They say time flies when you’re having fun. Well, there must be some truth in that, as I can’t believe that a year has already passed since I began writing for Marilyn Stowe’s Family Law & Divorce Blog. To celebrate the event, I thought I would re-visit some of the highlights of my year here.
A common and recurring theme for my posts has, of course, been the legal aid cuts last year and their continuing adverse effects upon family justice in this country. In one of my earliest posts on the subject, on the 5th of November last, I contrasted how India could spend £600 million a year on a space programme, while the government here was withdrawing legal aid from its citizens, to save a rather more modest £350 million a year. Notwithstanding the misgivings of many concerning the cost of India’s space programme, as a ‘space buff’ I was very pleased when the Mangalyaan probe successfully entered orbit around Mars last week.
Unfortunately, our government’s policy has been rather less successful, as I have mentioned in a number of posts, for example in February this year, when I detailed another victim of the legal aid cuts. More recently, I wrote about the reality for litigants in person having to represent themselves in court, and I wrote again about the impact of the legal aid cuts, in this post in July.
Mediation has, of course, been the government’s big answer to the legal aid cuts, with government ministers dutifully promoting it at every possible opportunity. Obviously, mediation can be a good thing, but what it is not is a panacea, as the government would have us believe. In fact, the government’s efforts have been a failure, with the number of publicly-funded mediations plummeting. Nevertheless, the government continues to flog the dead horse of mediation, as I explained in this post. I have also recently expressed concern that the government is creating an atmosphere in which people who do not mediate are vilified for going to court.
Throughout the last year I have tried to illustrate the sort of difficult decisions faced by our family court judges on a daily basis. Unfortunately, our judges receive too little credit for what they do, and too much criticism. I have just tried to balance things up a little. One of my first posts along these lines was this one last December regarding the Court of Protection, which was followed by this one a couple of days later. I also wrote this one back in March, which I followed up with this post the next day. I wrote again, this time on the difficult decision of child relocation, in May and in June I suggested that we should spare a thought for the judges.
This year has, of course, seen historic changes in our family justice system, as I described in this post. Call me a cynic, though, as I can’t say that I have been impressed by what I’ve seen and I fear that the future is not looking exactly bright, as I explained in this post back in April.
Transparency has been another recurring theme of the year upon which I have written on a number of occasions. The charge that it seeks to answer is, of course, that the family courts operate a system of secret justice. However there is, of course, no such thing as a ‘secret family court’, as I explained in two posts, here and here. I have also attempted to explain the difference between secrecy and privacy, in this post. As to the transparency drive by the President of the Family Division and others, I am also not impressed by that, as I have indicated in this post and also in my post just yesterday.
Finally, I have in recent months been writing a series of posts about important family law cases, beginning with a post about the somewhat prehistoric Wachtel case. This is something I had been wanting to do for some time, and that I hope has been informative for anyone wishing to study family law a little more deeply.
By my (rough) calculation I have written about 250 posts over the last year, covering pretty well most aspects of family law in this country (and, occasionally, elsewhere). I hope that I have written something of interest for everyone, and that readers have enjoyed reading what I have had to say as much as I have enjoyed writing it, even if they do not agree with all of it!