A week in family law: Three big cases and more

Family Law|Industry News|August 14th 2015

It may be the quiet season for general news, but there have been some big cases this week.

First up, we have the President’s decision in CB (A Child) – okay, this case was actually published last week, but it seems to have only just attracted the attention of the national media. The case concerned an appeal by a mother in care proceedings against the dismissal of applications for contact with the child, for permission to oppose the making of an adoption order, and for the case to be transferred to Latvia, where she is a citizen. The appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, but what caught the media attention in particular was the fact that the court has ruled that the child must be adopted in this country, despite the fact that the Latvian authorities supported the application for the case to be transferred over there. For Marilyn Stowe’s take on the case, see here.

The second case involved a father’s appeal against an order giving the mother permission to permanently remove their 12 year old daughter to Germany. In F (A Child) (International Relocation Cases) the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, saying that the judge who made the original decision had relied too heavily on the criteria set out in the 2001 case Payne v Payne. Payne v Payne has been heavily criticised for having a gender-based approach that discriminated against fathers in international child relocation cases. The Court of Appeal said that the criteria set out in Payne was guidance only, and that the court should weigh up the proposals of both parents, by reference to what was in the best interests of the welfare of the child. Some lawyers seem to think that the decision will change how the courts deal with relocation cases in future, although whether this is true is unclear.

The third big case involved a 14 year old girl’s application to have her own adoption order revoked. In PK v Mr And Mrs K, the girl was adopted 10 years ago and was then taken to Ghana, where she was looked after by members of her adoptive family and subjected to “significant abuse”. In 2014 she returned to England, where she was reunited with her biological mother and maternal grandmother. She then made an application to have the adoption order revoked and to have her surname changed to her mother’s surname. Mrs Justice Pauffley allowed both applications, but emphasised that there are public policy reasons for not revoking adoption orders, and that she had only done so here in the “highly exceptional” circumstances of the case.

Moving on to other news, more couples seeking a divorce are turning to mediation, according to National Family Mediation (NFM), the largest provider of family mediation in England and Wales. NFM has reported that the number of calls to its helpline have more than doubled in the past year, from 1,600 calls per month in the first half of 2014, to 3,400 each month during the same period this year. The chief executive of NFM Jane Robey suggested that the call figures could indicate that the government’s policy of diverting people away from the courts and towards mediation is ‘actually beginning to work’. I might add the words “at last”.

And finally, the latest figures from Cafcass for care applications and private law demand, for July 2015, have been published. In that month Cafcass received a total of 1,111 care applications, a 9 per cent increase compared to those received in July 2014. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,554 new private law cases, which is a 23 per cent increase on July 2014 levels, continuing the upward trend of recent months and taking the figures back to levels similar to those prior to the legal aid cuts.

Have a good weekend.

Image by photosteve101 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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