Here are the highlights of another busy week in family justice land.
The President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has said that surplus court documents will be destroyed without notice if lawyers cannot keep to practice directions on bundle sizes. Practice Direction 27A states that unless the court has directed otherwise, parties can submit a bundle of no more than 350 sides of text. Writing in a judgment in a care proceedings case, Sir James stated that this direction was ‘routinely ignored’, with lawyers often bringing a second bundle with them to court. He said: “This practice must stop and I have taken practical steps to stop it”. Good luck to him on that one…
In another busy week for him, Sir James has outlined research to be undertaken by the Ministry of Justice on litigants in person accused of domestic abuse cross-examining vulnerable or intimidated witnesses in private family proceedings. The research study will explore the powers available to manage these cases and seek to establish what else could be considered to support both the management of the cases and protection of vulnerable witnesses. As others have commented, it’s a shame that this research wasn’t carried out before they cut legal aid!
The number of children adopted by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (‘LGBT’) couples and individuals has reached record highs over the last 12 months, with over 480 children placed in stable homes in the last year, according to the Department for Education. The news comes as adopters and foster carers get ready to celebrate LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week 2015 – a week-long event which ‘marks the selfless dedication and contributions made by LGBT adopters and foster carers to some of the most vulnerable children.’
In another piece of news that confirms the diversity of modern families, the Family Court has approved the adoption of a child who was carried by his father’s mother as a surrogate. The case has raised a few eyebrows amongst practitioners and, no doubt, amongst the general public, but Mrs Justice Theis felt that the arrangement had been carefully considered by all concerned and that the close relationships within the family, and the support they provide, will ensure that the child’s lifelong welfare needs are met. I wish them, and particularly the child, well.
High Court judge Mr Justice Holman has told a husband in a multimillion-pound divorce case: “I am not sure you and I are on the same planet.” He made the comment after the husband argued in court that his estranged wife should not receive a penny from him, despite his having a fortune of some £150 million. In the course of his judgment Mr Justice Holman also made a telling comment about what kind of financial remedy cases are really difficult (hint: not the ones with lots of money to go around).
Iain Duncan Smith, the Minister responsible for family policy, has welcomed a rise in the number of children living with both birth parents, to 70 per cent. The proportion of children whose parents are raising them together rose by three percentage points between 2010/11 and 2012/13. The latest statistics come as the government releases statistics on the number of couples accessing relationship support. Overall since 2010, £30 million government investment has seen 160,000 people access preventative relationship support, over 48,000 couples participate in relationship counselling and over 12,000 practitioners trained to help families in difficulty. It all sounds so marvellous, so why am I sceptical?
Finally, multi-millionaire businessman Khoo Kay Peng, who is locked in a £400 million divorce battle with his former-Miss Malaysia wife of 43 years Pauline Siew Phin Chai, has told the Court of Appeal that he is struggling to pay his estranged wife’s £110,000 a month maintenance because of “cash-flow” problems. I have to say that I, too, would struggle to pay such a sum…
Have a good weekend.