The case S v S was certainly a talking-point this week amongst family lawyers. It seemed somewhat odd that a husband could ‘get away’ with fraudulent non-disclosure to a court, but that appeared to be what the Court of Appeal allowed when it dismissed the wife’s appeal. She had sought to re-open the financial settlement she had agreed with her husband. The court found that it wouldn’t have made any substantial difference to the settlement had the husband been completely honest. Of course, as Lady Justice Macur pointed out, the judgment should not be read as a ‘green light’ to fraudulent dishonesty in court. Not only will the court take a very dim view of such behaviour, but it could result in costs penalties, proceedings for contempt and even criminal prosecution.
Another case to hit the headlines was RS v SS. This judgment was handed down on the 23rd of December, but was not reported until last Monday. The case involved a father’s application for a transfer of residence, so his two children could come and live with him. The move was supported by the Guardian on behalf of the children but strongly opposed by the mother. The judge ordered the transfer. Unfortunately, the transfer took place on December 25, leading to something of an outcry from a well-known journalist, who blamed the court for pulling the children from their mother on Christmas Day. However, in a postscript to her judgment the judge explained that the transfer only took place on Christmas Day due to the mother refusing to comply with her order that the mother take the boys to the paternal grandparents by 2pm on the 24th of December.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from Cafcass show a significant drop in demand, both for care applications and private law cases. In January Cafcass received 9 per cent fewer care applications compared to January 2013, and 13 per fewer private law applications. The reduction in care applications is certainly welcome, but whether the large reduction in private law applications is also welcome depends upon the reasons behind it. For example, was the figure for January last year particularly high because parents were getting their applications in before legal aid was abolished, and is the figure for this January particularly low due to people not making applications because they can’t afford representation without legal aid?
The latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales make pretty sobering reading. They show that more than 1.1 million or 7% of all women and 720,000 or 4% of all men have been victims of some kind of domestic abuse in the last year. Even more appalling is the statistic that nearly 5 million women, or 30% of the female population, have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16. I don’t know what the answer is – education, perhaps?
Lastly, the President of the Family Division has published his 10th View from the President’s Chambers. This one is intriguingly sub-titled The process of reform: the beginning of the future. We are told, for example, that “the new Family Court is already up and running for most practical purposes” and we are given updates on such things as the proposed Child Arrangements Programme, transparency and the standard family court orders project. It all reminds me of the advertising slogan for a certain software company, one of whose products I am using to write this: The future is now.
Have a good weekend.