MIAMS, adoption and more

Family Law|June 30th 2017

A week in family law

In 2016 over 60 per cent of couples did not attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before applying for a court order to settle disputes over parenting, finance and property, according to figures obtained by the charity National Family Mediation (NFM). The requirement to attend a MIAM before issuing an application was introduced in April 2014. However, the figures, obtained by NFM under a Freedom of Information request, reveal that out of around 90,000 applications last year, only 35,627 couples took part in a MIAM. NFM Chief Executive, Jane Robey, said: “By making the consideration of mediated settlements compulsory, the government’s aim was help tens of thousands of couples who separate each year save money, time and stress in making post-divorce arrangements. Only four out of ten couples are even attending the initial mediation awareness meeting, let alone following that route through to its conclusion. Ministers need to get to grips with what’s going on and explain these figures. Until they do so, the 2014 legislation, though well-intentioned, will be seen as a failure.” Agreed, although perhaps we should look into precisely why the MIAM requirement is being ignored.

Loopholes in the child maintenance system are allowing parents to deny their children the essential support they need, according to a new report by single parent charity Gingerbread. The report details how, in too many cases, loopholes in the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) mean that non-resident parents are paying a fraction of what they should. The report argues that recent reforms have prioritised administrative convenience over all other concerns, and this has led to a situation where parents are repeatedly being let down by a system that seems designed to be as unhelpful and opaque as possible. Gingerbread Director of Policy Dalia Ben-Galim said that some parents “are deliberately hiding their income, while others can perfectly lawfully escape with income or assets ignored; some are cash-in-hand labourers, while others are multi-millionaires.” The whole problem really shouldn’t come as any surprise.

A British Sikh couple are taking legal proceedings against an adoption agency, claiming they were advised by the agency not to apply because of their “cultural heritage”. Sandeep and Reena Mander said they had wanted to adopt a child of any ethnic background, but they were told that, as only white children were in need, white British or European applicants would be given preference, meaning they were unlikely to be selected. Instead, they allege that they were advised to try to adopt from India, a country with which they have no close links. Hmm. I can see that a ‘cultural match’ between the child and the adoptive parents could be of benefit, but surely cultural heritage is only one factor when it comes to selecting parents for adoption?

The unbearably sad saga of court proceedings relating to the terminally ill infant Charlie Gard has at last drawn to a close, following the rejection by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of the parents’ appeal against the decision that doctors could withdraw life support. In a press release the ECHR said that the decisions by the English courts to agree to the doctors’ request to stop providing Charlie with life-sustaining treatment had been “meticulous, thorough and reviewed at three levels of jurisdiction with clear and extensive reasoning giving relevant and sufficient support for their conclusion”. It went on: “it was appropriate for the hospital to approach the courts in the UK in the event of doubts as to the best decision to take, and … the domestic courts had concluded, on the basis of extensive, high-quality expert evidence, that it was most likely Charlie was being exposed to continued pain, suffering and distress and that undergoing experimental treatment with no prospects of success would offer no benefit, and continue to cause him significant harm.”

And finally, a piece of research with which I can certainly identify. According to a study by the University of Bath, men who are married or have children are more likely to be overweight than single men. Well, that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it…

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. Dr Grumpy says:

    MIAM’s might appear to be a good idea but what do you do when your former partner claims that she was a victim of domestic violence as she did during the divorce in order to avoid mediation?
    As for CSA the other parent can be obstructive by not agreeing to allow direct payments so that I end up paying an extra 20% because of this!
    As usual HMG looked for a way of ‘saving’ money which wasn’t well thought through (like so many other projects in the NHS!) so as a result of the legal aid budget cuts we have seen an increase in the number of Litigants in Person prolonging the amount of time taken for cases particularly in the family courts!

    • JamesB says:

      Except, unlike other matters where government local and national issues exist, we don’t get a public enquiry on the matter, even though the effects are more widespread and effect far more people then the other public enquiries combined. Its political correctness gone mad.

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