Parental alienation, law reform and more: a week in family law

Family Law|Industry News|July 22nd 2016

Maybe it’s something to do with the hot weather, but it has been a relatively slow week for serious family law news. However, I have come up with the following:

It has been revealed that Cafcass is to offer targeted support for those affected by parental alienation. Parental alienation, whereby one parent poisons their child against the other parent, is estimated to be a factor in eleven to fifteen percent of divorces involving children, a figure that is thought to be increasing.

The assistant director of Cafcass, Sarah Parsons, said:

“Parental alienation is responsible for around 80 per cent of the most intransigent cases that come before the family courts … We already train our social workers to recognise the issue, but this takes helping families experiencing it one step further.”

Parental alienation is a controversial subject, but there is no doubt that some parents are guilty of it, whether wilfully or not. Ultimately, of course, it is the child that suffers. Let us hope that this support reduces the incidence of that suffering.

The Law Commission is seeking ideas for law reform, to include in its next programme. The Law Commissioners have identified some areas of law that may require reform, and which could be potential projects for the Programme, including three related to family law: reviewing the provision of support for children who need it, updating the law relating to surrogacy, and providing greater choice in relation to weddings, in particular as to where a marriage can take place. If you have any good ideas for law reform, do please pass them on to the Commission (by 31 October). Just don’t expect the government to implement them!

A Family Law Arbitration Children Scheme has been launched by the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators. Family law arbitration has been available since 2012, but up until now only to deal with financial matters between separating couples. The new scheme now offers the opportunity to resolve disputes concerning the exercise of parental responsibility and other private law issues about the welfare of children by arbitration. This form of arbitration will cover issues relating to where children should live, how much time they should spend with each parent and relocation in England and Wales. The scheme is clearly to be welcomed, but it only scratches the surface when it comes to dealing with the problems facing the family justice system.

Mrs Justice Roberts has rejected a woman’s claim for extra tuition costs for her two teenaged children. The case, Z v Z & Others, concerned the woman’s application to the English court for a financial settlement, following a divorce in Russia. As part of the application the woman had claimed that she needed £60,000 a year to cover the cost of out-of-school tutors for the children.

However, Mrs Justice Roberts said:

“I have scrutinised her budget and it does seem to me that, whilst there needs to be some provision for extra tuition, the costs advanced by the applicant are unrealistic in terms of the time available to these children outside their normal school hours. I did wonder on occasions through the course of her evidence when these two young people had any opportunity simply to enjoy being teenagers. I could not see that very much time at all was left in their busy lives for normal healthy socialising with their peers.”


And finally, not news, but a plug for a post by Marilyn Stowe here this week, on the subject of step parents and the law. I don’t know the figures, but there must be an awful lot of step parents out there, and yet we very rarely hear them mentioned in discussions about family law. Marilyn puts that right in a video and post, the latter of which includes links to some excellent online resources for step parents. See also this follow-up post by Jennifer Williamson.

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. raymond underwood says:

    its about time this was sorted as the kids are the ones who suffer women can be evil when it comes to kids and use the kids as a weapons thy should be sent to jail thy have got away with it fare to long and its sick dads have a rite to see there son but as long as there is money to be made the law or the courts want change a thing as thy are all still riding on the gravy boat as are the solicitors who pick of the carcasses of broken families parasites the lot of them

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