A week in family law: child protection, deceit and civil partnerships

Family Law|November 8th 2019

This week, John Bolch reviews all things family law including child protection, deceit and civil partnerships.

Domestic abuse threat to child protection

A new survey of councillors responsible for children’s social care by the Local Government Association (‘LGA’) has found that a rise in family conflict and hardship is behind the heightened pressure on child protection services. The LGA says that councils have seen a 53 per cent increase in children on child protection plans, an additional 18,160 children, in the past decade, while 88 children are now taken into care every day. In a poll of councillors in charge of children’s services, the LGA found that more than 80 per cent said problems like domestic violence, substance misuse and offending were behind the rise in their area, while 70 per cent said that poverty, poor housing and debt played a part. The LGA is calling for children’s services to be fully funded alongside investment in services which prevent children from reaching that point in the first place and help families to stay together and thrive.

Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board Councillor Judith Blake commented:

“Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just getting by. Yet, funding pressures are coinciding with huge increases in demand for support because of problems like hardship and family conflict, which is making it increasingly difficult for them to do that. No family is immune to life’s challenges, and every family should feel safe in the knowledge that if they need it, help is there to get things back on track. If councils are to give children and families they help they need and deserve, it is vital they are fully funded. This is not just children’s services, but the breadth of support councils can provide, from public health to housing. This extra funding will help but it is just one year. However, councils need long-term, sufficient and sustainable funding so they can deliver the best for our children and families.”

All the more reason, as well, to do all we can to combat the scourge of domestic abuse.

Paternity fraud

As I discussed in this post, the High Court has ruled that the tort of deceit can exist between a husband and a wife. As I explained, the ruling was made in a ‘paternity fraud’ case, involving a husband’s claim for damages in respect of his wife’s deceit over the paternity of a child. She had said that he was the father of the child, but a DNA test later found that he was not. I won’t repeat the

facts of the case here, but the wife applied to have the husband’s claim struck out. Hearing that application, Mr Justice Cohen could “see no logical reason why the law should encourage honesty between unmarried couples so as to create an obligation which if breached opens the wrongdoer to an action to deceit yet absolves from such liability a wrongdoing spouse”, which seems to make sense to me. Nevertheless, Mr Justice Cohen still struck the claim out, finding that it was fundamentally incompatible with, and amounted to an improper collateral attack on, the Court’s jurisdiction with regard to the financial remedy proceedings. Which also seems to make sense.

Civil partnerships for all

And finally, opposite-sex couples will be able to register civil partnerships in England and Wales starting from New Year’s Eve 2019, after secondary legislation was approved in the House of Lords on the 5th of November. Couples will be able to give notice from the 2nd of December, and the first civil partnerships can be registered on the 31st of December, after the usual 28 days’ notice. During the debate, Baroness Susan Williams explained that the bill was being passed without inclusion of conversion to/from marriage, as that was a longer task, and there was a priority to ensure opposite-sex civil partnerships could happen by the end of 2019. Martin Loat, Chair of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign, commented: “It has been a long journey through both the courts and parliament to get to this point. I’d like to pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in the campaign – especially Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan whose eventual win at the Supreme Court led us to this place, Tim Loughton MP who tenaciously took this on as a Private Members Bill, Baroness Fiona Hodgson who led the Bill through the Lords and of course all the supporters whose own testimonies have played a real role in the campaign. We are all delighted and relieved that the start date of 31st December can be adhered to.” Excellent news.

Have a good weekend.

Get in touch

If you would like any advice on civil partnerships or other family law issues please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 

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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