The latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:
A sister and her brother have successfully managed to revoke an order made in an English family court forcing them to return to the UK to live with their mother.
The judgment for this case features several interesting legal principles which enabled the order to be revoked. However it is of greater importance for the weight it placed on the children’s wishes and feelings in an exceptional case which highlights the balance that needs to be struck between damage caused by forceful removal and any damage caused by parental absence.
The family law case involved a Spanish mother, Belgian father and their children who lived in the UK while the parents were married. Upon the parents separating, the mother remained in the UK and the father left for Spain. Divorce proceedings were initiated in England.
During the divorce proceedings, the children were ordered to live with their mother during a hearing in which the father was not present. The order also set out that the children would spend four weeks in each summer holiday with their father.
The following is an extract from the judgment, handed down by Justice Cobb:
“Within a short time of that order, the children visited their father in Spain for a summer holiday. At the conclusion of the visit, the children did not return to the mother or this jurisdiction as planned. The mother issued proceedings under the 1980 Hague Convention in Spain, and an order for their return was made in March 2018. The children finally returned to England in September 2018. Financial proceedings between the parents, consequent upon the divorce, had in the meantime concluded in this country in June 2018.
In 2019, the children visited Spain again for a holiday, this time initially accompanied by their mother, who was visiting the children’s maternal grandmother (“MGM”). During this visit the mother and A had a serious argument; A fled to her father’s home. On her return to her mother and the MGM, further disagreement followed, and A filed a complaint with the police against her mother, alleging mistreatment. The police complaint did not in fact lead to a prosecution, but A was removed from her mother’s care and for three months was placed in institutional care in Spain; there is a dispute between the parties now as to whether either parent could have given permission to the other to make arrangements to care for A in the short-term. Pursuant to an order of the Valencia Court in November 2019, A was placed in the temporary care of her father, where she has remained. The order was “conditional on the girl being on the one hand schooled in Madrid in a centre that follows the British educational system” and secondly, conditional upon the father filing a “request for modification of measures” (custody).
An order for ‘contact’ between A and her mother was further made. A was placed in school in Madrid. B remained with his mother in London.
The Valencia Court had recorded the “very difficult relationship” between A and her mother; in her ruling, the Magistrate-Judge of the First Instance Court added:
“[A], who will be 16 years old in three months, showed a radical aversion to living with her [mother] again, and although this rejection is justified in a way, it is true that the imposition by force of coexistence with the mother at a time when the confrontation with her is very acute, it could be very damaging for a young woman who has already shown her indomitable character, even betting on risky behaviours” (sic.). (Emphasis by underlining added).”
The order needed to be revoked to ensure that the siblings, who were very close, were not separated.
The mother makes a stoic statement during the proceedings, which is added into the judgment. This is what she says:
“I would like my words and my will to be noted in the order … the reaction of my children upon leaving the court has been very revealing … I have decided that we cannot tighten the rope any more …… with this I do not renounce or abandon my two children ……… I do not renounce my rights but to exercise them for the sake of the minors… I prefer to wait for them to mature and come alone ……… I do not wish to make them unhappy or subject them to further investigations or trials to reach the same conclusion …… I give in to the current desire of my children ……… I do not ask for visits, I will wait for them to ask to come and see me when they are ready …… I can confront my ex-husband but not to my children before the Courts …… I can stand to my ex-husband but not to my children before the Courts …… I hope that my will be taken it into account.”.
There is a very good summary on Lexis Nexis for lawyers who can access the service, and the judgment itself can be accessed on BAILII by anyone for free. It is worth reading the judgment in full, both for the legal mechanisms that made the revocation of the order possible in this case but also for the many different and important twists and turns in this case.
The latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:
- ‘Enormous changes’ to birth certificate rights for adopted people being planned (Ireland)
- Inquiry: The right to family life: adoption of children of unmarried women (England and Wales)
- Climate change: Today’s children ‘will face twice as many droughts’ (Worldwide)
Many thanks to Tum Mum for alerting us to the first item.
Welcome to another week.
A free online event looking at children’s rights in family law and how to protect them marks the launch of an international handbook on child participation in family law cases.
The July press release for the handbook says:
“The handbook offers an analysis of human rights instruments, to which UCERF researcher Charlotte Mol contributed, and examines the pedagogical aspects of child participation.
Child participation in private international law and in national proceedings on divorce, separation, custody and child abduction is the focus.
Experts from 17 countries, including UCERF researchers Wendy Schrama and Christina Jeppesen-de Boer, take stock of national law and reflect on possible improvements.”
