A week in family law
The Arctic weather conditions across the country may have grabbed the headlines this week, but there were also a few significant family law news stories…
First up, a mother is facing having to pay a costs bill approaching £20,000, after successfully challenging an order made in care proceedings relating to her five year old daughter. The mother was appealing against the dismissal of her application to discharge the care order and the making of a placement order, allowing the local authority to place her daughter with suitable adopters. The appeal was allowed by the Court of Appeal and remitted back to the court below for a rehearing. After succeeding in the appeal the mother applied for an order that the local authority pay her costs of the appeal. However, the Court of Appeal refused the application. Lady Justice King said that whilst she had considerable sympathy with the position of the mother, who was not eligible for legal aid, it was not possible to say that the local authority had been unreasonable in defending the original decision, as it was in line with all professional advice and was supported by the children’s guardian. A really appalling situation. A parent should never have to pay to challenge proceedings in which the state could remove their child – what if they can’t afford to pay? Does that mean whether they keep their child could depend upon how much money they have? Yet another example of the injustice caused by the lack of legal aid.
New research from the Prudential indicates that divorcees who plan to retire in 2018 can expect their yearly income to drop by £3,800, compared to those who have never divorced. Prudential say that for those retiring in 2018, expected annual retirement income is £17,600 for those who have previously been divorced, compared with £21,400 for those who have never experienced a marriage break up. The research also found that those who have been divorced are more likely to retire in debt than those who have never been divorced, and that divorcees are more likely to have no pension savings at all when they retire than those who haven’t been through a divorce. I don’t know how accurate these findings are but they are not surprising, emphasising how important it is that anyone going through a divorce should receive proper legal and financial advice, especially in relation to pensions.
Moving on, I’m really not sure what is going on with the government’s intended domestic violence legislation, in particular the proposal to allow the court to appoint a publicly-funded legal representative to undertake the cross-examination of alleged victims, so that they aren’t cross-examined by their alleged abusers who did not have legal representation. As I mentioned here recently, that proposal should have been brought in by the Prisons and Courts Bill, but the Bill was withdrawn when the general election was called. I would have thought that, as the Bill was at an advanced stage, it would have been a relatively simple matter to have brought this reform in by now. However, this week we hear that, rather than bringing in the change, the government is now consulting about proposed new measures to deal with domestic violence, including allowing alleged victims to give evidence behind screens. Hopefully, this does not mean that the original proposals are being watered down. Even if they are not, it seems that it will still be some time before the issue of cross-examination by alleged abusers is dealt with.
And finally, a solicitor has lost an appeal against an order requiring him to attend court to give evidence in financial remedy proceedings involving Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov and his former wife Tatiana. In 2016 the High Court awarded Mrs Akhmedova a lump sum of £453 million. Within the proceedings Mr Justice Haddon-Cave had made an order requiring Anthony Kerman of London firm Kerman & Co, a long-time adviser to Russian businessman Farkhad Akhmedov, to attend court to give evidence regarding administrative arrangements concerning Mr Akhmedov’s assets. Mr Kerman claimed that professional privilege protected him from having to give evidence, but this was rejected by Mr Justice Haddon-Cave. Mr Kerman appealed against the order, but the Court of Appeal agreed that professional privilege did not apply. Mr Kerman was not acting as a legal adviser but as Mr Akhmedov’s “man of business”. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. Mr Kerman is reportedly considering an appeal. An interesting case, which could have implications for the relationship between lawyers and their clients.
Have a good weekend, and stay warm!