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Family law judge criticises ‘disorganised’ Legal Aid Agency

A judge in the Family Court has called the Legal Aid Agency “disorganised” during a dispute over a child’s holiday.

In AB (A Child: Temporary Leave To Remove From Jurisdiction: Expert Evidence), Judge Bellamy ruled that a mother could not take her child on holiday to India as there was a risk she would not return.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction played a significant role in the judge’s decision.

This is a treaty which allows the return of children who have been abducted by parents and taken to another country. However, it is only enforceable if both the country of origin and the country the child is taken to are signatories to the Convention.

As India is not a signatory, it could take the father as long as two years to negotiate the return of his child if the mother decided to stay beyond the duration of her holiday. For this reason, her application was dismissed.

Sitting at the Family Court in Leicester, Judge Bellamy went on to criticise the Legal Aid Agency after it disregarded a judicial decision.

The LAA did not think one of the people giving testimony qualified as an expert, despite the Court’s determination that he did. The judge said “it was not open to the LAA to disregard a judicial decision on this issue.”

He noted that one party’s solicitors had to submit their application several times before the agency “finally acknowledged that it had received a complete set of documents”. Also, it had taken “more than four weeks and in excess of 20 letters and e-mails” before the LAA finally agreed to fund the expert.

The LAA is part of the Ministry of Justice.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Chris Brierley says:

    Unfortunately this occurs all too often. The LAA regulations are extremely stringent often making it very difficult to secure funding for an expert; even where that expert has been approved by the Court.

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