Bankruptcy is unfortunately an issue that crops up quite frequently in connection with financial settlements on divorce.

And just how bankruptcy can affect a divorce settlement, in particular in relation to the former matrimonial home, was demonstrated by a recent case that took place in the High Court in London.

The case concerned an appeal by a husband against a financial remedies order providing for him to transfer to the wife his half share in the former matrimonial home. The property had an agreed value of £1.5 million, so the husband’s half share was worth £750,000, as the property was mortgage-free.

The order was made on the 4th of March 2020. Its effect was to leave the wife with roughly 80 per cent of the parties’ capital. The husband appealed, claiming that this division was unfair.

But the real issue was that the husband had been made bankrupt by a bankruptcy order made on the 26th of February 2020, just six days before the financial remedies order was made. The effect of the order was to pass the husband’s assets to his Trustee in bankruptcy, who would use them to pay the husband’s debts.

The husband had in fact concealed from the wife and the court that bankruptcy proceedings had been commenced against him some five months earlier (he only revealed the existence of the bankruptcy order on the day that the financial remedies order was made). As Mr Justice Peel, hearing the appeal, said, had the husband revealed the bankruptcy proceedings earlier, it is likely that the judge would have endeavoured to hand down judgment earlier, and make an order earlier, such that the wife would have received 100% of the former matrimonial home prior to the bankruptcy order.

Mr Justice Peel also commented: “It is hard to resist the conclusion that [the husband] acted in this way deliberately to leave [the wife] and the court no opportunity to prevent the bankruptcy taking its course.”

But the bankruptcy order had been made prior to the financial remedies order. Accordingly, the order for the husband to transfer his share of the former matrimonial home to the wife was wrong, because there was no share to transfer, as by the date of the order it has passed to the husband’s Trustee in bankruptcy.

In the circumstances Mr Justice Peel discharged the order for the husband to transfer his share of the former matrimonial home to the wife. He did, however, order that the wife should receive any surplus from the husband’s half share in the property, after payment of the Trustee’s costs and all sums paid to creditors under the bankruptcy.

There are two things to be taken from this case:

Firstly, that if a spouse is made bankrupt before the final financial remedies order then the other spouse may lose their claim to the bankrupt spouse’s assets, as those assets will be passed to the Trustee in bankruptcy and used to pay the bankrupt spouse’s debts.

Secondly, that if your marriage has broken down and you have reason to believe that your spouse may be made bankrupt (or simply that they are unable to pay their debts), then you should inform your lawyer immediately.

You can read the full report of the case here.

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It is now well known that the courts of England and Wales will give effect to a prenuptial agreement that is freely entered into by each party with a full appreciation of its implications, unless in the circumstances it would be unfair to hold the parties to the agreement.

And a recent case provides an excellent example of this approach.

The case concerned a wife’s financial remedies application, following a short, childless, marriage.

On the day that the parties married, they signed a prenuptial agreement which provided that each party should retain their own separate property, that any jointly owned property would be split between them, and that neither party would bring a claim against the other.

On the hearing of her application the wife disclosed assets of approximately £61.5 million. The husband, meanwhile, disclosed assets of approximately £850,000.

The wife claimed that, in view of the prenuptial agreement, she should pay the husband nothing.

The husband, on the other hand, argued that he should not be held to the terms of the prenuptial agreement claiming (amongst other things) that the wife assured him that he would always be provided for. He therefore sought a settlement of about £2.4 million.

Hearing the application, Mr Justice Francis did not agree that the husband should not be held to the terms of the prenuptial agreement. He said:

“It is ridiculous, I am afraid, to say on the one hand, “I am signing this and I am recording on the face of it that I know what I am doing, I know what the consequences of it are, I know I get nothing”, and yet, on the other hand, like a child with his fingers crossed behind his back, say “It will be all right really.” That is not the way that prenuptial agreements, documents of this kind, work.”

In short, he said, he was “not going to tear up the prenuptial agreement”.

Instead, he merely looked at what provision, if any, should be made by the wife for the husband’s reasonable needs, and assessed this in the sum of £455,000, which is what he awarded the husband.

But that was not the end of the matter. Mr Justice Francis also ordered the husband to pay £75,000 towards the wife’s legal costs, such sum to be deducted from the £455,000 award.

All in all, a demonstration of the approach of the court to prenuptial agreements, and the perils of challenging an agreement.

You can read the main judgment in the case here, and the costs judgment here.

