Welcome to the Roundup, where we correct, clarify and comment on media reports of family court cases, explain and comment on published family court judgments and highlight other transparency news
MEDIA COVERAGE OF FAMILY COURT MATTERS
The Mail, Guardian and others– Notably different slants from media reports on ‘no-fault’ divorce that kicked off from 6 April. From the Mail’s, Divorces surge by almost 50% as ‘no fault’ law comes in, fuelling fears the rule change has made marriage splits easier, to the Guardian’s (anonymous opinion), My Husband and I want to split on good terms – thanks to no-fault divorce we finally can. Blog to follow we hope. See too the President’s guidance; Liz Trinder’s original Finding Fault research; Teena Dhanota-Jones’ quick guide to the changes; and the HMCTS webinar on the accompanying new online divorce service:
The Guardian – Linked readers from their report of MacDonald J’s decision that a 14 year old had been unlawfully deprived of her liberty in a highly unsuitable placement (supervised by a private company on a five day rolling contract) without the required application for authorisation, to the published judgment. See Autistic girl, 14, unlawfully detained in hospital, high court judge finds:
NEWLY PUBLISHED JUDGMENTS FROM FAMILY LAW CASES
Xanthopoulos v Rakshina  EWFC 30 (12 April 2022) – A financial remedies transparency bomb-shell from Mostyn J, in deciding an application for a legal services payment order with cross application for release from an undertaking to preserve and not deal on a bank account. Lucy Reed explained in The cost of transparency. See too reports of ‘apocalyptic’ legal costs and a recommendation to the Lord Chancellor to consider measures to curb this in Sky News, the Mirror and Standard:
K v K  EWCA Civ 468 (08 April 2022) – Julie Doughty highlighted the new judgment from the Court of Appeal clarifying Re H-N on when it’s appropriate to list disputed allegations of domestic abuse for finding of fact hearings, and the proper use of Mediation Information & Assessment Meetings (MIAMs). See K v K – Court of Appeal give guidance on fact-finding hearings and on MIAMs. (See too a new Safe Lives report of focus group findings on their experiences of working with family lawyers plus LEF funded, Safe Lives training opportunities):
Griffiths v Tickle & Ors  EWCA Civ 1882 (10 December 2021) – Paul Magrath explained the court of Appeal’s decision on whether Counsel for Andrew Griffiths had broken the rules or committed a contempt of court by disclosing his un-redacted skeleton argument to third parties not involved in the case without the court’s permission. See Griffiths v Tickle (Part 2): the QC who let the skeleton out of the section 12 closet:
P (Children : Disclosure)  EWCA Civ 495 (12 April 2022) – Judgment from an unsuccessful appeal against dismissal of a man’s application that future statements or admissions he might make in response to serious findings already made in child arrangements order proceedings, not be disclosed to the police or CPS. The findings included rape and subjecting the children’s mother to ‘a brutalising, dehumanising regime’.
Somerset County Council v NHS Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group & Ors  EWFC 31 (13 April 2022) – Newly published judgment from the President on wide scale council breaches of aspects of the adoption rules medical requirements and what should happen next. We aim to write this up.
B v P  EWFC B18 (31 March 2022) – Judgment was published from an appeal hearing about findings where domestic abuse had been alleged, that Julie Doughty had attended as a legal blogger and written on here. Facts were determined without a ground rules hearing or consideration of special measures. There had been non compliance with either PD12J or the Court of Appeal decision in H-N, leading to failures to apply correct definitions of domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour, let alone interrogate patterns of abusive coercive or controlling behaviours. Julie Doughty explained the judgment in B v P – an appeal against findings where the court did not follow correct procedures about abuse allegations:
X, YY and Child H (Rev1)  EWFC 10 (19 January 2022) – Judgment from decisions not to transfer jurisdiction to Romania but to make care and placement orders for a 17 month old boy. Her Honour Judge Knowles gave brief incisive guidance on compliance with critical elements of the Good Practice Guidance on Working with Parents with a Learning Disability that councils must grasp and follow. Including timely referral to adult services for meaningful support; an accessible summary of what actual support is on offer; and timely provision of advocates in child protection procedures. See Legal Government Lawyer. We hope to write this one up.
