Senior family judge criticises “slapdash” approach to family court orders

Family|Family Law|News|October 25th 2013


Britain’s most senior family law judge condemned a “slapdash” and “lackadaisical” approach to family court orders in a recent ruling.

Addressing two separate adoption cases, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, noted that in one Bristol County Council had given their reasons for opposing the parents’ wish to wish to appeal the adoption of their children just 45 minutes before the hearing was due to begin.

This was in spite of a previous court order which had required the authority to state their reasons no less than five days before the hearing.

A copy of that order had been delivered to the authority two weeks before the hearing but they had been unable to explain why it was not given to their legal department.

The judge declared:

“That the parents and their representatives should have been put in this position is quite deplorable. It is, unhappily, symptomatic of a deeply rooted culture in the family courts which, however long established, will no longer be tolerated. It is something of which I complained almost thirteen years ago…Perhaps what I say as President will carry more weight…”

The President continued:

“I refer to the slapdash, lackadaisical and on occasions almost contumelious [insolent] attitude which still far too frequently characterises the response to orders made by family courts. There is simply no excuse for this. Orders, including interlocutory orders, must be obeyed and complied with to the letter and on time. Too often they are not. They are not preferences, requests or mere indications; they are orders.”

He concluded:

“The court is entitled to expect – and from now on family courts will demand – strict compliance with all such orders. Non-compliance with orders should be expected to have and will usually have a consequence…..Non-compliance with an order, any order, by anyone is bad enough. It is a particularly serious matter if the defaulter is a public body such as a local authority. And it is also a particularly serious matter if the order goes to something as vitally important as…this case: the right of a parent facing the permanent loss of their child to know what case is being mounted against them by a public authority.”

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  1. Lukey says:

    ” They are reported to have only given their reasons 45 minutes before the adoption order was due to be finalised, so the parents had no chance of appealing the decision.”

    The social workers in this case should be forced to seek alternative employment.

  2. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    There should consequences. There should be dire consequences. The fact if matter is, if these case workers do nit handle each and every case that involves a child with ‘kid gloves’ then potentially the child is going to end up emotionally scarredfor the rest of their lives.

  3. vob re says:

    Bristol is only the tip of the iceberg, social workers act i a deplorable manner throughout the UK. Promoting adoption when they choose to not investigate alternatives example ‘Kinship Care’.
    I was brought up to believe two wrongs will never make a right, but I sincerely hope the ones who have followed the easier option get their own ‘comeuppance’ equal to the families they have left devastated.

  4. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    @vob re – the same is true in the USA. Someone ought to do something to reel these rogue case workers in before mire children suffer irreparable harm.

  5. Hilary says:

    As a retired social worker I am embarrassed to be associated with a profession that has fallen into such disrepute. It is basic good practice to explain to families the concerns about them and what parents need to do to prevent their children being taken into care. At the root of the problem is the failure of the profession to get to grips with the term ‘significant harm’ and to accept that it no longer has an early intervention/prevention role. See my article:

  6. Andrew says:

    Local authorities in this and other forms of litigation treat orders to serve anything by a given date as at best a suggestion, at worst the date when they will start thinking about it. When you chase a solicitor in private practice for an overdue document you generally get an apology and a more or less convincing reason for the delay and a promise of action which may well be kept – from a local authority if you can find anyone willing to speak at all the reaction will be “When I get to it – you’ll have to wait”.

  7. vob re says:

    I have witnessed first hand social worker ‘s who would have let children be adopted on lies. What is abhorrent, when the lies were exposed saving the children from lives without their
    family; these SW remain employed by the Local authority
    instead of being dismissed for gross misconduct.

  8. Stitchedup says:

    Judges are as guilty of slapdash family orders as social workers; they dish out non-mols like sweets. All we hear is
    “it doesn’t affect you as long as you don’t break it” and “it doesn’t stop you doing something you shouldn’t be doing anyway”. This argument, of course, falls flat on its face as soon as the non-mol includes a gagging order whereby a man can be arrested and imprisoned just for talking to an ex partner of 20 years, with whom he has 2 children, a family home and various other assets…. No threats or threats of violence needed!!

  9. parent says:

    I am a parent of a child who is facing child being taken from my care, due to disagreement to contact arrangements and not carrying out instructions of court order. I am into a four year case and lost all legal aid this year and I am completely powerless. Child has a medical condition and is not quite on spec for age regarding emotional development. This is now being used against me that I am possibly emotionally abusing my child. Child has never lived with applicant father and has no past memories of him or yet understands who he is. I have been advised this does not stop the court changing residence and that little investigation is carried out when the decision is ruled. I am terrified as the effects will be damaging and professionals have advised it will scar child for life which I can clearly see!

  10. Caz says:

    For people unaware Local Authorities childrens services, employ an outside Solicitor/Legal Practice to handle all court cases invoving children, as in a Case involving my Grandson, the same Solicitor/Legal Practice that handles the cases for the LA also elected a solicitor from the same firm to represent my Grandson, this solicitor in turn chose the Guardian Ad Litem to represent my Grandson, So much for justice in Family Courts?

  11. Tristan says:

    You shouldn’t allow that. Those comfortable arrangements are completed by “cut and paste” magistrates who simply do social services bidding without as much as a “how’s your father” evidence-wise.

    Those sort of judgements are wide open to appeal if you know your way around the system. Much, if not most, of what passes for family justice isn’t justice at all. It’s injustice carried out unjustly by injudicious individuals posing as judges and magistrates.

  12. Caz says:

    The worse scenario, was the split case system, this system allowed the LA to change the childs birth certified name to
    (in my Grandsons case) his Christian name plus his fathers surname then his mothers surname, contrary to his birth certified name, contrary to the name he was registered in at the local hospital, allowing paid for doctors reports, involving the worst scenario of possibility injures ever to have been suffered, let alone survival of by any living human being, ending in a Full Care Order in the name of a child that had never existed, and yes we did (as a family) go for an appeal, this we won, the Appeal court judges joined the split case together, in the name of a non existant child and there is no appeal against the name to be changed back to my Grandsons birth certified name, all ended justly, nnnnnoooooooooooooo the Social Service solicitors, somehow managed to disappear from the local court file, went on to change the name back to my Grandsons birth certified name, and had my Grandson adopted, we were absolutley powerless, not one solicitor would take on the case, we are now in the process of suing the LA, but we are already, back in another fight against the courts trying to stop at every chance they get

  13. Caz says:

    Sorry also forgot to mention, the LA split the case against the High Court of Appeal judgement to have my Grandson adopted, this was also totally illegal, nobody to stop them after they made the court of appeal certificate disappear from the local court file, which had been sent to them by the court of appeal, also sent to my Grandsons Guardian and solicitor, but we have to take comfort in the fact the Guardian stated in court, she had nothing to do with the adoption, so no ones to blame, for this total sham and injustice

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