Adoption, child support, divorce and more

family law

A week in family law

Over £52 million has now been released through the Adoption Support Fund, which has helped 22,000 children, the Department for Education has announced. The fund, which was launched across England in May 2015, has reached almost 18,000 homes, providing “much-needed emotional support”. Announcing the success of the fund, Minister for Children and Families Robert Goodwill said: “Every parent wants their child to grow up feeling loved and understood, and anyone with the commitment and compassion to adopt a child should have the backing of a strong support network. We know that caring for these young people, particularly those with more complex needs, can be a struggle at times. With the right therapeutic support, children and families will be able to embrace the new life ahead of them, and I’m delighted that the Adoption Support Fund has supported so many thousands of people already, as part of our plan for a fairer society.” Sounds wonderful, and I’m sure it helps, but we should remember that £52 million divided between 22,000 children is only an average of some £2,300 per child.

Sir James Munby has approved a care plan for a suicidal teenager. In a judgment last week he said that society should be “ashamed” for not protecting the 17 year old girl, known only as ‘X’, and criticised the lack of supervision available for her. In a quote picked up by national media he said that there would be “blood on our hands” if she did not receive adequate supervision upon her release from secure custody. The girl will be moved to a special unit this week, after doctors managed to find her a place. In his latest judgment Sir James said that “provision of the care that someone like X needs should not be dependent upon judicial involvement, nor should someone like X be privileged just because her case comes before a very senior judge.” He went on: “I emphasise this because a mass of informed, if anecdotal, opinion indicates that X’s is not an isolated case and that there are far too many young women in similar predicaments. How are they to be protected?” Quite.

Mr Justice Mostyn has spoken again about new child support rules which can lead to wealthy parents paying little or no maintenance for their children. He described as ‘dispiriting’ the suggestion by a government minister that it would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to deal with such cases, saying: “To empower a factfinder to determine if arrangements have been made to place assets in non-income-producing structures would not, on any view, be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming; but even if it were relatively expensive and time-consuming, why as a matter of justice should the exercise not be carried out?” As I’ve said here myself, the current situation is clearly wrong, and as Mr Justice Mostyn pointed out, if the asset ground is not reinstated then there are likely to be more cases going to the courts, with the courts ordering non-resident parents to make larger lump sum payments for their children.

The Supreme Court has granted permission for Tini Owens, the wife who lost her appeal against the refusal to grant her a divorce, to appeal to the Court. In March the Court of Appeal decided not to allow her to divorce her husband because his behaviour, as found in the lower courts, was not considered ‘unreasonable’. Apparently Mrs Owens’ legal team will argue that the Courts’ emphasis on trying to find that a respondent’s behaviour is in some way “unreasonable” is wrong. It will be argued that this is a “linguistic trap”, and that the statute does not require unreasonable behaviour, but simply behaviour such that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent. Well, it’s worth a try, and I hope it succeeds, but I won’t be holding my breath.

And finally, the most important news of the week was clearly that Hong Kong has a man shortage, with only 852 men for every 1,000 women. I wondered what on Earth could cause such a discrepancy. Was it something put in the water, or were men being secretly taken as slaves of the Chinese state perhaps? The answer, to be found in the statistical bulletin published by the Census and Statistics Department of the territorial government, was rather more prosaic. It seems that the discrepancy arose as a result of the large inflow of female one-way permit holders from the mainland of China joining their husbands in Hong Kong, along with the importation of a large number of female foreign domestic helpers. Oh well, so much for conspiracy theories…

Have a good weekend.

Image by Hamza Butt via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

John Bolch

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 comment

Paul - August 12, 2017 at 1:42am

Serious suggestion. I think we should have a running. Tally in this weekly round up to help us ‘all’ collectively qualify our arguements with current statistical evidence.

Number of fathers(NRP) issued order for non contact.
Number of fathers (NRP) issued with supervised contact.
Number of fathers(NRP) charged with DV related offence.
Cases of PAS brought to trial. Successful/unsuccessful?
The family law sector is so neatly compartmentalised this should be not too hard to acheive.
Do it by region. Cover the differnt subjects spectrums like Child Maintainance, DV, Litigants in person. , NRPs and police measures. Solicitors fees. ect.
Give us all a broad over view.
-Does such a document exist ?
Could you as family law advocates be trusted to compile such a study ?

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