Equal contributions, special contributions, and my contribution

Family Law|April 13th 2017

A week (well, almost) in family law

In a case that demonstrates the dangers of jumping to conclusions without the full facts, a judge has said that a mother who ran away with her two sons drugged them with sedatives and made false allegations of sexual abuse against their father. Samantha Baldwin and the boys vanished on March 27 at the end of a family court hearing, prompting some to think that the father had abused the boys. She was found on 6 April, staying a holiday cabin near Sherwood Forest, following which she was arrested on suspicion of abduction, and bailed.  The boys are now in the interim care of the local authority. Judge Jeremy Lea said Ms Baldwin took the boys in a move that was “plainly pre-planned and carefully executed”.

He went on:

“In my judgment I found that the father had not perpetrated sexual, physical or emotional abuse against the boys as alleged by the mother, or at all, that the allegations made by the mother were false. I also found that the mother genuinely believed that he had done so, but that her belief was irrational and that the evidence of abuse was unreliable. I also made a finding that in order to try to prove her case against the father, the mother had caused the boys to ingest substances that would give rise to a positive testing for benzodiazepine products and zolpidem”.

The boss of Laura Ashley, Dr Khoo Kay Peng, has been ordered by Mr Justice Bodey to pay his former wife Pauline Chai a divorce settlement of £64 million. Ms Chai had sought a half share of the assets of the marriage, which she claimed were worth at least £205 million, on the basis that she had made an equal contribution to the marriage by staying at home and looking after the children. Dr Khoo, however, argued that Ms Chai should only receive about £9 million. Graham Coy, a Partner in Stowe Family Law’s London office, looks at the case in this post, and asks whether there are lessons to be learned from it.

Randy Work, who claimed that his former wife Mandy Gray should not receive an equal share of his wealth because of his ‘special financial contribution’ has failed in an attempt to have an award to Ms Gray overturned. In 2015 Mr Justice Holman awarded Ms Gray half of Mr Work’s £140 million fortune, rejecting Mr Work’s argument that he had made a special financial contribution towards the marriage. Mr Work appealed, but the Court of Appeal said that he had failed to show that Mr Justice Holman’s decision was wrong, and therefore dismissed the appeal. A sensible and not unexpected decision.

Mr Justice Francis has handed down his decision in the Charlie Gard case, giving permission to doctors to withdraw treatment, so that Charlie can be allowed to die with dignity. I’m sure readers will be fully aware of this case, so I will say no more, other than that it is yet another example of the extremely difficult decisions that our family judges have to make on a daily basis. The full judgment has not yet been delivered, but in view of the public interest in the case Mr Justice Francis took the unusual step of issuing a press summary of his decision and reasons for coming to it. The summary can be found here. Charlie’s parents are now considering appealing the decision.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has published its latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for March 2017. In that month the service received a total of 1,288 care applications, which is a 4.3 per cent increase compared to those received in March 2016, and the second highest monthly figure on record. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,907 new private law cases, which is a large 16 per cent increase on March 2016 levels, and brings the number of private law cases back up to the level they were at prior to the abolition of legal aid for most such cases in April 2013.

And finally, I have to have some sympathy for the soldier who was fined £1,500 for bigamy. His story just has the ring of truth about it: wife leaves him, neither he nor wife bother to get divorce, he meets someone else, omits to tell her he is still married, he goes off to war then returns to find himself caught up with her plans to marry him, not having the heart (or courage) to admit he is still married. Thankfully, it appears that the court were lenient, not giving him a custodial sentence.

Have a good Easter 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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