Outcomes for children, mediation data and more: a week in family law

Family Law|Industry News|February 26th 2016

The highlights of a relatively quiet week for family law news:

The Ministry of Justice has published a report presenting the findings of the ‘Millennium Cohort Study’ (a study of around 19,000 children who were born in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002), which explores child outcomes after parental separation. Key findings of the study included that the frequency and quality of contact between the child and the non-resident parent declined with time since separation, that it was higher for children whose parents were previously married, that it was higher in families with higher socio-economic status, and that it was higher among families who did not report court involvement (for contact or financial arrangements) during the separation process. The study also found that children of continuously married parents tended to have the best outcomes at age 11, followed by children of parents who were cohabiting at the time of birth and remained together. Children of separated parents showed the worst outcomes. None of which was exactly news.

The charity National Family Mediation (NFM) has claimed that data it has collected confirms the success of a government-funded pilot project helping separated parents previously locked in family court wrangles to work with specialist mediators to negotiate long-term agreements. The project, ‘At-Court Mediation’, which was run by NFM in three pilot areas, provided one-to-one support for parents who had been separated for more than two years and were locked in the family court system. It helped them suspend legal proceedings and meet specialist mediators to negotiate long-term arrangements for children, property and finance. NFM has analysed the results of its pre- and post-project evaluations, which saw 433 participants quizzed in a number of areas both before and after their involvement in At-Court Mediation. NFM says that the analysis shows that 64 per cent said the level or quality of contact with their children improved following the project, and that there was a 37 per cent overall reduction on the ‘impact on children of the couples’ conflict’. A 32 per cent reduction in level of conflict with their ex-partner was also recorded, as was a fall in recorded ‘levels of stress’ of some 37 per cent. Expect our government, which is ever-eager to promote mediation, to take an interest in the data…

The Court of Protection has authorised the termination of a woman’s pregnancy, finding that she lacked capacity to consent to medical treatment and that it was in her best interests. The sad facts of the case were that the woman was in a relationship that had become characterised by domestic violence perpetrated on her by her partner. After she discovered she was pregnant by her partner she indicated that she wanted to have an abortion. Shortly after this she was allegedly violently assaulted by her partner, as a result of which she sustained serious injuries, including serious head injuries, comprising fractures, intracranial bleeding and brain damage. She was admitted to hospital and received emergency treatment over an extensive period, and currently remains in that hospital receiving care and treatment. The NHS Trust applied for an order that it would be in her best interests to undergo surgery terminating her pregnancy and Mr Justice Baker authorised that course of action.

In another interesting case a woman has been granted permission to appeal against a ban on her using her dead daughter’s frozen eggs to give birth to a grandchild. The woman and her husband, whose daughter died from cancer aged 28, had challenged the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s refusal to allow them to transport the eggs to a fertility treatment clinic in New York, so that they could be fertilised and implanted into her. The challenge had been dismissed by the High Court but the Court of Appeal will now hear an appeal against that decision.

And finally, my favourite story of the week was the one about a Caribbean radio station that chose to mark Valentine’s Day by giving away a free divorce. I’m not quite sure they’ve got the hang of this Valentine’s Day thing…

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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