A mixed bag of family law news this week included more wisdom from the lips of the President:
A question and answer document has been produced by HM Courts and Tribunal Service, to address the common concerns and queries that have been raised in relation to the implementation of dedicated divorce centres. The document explains a number of things, including the reasons for the change, the locations of the eleven divorce centres, when they will be in operation and various procedural matters. The document doesn’t explain whether centralising divorce will really create a better system.
At its Annual Conference in Brighton, Resolution, the association of family lawyers, launched a national support network for junior family practitioners. The network, known as ‘YRes’, aims to give aspiring family lawyers a career kick-start through training, networking and development. It is open to any Resolution member student, trainee or practitioner member with up to 10 years’ post qualification experience.
Still at its Annual Conference, Resolution chair Jo Edwards criticised the Legal Aid Agency’s (‘LAA’) controversial Client Cost and Management System (‘CCMS’), which was introduced as a digital means of submitting civil legal aid applications. She outlined the difficulties legal aid lawyers are facing with CCMS, and the continued failure of the LAA to resolve those problems. She said: “The CCMS has been beset with problems since its introduction. Resolution welcomes online working, but this is not the way to do it. At the last count, the Legal Aid Agency had spent over £35 million pounds on this ill-fated project. When set against the scale of the legal aid cuts introduced in April 2013, and the huge number of vulnerable people now deprived of access to justice who could benefit from some of this budget being used to fund initial legal advice, this is nothing short of a national scandal.” Quite.
Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, has declared that part of a practice direction that provides that a consent order can only be challenged by an appeal is invalid, as it was made ‘ultra vires’. The issue arose in the case CS v ACS & Another, in which the wife sought to have part of a financial consent order set aside because she claimed that the husband had failed to provide full disclosure of his means. The husband argued that the wife could only proceed by way of an appeal, for which she would need to obtain the court’s permission. However, the President held that the wife was entitled to proceed as she had done, and did not require the permission of the court. In the course of his judgment the President said that it was “profoundly unsatisfactory” that so much time was taken up sorting out the complex procedures for re-opening first instance orders in financial remedy cases.
Lastly, in another busy week (or so) for the President, he has urged parents to do more to ensure that fractious and rebellious teenagers do what they “ought” to be doing. His comments came in his judgment in the Court of Appeal case Re H-B (Contact). The case concerned a father’s appeal against the refusal of his application for direct contact with his two daughters, who were against contact taking place. The President also urged the parents to seek to effect a reconciliation between the father and the daughters, saying that if this did not happen then everyone involved would be losers. Let us hope that his words are heeded.
Have a good weekend.
Image by Christian Scholz via Flickr