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A week in family law: the Supreme Court, a missing child and more

A busy week for family law, with more than one story making national headlines:

One of those stories related to the hearing this week of the appeals in Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil by the Supreme Court. Both cases involve wives who are seeking to re-open their financial settlements because of alleged non-disclosure by their husbands. In Sharland, the wife agreed a settlement but is claiming that the case should be reopened because her husband failed to disclose to the court that the shares in his company were worth considerably more than previously revealed and in Gohil, the wife settled for £270,000 plus a car in 2004 but it later became clear that her husband, who was tried and jailed for fraud and money-laundering sums of up to £37 million, had not given the court accurate information about his finances. The Supreme Court’s judgment, keenly awaited by lawyers and media alike, is not expected to be handed down until later this year.

Another case that seems to be never out of the headlines is that of Michelle Young, who was involved in a long and bitter divorce battle with her late ex-husband Scot. Mrs Young now faces being sued by the financers who funded her case. The financers are apparently demanding that she pay back £11.2 million they claim she owes them. They say that instead of using their funds exclusively to pay for the costs of her litigation against Mr Young, she used some of the money for what they described as her “champagne lifestyle”. They also claim that she repeatedly turned down the opportunity to take a divorce settlement of £26 million awarded by the High Court, from which she could have repaid her investors, preferring instead to run up further costs pursuing the money she claims Mr Young hid away. Mrs Young denies the claims and says she will fight them in court. Someone said on Twitter that the case was never going to end well – I wonder whether it will ever end at all.

Thousands of couples have missed out on a new marriage tax break due to a ‘confusing’ computer system, it has been claimed. The problems have been blamed on a £25million computer system called Verify that has been requesting claimants to produce identity documents that they don’t have, forcing them to abandon the process. There have also been long delays in handling successful cases, and a dedicated helpline had been delayed until September. Sounds about par for the course for such things…

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for May 2015. In that month Cafcass received a total of 913 care applications, a five per cent increase compared to those received in May 2014, continuing the upward trend. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 2,880 new private law cases, which is a 34 per cent increase on May 2014 levels, when the lowest number of new cases ever was recorded.

High Court judge Mrs Justice Pauffley has come under fire from the NSPCC and others for suggesting that when authorities consider the issue of parents physically punishing their children in families that have newly arrived in this country from abroad, “Proper allowance must be made for what is, almost certainly, a different cultural context.” The NSPCC said that different practices in communities were no excuse for “child abuse taking place in this country”. The full report of the judgment in the case, which involving a man from India who had been accused of assaulting his wife and son, can be read here.

The last story that made national headlines this week, and continues to do so, involves a mother who has gone missing with her son, after a court ruled that the boy should live with his father. Rebecca Minnock and her three-year-old son Ethan disappeared from their home in Highbridge, Somerset, two weeks ago. The court has taken the unusual step of lifting reporting restrictions in an effort to aid the search for the pair. As I write this, Miss Minnock is still ‘on the run’ – let us hope she gives herself up or is found soon. Meanwhile, two judgments in the case can be read here.

Have a good weekend.

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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  1. Dr. Nigel Miles says:

    Reference JB’s last referred blog, re child Ethan where an open Court allowance was granted.

    The acting Judge well reported previously as part of blog comment from an Appeal of 22/04/2015 has stated as of 12/06/12, yesterday, in a manner as society would deem that responsible parents have the rights to share engagement with their child/children. In this particular case this will still be confirmed to both Ethan’s parents.

    This now seemingly stated is precedental or are the agressive feminist league still to deny the moral and legitimate rights of a child to such fulfilling engagement with both parents. They seem to be quiet on this specific case.

    Let us now hope that Ethan’s mother returns him so that ALL in his family are able to engage responsibly and lovingly towards him and enact the realism of doing what is in his absolute best interest.

    Now let us apply this realism to the remaining 3.8 million minors who should have the same moral and legal rights, which could be insuperably confirmed with the enaction of a responsible parity in parenting legislation (in retrospection to rhe birth of each child concerned).

    Thank the Pilgrim Fathers for providing the objectives in their petition on who are promoting this needful reality and seemingly supported by the Court in this case!

    Please Ethan’s Mum bring Ethan back to all in his loving family.

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