The launch features several speakers, including: Professor Ann Skelton, UNESCO Chair in Education Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria, Rotating Honorary Chair of Enforcement of Children’s Rights at the Department of Child Law of the University of Leiden, and Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and; Mrs. Ewa Kopacz, European Parliament Coordinator on Children’s Rights and Vice-President of the European Parliament.
The event, which takes place in October, has been organised by the handbook’s editors: prof. Mariëlle Bruning (Leiden University), dr. Marilyn Freeman (ICFLPP and Westminster Law School), prof. Wendy Schrama (UCERF, UU) and prof. Nicola Taylor (University of Otago).
You can register to attend this event by contacting the event’s organisers at firstname.lastname@example.org
The online launch is on 15th October, from 10am to 12.30pm (we assume European time, so 9am to 11.30pm UK time).
The International Handbook on Child Participation in Family Law is 99 Euros, a price point aimed at legal professionals and law firms. However if you would really like a copy, please let us know and we will contact the publishers to ask if they might consider donating some copies.
Thanks to Global Child for posting this event, and the event’s schedule below, on Twitter.
The latest child welfare stories that should be right on your radar:
The Family Procedure Rule Committee, (FPRC) the body tasked with developing rules used in family law proceedings, wants to see a “diverse and representative” audience for its annual open event this year.
The event is an online meeting where attendees can watch how the rule making process works and put questions to the Committee.
While the web page on GOV.UK’s site for the event describes the attendance sheet for the conference as an invitation, it is actually an application form to make a request to attend the meeting.
The form asks for peoples’ names, the organisation they represent, the “nature of their interest in the committee”, and any questions the individual would like to ask the Committee. The form also says “invitees will be selected to try to ensure a diverse and representative audience,” without offering any additional detail as to who that might include.
If you are interested in seeing how the system works in this context, or you just want to challenge the Committee on the rules and their effectiveness, you can apply by filling out the form which can be found here.
Those accepted to attend the event, which is free, will watch the FPRC hold a meeting as they carry out their business but will not be able to interact with the committee as they discuss their agenda.
Individuals who have sent in questions will be notified in advance if their questions are selected to be put to the committee and will be allowed to ask their questions to the committee direct after the business portion of the meeting has come to a close.
If you do not want to fill out the form or cannot, you can reach out to the FPRC Secretariat direct by email: FPRCSecretariat@justice.gov.uk
Closing date to apply to attend the event is 7 October, 2021.
The event takes place on Monday 1 November from 10am to 1.30pm, and will be launched on MS Teams.
An online event taking place on Thursday will highlight the way family courts in England and Wales handle domestic violence cases on the ground.
Despite ongoing policy and law-based efforts in recent years to raises awareness about domestic abuse and how it affects children and families in the UK, family courts have not managed to provide a uniform and competent service to tackle this form of violence.
The free online event has been organised by Support Not Separation — an organisation run by Legal Action for Women — and Barnet Women’s Equality Party, and is titled “Domestic abuse & the treatment of mothers & children behind the closed doors of the Family Court.”
The event will be chaired by Christine Dean, the deputy leader of the Women’s Equality Party. The page for this event says Dean has more than 25 years’ experience as a family lawyer.
Panellists include Nihal Ates, a member of Solace Women’s Aid, Barnet, which provides support to survivors of domestic abuse in the borough and Anne Neale, a member of Legal Action for Women, an organisation which describes itself as “a grassroots anti-sexist, anti-racist legal service for all women.”
The event is taking place September 23, 2021, from 7:00pm to 8pm.
For questions about the event, you can email Olivia and Lisa at: email@example.com
The event is free to attend, but the booking site says donations are welcome.
The latest child welfare items that should be right on you radar:
Welcome to another week.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reshuffled his cabinet, with the first appointments announced on 15 September.
Of significance for the child welfare sector, are the appointments of Dominic Raab as the new justice secretary, Sajid Javid as secretary of state for health and social care, Nadhim Zahawi as education secretary, Thérèse Coffey as minister for Work and Pensions and Michael Gove as housing, communities and local government minister.
