McKenzie friends, adoption reform and more: a week in family law

Family Law|Industry News|January 15th 2016

It’s been a mixed bag of family law news for the second week of the year:

The practices of international divorce lawyers across Europe may be significantly affected by a recent High Court judgment in the Republic of Ireland. Lawyers in England and Wales had previously understood that, where court proceedings are lodged in two different countries, priority would be given to the proceedings that were issued first by the court. However, Mr Justice Henry Abbott in MH v MH decided that “lodged” for the purposes of the relevant regulation means delivery to the court, rather than issue. The judgment is under appeal but if it is upheld it could fundamentally change the practice by which lawyers seek to gain priority of jurisdiction on behalf of their clients where there is a risk that the other spouse will issue elsewhere within the European Union.

The chair of the Society of Professional McKenzie Friends Ray Barry has called for a mandatory code of conduct for all those McKenzie friends who charge fees.

Barry told the Law Society Gazette:

“Many courts now require McKenzie friends to complete a form prior to a hearing. That form could ask whether the McKenzie friend is fee-charging or not. If yes, the McKenzie friend should be expected to be familiar with and required to comply with the code. For the non-fee charging McKenzie friends the form should simply inform them that they can quietly advise the litigant but also that they may not address the court.”

Yes, and I would add that McKenzie friends, particularly those who charges fees, should be required to have training and insurance as well.

The latest figures from Cafcass for care applications and private law demand, for December 2015, have been published. In that month Cafcass received a total of 1,092 care applications, a 17 per cent increase compared to those received in December 2014. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 2,991 new private law cases, which is a 12 cent increase on December 2014 levels. The figures still keep going up.

In an unusual case, a judge has ruled that a husband obtained his divorce by fraud. In Raani v Charazi the Queen’s Proctor intervened after it became apparent that the husband had deceived the court by wrongly stating that he did not know the whereabouts of his wife, so that he could obtain from the court an order allowing him to dispense with service of the divorce papers upon his wife. Her Honour Judge Karp sitting at the Barnet Civil and Family Courts Centre found that the husband had perverted the course of justice and succeeded in obtaining a decree absolute by fraud. She therefore set aside and declared null and void the decree nisi and decree absolute and dismissed the husband’s divorce petition.

And finally, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has announced plans to change the law on adoption. The government says that it “will seek to change legislation as soon as possible to make crystal clear that councils and courts must place children with the person best able to care for them right up until their 18th birthday – rather than with carers who can’t provide the support they need over the long term.” The move “follows concerns that life-long stability and high-quality care that adoptive families can bring is not always given sufficient weight by councils and courts when they make decisions about where children should live – sometimes focusing on just who can support the child in the short term.” Sounds all very fine, although whether it will make any real difference to the decisions the courts make, we will have to wait and see.

Have a good weekend.

Author: John Bolch

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. McKenzie friends, adoption reform and more: a week in family law | banagainstcorruption says:

    […] Source: McKenzie friends, adoption reform and more: a week in family law […]

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