Family Law Blog

Stopping Child Contact

05 January 2018, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

This was the opinion of the court of appeal in the case of an ultra orthodox Jewish father who had left his community to live as a woman, who was appealing against a decision that she should not have direct contact with her children. The appeal was upheld and the case was referred back to the high court.

After it became known that the father was living as a woman, the religious community threatened to ostracise the family if they had any contact with her. The high court judge had decided that the gulf between the parents, the mother within the orthodox community and the father as a transgender person, was too wide for the children to bridge.

The court of appeal disagreed and decided that it was more important that a parent was able to see their children, the judge has a positive duty to attempt to promote contact and to consider all available alternatives. The high court judge had given up too easily.

If you are experiencing problems with the arrangements for your children, or would just like to find out more information about the issues raised above, please contact   Nicola Dunkerley. Please call 0161 883 0460 or email Nicola.dunkerley@taylorking.co.uk  for further information.

Benefit of early legal advice

08 November 2017, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

A report by Ipsos Mori commissioned by the Law Society, showed a link between getting early legal advice and resolving problems. The vice president of the Law Society stated that without early advice, relatively minor legal problems can escalate. The research showed that one in four people who received early legal advice had resolved their problem within three to four months as against nine months for those without legal advice. Early legal advice was defined as within three months.

If you are contemplating separation or have separated form your partner give us a call. We provide free legal advice over the telephone and can advise you of your rights and options. If you want a face to face appointment, then you can have a fixed-fee interview of up to one hour at a cost of £75 plus VAT.

Child Maintenance

05 October 2017, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

Parents who are able to agree child maintenance, can make a family based arrangement. This route is encouraged on the CMS (child maintenance service) website. It claims that 85% of parents are happy with such arrangements.

However, these arrangements are not legally binding and cannot be enforced if the paying party fails to make the payments.

If an agreement can be reached within divorce proceedings, this can be incorporated into a consent order and becomes legally binding. However, the consent order can be replaced by a child maintenance assessment once the order has been in place for more than 12 months. Either party can apply to the CMS for an assessment. Once the assessment has taken place, it replaces the court order. The order will not automatically be replaced by a child maintenance assessment after 12 months. An application has to be made to the CMS and an assessment made. The paying parent cannot assume that if the CMS assessment is less than the court order it will be automatically reduced after 12 months.

The court can make a child maintenance order in circumstances where the CMS has no jurisdiction e.g. where the paying party is not resident in the UK.

The court often makes a maintenance order which is the mirror of a CMS assessment. However, the court has a discretion and can make an amount that It deems appropriate and is not bound by the CMS figure.

If you would like to find out more information about the issues raised above, please contact Susan Taylor. 0161 883 0460 or email st@taylorking.co.uk

Enforcement of Contact Orders

25 September 2017, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

Many parents manage to make amicable arrangements for the children to have contact with the other parent, even when the breakdown of their relationship has been very acrimonious. However if parents cannot agree on suitable arrangements, then the courts will often be required to intervene and make a Contact Order.

Even when an order is in place situations arise where a parent refuses to comply with the Order.  When this happens you have to consider what sanctions the court can impose and which would be appropriate.

There are a number of sanctions which are available to the Court including:-

  • Imposing contact activity order such as such as parenting classes
  • Requiring Cafcass to monitor compliance and report back to the Court
  • Imposing curfews, electronic tagging and/or unpaid work
  • Ordering financial compensation be paid for losses sustained by the failure to comply with an order
  • Transferring residence of the child either immediately or on a suspended basis i.e. the Court suspend the change of residence unless or until the original resident parent breaches the Contact Order again
  • Ultimately the Court could commit someone to prison for contempt of Court

Whether a sanction is appropriate, and if so, which sanction is applied will depend on the circumstances in each case.

In certain circumstances rather than enforce an order, the court will take a fresh look at the existing order and decide whether or not it would be appropriate to vary it. The main consideration of the court is the welfare of the child/children, not the rights of the parents.

If you have the benefit of a Contact Order, but are concerned that it is not being adhered to, you should take advice as early as possible.

 

If you are experiencing problems with the arrangements for your children, or would just like to find out more information about the issues raised above, please contact   Nicola Dunkerley. Please call 0161 883 0460 or email Nicola.dunkerley@taylorking.co.uk  for further information.

