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Bankruptcy, reporting abuse and more

A week in family law

These are the highlights of another busy week in the world of family law:

The first ever annual statistics on the incidence of Female Genital Mutilation (‘FGM’) in England have been published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The statistics show that there were 5,700 newly recorded cases of FGM reported during 2015-16, and that there were 8,660 total attendances in the same period where FGM was identified, or a medical procedure for FGM was undertaken. Women and girls born in Somalia account for more than one third (37 per cent or 810 cases) of newly recorded cases of FGM with a known country of birth. Responsible statistician Peter Knighton, said: “This is the first time that annual data have been collected and published to give an insight into the practice and prevalence of FGM in England. The resulting data will support the Department of Health’s FGM Prevention Programme and improve the NHS response to FGM by raising awareness, enabling the provision of services and management of FGM, and safeguarding girls at risk.” Let us hope so.

In the case Grant & Another v Baker the High Court has decided that the sale of a property, sought by a trustee in bankruptcy, should not be postponed until the owners’ disabled adult child no longer resided at the property. The child’s father, a taxi cab driver, got into arrears with his income tax, due to an error by his accountant. HMRC applied to have him declared bankrupt and his trustee in bankruptcy then applied for the sale of the property. At first instance the District Judge ordered that the trustees were entitled to one half of the property and that the mother was entitled to the other half, but she postponed the sale of the property until the disabled child no longer resided there. The trustees appealed against the postponement to the High Court, and their appeal was allowed. As Marilyn Stowe states, whether the decision is “just and reasonable” is a matter for debate.

A consultation in connection with the mandatory reporting of child abuse has been launched by the Home Office and the Department for Education. The consultation seeks views on the possible introduction of one of two additional statutory measures: a mandatory reporting duty, which would require certain practitioners or organisations to report child abuse or neglect if they knew or had reasonable cause to suspect it was taking place; or a duty to act, which would require certain practitioners or organisations to take appropriate action in relation to child abuse or neglect if they knew or had reasonable cause to suspect it was taking place. The Government will consider all responses to the consultation, before deciding on next steps. The consultation closes on the 13th of October.

Lord Justice Briggs has published his final report into the structure of the civil courts. I’ve not read the report (it’s nearly 300 pages long, and obviously aimed primarily at the civil, rather than family, courts), so I’m not sure of its implications for the family justice system. I do, however, like the idea that the Family Court should be given a shared jurisdiction (with the Chancery Division and the County Court) for dealing with Inheritance Act claims and disputes about co-ownership of homes. These matters are often really of a family nature (for example co-ownership cases often involve cohabitation) and it has always struck me (and, I suspect, many others) as odd (and inconvenient) that they should be dealt with as civil, rather than family, matters.

And finally, I was interested to see that the government of Iran blames satellite TV for the rate of divorce in the country. Over the years I have seen many things blamed for causing divorce, but that is a new one on me. Personally, I would have thought that having hundreds of TV channels with nothing worth watching on them would make you want to spend more time with your spouse, rather than less…

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, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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  1. Andrew says:

    I don’t mind which Division of the High Court hears claims about the validity of wills or the ownership of property or under the 1975 Act as long as the rule remains that costs follow the event – and is not displaced by the mantra that people might fear to assert their rights if they had to pay costs if they lost.

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