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Family Law News 9th March - 23rd March 2011
10.03.2011: HMRC, in partnership with Child Maintenance Options, have launched a new initiative to provide separating parents with free information and support to help them arrange child maintenance. They estimate that around 60,000 people a year will benefit from the advice provided. Source: http://www.familylaw.co.uk/articles/ChildMaintenanceOptions10032011-852
20.03.2011: Noel Shanahan is replacing Stephen Geraghty as Commissioner and Chief Executive of CMEC. Mr Shanahan joins from the Department for Transport, where he had been Chief Executive of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. Source: http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed81284
11.03.2011: The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and the Court of Protection will hold a meeting on the 29th March at 6.30pm on the topic “Transparency: Privacy and the Public Interest”. Speaking at the event will be Gillian Phillips, Director of Editorial Legal Services for the Guardian, and Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive Officer of Cafcass. Source: http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed80949
11.03.2011: The Law Society has updated the Practice Note which offers guidance on the VAT status of disbursements which solicitors often charge to clients. The note seeks to clarify what is or is not a disbursement for VAT purposes. Source: http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed80952
11.03.2011: Children & Young People Now have reported that Nushra Mansuri of BASW – The College of Social Work said that independent social workers will decline to act as expert witnesses when fee caps of £30 an hour (£33 in London) are introduced on 2nd May 2011. She is reported as saying that this represents “a significant devaluing of the work”, and will make it financially untenable for most independent social workers. Source: http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed80951
13.03.2011: A survey conducted by Women’s Aid has found that 60% of refuge services have no funding agreed from 1st April 2011, and 72% of outreach services also have no agreed funding. Nationally, it is estimated that 70,000 women and children may not be able to access these services from April 2011. Women’s Aid believe that these cuts are disproportionate, and that if these services are not available pressure will be increased on already stretched health, local authority and criminal justice resources. Source: http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed81018
Court Cases of Interest
10.03.2011: Re T (A child- murdered parent) Case No: MK10PO0693: B, a father, applied for a contact order relating to T, his 8 year old daughter. B had been convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in 2005, having stabbed T’s mother to death. Care proceedings for T had concluded in 2007. T had been made the subject of a special guardianship order to her maternal aunt, stating that any direct contact for B with T would be at the maternal aunt’s discretion, and indirect contact through cards could take place 3 times a year. No direct contact occurred, and indirect contact ceased soon after.
In 2009, B successfully applied (against opposition from the maternal family) to be discharged from the hospital where he had been detained under the Mental Health Act 2003. A NYAS guardian told the court that T did not wish to see B. The guardian supported the s.91(14) application made by the aunt, though prohibiting contact until T was 13 at the earliest (as accepted by B) and not 16. The judge confirmed that despite the gravity of the background to the case, the court’s approach should not change, and that the murder of one parent by the other does not prohibit contact in and of itself. However, the judge expressed concern at how soon B had brought proceedings, as well as his admission to the continued occassional use of cannabis, which had exacerbated B’s mental illness. The judge ruled that the s.91(14) should last until T was 16, on account of the ongoing trauma the maternal family had experienced since the mother’s death. A non-molestation order was also imposed. Source: http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed80896
15.03.2011: Wardship: Re A (Fact-finding: Disputed Findings) EWCA CIV 12: The father was caring for the child, The mother made allegations of sexual abuse by the husband during the marriage in a fact-finding hearing, to which the husband made counter allegations. The judge rejected many of these claims, but accepted the mother’s core allegations. The father’s application for permission to appeal was allowed in part, granted for only certain grounds. The Court of Appeal observed that it was at a disadvantage in complex cases such as this when considering appeals from fact finding hearings, as it could not hear witnesses as they give evidence. Source: http://www.familylaw.co.uk/articles/2011EWCA12
18.03.2011: C (A child)  EWCA Civ 261: The Court of Appeal considered an appeal by the father of P, a 12 year old girl, against an order terminating contact made by HHJ Richards. The mother had been granted residence in 2006, with staying contact granted to the father. In October 2009 the mother applied to vary the contact order, citing that P did not want contact to continue. A report from the Cafcass officer was read in court, but the officer was not called to give evidence. The officer had interviewed P three times, at which P gave the impression that she only attended contact because the court instructed her to, and that contact made her unhappy and anxious. The officer had read a psychologist’s report from 2006 which suggested P had a strong bond with both parents, but concealed her feelings about her father to avoid upsetting her mother. However, the officer concluded P’s relationship with her father had deteriorated since this time to the extent that the court should consider suspending contact as an interim measure. HHJ Richards surmised that P had put an end to the conflict of her parents by rejecting one of them, discharging the October 2006 order and making no order for contact.
Lady Justice Black expressed sympathy for HHJ Richards, who had faced a case with no satisfying options that would suit all parties, and the consideration that further reports and/or delays would potentially place P’s wellbeing in jeopardy. However, it was not clear that all avenues had been exhausted, or that P’s emotional condition had been fully evaluated. The Court of Appeal found that the attendance of the Cafcass officer should have been necessary. A suspension of contact was by no means the only option available, and the severity of the measure entitled the father to be able to explore this further (particularly in light of the judge’s finding that P would be likely to resume contact behind her mother’s back). The Cafcass officer had also omitted emails between the father, child and mother at the time the interviews had been carried out. These gave a distinctly different impression of the relationship between T and her father than that given in the interviews, a gap Lady Justice Black felt could have been addressed had the Cafcass officer been called to give evidence. Lady Justice Black also considered that it would be helpful for the child to have legal representation separate from either parent. The case was returned to HHJ Richards. Source: http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed81242