Child arrangements on separation – Shared Care

24 May 2017, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

When parents separate, whether after marriage or cohabitation, it is always best to keep things as amicable as possible.   The court encourages this approach and takes the view that unless it is unsafe to do so then it is best for children to spend time with each of their parents. This does not have to mean an equal division of time, which often does not meet a child’s needs, but can mean any manner of divisions, varying from weekends to 50/50 arrangements.

In England and Wales under current law, where the parents can agree arrangements, the Court will generally not interfere as the view taken by them is that parents are the best people to decide what is in their children’s best interests.  The Court will only make an Order in relation to the children’s care if it is satisfied doing so would be better for the children than making no order at all.

It has often been mistaken in the past that when families separate the children always remain with their mother.  This is not the case and if parties are unable to agree matters amicably, the court’s paramount concern will be the children’s welfare and what is in their best interests.  This might mean the children living with their father and the court can consider a variety of options, including sharing the residence of the children.

Sharing the care of the children means that the children alternate their periods of residence between two or more homes.   Whether this works in practice will depend on the individual circumstances but it can be an attractive option to parties where it might not be appropriate or best for the children to reside only with one parent.  The effect of sharing care under a court order will also put the parents on an equal footing.  Shared care does not have to equate to equal time spent in each home but the time should be significant.  The court will be reluctant to make such orders if the arrangements are more akin to living in one home and, for example, children spending time with the non-resident parent once a week.

Where possible, we aim to resolve family disputes, particularly those involving children, in an amicable way, and consider alternatives to litigation in the first instance.  We recognise that following a separation, emotions can be high.  Where children are involved, however, relationships need to be maintained to allow for communications between the parents long after any proceedings have concluded.  As a result, we consider with our clients whether their case is suitable for mediation, we encourage parents to attend family mediation. At mediation they can come to a decision about the suitable arrangements for their children. If court proceedings are issued, then a judge will take that decision.

Unless there are issues of domestic violence, the parents are required to attend family mediation and an application for a child arrangement order can only be applied for after the mediator has confirmed that it is not a suitable case for mediation.

If there have been problems in the past with regard to the breakdown of arrangements for the children and the parents having reached an agreement want it incorporated into an order, the court has jurisdiction to make a consent order.

The court can make a shared care order in circumstances where the children spend considerably more time with one parent than the other. In essence, the parents are accepting a joint commitment to their children.

If you are experiencing problems with the arrangements for your children, or would just like to find out more information about the issues raised above, please contact   Nicola Dunkerley. Please call 0161 883 0460 or email Nicola.dunkerley@taylorking.co.uk  for further information.

Separate representation of children in contact proceedings – The Child’s Guardian

24 April 2017, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

In certain circumstances, in private law children act proceedings the court decides that the children should be made a party to the proceedings and separately represented.

The court appoints a guardian for the children to represent and safeguard their interests.

This can happen e.g. when the animosity between the parents is such that they fail to take into account the interests of the children.  A guardian can also be appointed if there are allegations of physical or sexual abuse by one parent.

The children’s guardian is a qualified social worker, trained and experienced in dealing with children and families. The children’s guardian is independent and normally works for Cafcass. They are to assist the court in achieving the best possible outcome for the children.

The duties of the guardian are;

  1. To appoint a solicitor for the child
  2. To advise the court with regard to the progress of the proceedings
  3. Write a report with their recommendations about what is in the best interests of the children, which will include their wishes and feelings.

 

The recommendations of the guardian may be in conflict with the wishes if the child, in those circumstances the child’s solicitor will out forward to the court the views of the child and the guardian will present their own conclusions.

If you are experiencing problems with the arrangements for your children, or would just like to find out more information about the issues raised above, please contact   Nicola Dunkerley. Please call 0161 883 0460 or email Nicola.dunkerley@taylorking.co.uk  for further information.

 

Who or what is Cafcass?

23 March 2017, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

CAFCASS stands for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. It is separate from the court service and provides expertise to the court when required.

When an application is made to the court for a child arrangement or other order in respect of a child or children, CAFCASS will initially undertake safeguarding checks on the parents with social services and the police. These enquiries are to ascertain whether or not the parents have criminal convictions, are on the sex offenders list, there are issues of domestic violence and any involvement of social services in the lives of the children. CAFCASS will speak to the parents over the telephone to determine the reason for the application and write a short report.

At the first hearing called a FDHRA, a CAFCASS officer will meet both parents at court to discuss the case and make recommendations to the court. If issues arise which affect the welfare of the child/children, the court can order CAFCASS to create a report.

