Report on Impact of Public Law Outline Fails To Examine Impact on Families – And Justice

Yawn, yawn, and yawn, yet another 100 page document about professionals extolling the virtues of the new guidelines surrounding public family law cases and making snide underhand comments about the others’ sector….

So let’s cut to the chase and set down the key, stay awake now, findings:

  • Social workers need more training
  • The courts need to be better organised
  • Delays are still a part of the system
  • Parents aren’t being properly advised (the term the report uses is “focused legal guidance” –  that just means there are still too many lawyers out there dishing out incorrect legal advice).
  • Strict time limits are actually making a mess of things (the report tries to sugar coat this, but the data makes it clear – more haste, less speed).
  • The system lacks logical follow through (case management mayhem is still a problem)

And of course, not one person who had actually used the system was asked whether it was efficient, responsive and dynamic.

Despite the fact that this report states the obvious, it’s worth reading and does offer some interesting links to further research and information on the Public Law Outline.

Bring biscuits. Chocolate ones.


McKenzie Friends Given Greater Recognition in Report

The Legal Consumer Services Panel have published a report which backs McKenzie friends and considers the need to regulate this growing form of representation.

It’s good news for the McKenzie culture, still shunned by courts and judges all over the land, but the regulation dimension may cause difficulties. Much depends on what angle the LCS Panel chooses to take, and as a legal service body it will be interesting to see whether they view McKenzies as a way of making money through them via the use of regulation or as a way of deterring their use through onerous regulatory procedures. There’s a balance to be had, we’re just not sure yet what it might look like in practice.

Add to this the government’s recent decision to get law students to ‘prep’ families going through the courts in dedicated centres, and it all seems rather self-serving. Despite Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes saying he wants less lawyers involved in the process, this new measure is likely to encourage the opposite.

It’s all a little transparent and disappointing, but one thing’s for sure – McKenzies are here to stay. It’s time they made a stand and got involved in the process of cultivating themselves to prevent greedy government officials from taking advantage of what they have to offer – often, first hand experience and an excellent understanding of what law is truly meant to represent.

You can read the report, here.



Mission Complete? Single Family Court Comes Into Effect, But What Effect Will it Have?

Today is the day that the family justice system’s long-awaited revamp comes into effect. The system has been revamped before, but not quite to this extent. These changes came about due to a review which took place in 2011 and which concluded that significant changes should take place inside the system. Sir James Munby, the current President of the Family Division, has been responsible for overseeing these changes.

But what do they mean in practice and will they make a difference to the people who matter most – our families and children?

In theory at least, the modernisation of the system, for that’s what it really boils down to, looks set to change the face of family law forever. (That’s just the face, we’ll get to the other body parts in a moment).

The Single Family Court is now an exclusive court dealing solely with family law matters, a little like a large umbrella covering an entire area. As a ‘court’, it will deal with all family proceedings but a small number of cases will be dealt with by the High Court. The recently passed Children and Families Act 2014 will also be implemented.

However, in reality, although the Magistrates’ courts and County courts will not be able to deal with family proceedings, it will be possible for the Single Family Court, or Family Court as it will also be known from today, to sit in these courts’ buildings.

This change therefore is perhaps little more than a symbolic nod to the existence of family law as a standalone area of practice. It is also unlikely to have any tangible effect for children and their families.

In fact, most of the changes which will affect families are likely to stem from new legislation and guidance. We recommend Jordans’ page on all things Single Family Court for this information, which gets updated as and when more developments occur or materials emerge.

ITV are also doing very interesting news feeds on various items and their dedicated page to the Family Court is interesting for media reactions and other thoughts on the ‘new system.’

We can’t way we’re not pleased the system is getting an overhaul – we just hope that after the pandemonium dies down (if it ever does) and confusion no longer reigns supreme over what is to be done and when, that the system not only looks like it’s 21st century savvy, but acts like it, too. We have yet to see what the head, heart and soul of the system looks like in practice.


Sir Paul Coleridge Retires His Wig And Picks Up His Axe

As we mentioned last year, the controversial judge whose conservative views on marriage got him into hot water with the Judicial Complaints Investigations Office (and the public at large), has now officially retired. 

Paul Coleridge made the decision to step down as a judge after he was unable to garner support for his think tank The Marriage Foundation, amongst fellow lawyers and judges. Paul is now set to focus all his energies on the Foundation, which does not support gay marriage, so it will be interesting to see what happens next.

For our part, we can’t wait. Unless Paul gets a very clever PR firm to produce enough spin on the think tank to confuse and befuddle the nation, we can, we think, all look forward to a good laugh.

This is the twenty-first century. Marriage is no longer about dogma, it’s about love.

