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What are family lawyers are talking about this week? By John Bolch

After threatening to do so for years, the prime minister has finally announced plans for some married couples to get tax breaks worth up to £200 a year. David Cameron said that four million couples (or about a third of all married couples) would benefit from a £1,000 transferable tax allowance from April 2015. The tax break will apply if couples are both basic rate tax payers and would also include 15,000 couples in civil partnerships. But will £200 a year be enough to entice couples into getting married, and is it right that married couples should be favoured over other types of family? Single parent charity Gingerbread has called the tax break a “shocking waste of money” and campaign group Don’t Judge My Family has said that the scheme is “about promoting a fantasy 1950s family and won’t go to many of the families who most need support the most”. Quite. In twenty-first century Britain people choose to live in (or find themselves in) various different types of family unit –shouldn’t they all be valued equally? In any event, is it for government to try to ‘engineer’ how we live?

As mentioned in my first post, Monday brought the news that the number of couples attending out-of-court mediation to resolve family disputes between April and June this year has plummeted by 47 per cent. As I said there, the drop appears to have been caused by the abolition of legal aid for most private law family matters on the 1st of April (although legal aid is still available for mediation), and it will surely come as an embarrassment to the government, which has been promoting mediation as the ‘way of the future’. Next year, it will be compulsory for all parties looking to start proceedings to attend mediation information and assessment meetings (‘MIAMs’), but it is feared that by then many mediation providers will have gone out of business. Another flagship government policy in tatters?

As has also been mentioned on this blog, Tamer Salama has been sentenced to a further term of six months for his continued refusal to obey the court’s orders requiring the return of his daughter Elsa to this jurisdiction. Elsa was moved to the care of her paternal grandmother during a family holiday in Egypt in December 2011. The interesting thing here is that it is not normally possible to be sentenced again for the same ‘offence’. However, the orders that he breached on this occasion were not the same as those he breached when he received his original sentence. The court made fresh orders after the first breach, and has since made further fresh orders. Let us just hope that the court’s hard line ultimately has the desired effect and the child returns to England.

Another week, another damning serious case review (‘SCR’), or so it seems. Hard on the heels of the Daniel Pelka SCR, this week we had a SCR in relation to the murder of two-year-old Keanu Williams in 2011. Once again, the SCR found that authorities had missed opportunities to save the child, saying that social care workers, the police and health professionals had “collectively failed to prevent Keanu’s death”. The review has made a number of recommendations, but it is always going to be extremely difficult for professionals to deal with these cases, particularly in the face of manipulative parents.  In any event, as West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe said, ultimate accountability must of course rest with Keanu’s mother, who was convicted of his murder.

Finally, the circus that is the Young divorce is about to roll into town, when Michelle Young’s financial remedies application is heard at the High Court later this month. Amongst the performers, it seems, will be some pretty illustrious names from the business world. Mrs Young will apparently be cross-examining the likes of Topshop owner Sir Philip Green and Harold Tillman, the boss of fashion brand Jaeger, both of whom Mr Young claims have spent large sums to provide for Mrs Young and the children during the couple’s seven-year divorce battle. The ringmaster in all of this will be Mr Justice Moor. Who will be the clown, however, remains to be seen…

Have a good weekend!

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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  1. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    There’s been some discussion on this blog and on other family law blogs about the proposed tax breaks. Me personally, having come from a very conservative region in the United States, I believe that the state has an interest in promoting marriage.

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