What family lawyers are talking about this week: the prolific Sir James Munby. By John Bolch.

Family Law|Industry News|November 1st 2013

1. I will begin with a story that appeared last Friday, but that I didn’t come across until after I had written last Friday’s review post. The story appeared in The Daily Mail under the headline, Jail social workers who take children without telling parents why, says Britain’s top family judge.

The story actually refers to the comments of the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby in the case Re W (A Child), although you might not realise it were you to read the full law report. The newspaper suggests the President said that social workers would be jailed for contempt if they fail to comply with court orders. In fact, the President said no such thing, only that non-compliance with orders will usually have a consequence. It just goes to show that you should take a little care with what you read in newspapers… unless it is written by Marilyn Stowe, of course!

2. As I mentioned in this post, Sir James Munby has published his seventh update on the process of reform of the family courts. This edition of the View from the President’s Chambers deals with the changes in the cultures and practices that we need to embrace, as the reforms go ahead. Of particular note is the President’s warning of the consequences for non-compliance with court orders. As I indicated in my previous post, this has been a long-standing problem. Whether or not the courts will get to grips with it in such a way as to really deter non-compliers, only time will tell.

3. Not satisfied with handing down important judgments and updating us upon the process of reform of the family courts, our President has also given a speech at the Law Society’s Family Law Annual Conference upon law, morality and religion in the family courts. As described here in this post, he said that the law takes an “essentially neutral” stance to religious beliefs, and that religion “is not the business of government or of the secular courts”. The speech says nothing new or profound, but the fact that the courts are secular is, I think, a point always worth repeating.

4. The Government this week announced a new package of support for young people leaving care, the ‘Care Leaver Strategy’. I will not go through the details, as they have already been summarised here in this post. The question, of course, as Marilyn Stowe has already asked on Twitter, is this: is it enough? Only time will tell.

5. The most bizarre family law story of the week must surely be the 180 divorces involving Italian couples that the President (who else?) has been asked to overturn, as mentioned here earlier today. It appears that the couples may have issued their divorces in England in order to circumvent Italian law that requires them to be separated for three years before they can get divorced. The problem is that the English courts cannot deal with divorces where both parties are resident abroad, so a false address in England had been used. The scam was discovered when it was realised that in 179 of the cases a post box address in Maidenhead had been given. Not, perhaps, the cleverest idea.

6. Lastly, it is not just family lawyers who are taking an interest in the Young hearing. Inevitably it is also attracting considerable attention in the mainstream media. In particular, Mrs Young’s statement that she will settle for £300 million plus her costs has given rise to headlines in several national newspapers. We all wait with baited breath to see how close to that figure she gets, although as Marilyn Stowe has already pointed out, getting an order and actually getting the money are likely to be two quite different things.

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. Richard Stubbings says:

    I’m really not sure who to turn to but I need advice regarding my 18 month case. I’m a desperate father and now pretty much lost all contact with my 2 and 3 yr old daughters. I’m sure you can work out roughly what is happening due to the information on this site. I would appreciate anybody that could/may be able to help in any way. Regards.

  2. Tristan says:

    Issue proceedings, Richard, on family form C100 and start enduring the court process. There’s a basic presumption in case law that both mother and father get to see their child. You work from there. Good luck; you’ll need it!

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