Report into remote hearings during lockdown published

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A ‘rapid consultation’ into the effectiveness of remote hearings in the family courts has been published by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. Remote hearings via video conferencing software or telephone became the default after social distancing measures began in March. Over 1,000 respondents submitted their views and experiences over two weeks in April, including legal and social work professionals, parents and carers. Many said they were concerned about the fairness of remote hearings. Amongst the issues cited were maintaining privacy, the absence of facial expressions and body language during audio hearings, and potential disadvantage to people with disabilities or who…

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Family Division President rules out remote hearing in complex family case

By | Children, Law news, the family courts | No Comments

The case against a mother suspected of abusing her child must be held in person, the President of the Family Division has declared. Re P (A Child: Remote Hearing) [2020] EWFC 32 concerned a mother suspected by her local authority of fabricating or inducing illness in the child, a practice known as ‘Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy’ or more formally, ‘Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another’. She disputes the allegations. The local authority launched proceedings against the mother in April last year, following lengthy previous disputes with other members of the child’s family. The seven year-old was sent to live with a friend…

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Supreme Court Justice Retires

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Veteran Supreme Court Judge Lord Wilson of Culworth has retired after reaching his 75th birthday. Lord Nicholas Wilson had served on the Supreme Court for nine years, after a distinguished 40-year legal career as a barrister and judge, including more than a decade sitting in the Family Division of the High Court. Due to the current pandemic restrictions, his fellow Justices were unable to stage the usual farewell ceremony. Instead Court President Lord Reed recorded a special video paying tribute to his colleague on behalf of Deputy President Lord Hodge and the ten other Justices of the Supreme Court. Lord…

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Northern Ireland to roll out remote family hearings

By | the family courts | No Comments

Judges in Northern Ireland will begin hearing uncontentious family cases remotely from next week, the most senior judge in the Province has announced. Remote court hearings are conducted via telephone or video conferencing software. Sir Declan Morgan, the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, said the move marked the beginning of a “gradual and incremental” increase in the number of cases being heard in Northern Irish courts since the pandemic restrictions were introduced. He hoped the move would help clear the backlog which has since built up. All hearings would be held in line with “public health guidance”. The initial…

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Couple’s foreign marriage should be annulled, family court rules

By | Law news, marriage | No Comments

A woman born in the Philippines cannot divorce her husband because their marriage was bigamous, a family court judge has ruled. The hearing, conducted remotely via Skype, concerned a couple who married in the Philippines in 2005 before later moving to the UK. The wife filed for divorce in July 2018. The husband countered, later the same year, with a claim that their marriage had been bigamous because the wife had still been legally married to another man at the time of their wedding. It should therefore be annulled he argued. In addition, the husband noted that their marriage certificate…

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Family courts operating online

By | Law news, the family courts | No Comments

Since the prohibition placed on public gatherings on March 23, the family courts have begun to operate on a remote basis. Unless there is a good reason not to do so, all hearings will now take place via video conference or telephone, while document and information exchange is undertaken via email. But this approach cannot come “at the expense of a fair and just process”, Family Division President Sir Andrew McFarlane has stressed Writing last month, Sir Andrew McFarlane explained that, despite the difficulties posed by operating a system remotely that was designed for face-to-face contact: “…There is a strong…

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The number of couples citing adultery has a reason for divorce has dropped by 50% in ten years

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The number of couples who cite adultery as a reason for divorce has dropped sharply since 2008, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In that years 20,765 divorce petitions made that claim, but by 2018 the figure had fallen to just 9,205. The 2008 figure was itself a significant fall, from the no less than 36,310 who cited adultery in 1998. Retired High Court Judge Sir Paul Coleridge, who established campaign group the Marriage Foundation in 2012, said the continuing drop suggested a social shift had taken place. “I think people are more grown up…

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Spotlight falls on vulnerable people during virus lockdown

By | Children, Living together/cohabitation, the emotional side | No Comments

Vulnerable groups face even greater risks under the current coronavirus ‘lockdown’, recent claims suggest. Speaking after a recent meeting of the COVID-19 emergency committee in Manchester, the city’s deputy mayor said the police had already seen incidents related to the continuing restrictions and expected a surge in serious cases. Lady Beverley Hughes declared: “I think we are beginning to see a rise in domestic abuse incidents. We anticipated this might happen in the very stressful circumstances for many families.” One contributory factor was the economic strains many families face as hours are cut and jobs are lost. She explained: “The…

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Orthodox children ‘should live with both parents’, court rules

By | Children, News, the family courts | No Comments

The two children of an orthodox Jewish mother should live with their father part of the time, a family court judge ruled in a recently published judgement. ‘A’ and ‘B’, aged nine and seven, have been the subject of multiple family court judgements as a result of their parents’ contentious divorce after the father chose to leave the family’s strictly orthodox Haredi community in London. His decision was described in a subsequent ruling as having had a “cataclysmic impact on each member of the family”. After leaving the father became involved with the more moderate Modern Orthodox community and the…

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“Grossly unfair” financial settlement overturned in court ruling

By | financial, the family courts | No Comments

A “grossly unfair” financial settlement following a divorce has been overturned by the Court of Appeal. XW v XH concerned a family court ruling originally made in December 2017. On that occasion, a Judge awarded the wife just 29 per cent of the couple’s assets because he believed the husband, a successful businessman, had made a “special contribution’ to the couple’s wealth. The ‘special’ or ‘stellar’ contribution proviso allows family court judges to grant more of a couple’s shared assets to one partner in a divorce if they are deemed to have made a particularly significant contribution to the couple’s…

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