A week in family law: Legal aid cuts and more

Family Law|Industry News|December 12th 2014

The most senior civil servant at the Ministry of Justice has admitted that the legal aid bill is being reduced by £300m without research into the potential effect of the cuts. The Ministry’s permanent secretary Ursula Brennan told MPs that the ministry had not assessed the impact of the cuts because of the haste with which the cuts had been brought in. She told the Commons public accounts committee that: “The Government was explicit it needed to make these changes swiftly. It was not possible to do research about the current regime”. Why am I not surprised by this?

Still on the subject of the legal aid cuts, the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has warned that the lack of legal aid risks undermining positive outcomes for children and parents, in a speech at the AGM of fathers’ rights group Families Need Fathers. He said that the case where one party had legal aid and the other did not “produces problems for the child because … unless both parents have a fair process then the child is not having a fair process and if the parents don’t have a fair process and the child doesn’t have a fair process then the risk one is running is not only injustice to the parent but injustice and worse to the child.” The speech also contained a lot of other points of interest, and was followed by a lively question and answer session.

A High Court judge has ruled that the son of two devout Jehovah’s Witnesses can be given a blood transfusion despite religious objections from his parents. Mr Justice Moylan was told by doctors that the boy had suffered severe burns in an accident and might need a blood transfusion. He ruled that despite the deeply held views of the child’s parents, he was  satisfied that it was in the child’s best interests both for him to receive skin grafts and for him to receive blood transfusions if they were clinically indicated.

Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for November 2014. In that month Cafcass received a total of 885 care applications, representing a seven per cent increase compared to those received in November 2013. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,171 new private law cases, which is a nine per cent decrease on November 2013 levels, it seems reflecting once again the continuing effect of the abolition of legal aid in April 2013.

From 10 December same sex couples who have entered civil partnerships can convert them into marriages. It is anticipated that many of the 60,000 civil partnerships formed over the past decade will be converted into marriages. Where this will leave the whole concept of civil partnership is not clear. Personally, I think that it was always a ‘stop-gap’ on the road to full marriage equality, and that the best solution would be for civil partnerships to be ‘phased out’ and simply replaced by marriage for everyone.

And finally, Wednesday brought the news that the man who had fallen to his death from a Marylebone flat on Monday was none other than Scot Young, the husband in the long-running divorce case Young v Young that has made so many headlines before. We may never know what happened on Monday, but one thing is certainly true: the whole Young saga has been a tragedy for all concerned, particularly the children.

Have a good weekend.

Photo by Mr T in DC via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Author: John Bolch

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.

Comments(2)

  1. Dave says:

    Good riddance to legal aid! It is now harder for a parent to hide behind a ‘public funded’ lawyer and lie. Thousands of children have been punished because of legal aid and the resident parent being encouraged to lie their head off by a lawyer. The only negative of the new laws towards getting legal aid, are that there has been an increase in so called domestic violence….no surprise there eh! No doubt the parent has been encouraged, by a lawyer, to spout spurious allegations of domestic violence.

    The sooner legal aid is stopped completely, the better. Family courts should be parent vs parent.

  2. Kathleen Danby says:

    Fair enough, but how do you address the fact that local authorities will still be able to hire expensive lawyers who will lie for them, thus STILL presenting the parents with the injustice of trying to “fight the system” which is already loaded against them? I speak from experience here.

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