London Business Awards 2014 – DadsHouse Selected To Be A Finalist!!!

We are beyond thrilled to let you know that leading father’s charity DadsHouse has made it to the finals of Prospect’s London Business Awards 2014.

The awards fall into different categories, and DadsHouse has been shortlisted within the Commitment to the Community category.

This category focuses on businesses which positively impact the local community.

DadsHouse was set up in 2007 to offer lone and single dads support and advice during separation or bereavement. Since opening its doors, the enterprise has helped thousands of fathers stay in touch with their children, foster positive relationships within the family unit and has actively campaigned to change the way we view single fathers, as a society.

If anyone deserves to win this award, it’s DadsHouse and its founder, Billy McGranaghan. There is simply nothing else out there like DadsHouse.

Winners will be announced on the 17th July, so please keep your fingers crossed!

The Buzz

Here are the latest news items we thought might interest you:

Action for Children Ignore the Issues Surrounding Cinderella Law

It took their Public Affairs team two weeks to get back to us, so we assumed they had taken the time to answer at least some of the questions we sent over, questions everyone in the know are asking, about Cinderella Law.

What we got back though, was a very nice, if totally ineffective, fob-off.

You would think the Public Affairs team would understand the importance of engaging with the public on the very serious concerns already coming to light in certain quarters about the proposed law – namely that it uses criminal sanctions in situations many are finding unreasonable.

We also appreciate that Researching Reform is not a national newspaper, but when a Public Affairs team explains that they are frustrated with the way the media have dubbed the proposal Cinderella Law (because it does not illustrate the scope of the problem effectively), you would think they would jump at the chance to engage with audiences who are actually prepared to listen.

What a wasted opportunity. Even if they choose not to engage with us in the future, let’s hope they answer some of the hard-hitting questions raised in other arenas at some point.

Judge of The Week: Mr Justice Treacy

One of our greatest bug bears about the family justice system is the quality of evidence that comes before a court. That evidence is used to make some of the most dramatic decisions any human being might face in their lifetime and can lead to the removal of children from their family.

The veracity of that evidence then, must be of the highest calibre. Too often though, this is not the case and there is an entrenched and persistent culture inside the system which allows this exceptionally important aspect of child welfare to go awry.

Wonderful news then, that judges across the country including Mrs Justice Pauffley are making a stand against shabby procedure and less than satisfactory evidence. The latest judge to get tough on slack social work is Mr Justice Treacy, who recently ruled that a decision to remove a child from her mother was unlawful. There was simply not enough evidence, and an active decision on the Local Authority’s part not to consult with all the relevant parties. As is often the case, willful fabrication of facts to see the removal through was also part of the debacle.

For his courage and determination to ensure that good law is applied and followed, we make Mr Justice Treacy our Judge of the Week. We doff our hat to you.

Big hat tip to Alison Stevens over at PAIN for sharing this story on Google+, where we found it.



Question It!

Welcome to another week of family news and politics.

Our question for you this week revolves around the notion of a bullet proof marriage. A recent wedding expo in South Africa hosted a stand for a book which promises to make your marriage just that. Setting aside the religious undertones and the distinct antipathy towards divorce in the article, we thought the book’s central message was interesting. Essentially, the book argues that marriages are really just about learning to problem solve, and that this is the key to a successful, and lasting, marriage.

Among some of the tips the book offers, is the idea that the real enemy inside a marriage is not your partner, but the problem you are facing together. The book also suggests identifying the root cause of the conflict to allow for a better understanding of one another, honing communication skills and developing the right attitude towards your partner.

We thought these were all interesting suggestions. But are marriages really ever bullet proof, even with safety nets and hard work?

Our question then, is this: Do you think marriages can be bullet proof, and if so, what do you think makes a marriage indestructible?


Latest Entry: Encylopaedia on Family and The Law – Child Arrangements Programme, Superbly Explained

The latest entry in our Encyclopaedia is an explanation of the new Child Arrangements Programme, written by Lorna Borthwick, a barrister at Cornwall Street Chambers.

It is a must-read for anyone who would like to get to grips with the new developments in private family law and is simply perfection. From its elegant structure, to its clear, simple language and beyond (Lorna explains the current nuances in the area brilliantly), it should be your go-to material for information on the Private Law Programme. If you’re representing yourself in court, or you’re a McKenzie friend we think you’ll find this article incredibly helpful too.

If you want to chat with Lorna in real time, you can catch her over on Twitter. 

A very big thank you to Lorna for her piece.

Your submissions mean the world to us, and they are deeply valued by those who are looking for more information on the family justice system. If you would like to submit a piece, we would love to hear from you. Do take a look at Lorna’s submission in the mean time; it’s a perfect template.


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