It is CFLP tradition at this time, to do a little review of the year, recapping some of the developments we’ve seen during the last 12 months. As we start the New Year, we can look back on a year of major calls for changes to family law in England and Wales and on a small number of new developments.
In January, we wrote about the Law Commission’s proposals for improvements to the court’s powers to enforce financial orders. These proposals focus on giving the courts more specific powers of enforcement, along with providing clearer Practice Directions, to ensure that the growing number of Litigants in Person can also navigate this system. We also wrote about the rights of the child and pointed to useful information for children facing legal disputes between their parents and also discussed an interesting case which established that the role of Cafcass in courts is to advise on, but not to establish facts of a case, noting that this is specifically the role of the judge.
In February, we wrote about the harrowing case of a transgender father, whose close-knit, religious community did not recognise his transgender status and would have ostracised his children if they were allowed to have contact with him. We noted the very difficult challenges faced in navigating the contrasting needs of the children from the support of their father and from their religious community (watch this space for an update on this case!). We also wrote about the Owens v Owens case for the first time, in which it was highlighted that the ‘mild’ particulars in unreasonable behaviour divorce petitions do not, in fact, comply with the law. Tina Owens’ appeal will be heard by the Supreme Court in 2018.
In March and April we touched on the emotional impact of divorce on adults and children. We also discussed a very interesting case in which a birth parent had been able to be found via social media, when all other avenues had been exhausted. We also discussed the White Ribbon Campaign, part of a global movement to stop male violence against women and girls, specifically using male ambassadors to educate and inform men about the problem of violence against women (of which our Adam Moghadas is an Ambassador).
In June, we discussed what you might need to know about the initial, FHDRA hearing if you are attending as a litigant in person. We were also excited to highlight the impending launch (Sept 17) of the International Family Law Arbitration Scheme.
In July, we explained how experts seek to value a business on divorce. This is often quite a complicated area and one which not every party to the proceedings always fully understands. We wrote about a new case (Sharp v. Sharp) which may form an interesting precedent for couples in short marriages, with no children, dual incomes and separation of finances. In this case, the lower earning husband was not awarded the full 50:50 share of what had been accumulated during the marriage.
In August, we discussed the changing role of Cafcass in public and private Children Act proceedings. Cafcass is coming under increasing pressure, owing to the burgeoning number of both public and private law cases reaching the courts and the new guidance sets out exactly what the courts and litigants can and can’t expect from Cafcass. We also walked you through the new, more user friendly, divorce petition forms. New online divorce petitions have also begun trials this summer.
In September, we wrote about Lady Hale, who replaces Lord Neuberger as Supreme Court President (being the first female appointee to that role). We discussed how she has come up through the legal profession to that role and her contribution in challenging the lack of diversity in the judiciary.
In November, we discussed pension sharing on divorce and the worrying fact that many women typically do not seek to share their spouse’s pension on divorce, often leaving their future finances in a perilous situation. We highlighted the campaign for no fault divorce given the Owens v Owens case has shown the difficulties which are created for separating couples. We also discussed Resolution’s Cohabitation Awareness Week, bringing yet further pressure to bear on the Government, pushing for necessary change in the laws governing cohabitees, who currently benefit from little support on separation and are often unaware of this position until it is too late.
In December, we discussed the new Guidance from Cafcass, for their Family Court Advisers, in relation to Parental Alienation. This came after new procedure rules for the participation of, and giving evidence by, vulnerable parties (including children) in public and private family proceedings. In addition, 2017 saw the introduction of an updated practice direction PD 12J, explaining procedures for domestic abuse and harm within proceedings for child arrangements and contact orders. December also saw us writing about the Loss Cycle on separation and divorce and how this can affect you or your children.
2017 has certainly been a year where many key legal principles have been challenged – from no fault divorce to the need for reform of cohabitation law. Some key new developments have been signalled, such as the new Cafcass approach to conflict and alienation and the separation of Financial Remedies Courts. With the Government preoccupied by Brexit negotiations, it remains to be seen whether this impetus for reform will be taken forward in 2018.
As we start the New Year, CFLP would like to wish all our readers a happy and healthy 2018.