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Access to justice is of course a basic right. Anyone in need of a remedy to a legal problem may apply to the court to seek that remedy.

And if the court makes an order in response to such an application then that order should of course be obeyed.

But what if someone who seeks a remedy has also failed to comply with a previous court order? Obviously, they will want any order made on their application obeyed, but if they are not themselves obeying an order then they are effectively ‘picking and choosing’ which orders should be obeyed.

So is there a way to stop someone acting with such impunity?

The answer is that there is. It is called a Hadkinson order, after a case of that name reported way back in 1952.

A Hadkinson order is an order preventing a party from making or taking further steps in a case until they comply with a previous court order.

Obviously, restricting a party’s access to justice in this way this is a drastic step for a court to take, and the court will only therefore make a Hadkinson order as a last resort, where that party is in wilful contempt of court, and that contempt impeded the course of justice.

A recent example of a Hadkinson order being made occurred in a case that took place in the Central Family Court in London in February.

The case concerned an order made in November 2017 requiring the husband to pay maintenance to the wife in the sum of £3,500 per month.

The husband failed to pay the maintenance and in April 2023 the wife issued enforcement proceedings.

In July 2023 the husband issued his own application to vary the maintenance order. Crucially, this was not made on the basis that the husband could not afford to pay the maintenance, but on the basis that the wife should by then have been earning more, and that she was cohabiting.

The wife then issued an application for a Hadkinson order, preventing the husband from proceeding with his application to vary unless he cleared the arrears on the maintenance order.

Hearing the application, the District Judge had no difficulty in finding that the husband was in contempt, and that that contempt was deliberate.

The other question for the District Judge was: Was there then an impediment to the course of justice? The District Judge found that there was, as without the maintenance payments the wife would be unable to afford legal representation to continue with the case.

Now, obviously anyone seeking to vary a maintenance order because they can’t afford it would obviously be put in a very difficult position by a Hadkinson order, as the District Judge pointed out. They wouldn’t be able to pay the arrears, and therefore would be prevented from pursuing the variation application.

However, as mentioned above, that was not the case here. The husband had not indicated that he could not afford to pay the maintenance.

Accordingly, the District Judge made the Hadkinson order.

You can read the full report of the case here.

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Family Law Cafe gives you the best strategy to achieve the right outcome for you and your family and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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The new no-fault divorce system means that for many people getting divorced will now be easier, as it will no longer be necessary for the applicant to prove that their spouse is responsible for the breakdown of the marriage.

But this has led to warnings in some quarters that easier divorce can mean that respondents may be rushed into agreeing an unfavourable divorce settlement. Is this really the case?

It is true that under the old system the respondent could seek to slow down the divorce by defending it, and that this option is no longer available, as a divorce under the new system cannot be defended.

But this does not mean that respondents will be rushed into settlements.

For a start the new system has an in-built twenty-week ‘period of reflection’ between the start of the proceedings and the application for the conditional divorce order (the equivalent of the decree nisi under the old system). This means that, with the six-week period between the conditional order and the final order, divorces now will take a minimum of six months, which is actually longer than many divorces took under the old system.

And in addition there is actually a way in which respondents can seek to delay the divorce until the financial settlement has been dealt with.

Before we explain this we should explain that it is not a requirement that a financial settlement must be reached before a divorce is finalised. It is quite possible for the settlement to be dealt with after the divorce.

However, this is not generally recommended, because it is possible that getting divorced can adversely affect a person’s financial position. For example, it could mean them losing a potential benefit under their spouse’s pension.

A pension scheme will often provide that if the pension holder dies then their spouse should benefit from the pension, but that benefit will obviously be lost if they are no longer the pension holder’s spouse.

The way that the respondent can seek to delay the divorce is by applying to the court for it not to allow the divorce to be made final until it has considered their financial position as it will be after the divorce.

The court will then not make the divorce order final unless it is satisfied either that the applicant should not be required to make any financial provision for the respondent, or that the financial provision made by the applicant for the respondent is reasonable and fair, or the best that can be made in the circumstances.

In short, the new divorce system should not mean that respondents are rushed into unfavourable settlements. In most cases they should have time to sort out financial arrangements, and if there is a risk that they may be seriously disadvantaged, they can ask the court to delay the divorce until finances have been resolved.

Time may not be of the essence when it comes to financial settlements, but if you have received a divorce application issued by your spouse, you should still seek the advice of an expert family lawyer, at the earliest possible stage. We can find you an expert that works with you on our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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If you receive a divorce application you can contact us for advice and guidance with no obligation. We can work with you to provide the best outcome in your family law matter.