The recommendations of CAFCASS will have a significant influence on the eventual outcome of the case. Parents often accept the recommendations in the report.

The CAFCASS officer is appointed by the court. Parents are often unhappy about the conclusions in the report. It is not possible to change the appointed CAFCASS officer, however, if a parent has serious concerns then they can make a complaint against the officer using the CAFCASS complaints procedure.

In a limited number of cases, after concerns have been raised, either CAFCASS or the court will appoint a new CAFCASS officer.

The court is under no obligation to follow the recommendations of the CAFCASS officer in their report. It is a matter of judicial discretion. The overriding consideration is what is in the best interests of the child/children.

A parent can ask the court to order the author of the CAFCASS report to attend to give evidence. At the hearing, the CAFCASS officer will be cross-examined. If the cross-examination raises concerns about short comings in the report, the court may be influenced to go against the proposals of the CAFCASS officer.

We acted in behalf of a father seeking contact with his son. The original recommendation of the CAFCASS officer was that he should not have direct contact with the child. This recommendation had been made on the basis of allegations made by the mother against the father which were totally unfounded.  This was later confirmed after a fact-finding hearing. The CAFCASS officer was removed from the case.

If you are experiencing problems with the arrangements for your children, or would just like to find out more information about the issues raised above, please contact   Nicola Dunkerley. Please call 0161 883 0460 or email Nicola.dunkerley@taylorking.co.uk  for further information.

Increase in Applications to the Courts

30 March 2016, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) received 3,237 new private Children Act cases in February 2016 which is an increase of 10% on February 2015.

There have been a total of 18,753 in the last six months which represents a 6% increase on the same period last year.

The increase in care applications received by Cafcass has increased even more. In February 2016 Cafcass received 1,225 care applications which is a 27% increase on February 2015. It is also the highest number of applications received in a single month. The number of applications in the last six months is up 15% on those in the corresponding months last year.

Parent Plan

19 March 2016, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

Parent Plan, a secure website that helps separated and divorced parents to communicate with one another in order to make arrangements for their children, has recently been launched. It aims to enable parents to communicate effectively and keep up to date with their children’s lives even if they do not see them every day.

Members have access to a calendar on which they can upload diary events and activities. They can also store contact details, and upload pictures and documents such as school reports or drawings. This information can be shared with the other parent and other selected adults involved in the child’s life such as grandparents or carers.

Parent Plan is free for everyone until 1st June 2016.

To access the site click here [https://www.parentplan.com/].

Developments to the family courts

18 September 2015, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

The Law Society’s Family Section has issued an update to the changes to the Family Courts. This update includes:
1. They expect all the divorce work from London, which was being transferred on a phased basis, to be processed from Bury St Edmunds by October 2015. It is expected that the Bury St Edmunds divorce centre will issue approximately 40,000 petitions a year.

2. It is expected that changes to the divorce petition will be introduced by the end of September 2015.

3. Guidance is being developed on what would constitute ‘urgent’ work, examples would include applications to set aside transactions or jurisdictional disputes. For now, the local courts can still issue urgent work.

4. The Financial Remedies Unit has been established as a specialist unit within the Central Family Court to efficiently handle complex financial cases. In order to be transferred to the FRU the case must be sufficiently complex and a Certificate of Financial Complexity completed. The certificate requires details of the total value of the assets with tick boxes flagging up any other potential areas of complexity including:

a. Complex asset or income structures

b. Non-disclosure (this may become more relevant subject to the outcome of the appeals to the Supreme Court of Sharland and Gohil)

c. Assets held offshore or through offshore settlements, family businesses or unquoted corporate entities, or where there is an issue of the value of such entities

d. Expert accountancy evidence is required

e. There are issues over contributions or substantial arguments over matrimonial /non-matrimonial assets

f. Disputed allegations of obvious and gross conduct

g. Illiquidity of assets

h. Complex or novel legal arguments

If it appears that the complexity criterion may not be met the application will be sent to a judge of the FRU who may decide to send the application to Bury St Edmunds for issuing.

In July 2015 Mostyn J revised the asset thresholds for financial remedy hearings before High Court Judges. In order to be transferred to the High Court the total assets should exceed £15million, or the overall net income exceed £1million. If the assets are between £7.5million and £11million there should be substantial allegations or issues relating to non-disclosure, offshore assets, reliance on a pre/post nuptial agreement or significant third party interests. The only applications that will be transferred to the High Court where the assets are less than £7.5million are those involving a novel and important point of law.