A week in family law
Domestic violence is a factor in nearly two thirds of child contact applications, a study has found. The study, which was published jointly by Women’s Aid and Cafcass, found that 62 per cent of applications relating to where a child should live or spend time involved domestic abuse as a risk factor. The fathers’ rights charity Families Need Fathers (FNF) has criticised the study, describing it as a “one-sided publication that is clearly intended to influence practice in the family courts”, and saying that it “betrayed the trust” of fathers. The group pointed out that Women’s Aid primarily campaigns against domestic violence committed against women and girls, and added that the study focuses on allegations of abuse “rather than reality”, claiming that it is experiencing a rise in reports of unfounded allegations. Cafcass has strongly refuted claims that the report is biased, telling the Marilyn Stowe Blog that the study is gender-neutral, with the data showing where allegations of domestic abuse have been made by men and women. I won’t get into the argument, but I do agree with FNF when it points out that more allegations of domestic abuse are of course likely when the system says that parents can’t get legal aid unless there has been abuse.
A High Court judge has written a judgment in the form of a personal letter to a 14 year-old boy. In the letter Mr Justice Peter Jackson explained why he had rejected the boy’s request to move with his father to Scandinavia. He said that whilst he respected the boy’s views, he did not take them at face value because he thought they were significantly formed by the boy’s loyalty to his father. He went on to say that he had no confidence at all that a move to Scandinavia would work and that he thought it would be very harmful for the boy to be living so far away from his mother. He also expressed the hope that the boy’s father would stay in this country, for the boy’s sake. The judgment has been praised in many quarters, although I do wonder how the boy reacted to the receipt of the letter.
A mother has been allowed to remove her child’s middle name, against the father’s wishes. The judge dealing with the case said of the name:
“The middle name is a normal well established name. It is not eccentric or in itself offensive. However, the mother’s case was that, as a result of its association with a notorious public figure, it is infected with bad connotations.”
The father opposed the change, saying that he wanted to preserve the middle name as part of the child’s identity. However, the judge agreed that continuing use of the middle name would damage the child’s emotional welfare. He therefore gave the mother permission to remove the name. The father appealed against the decision, but his appeal was dismissed. For a discussion of what names the court might find unacceptable, see this post, and for a response to the suggestion in some quarters that the grant of legal aid to the mother was a waste of taxpayer’s money, see this post.
In an interesting judgment the High Court judge has ruled that a council cannot force the removal of an online protest petition set up by a mother in order to protest against the adoption of her children. Southend council had sought to use an injunction to force the mother and father to take down the petition relating to their children’s care proceedings. The council contended that the petition risked causing emotional harm to the children, who are in foster placements. However, Mr Justice MacDonald dismissed the application, saying that the parents’ right to freedom of expression outweighed the risk to the children. Hopefully, the judgment will not be seen by other parents in a similar position as a green light to set up petitions of their own, rather than engage properly with the authorities – Mr Justice MacDonald did warn that his decision should not be seen as a judgment on the merits or demerits of online petitions in general.
And finally, it seems that the old rhyme about what a bride should wear at her wedding may have been re-worded, at least for wives-to-be in the southern state of Tennessee: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a… 9mm handgun.” That at least was how a bride in Murfreesboro prepared for her nuptials. And when, after tying the knot, she got into a drunken argument with her groom, she pulled the (thankfully unloaded) weapon from her dress, pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger, bringing the unhappy couple’s honeymoon to an abrupt end. As I said on Twitter, I’ve heard of a shotgun wedding, but that is ridiculous…
Have a good weekend.