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What family lawyers were talking about this week…

As reported on this blog, the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, has shelved plans to nearly double the fee for filing a divorce petition. It had been proposed that the current fee of £410 would be increased to £750, in an effort to reduce the civil and family Courts’ £150m annual deficit. The proposal met with considerable criticism, particularly as the true cost of an uncontested petition is only £270. Critics also expressed fears that that raising the fee could force people to stay in broken marriages for longer. Thankfully, it appears that we have had a little common sense from Mr Grayling at last.

A conservationist wife who claimed that her millionaire husband used donations to a tiger charity to fund their lavish lifestyle has lost her case. Li Quan had maintained that money for the Save China’s Tigers charity had been used as a personal ‘piggy bank’ for her and her husband Stuart Bray, arguing that she was therefore entitled to a share of the charity’s £25 million assets. However, Mr Justice Coleridge in the High Court disagreed, finding that Ms Quan had become blinded by her desire for revenge and that this had led her to fabricate where she thought it would assist her case.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has welcomed what has been called ‘the latest success of the Troubled Families programme‘, part of the government’s ‘long-term economic plan to the turn the country around and help bring security and opportunity to families and communities’. The latest achievements of the scheme include reaching 117,000 families and ‘turning around’ 69,000 troubled families to reduce truancy, anti-social behaviour and worklessness. Mr Pickles said: “The Troubled Families programme demonstrates exactly what our long-term economic plan means for people. New opportunities for families to turn their lives around and make something of themselves; more economic security for local communities blighted by worklessness; and more economic stability for taxpayers, as we reduce the bills for social failure and get this country living within its means.” It all sounds wonderful, so why am I sceptical?

Mr Justice Peter Jackson has issued a statement explaining a controversial media blackout around the death of a baby in Cumbria. He said that possible criminal proceedings could be prejudiced by any reporting of the case and that reporting restrictions were intended to protect the baby’s five siblings. The baby, Poppi Worthington, died on the 12th of December 2012 and on the 21st of October last the coroner decided that the cause of her death was ‘unascertained’. Poppi’s father was arrested last year on suspicion of sexually abusing her and remains on bail, along with another adult. Mr Justice Jackson is hearing care proceedings relating to Poppi’s siblings. In the course of those proceedings he carried out a fact-finding hearing into the circumstances of Poppi’s death, and handed down a judgment in March this year. That judgment has not been published. In July media organisations applied for sight of the judgment. Mr Justice Jackson approved disclosure of the judgment to the lawyers acting for the media organisations on condition of confidentiality, so that they could understand the reasons for the reporting restrictions and keep the position under review. Let us hope that this matter is resolved as soon as possible.

And finally, on a more positive note family lawyers association Resolution claims that in recent weeks there has been a groundswell of support for what it calls ‘much needed reform of the law on how unmarried couples are treated when they separate’. Referring to recent comments by President of the Family Division Sir James Munby and Mr Justice Mostyn, along with a survey they carried out which found that almost two thirds of British MPs believe the law needs to be changed to give protection to unmarried couples if they separate, Resolution called upon the government to take heed and make the necessary change, “to bring the law into step with modern British society.” One can only hope…

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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