Another mixed bag of family law news, as the Easter law term draws to a close:
A court has ruled that a child should be removed from his mother, as she can’t be trusted to keep him away from his paedophile father. The boy was removed from his mother last year to protect him from his father, who has a previous conviction for indecent assault on a nine year old boy and is awaiting trial on further sexual offences against the boy’s siblings. Her Honour Judge Newton ordered that he should be placed for adoption, saying that the risks inherent in returning him to the care of his mother were very high. If she was allowed to look after him, it was unlikely to be long before she went behind social workers’ backs and permitted the father to have contact with him, which would have the result of exposing the child to the risk of sexual abuse. The mother appealed, but her appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
A divorce law firm for men only has opened in London, aimed at fathers who feel let down by the family courts. The chief executive of the firm has been quoted as saying: “Men are still unfairly represented in family courts in the UK. We recognised the need for this service back in 1990… Our goal is to bridge the gender gap that has been part of family law for too long now.” However, the chair of the Family Law Bar Association, Susan Jacklin QC, has responded by saying that it was not true that the family courts are biased against men. I agree with her entirely.
High Court judge Dame Lucy Theis has said that the failure by parents to register the majority of children born through surrogacy agreements has created “a ticking legal time bomb”. Addressing a conference on the rapid expansion in the number of surrogate births, she said that without a court-sanctioned parental order and improved international legal frameworks children could end up stateless and parentless. She told the conference that her concern was about those people who were not making applications for parental orders, and said: “There’s a ticking legal time bomb that might arise later on through [the parents’] deaths, testamentary [inheritance] issues and through parents splitting up – or even simply if passports need to be renewed.” As so often, the message to anyone intending to enter into a surrogacy arrangement must be: get some good legal advice!
Only a small proportion of mediations result in a settlement, according to a survey carried out by family lawyers’ association Resolution. Mediation Information Assessment Meetings (‘MIAMs’) have been compulsory for family cases since April 2014, but two-thirds of respondents to the survey said that less than a quarter of cases in which a MIAM had taken place proceeded to mediation. Further, more than half of respondents said that less than a quarter of the cases that proceeded to mediation after a MIAM resulted in a settlement. This certainly seems to confirm the limitations of mediation as a method of resolving family law disputes.
According to a new study by the University of Bristol, men visiting their GP with symptoms of anxiety or depression are more likely to have experienced or carried out some form of behaviour linked to domestic violence and abuse. The study was led by Professor Marianne Hester, who said: “Research on domestic violence and abuse has largely focused on women and there is a lack of research on men, both as victims and perpetrators. The findings from this study are important as they suggest that when men present to GPs with anxiety or depression, they should be asked about domestic violence and abuse as there is a higher likelihood that they will be victims or perpetrators.” Good advice, although whether GPs will have the time to do this is another matter.
Lastly, data obtained by the BBC indicates that the number of babies made subject to special guardianship orders in England has tripled in two years, from 160 in 2012 to 520 in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of children placed for adoption has been falling. An interesting trend, although there are mixed views as to whether it is a good thing, with some believing that adoption provides greater security for the child. Of course, that is a generalisation and it must surely be a good thing that the courts have a range of options, so that they can tailor a suitable outcome for each child.
Have a good weekend and Spring bank holiday.