Cafcass figures, enforcement of financial orders and more

Family Law|December 16th 2016

A week in family law

Lady Justice King has called for extra powers to curb the activities of litigants in person who inundate courts with communications. In the Court of Appeal case Agarwala v Agarwala both parties had already been guilty of bombarding the court with ‘endless applications’, as a result of which the court prevented them from making any further applications without its permission, by imposing civil restraint orders upon both of them. That, however, didn’t stop the parties from inundating the court staff and the judge with a torrent of emails, causing Lady Justice King to say that judges should be entitled to put in place strict directions regulating communications with the court. She went on: “Litigants should understand that failure to comply with such directions will mean that communications that they choose to send, notwithstanding those directions, will be neither responded to nor acted upon.” I think this is going to happen, as these days the courts need their precious time protected more than ever.

A couple who were suspected of trying to join Isis have been allowed to keep their children. The couple were arrested at the Eurotunnel terminal on the 10th of July 2015, on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts and child cruelty or neglect. Their teenage son and two younger children were in the back of the car, and later told police they did not know where they had been going. The couple claimed that they were going for a weekend trip to the German Alps. The three children were placed in foster care for four months but were returned to their parents in November 2015. Mr Justice Cobb has ruled that they can stay together as a family, saying that whilst he was not convinced the family had been going for a weekend away in Germany, he believed the attitudes of the parents had “genuinely changed” after they took part in an extensive de-radicalisation programme. Let us hope he is right.

Cafcass has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for the month of November 2016. In that month the service received a total of 1,262 care applications, which is a 22 per cent increase compared to those received in November 2015. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,586 new private law cases, which is a 7 per cent increase on October 2015 levels. And so the pressure on the system continues to increase…

The Law Commission has published its report on reform of the law relating to enforcement of family financial orders. As the Commission says:

“Each year thousands of separating couples apply to the courts for financial orders. Sometimes these orders are not complied with. The law of enforcement of family financial orders is a complicated area, contained in a range of legislation and court rules. It can then be difficult for parties, particularly litigants in person, to recover the money they are owed. This can lead to significant hardship both for the parties and for their children.”

The Commission recommends a package of reforms to make the law governing the enforcement of family financial orders more effective, efficient and accessible, and to strike a fairer balance between the interests of both parties. The recommended reforms include new powers for the courts to obtain information about debtors, making a wider range of assets available for enforcement purposes, and new “coercive orders” for the courts to use in appropriate cases, to apply pressure to debtors who can pay but are choosing not do so, by disqualifying them from driving and prohibiting them from travelling out of the UK. Initial reaction to the recommendations from family lawyers seems to have been favourable, although whether they will be enacted we will have to wait and see.

And finally, the choice of my favourite story this week was a hard one. It could have been the completely unexpected news that women who confide in female friends were more likely to divorce (couldn’t possibly have guessed that), but in the end I decided it had to be the one about the Chinese restauranteur who has offered free beer to his customers following his divorce. Now that is the way to respond to a divorce! If ever I find myself in Nanchong I shall be sure to visit Mr Cao’s restaurant.

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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