Senior family law judge urges barristers to ‘adapt’

Family Law|News|March 5th 2014

Britain’s most senior family law judge has told family barristers they need not fear changes to the family court system if they are willing to adapt.

In a wide-ranging speech to the Family Law Bar Association, Sir James Munby discussed current problems faced by the profession and changes to the legal system, such as the transition to a single Family Court. He said:

“I know all too well that the Bar is facing enormous and daunting challenges. The criminal Bar is facing a great crisis, and the family Bar difficulties perhaps almost as great. But you are skilful and resourceful people. And with determination and courage and wise leadership I am confident that you will meet the challenge and overcome the crisis.”

The speech was delivered in Middle Temple Hall in central London, a building was completed in 1573. Middle Temple Hall is part of the Middle Temple Inn of Court, one of England’s four professional associations for barristers.

SirJames said:

“Look around! This is not some gimcrack building on a 35 year lease funded by a PFI arrangement. It was built by proud and confident men; men proud of their profession; men confident of the future of the Bar; men building for future generations and future centuries. And here we are 450 years later.”

He continued:

“We are the inheritors of great traditions – the traditions of the common law and the Bar. We – judges and barristers alike – are but the temporary custodians of something we have received on a trust conferred on us by generations long gone and held by us for the benefit of generations as yet unborn and for the centuries to come. We cannot, we must not, betray that trust. I know that there are siren voices, acting in good faith and in the conscientious belief that they are doing right, urging various actions to meet the current crisis. But we must take the long view. We must be careful that we navigate the storm without ending up shipwrecked on the rocks.”

The President declared:

“The Bar has little to fear if you are willing to adapt what you do and how you do it. As one door closes, another always opens.”

In November last year, Lady Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court , also addressed challenges facing the legal profession, specifically the cuts to family law legal aid implemented by the current government last year. She told her audience: “I wish I could see a way ahead in these difficult days.”

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  1. M says:

    I am most disappointed in the way self employed father are getting away without paying child maintenance . I divorced 4 years ago,and since the divorce my ex husband has declared a income after expenses of £100 a week. This has not changed in 4 years. He is a self employed electrician. He lives in a house with his new partner who has a very good job,and is obviously paying for him to show his income is so low. I feel that ,there should be a change in the law,going back to partners incomes coming into maintenance orders,as so many of my friends also are losing out as there ex partners are living with a partner in a good wage and declaring they are not earning anything at all. The CSA are limited in what they can do,and are not able to help mothers who have ex self employed men.The state is losing out on hundred of pounds every year by these fathers npt paying there way and the state paying for their children. The law has to be address on this area,it is the children who are missing out at the end of the day.
    I hope you take this matter seriously and consider my proposal to a change in the law of absent fathers,and maintenance payments.
    Thank you M (mother of 4 children)

    • Luke says:

      “partners incomes coming into maintenance orders”

      I don’t think anybody could take that seriously, I’m sorry if your ex-husband is not paying his child maintenance but the idea that you want to take money off a woman wholly unrelated to you is just absurd.
      I doubt you’ll get very far with the idea anyway, because apart from the fact that it would be unfair it would affect a lot of women who have done nothing wrong – and that will not go down well with Family Court.

  2. Tristan says:

    Perhaps the law ought to be changed so that “absent fathers” are no longer absent, that they get to look after their children as well so, amongst other things, the mothers are freed up to go out and find work too.

  3. Yvie says:

    I agree with Tristan that the law should be changed to ensure that fathers are able to play a full and meaningful role in the lives of their children. Nothing is more offensive than to label fathers as ‘absent’, when many of them have spent months, if not years, going through the family courts endeavouring to maintain contact with their children.

    Interestingly, fathers in Sweden have recently been given the right to a share of child benefit, regardless of the wishes of the mother who had previously been given the allowance by default. But from March 1st all new parents will by default, receive a share of the money regardless of whether they live together or not. The only requirement is that they have shared legal custody. Apparently no parent, (primarily mothers) , can stop a division of the allowance.

    It sounds like a fair and civilised way of encouraging families to work together and share the care of their children equally, including financially. It’s a pity UK legislators are not as forward-thinking as the Swedes. It might also have the added bonus of de-cluttering the family courts.

    For parents with children born before March 1st the current regulations will remain in place which allow for the division of child benefit between the parents but require the consent of the mother.

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