A week in family law: media access to courts, habitual residence and more

Family Law|Industry News | 5 Feb 2016 1

The usual mixed bag of family law news this week, but with some important items stuffed into it…

First, two stories that are actually from last week, but came in too late for inclusion in my weekly review last Friday:

The pilot scheme that will for the first time allow the public and media access to Court of Protection hearings in England and Wales has begun. The scheme applies to new proceedings issued from the 29th of January, and under it the default position will effectively change to one where hearings are held in public with reporting restrictions to protect identities. This means that when an order has been made under the pilot, both the media and the public will be able to attend, unless a further order has been made which excludes them. It will be interesting to see whether the scheme improves the standard of media reporting of Court of Protection cases.

Opposite-sex couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan have lost a judicial review claim that the Civil Partnership Act, which specifically states that two people are not eligible to register as civil partners if they are not of the same sex, discriminates against heterosexual couples. Mrs Justice Andrews held that the Act did not discriminate, as heterosexual couples are not disadvantaged, because they can achieve exactly the same recognition of their relationship and the same rights, benefits and protections by getting married. Accordingly, she dismissed their claim. The couple have indicated that they intend to appeal. Even if the appeal is unsuccessful, there are many who feel that the law should be changed to make civil partnership available to all.

Moving on, I wrote here yesterday about the sad and moving case Re M (Children). There was one piece of evidence in the case that I specifically did not mention in my post, but which has, since I wrote the post, been picked up by the media, both national and elsewhere. The case concerned two boys who exhibited extremely disturbed and challenging behaviour. The boys were adopted but were taken back into care after concerns were raised about the methods used by the adoptive parents to control them, which included smacking them, shouting at them and physically restraining them. The particular piece of evidence that I chose to omit was that the parents had held a prayer group meeting at their house because the older of the two boys was felt to have ’demons’ in him. In the course of the meeting the boy had been physically restrained, whilst certain attendees at the meeting ‘talked in tongues’ around him. I did not mention this evidence, as I did not want to ‘sensationalise’ the case and detract from the real issues, as mentioned in my post. As Lady Justice King said in her judgment, parents come in all shapes and sizes.

In an important judgment the Supreme Court has held that an abducted child is unlikely to lose his or her pre-existing habitual residence at the same time as the abducting parent. In Re B (A Child) the Supreme Court allowed an appeal by a non-biological mother of a child, holding that the unilateral removal of the child to Pakistan by the biological mother did not cause the child to lose her English habitual residence, and that the English court therefore retained full jurisdiction to make decisions about her welfare. The decision means that rather than being in a legal limbo, the child will be more likely to be protected by being considered as resident in the country from which he or she was taken. The decision was particularly important here as the parties had been a lesbian couple, and same-sex relationships are not recognised in Pakistan, meaning that the non-biological mother could not pursue the matter in the Pakistan courts.

And finally, I now know why I never had much success dating women, despite my innate charm, wit, good looks and modesty (not to mention honesty). It was all to do with the fact that I never talked about politics with them. And there was I thinking that politics was tedious and boring…

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. Vincent McGovern. says:

      I grew up in the bottom of Ulster during 60’s to 1985. Talking politics on a date, particularly a first date was an absolute no no for rather obvious reasons. And now I learn that political discussion has become an asset to romance? Sounds like a piece of standpoint or flawed research to me. The rest of the blog very interesting and informative, a pleasure to read. As for politics and romance, humour lives.

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