JB v DJ  EWHC 3524 (Fam) (28 October 2021) – Successful appeal against a transfer of residence decision involving an over focus on enforcement, failure to re-appoint the Guardian, and missing overarching, holistic child welfare assessment. It then took over a year from permission to appeal with no consideration of a ‘stay’. Cohen J expressed profound apologies to the parties saying this had been wholly unsatisfactory, with procedures being put into place to try and ensure this never happens again. See the Gazette.
C v S  EWHC 800 (Fam) (04 April 2022) –Judgment from a High Court decision to make a costs order on appeal with respect to findings of fact against a parent who made unsubstantiated allegations of abuse of children and manipulated professionals. With a summary of the law on costs. Write-up here at Family Law in Partnership.
HM Attorney General v Dowie  EWFC 25 (11 March 2022) & Her Majesty’s Attorney General v Dowie  EWFC 33 (13 April 2022) – Judgments from committal and sentence for publishing recordings of a family court hearing on Youtube to a wide audience. Non Molestation, No Contact and S.91 ‘Barring’ Orders had been made. The recordings Dowie made (in 2017) and later published included his litigant in person cross examinations of the children’s mother in response to her rape allegations and of the psychologist who diagnosed narcissistic and paranoid personality disorder, and the evidence of the Cafcass Officer. Dowie is currently serving 8 years for repeated breaches of the NMO and a Restraining Order and this got him a further 8 months consecutively. The judgment suggests a plan to use the committal order to ask Youtube to remove the material:
A,B and C (Fact Find: Allegations of Coercive and Controlling Behaviour) (Rev2)  EWFC B103 (01 October 2021) – Rare published judgment from a District Judge. Usefully illustrates a pattern of individual behaviours amounting to serious abusive coercive and controlling behaviour continuing through child arrangements, and the impact on the children and their mother. Evidenced in significant part through her audio recordings.
Traharne v Limb  EWFC 27 (31 March 2022) – Published judgment from Cohen J’s decision to vary a post nuptial settlement though not to find coercive controlling behaviour as a feature of the relationship. As featured in the Daily Mail here. Blog to follow.
X v Z (Parental Order Adult)  EWFC 26 (05 April 2022) – Blog to follow we hope, explaining the judgment from this family court application for a parental order for a child born following a surrogacy arrangement in the USA.
IN OTHER TRANSPARENCY NEWS
Open access research and reports
Children and young people in care
The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory published recordings from young people (through actors) alongside a new report, The Care Files: Exploring the experiences of teenagers entering the care system. The report explores older children and young people’s direct experiences of entering care and their ideas for improving things and was co-produced with the young people.
The Family Rights Group published a follow up evaluation from the Rees Centre at Oxford University on Lifelong Links, of a Department of Education (Innovation Programme) funded three-year trial in 12 English local authorities. Lifelong Links works to proactively build positive family and friends care networks for children in care, for their time in care and beyond. More than 30 UK local authorities now offer Lifelong Links. The evaluation found significant gains for children’s placement stability and well-being.
The House of Lords Select Committee scrutinising the Children and Families Act 2014
At the 4th April evidence session, Professor Judith Masson of Bristol University and Julie Doughty answered questions about the changes that were made to the family justice system by the 2014 Act, including the 26 weeks time limit and constraining the use of experts; MIAMs and mediation. Both also spoke about the need for better data and public legal education. Earlier evidence sessions, available on the Parliament site, focused on adoption in England.
Ongoing – A Family Rights Group survey of UK kinship carers is open here with a view to feeding into the All Party Parliamentary Group legal aid inquiry.
3rd May 2022 – Family Law Hour covers property and cohabitation at 8pm.
28 July 2022 – HOLD THE DATE – The Family Justice Young People’s Board annual Voice of the Child Conference is now fixed for 28 July 2022. Details will follow.
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Image courtesy of Bob Jagendorf (flickr) with thanks