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

Divorce|Family Law|Industry News|October 25th 2013

The news that an unrepresented husband involved in a dispute over children assaulted his wife in court and had to be restrained by the judge has heightened concerns about court security as more litigants appear without legal representation. Now, I’m not saying that having a lawyer would have ‘restrained’ the husband (I have been saying for years that there should be better security in the family courts), but the lack of representation certainly increases the risks. Another unintended consequence of abolishing legal aid?

The Court of Appeal has handed down judgment in the case of Mittal v. Mittal.  The case concerned the jurisdiction of the English High Court to grant a discretionary stay (suspension) of English divorce proceedings where there were rival proceedings in a more appropriate jurisdiction, i.e. India, where both parties lived.  The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the appeal and confirmed that there is jurisdiction to grant such a stay. As I said in this post, the decision is to be welcomed, both for clarifying the law and for enabling the case to proceed in the jurisdiction which has the closest connection with the family, which must surely be right.

Also to be welcomed is the news that Japan will finally sign up to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, on the 1st of April next year. This will mean that it should be much easier to secure the return of children wrongly abducted to Japan. Japan has previously been accused by the United States and European countries of being a “safe haven” for international child abductions.

The judgment in the case A v D, mentioned here in this post, is interesting. Obviously, taking parental responsibility away from a parent is an extremely serious step that should not be taken lightly – not just from the point of view of the parent, but from the point of view of the child as well. As Mr Justice Roderic Wood stated in his judgment, before he could make such an order he had to be satisfied:

1. That if the father did not have parental responsibility it is inconceivable it would now be granted to him; and

2. That there was no element of the ‘bundle of responsibilities’ that make up parental responsibility which this father could, in present or foreseeable circumstances, exercise in a way which would be beneficial to the child.

In this case, he said that the mother had “effortlessly traversed the high threshold required to lead me to terminate the father’s parental responsibility”.

As I mentioned last Friday Ofsted, in its first annual report into social care, labelled the child protection services at one in seven councils as “inadequate”. Now the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has responded to the report, criticising Ofsted’s use of a single word judgment. I have to agree. Branding an entire local authority children’s services department as “inadequate” is hardly fair to all involved, or conducive to morale. Instead, the President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has suggested that Ofsted use a ‘narrative judgment’, which I’m sure would be rather more constructive.

And finally, former London City trader Yan Assoun has failed in an appeal against an order that he pay £235,000 towards his wife’s legal costs. Mr Assoun told the Court of Appeal that, whilst he owned an apartment in New York that was worth $3.3 million, that didn’t mean he was rich.

In other news, pigs were seen flying over the Royal Courts of Justice.

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.

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  1. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    The unrepresented husband must be an idiot.

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