A week in family law: boxing matches and much more

Family Law|Industry News|May 15th 2015

Lots to talk about in a busy week for family law:

Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, has complained about what he called ‘systemic failures’ in Court of Protection procedures, causing cases to take years to reach full hearing. He said that the wait for a hearing in the case MN (Adult) had been ‘depressingly long’ and he urged a tightening of procedures, using the comparison with care proceedings in the family court to show the ‘striking contrast’ in how long cases take to resolve. I can imagine how distressing it might be for a Court of Protection case to take so long, and therefore hope that the President’s words have an effect.

The parents of two boys involved in contested proceedings regarding the father’s contact with them have been heavily criticised by the judge dealing with the case. In Re M (Children) Her Honour Judge Lindsay Davies said that the parents still disliked each other with an intensity that they found impossible to hide, five years after they had separated. Consequently, the children had been embroiled in litigation all of their lives. The judge said that the children only had one childhood and that it was extraordinarily sad that both parents seemed to be incapable of understanding the damage that they were doing to them. Wise words for all parents to heed.

A mother has launched a judicial review challenge to the refusal by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Agency to permit her to have her dead daughter’s frozen eggs, so that she can carry her own grandchild. In M v HFEA the High Court heard that the daughter, who died from bowel cancer at the age of 23, wanted her eggs fertilised by donor sperm and implanted in her mother’s womb. A US fertility treatment clinic has indicated that it would be prepared to provide the treatment. Judgment in the case, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is expected in the near future.

An unintended consequence of the pension reforms, according to the wealth management business Old Mutual Wealth, is that any divorcee with a pension attachment order may need to act quickly to protect their benefits. Any attachment order which provides the ex-spouse with a fixed percentage of the pension income in retirement should be checked to ensure benefits are protected now that the member no longer needs to take their pension as an income and can instead take all the cash out as a lump sum. Sounds like good advice.

The excessive duration of proceedings in the Romanian courts concerning the return of a child to Argentina breached the father’s right to respect for family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, according to the European Court of Human Rights. The parties in the case Ferrari v Romania had lived in Argentina, but the mother refused to return the child there after taking him to Romania. The father then applied to the Romanian courts for the return of the child, but they took thirteen months before deciding not to order a return. It seems that delay is not just a feature of the English courts…

Its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for April 2015, have been published by Cafcass. In that month Cafcass received a total of 946 care applications, which is an 18 per cent increase compared to those received in April 2014 and the highest number of applications received by Cafcass during the month of April. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 2,942 new private law cases, an eight per cent decrease on April 2014 levels.

And finally, Mr Justice Holman has likened a contested financial remedies hearing to a boxing match. He strenuously urged the parties to settle the matter by agreement. More judicial wisdom, although I’m not so sure about his decision to refuse the husband’s request to have the case heard in private.

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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