It is CFLP tradition at this time to do a little review of the year, recapping some of the subjects we’ve looked at in the last 12 months. As we come to the end of 2016, a year of shocks and surprises if ever there was one, we can look back at a relatively quiet year in family law.
January saw us focusing on the early days of separation, and sources of information for those going through relationship difficulties and unsure of their next move. We also looked at an interesting case where the court had been asked to decide for or against children moving permanently out of the jurisdiction, the twist in this tale being that the children were 15 and 17 years old.
February saw us discussing, among other things, the question of whether moving a child to a different part of the country is tackled differently by the court to moving overseas, and a case where a heat-of-the-moment email row was used as a foundation for illegally keeping children away from their home country.
In March, we looked at child maintenance, a case where a court had wrongly required a parent to apologise to the other as a precondition of reestablishing contact, and a confidentiality case regarding gender change, but the big news was that the family court upheld an arbitrated award for the first time after it was challenged by one of the parties, in essence giving its stamp of approval to the process of arbitration in family law matters.
Coming into April, the focus was on parenting: whether the court could interfere with a mother’s choice of name for her child (it could) and whether a grown man had a right to test a deceased man’s DNA to find out whether he had been his father. Unusual stuff!
In May we discussed the best way to introduce a new partner to children after divorce or separation, the subject of coercive control, and the relevance of the previous family standard of living on divorce.
June saw us looking at the impact of Brexit on international families, and examining a shocking case where parents had lost all perspective and started bugging a child to get information about confidential meetings she was having with social workers as part of family proceedings.
In July we shared new guidance on the meaning of ‘needs’ when working out financial plans after divorce, and we celebrated the commencement of the children law arbitration scheme, including Simon’s qualification as a child law arbitrator.
Coming to August, we focused on the subject of sexting, and the NSPCC’s campaign to make parents and kids more aware of the realities and the dangers of sending sexual images over the internet. Positive parenting was the main message. We also suggested 10 guidelines for separating well.
At the beginning of the autumn, September saw us looking at a case where a father was restricted from texting his daughter, and the first children law arbitration. We also considered the particular yet universal issues affecting celebrities on the breakdown of a marriage, as news broke that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are going their separate ways.
October saw us looking at issues of non-disclosure and fraud on the court in financial proceedings, and considering a couple of cases where one of those involved had been less than truthful about the extent of their assets or financial circumstances. These two cases served as a reminder that whoever you are and whatever your personal circumstances, a financial agreement or order on divorce can never be final if you haven’t told the truth.
In November we looked at the different sorts of experts who might be involved during a divorce, and considered what it means to be a Resolution practitioner, as we all are at CFLP, in connection with the organisation’s ‘good divorce week’. We also considered the tragic case of parents disagreeing about a girl who wanted to be cryogenically frozen after her death from cancer, and looked at the increasing social trend of people deciding to live together without formalizing their relationships by marriage or civil partnership, and what this means for them in legal terms.
Finally this month we have considered the process of working out how children’s time should be spent with each of their parents after separation, taking into account academic literature and court practice, and a domestic abuse case where the court recognised that modern understanding of what constitutes abuse should be taken into account by the law.
Although it’s not been a ‘vintage’ year for family law, in that the Supreme Court has not been churning out decisions that affect the way people lead their lives after divorce or separation, we have clearly seen subtle shifts in court practice that have protected or enhanced the positions of vulnerable people. As we move towards the legal chaos that Brexit may bring, this stability is actually rather welcome. There may be challenges ahead.
CFLP would like to wish all our readers, clients and colleagues a peaceful Christmas and a happy and healthy 2017.