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service, and Minister for the Union
- Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
Ministry of Justice
- Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, and Secretary of State for Justice – Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP
- Minister of State – Kit Malthouse MP (jointly with the Home Office)
- Attorney General – Rt Hon Suella Braverman MP
Department of Health and Social Care
- Secretary of State for Health and Social Care – The Rt Hon Sajid Javid
Department for Education
- Secretary of State for Education – Nadhim Zahawi MP
- Minister of State – Michelle Donelan MP
Department for Work and Pensions
- Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey MP
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
- Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
- Secretary of State for the Home Department – Rt Hon Priti Patel MP
- Minister of State – Kit Malthouse MP (jointly with the Ministry of Justice)
- Chancellor of the Exchequer – Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
- Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Simon Clarke MP
- Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office – Rt Hon Stephen Barclay MP
- Minister of State – The Rt Hon Lord Frost CMG
- COP26 President – Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP
- Minister without Portfolio – Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP
- Minister of State – Nigel Adams MP
Ministry of Defence
- Secretary of State for Defence – Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
- Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, and Minister for Women and Equalities – Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP
Department for International Trade
- Secretary of State for International Trade, and President of the Board of Trade – Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
- Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
- Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – Nadine Dorries MP
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – Rt Hon George Eustice MP
Department for Transport
- Secretary of State for Transport – Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Northern Ireland Office
- Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – Rt Hon Brandon Lewis CBE MP
- Secretary of State for Scotland – Rt Hon Alister Jack MP
- Secretary of State for Wales – Rt Hon Simon Hart MP
Office of the Leader of the House of Lords
- Lord Privy Seal, and Leader of the House of Lords – Rt Hon Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Office of the Leader of the House of Commons
- Lord President of the Council, and Leader of the House of Commons – Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP
Whips – House of Commons
- Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Chief Whip) – Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP
The following have left the government:
- Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP – previously Secretary of State for Education
- Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP – previously Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
- Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP – previously Lord Chancellor, and Secretary of State for Justice
For a breakdown of all departments and which ministers head them, click here.
You can also access previous cabinets, to compare and contrast, or just satisfy curiosity, below:
A Bill to reinforce children’s rights and make sure they can participate meaningfully in decisions being made about them inside Queensland’s child protection system has been introduced.
The new law will amend the Child Protection Act 1999 to reinforce children’s rights within the system’s legal framework, strengthen children’s voices in relation to decisions that affect them, and improve the regulation of the care system.
Minister for Children Leanne Linard said:
“During consultations held in regard to this legislation, young people in the child protection system told us they want to be heard and need to be able to participate in decisions made about their lives. I can assure them that we have listened.”
“We have introduced the Child Protection Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, which will strengthen the Act to ensure children will be genuinely empowered and supported to participate in decisions about their lives and the child protection system,” she added.
The legislation makes Queensland the first jurisdiction in Australia “to acknowledge in legislation the need for children to have a voice where they must be listened to, engaged with and where active attempts must be made to understand their views,” Linard said.
Interesting clauses and amendments include:
- Clause 8 (2): a child has the right to express the child’s views about what is, and is not, in the child’s best interests.
- Clause 11, Obtaining Children’s Views:
- Unless a provision of this Act states otherwise, the person must ensure the following in relation to the exercise of the power or the making of the decision-
- (a) the child is given meaningful and ongoing opportunities to participate;
- (b) the child is allowed to decide whether or not the child will participate;
- (c) the child is given information that is reasonably necessary to allow the child to participate;
- (d) the child is advised about what help is available to the child;
- (e) the person understands and considers, or makes a genuine attempt to understand and consider, any views expressed by the child;
- (f) the child is allowed to express views that are different to views previously expressed by the child;
- (g) communication with the child is carried out in a way that is appropriate for the child;
- (h) a record of views expressed by the child is made that, if appropriate, uses the child’s words.
- If the child decides to participate in the exercise of the power or the making of the decision, the person must ensure that—
- (a) the child is allowed to decide how the child will participate; and
- Examples of how a child may decide to participate—
- communicating verbally or non-verbally
- communicating directly with a particular person
- communicating indirectly through a trusted person, including, for example, a member of the child’s family or family group, the child’s carer or the public guardian
- communicating indirectly through an independent person, including, for example, the child’s legal representative or health practitioner
- communicating indirectly through a written statement or an audio or video recording
- communicating indirectly through an expert in a report prepared by the expert
- participating separately from particular persons
- (b) the person listens to and engages with, or makes a genuine attempt to listen to and engage with, the child; and
- (c) the child is given help to participate if the child requires it.
- If the child decides not to participate, or is otherwise unable to participate, in the exercise of the power or the making of the decision, the person must ensure—
- (a) the person obtains, or makes a genuine attempt to obtain, the views of the child in another way that is appropriate for the child; and
- Example of a way to obtain a child’s views that may be appropriate—
- a report prepared by a psychologist for the child
- (b) the child’s decision, or inability, does not operate to the detriment of the child in relation to the exercise of the power or the making of the decision