John Bolch on what family lawyers were talking about this week…

Family Law|Industry News | 6 Jun 2014 0

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In an interview with the charity Families Need Fathers on the impact of the new Children and Families Act, the former President of the Family Division, Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, has said that there should be a greater emphasis on the obligations of resident parents to follow court orders, and called for family courts to enforce orders for contact between children and their non-resident parent. She said: “I can see absolutely no reason why she [i.e. the resident parent] shouldn’t do community service. I should like to see her penalised in all sorts of inconvenient ways as long as it doesn’t have any impact on her care of the child. So as long as the child is over 5 or goes to a child minder, then there is no reason why she shouldn’t be required to go and clean the streets, whatever it may be. I would make her do something really unpleasant so that she understands the consequences of this.”

Family magistrates have warned that almost half of all parents seeking contact with their children through the courts are being made to do so without legal advice. A survey of nearly 500 justices found that 46 per cent of the people seen by magistrates in private family courts are now representing themselves. Almost of all of the magistrates questioned said they believed that self-representation was having a negative impact on the court’s work – leading to delays and potential unfairness if one parent is legally represented but the other is not. Another confirmation of the entirely foreseeable consequences of the abolition of legal aid for most private law family matters last year.

Lawyers have warned that the digital currencies such as Bitcoin could be used by divorcing spouses in an attempt to hide assets from their partners. It has been claimed that a number of forums devoted to Bitcoin have been filled with husbands discussing the option of using digital currencies. It is feared that spouses could use Bitcoin to hide wealth by transferring the currency between online wallets, to friends, or to areas outside of the jurisdiction.

The Queen’s Speech setting out the government’s legislative plans for the next session includes a Serious Crime Bill. The Bill will introduce a so-called ‘Cinderella Law’ which will clarify the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to make it explicit that cruelty which is likely to cause psychological harm to a child is an offence, as well as cruelty likely to cause physical harm.

Finally, Mr Justice Peter Jackson has ordered that the two children of a couple should be returned to them, after the local authority had removed them following the sudden death of a third child. In Lancashire CC v C, N & F (Children: Fact-finding) the local authority had issued care proceedings, alleging that the parents had been responsible for the ill-treatment of the child that died and also of one of the other children, who had previously suffered a fractured skull. However, Mr Justice Jackson found that the parents were not responsible. Accordingly, grounds for making care orders did not exist. He therefore dismissed the local authority’s applications and ordered the return of the children to the care of the parents.

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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