A week in family law: Adoptions, reform and more

Family Law|Industry News | 20 Mar 2015 0

Back to some form of normality after the excitements of last week…

The Department for Education has published a statistical release revealing that there were 5,050 looked after children adopted during the year ending 31 March 2014, an increase of 26 per cent from 2013 and an increase of 58 per cent from 2010. Although the number of looked after children adopted fell between 2010 and 2011, the number of these adoptions has since increased and is now at its highest point since 1992. The release also showed that there were 68,840 looked after children at 31 March 2014, an increase of one per cent compared to 31 March 2013 and an increase of seven per cent compared to 31 March 2010. Sadly, the numbers have increased steadily over the past five years.

The domestic violence charity Women’s Aid has prepared a report for the TUC which claims to reveal the hidden misery of women trapped in financially abusive relationships, in many cases leaving them trapped in poverty and without any access to money for essentials, emergencies or for their children. The report also explores how the introduction of Universal Credit threatens to compound the problem for these women, by further reducing their access to independent income and placing yet more control in the hands of the abuser. Hopefully, the report will help to bring this type of controlling abuse into the public spotlight.

Resolution, the association of family lawyers, has said that last week’s Supreme Court decision in Wyatt v Vince shows the need for reform of the law around divorce finance, as set out in their Manifesto for Family Law. Resolution wants reform to create greater certainty around divorce with the aim of getting couples to financial independence sooner. Resolution chair Jo Edwards commented: We are rightly proud of the broad discretion which the family courts have in England and Wales and the ability to tailor outcomes to families. However, critics would say that we need to inject a greater degree of certainty into outcomes in family cases, and in doing so reduce the extent and cost of litigation associated with the broad discretion we have”. That old conflict between discretion and certainty

The Vulnerable Witnesses & Children Working Group has published its final report. The Working Group was set up last year by the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby, to review the guidelines for judges meeting children subject to family proceedings and guidance on them giving evidence, and to look at the wider issue of vulnerable people giving evidence in family proceedings. The Working Group considers that the Family Court has fallen behind the criminal courts in its approach to the evidence of children and young people, and makes various recommendations to reform the system, including a new mandatory rule in respect of Vulnerable and Intimidated Witnesses/Parties and Children, supplemented by practice directions and guidance approved by the President.

Lastly, in a remarkable child care case a High Court judge has dismissed claims that the two children involved had been abused by a satanic cult which drank the blood of infants. The two children and their mother and her partner had alleged that their father – from whom she is separated – was the leader of a north London cult which included a school head, a teacher, a priest, social workers and police. Mrs Justice Pauffley found that the claims were “fabricated” and “baseless”. She also condemned those who circulated the allegations online, saying many had done so with a “flagrant disregard” for the children’s welfare. All too often we are seeing the internet being used as a tool in proceedings relating to children. Unfortunately, however, it is difficult to see what the courts can do to stop this form of abuse.

A rather depressing note upon which to end I’m afraid, but I do hope you have a good weekend nevertheless.

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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