A week in family law
There was not a lot of family law news, as the summer vacation continued, but three children cases in the news this week (although not necessarily decided this week) caught my eye.
The first case was Re A Child, decided by Her Honour Judge Black in the Portsmouth Family Court in July. This was a care case which concerned an eight month-old baby boy whose father advocated the use of alternative medicine. Social services staff told Judge Black that the father had sold ‘Master Mineral Solution’, a sodium chloride solution equivalent to industrial-strength bleach, as a treatment for cancer and autism. Social workers were concerned that the boy might ingest “harmful alternative medication”, either directly or via his mother’s breast milk. The boy had been temporarily removed from his parents when he was a few days old, after social workers and police became concerned about his safety. His parents had not attended family court hearings for a number of months, and had gone to Portugal. Sadly, Judge Black concluded that the couple had abandoned their son, and that there was no other option but to place him into care.
In the second case a six-month old girl who suffered brain damage when she was born can be taken off of life support, the High Court has ruled. The girl is in the care of Nottingham City Council, which opposed the local NHS Trust’s request to move her to a palliative care regime, allowing her to die. The girl’s mother wanted her daughter to “pass away peacefully”, while her father wanted a judge to decide. Mr Justice Keehan ruled in favour of the Trust, saying: “I am completely satisfied that the only course to be taken in [her] best interests is to withdraw her current life-sustaining treatment and to move her to a palliative regime and allow her to die peacefully in the arms of her loving parents”. Don’t ever let anyone say that being a family judge is easy.
In the third case Mr Justice Hayden refused to order the return of a three year-old girl to her mother in New York. The girl had been living with her father in London and the mother had applied for her summary return to New York. Mr Justice Hayden found that the girl was habitually resident in the UK and therefore refused the application. A striking aspect of the case was that the parents each called their daughter by a different name. When asked by the mother’s counsel whether he thought this was a bad thing for his daughter, the father responded that he had come to realise, during the course of the proceedings, that other people might think so. He therefore volunteered, in future, to call his daughter by the mother’s chosen name. A sensible decision.
Moving on, there was some welcome news from America this week with the signing by President Obama of the instrument of ratification of the USA to the 2007 Hague Child Support and Maintenance Convention. The object of the Convention is to ensure the effective international recovery of child support and other forms of family maintenance. Until now the only signatories to the Convention were EU member states, Norway, Albania, Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is hoped that the signing of the Convention by the USA will encourage other countries around the world to enter into the Convention. I have spoken here often of the international nature of modern family law, with families and their members frequently moving between countries and, therefore, legal jurisdictions. One common manifestation of this issue is when a party liable to pay support or maintenance is in a different country, making it difficult for the receiving party to enforce payment. Hopefully, the Convention will go a long way to resolving those difficulties.
And finally, China is rapidly becoming the best place for family law news. This week we heard of the woman there who offered her boyfriend a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle and joint ownership of a flat if he accepted her proposal of marriage. Unsurprisingly, the boyfriend took her up on the offer. Now why didn’t I ever meet a woman like that?
Have a good weekend.