A week in family law: Minnock, an alarming statistic and more

Family Law|Industry News|June 19th 2015

Highlights of another packed week for family law news included the following stories:

‘Runaway’ mother Rebecca Minnock has handed herself and her son in to the police, and the child has been returned to his father. At a hearing at the Bristol Family Court His Honour Judge Wildblood QC said that the efforts by Miss Minnock’s family to manipulate the press were a “publicity stunt” and “an utterly irresponsible way to behave from the point of view of the welfare of a child”. However, he said that he would be “doing everything possible to ensure that this little boy has an effective relationship with both of his parents”. As I have said here, it is about the child, not the parents.

According to research by the Nuffield Foundation, fathers are likely to have more frequent contact with a son than a daughter after splitting up with the mother. The research found that fathers who are actively involved in bringing up children before a separation are more likely to keep in regular contact with the children after splitting with their partners, although seeing less of girls than of boys. Money also played a major part, with fathers who had a spare room for their children to stay over keeping in touch more. All very interesting, but not, I think, that surprising.

Mr Justice Holman has ruled that a six-year-old boy whose father is in jail for his mother’s murder should live with the killer’s sister and family in England, rather than with his maternal grandparents in China. The mother’s parents had argued that it would be better for the boy to come to them, saying that as the victim’s family, they shared his loss and were best placed to console him. However, Mr Justice Holman said that moving to China to live with them would be a “huge upheaval” for the child, and found that his best interests dictated that he should stay in this country with his aunt and uncle. Once again, it is all about the child…

The High Court has ruled that a mother cannot use her dead daughter’s frozen eggs to give birth to her own grandchild. The woman wanted to seek fertility treatment in the USA, but the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority had refused to allow her to take the eggs out of storage, saying the deceased daughter had not given full consent. In a case that is believed to be the first of its kind, the woman challenged that decision in the High Court. However, Mr Justice Ouseley dismissed the claim. In one sense, I suppose the decision was easy as ‘rules are rules’, but if the daughter had wanted her eggs to be used in this way, then it is perhaps sad that a way could not have been found around those rules.

New figures from the NSPCC reveal that one in twenty of all the children in England were referred to social services last year. A study by the charity showed that social services departments dealt with just under 660,000 referrals from neighbours, teachers, medical staff and other members of the public about the welfare and safety of 570,800 children in the 12 months to March 2014. That figure equates to five per cent of the entire under-18 population in England. This alarming statistic is, of course, a symptom of our risk-averse culture. However, referrals can be damaging for children and hopefully therefore this is a trend that will reverse.

And finally, a father came up with an ingenious response to the mother’s suggestion that their daughter would be exposed to physical or psychological harm if she was required to return to Italy, as he wished. For details, I would refer you to this post.

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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