A week in family law: surrogacy, adoption and more

Family Law|Industry News|May 8th 2015

There has been a reasonable amount of family law news this week, to distract attention from a certain election that has been taking place…

Consultancy firm iMPOWER have produced a report claiming that Ofsted’s approach to inspection of children’s services is outdated and can harm the services. iMPOWER said that the impact of the single word judgement ‘inadequate’ from Ofsted can have a catastrophic spiralling effect on a local authority, turning a poorly performing authority into a broken one. It also said that there is national shortage of social workers, with the result that struggling councils are overly reliant on agency staff, costing more money and leading to less consistency of support for vulnerable children. These conclusions don’t surprise me one bit, although quite how we are going to encourage more people into social work, I don’t know.

Research suggests that social media is putting an added strain on relationships. A study of 2,000 married people indicates that just under half of all adults in the UK would admit they have secretly checked their partner’s Facebook account, and one in seven said they had contemplated divorce because of their partner’s activities on social media. The most common reasons for checking their partner’s social media accounts were to find out who their partner was talking to, to keep tabs on them, to check who they were out with and find out if they were telling the truth about their social life. None of which comes as any surprise to me at all.

Along not entirely dissimilar lines, the Court of Appeal has heard that a banker hacked into his ex-wife’s email account during a multi-million pound divorce dispute. The dispute, between Daniel Arbili and his former wife Catriona, concerned the division of the matrimonial assets, which included properties in France, £50,000 worth of watches, an Aston Martin and the family’s Grade II-listed home in Essex. The assets were divided equally in 2013, but Mr Arbili has now appealed, claiming that new evidence suggests his ex-wife is wealthier than was believed. He says emails have been found suggesting Mrs Arbili could have been in line for a windfall from the sale of her parents’ £2.1 million home in France. However, Mrs Arbili’s barrister has told the court that this evidence was obtained in a “gross invasion” of her privacy and should not therefore be allowed. The court has reserved its judgment to a later date – I await with baited breath!

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), the leading adoption charity, has welcomed the £19.3 million Adoption Support Fund, which has now gone live in England, and has announced a range of new services to help social workers and adoptive parents make the most of the funding. BAAF is now calling for this fund to be extended to children under special guardianship and children adopted internationally. Figures from the Department for Education show that last year 62 per cent of children entered care after suffering abuse or neglect in England. Many of these children are placed for adoption. BAAF has campaigned for the Government to introduce more comprehensive post-adoption support to help children recover from their previous experiences and bond with their adoptive families.

A surrogate mother has been ordered to hand over the baby to the father and his boyfriend. The judgment follows a dispute over the nature of the parents’ agreement when the child was conceived. The mother said they had agreed for her to be the main parent, but the father, who donated sperm, said she had agreed to be the gay couple’s surrogate. Ms Justice Russell held that it was in the best interests of the child to live with her father. She also said that the lack of a proper legal framework for arrangements of this kind have led to an increase in these cases before the Family Court. The case has also led some leading family lawyers to call for the law on surrogacy to be reviewed, which might not be a bad idea.

And there we are. Whether you got the election result you wanted or not, have a good weekend.

Image by Christian Scholz via Flickr

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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