This is a momentous blog for CFLP, being our 100th since we started this weekly look at something going on in the world of families, law and policy. We thought it would be a good opportunity to recap on some of the topics that seem to have caught your imagination the most, and to catch up on what’s happened in some of the areas we’ve blogged about regularly.
The CFLP blog that has been retweeted and talked about the most so far is this one on The Marriage Foundation, which we wrote back in May 2012. This was a response to the organisation set up “to be a national champion for marriage” by Mr Justice Coleridge. We were rather forthright in expressing our unease at what seemed to be a political stance taken by a sitting judge, supported by other sitting judges amongst others. As you can see from the post, we also disagreed with its objectives.
It’s been a rocky 18 months or so for the Marriage Foundation since then – they were tangentially embroiled in a dispute with the Law Society about a debate with an allegedly anti-gay marriage theme and there has been evidence contradicting their main premise (that marriage is a better context for children’s development). Still, it seems to be doing well and puts out regular press releases to raise its profile, the most recent ones castigating certain unmarrieds for pretending to live apart in order to increase the amount of benefits they can claim. It seems to get good coverage in the Mail, the Times and the Telegraph, but it isn’t our thing at all. We still think it’s entirely the wrong way to be going about improving children’s life chances – and, while we’re on the subject, so is the recently-announced government proposal to introduce a tax break for poor married couples of about £4.00 per week.
You’ll probably know that the family courts are currently going through a big period of change – we’ve written about this a few times (see eg here and here). The aim is to create one single Family Court in April next year so that cases are better heard by the right level of tribunal and administration becomes slicker and quicker, not to mention more cost-effective. There’s a lot of modernisation work being done, and it’s going well: a new set of draft orders in family law cases is in the later stages of creation, which will increase the court’s accessibility to those without legal advice, and there are increasing moves towards transparency so that the public better understands how the family court works and what it does (see our blog about that here).
Much of the focus so far has been on bringing down the amount of time that care cases take to get through the courts, but now proposals on this front are actually turning into reality, the court is starting to turn its mind to private law children cases: contact and residence in families where there is no risk of harm to the children, but usually where the parents are separated. Proposals for how to deal with the huge influx of parents asking the court for help since legal aid for family proceedings was all but removed in April, are due in November. You can keep up with what’s happening yourself by keeping an eye out for Munby J’s bulletins, called “View from the President’s Chambers”, here.
An occasional theme for us has been the quirkier side of what we do. To that end, we’ve looked at the history of divorce, the more-common-than-you-might-think non-marriage case, and the story of the divorce of an aristocrat where one of the major family assets was a hoard of ancient stolen treasure. Working as family lawyers, we see all kinds of characters –people of all cultures, backgrounds and beliefs. Our aspiration, for all of them, is to make things better for them and for their families, whether it may be by mediation, collaborative law, negotiation or litigation (see our blog about the different ways of doing things here).
Also very popular are our blogs which include practical tips for people going through separation and divorce. We’ve looked at what to expect at the family court, practical support for parents, moving house, divorce myths, helping a friend through the process and tips for going to mediation. We feel it’s really important to ensure that our clients, and anyone else who needs help, get as much information as they can to assist them while they are trying to work out how to move on to the next stage in their lives.
Thanks for reading – we’re glad you enjoy the blogs. If there’s anything you’d like to see us look at or if you have any comments, do give us a call on 01223 443333.