solicitor’s office and the court room as the first stop for separating couples looking to make arrangements over property, finance and children. Mediation enables and empowers families to take control over their own destiny, rather than handing it over to a family court judge. National Family Mediation’s expert professionals help separating couples agree settlements on property, finance and parenting issues without the need for a courtroom drama. They achieve full agreement in over 80 per cent of cases.

All about courts and finances

Jun. 23rd, 2017 07:30 am
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Posted by John Bolch

My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog were all about courts and finances:

A timely message from Lord Thomas - Like, I suspect, most lawyers, I was pleased to read what he had to say last week about the relationship between the courts and the State.

Is it time for the financial remedies rules to be simplified and clarified? - A thought that occurred to me after reading the judgment in Sharp v Sharp.

A quick look at the Judicial Office Business Plan - As the title says.

Unusual finding against husband of conduct affecting divorce settlement - In the case R v B & Ors.

Have a good weekend.
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Posted by John Bolch

If the May half term was a struggle as a separated parent, think what the summer holiday will bring

As children start to look forward to their long school holiday, staff at a national family charity are urging separated parents to head off summer nightmares by organising a Parenting Plan.

“The summer school holiday brings childcare headaches for separated couples, and for many those six weeks are a parenting nightmare,” says Jane Robey, Chief Executive of National Family Mediation.

She said that a number of factors force separated couples into crisis during the summer, including changes in established daily routines, and the expense of keeping family members entertained.

“Separated families often find the summer holiday is the time when parenting agreements imposed on them by courts prove to be unworkable.

“Arrangements that were imposed on them by divorce courts can be exposed as being in nobody’s interests. Pick-up, drop-offs and living arrangements that have been tolerable in term-time become inadequate when the long holiday comes.

“Resentments resurface, hostilities accelerate, and the child can be caught helplessly in the middle,” she adds.

She highlights lifeline help for parents facing a miserable summer: “A Parenting Plan is an agreement made by separated parents, covering how the children will be supported and cared for in the years after separation,” she says.

“Its value is that you both tailor it to suit your own circumstances. Over time, as the lives of separated families change, the Plan can be revisited. It’s not just the parents whose needs change; the children’s do too as they grow up."

To find out more, call NFM on 0300 4000 636 or visit www.nfm.org.uk.

News Essentials: 19th June 2017

Jun. 19th, 2017 07:30 am
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Posted by John Bolch

A brief summary of the essential family law news and cases from the last week:

Court of Appeal determines that application of ‘sharing principle’ is unfair in short marriage
Julie Sharp has been successful in her appeal against the lower court's order which had awarded capital totalling £2.725 million to the husband, which represented exactly 50% of the total matrimonial assets of £5.45 million (after deductions and concessions). The award to the husband has been reduced to £2 million. Full story: Family Law Week. See Sharp v Sharp, below.

European court to decide whether to hear more evidence on ill baby
Charlie Gard, 10 months old, has been offered experimental therapy in US, but UK judges have ruled he must be allowed to die with dignity. Full story: The Guardian.

McKenzie Friends tread ‘fine line’ providing non-legal advice
What it means to conduct litigation is not clear, researchers find. Full story: Solicitors Journal.

Delinking of divorce & financial remedies to be rolled out nationally next week
Successful pilot sees national roll out from 19 June. Full story: Family Law Hub.

17% increase in private law cases received by Cafcass in May compared with 2016
3,707 new cases received. Full story: Family Law Week.

Care applications received by Cafcass in May rose 3% year-on-year
1,190 applications received. Full story: Family Law Week.

Quan v Bray & Ors [2017] EWCA Civ 405 (16 June 2017)
Appeal against an order declaring that assets held within a Mauritian trust were not, for the purposes of section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, a resource of either the husband or the wife. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Sharp v Sharp [2017] EWCA Civ 408 (13 June 2017)
Appeal by wife against award of half of the matrimonial assets to the husband, in short marriage/unequal contribution case. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

IH (Observance of Muslim Practice) [2017] EWCOP 9 (12 June 2017)
Applications relating to observance of religious custom and practice of 39 year old man lacking capacity, while in his supported care home. Full report: Bailii.

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For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

To subscribe to the Family Lore Focus free weekly Newsletter (which includes links to all of the week's top family law news stories, cases, articles and blog posts), go here.

Another mixed bag...

Jun. 16th, 2017 07:30 am
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Posted by John Bolch

My posts this week on Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog once again covered a wide range of topics, including:

The sad end of a family - Not, perhaps, much to do with family law, but a tragic tale that I had to tell.

What will our new Lord Chancellor mean for family law? - A few thoughts on the question.

Sorting out the McKenzie friend problem isn’t rocket science - Thoughts following the Bar Council's research into fee-charging McKenzie friends.

Wife still married at husband’s death, despite short marriage - The unusual case HJB and MK (declaration as to marital status).

Have a good weekend.

News Essentials: 12th June 2017

Jun. 12th, 2017 07:30 am
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Posted by John Bolch

A brief summary of the essential family law news and cases from the last week:

David Lidington appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
Fourth successive non-lawyer appointed to office. Full story: Family Law Week.

Supreme court rejects appeal in Charlie Gard case
Parents had hoped to persuade judges their baby should be kept alive to receive treatment in US for rare genetic condition. Full story: The Guardian.

CCLC publishes guide on legal routes to status and permanence for undocumented children
Coram Children's Legal Centre has today published an updated guide called Securing permanent status: existing legal routes for children and young people without leave to remain in the UK. Full story: Family Law Week.

Child Support Agency case closures: June 2014 to March 2017
Quarterly experimental statistics on the progress of the Child Support Agency case closure programme from June 2014 to March 2017. Full story: Department for Work and Pensions.

Judge agrees natural father should not be given notice of care proceedings
A natural father need not be given a copy of a notice of care proceedings where this would create a risk for the mother, HHJ Bellamy has ruled in the Family Court. Full story: Local Government Lawyer. See CD (Notice of care proceedings to father without parental responsibility).

Unreasonable behaviour petitions ‘far more acrimonious’ since Owens v Owens
Resolution will advise members to keep seeking constructive solution. Full story: Solicitors Journal.

F v L [2017] EWHC 1377 (Fam) (09 June 2017)
Appeal by mother against refusal of application to relocate to Italy with child. Appeal allowed. Full report: Bailii.

B (A 14 Year Old Boy), Re [2017] EWFC B28 (11 May 2017)
Application by father for direct contact with his 14 year old son, in case involving allegations of parental alienation. Application refused and s.91(14) order made. Full report: Bailii.

AH v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Child Support Agency) [2017] EWFC B27 (20 January 2017)
Appeal against a final Lump Sum Deduction order made in respect of arrears which had accrued under a child support assessment. Appeal dismissed for being 3 days out of time. Full report: Bailii.

U (Children : Residence order) [2016] EWCA Civ 1332 (20 October 2016)
Appeal by mother against residence order in favour of father. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

Yates & Anor v Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children NHS Foundation Trust & Anor 2017] EWCA Civ 410 (23 May 2017)
Appeal by parents against decision allowing NHS Trust to withdraw artificial ventilation from brain damaged child. Appeal dismissed. Full report: Bailii.

*      *      *
For more news, see here.

For more cases, see here.

To subscribe to the Family Lore Focus free weekly Newsletter (which includes links to all of the week's top family law news stories, cases, articles and blog posts), go here.