We now at last have a no-fault divorce system in England and Wales. It has been a long road to get here, with campaigners calling for the change for at least the last thirty years.

But not everyone has been in favour.

One of the biggest objections to no-fault divorce is that it makes divorce too easy, thereby undermining the institution of marriage. The objectors say that the introduction of no-fault divorce will therefore lead to a surge in the number of divorces. After all, they argue, the last time that divorce was made easier, back in 1971, there was a huge increase in the number of divorces, that continues to this day

It is true that no-fault divorce can make divorce easier. No longer will it be necessary to prove to the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, for example by showing that the other party has committed adultery or behaved unreasonably. And if you want a divorce without having to attribute blame, no longer will it be necessary to have been separated from your spouse for at least two years.

And the latest divorce figures from the Ministry of Justice do suggest that there may now be a spike in the number of divorces. In the last quarter of 2021, the latest quarter for which figures are available, there was a huge 26% drop in the number of divorce petitions issued, compared to the same quarter in 2020. The Ministry suggest that this drop may be driven by people waiting for the new divorce law to come into effect, before commencing divorce proceedings.

So it does seem quite possible that there will now be a surge in the number of divorce applications (as they are now called) being issued. But will this surge be permanent, driven by divorces being easier to attain?

Only time will tell, but the general consensus seems to be that any surge in divorces will only be temporary.

The reason people have been waiting for the new law is not because it makes divorce easier, but because it makes it more amicable. Many people who start divorce proceedings simply don’t want to have to blame their spouse for the breakdown of the marriage.

And many separating couples are actually on sufficiently good terms that they want to apply for the divorce jointly – something that was not possible under the old law.

And the new law does in fact have a mechanism built into it to dissuade people from divorcing ‘on a whim’, just because divorce is easy, or easier. Under the new system a twenty week period must elapse from the start of the divorce, before the applicant can apply for the divorce to proceed.

This ‘period for reflection’, something that was not present in the old divorce system, is intended to give applicants the opportunity to consider whether they do in fact want to proceed with the divorce. Only when they confirm to the court that they do will the divorce go ahead.

In short, whilst it does seem likely that there will be a temporary surge in the number of divorces, we are unlikely to see the same sort of sustained increase that we saw in the early 1970s.

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As we have often advised here, anyone involved in financial remedy proceedings on divorce should make every reasonable effort to settle the case by agreement, to avoid the time, stress and expense of contested proceedings. However, it has not been compulsory to put forward settlement proposals, at least until shortly before any final hearing.

Until now.

A new rule due to come into effect on the 6th of July will impose a duty upon parties to financial remedy proceedings to put forward settlement proposals at a much earlier stage in the case.

Shortly after a financial remedies application has been issued, and after both parties have made full disclosure of their means, the court will fix a Financial Dispute Resolution appointment (‘FDR’). The purpose of the FDR is to provide the parties with an opportunity to negotiate a final financial settlement, with the input and assistance of a judge.

The new rule provides that where the case has not been settled at the FDR the court can direct that the parties put forward open settlement proposals, by such date as the court directs. If the court does not make a direction, then the proposals must be put forward within 21 days after the date of the FDR appointment.

Family Law Cafe welcomes the new rule, in so far as it may lead to more cases being settled sooner. However, parties should obviously only be compelled to put forward settlement proposals once they have sufficient information to ascertain their entitlement, including information about the other party’s means, and valuations of all relevant assets.

If you are involved in financial remedy proceedings Family Law Cafe can assist. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe’s accessible team of legal experts from various disciplines expedites the customer’s case and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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A High Court judge has urged a couple involved in a long-running divorce dispute over finances to try to settle the case to avoid further costs, which already run into the millions. Concluding his judgment in Goddard-Watts v Goddard-Watts Mr Justice Holman said: “I … most earnestly urge the parties to enter into serious negotiations and find an early basis for settlement, so that the vortex of profligate spending and mutual destruction finally ends.”

But how do you avoid such destructive litigation? How do you keep your divorce costs to a minimum?

Well, here are five things that you can do:

1. Obviously, and as Mr Justice Holman suggested, you should try to settle matters by agreement, if possible. This means both putting forward reasonable proposals, and responding to any reasonable proposals that the other party may make. In another recent case, a husband was criticised by the judge for failing to respond in a timely fashion to a settlement proposal made by the wife.

2. Do not be unnecessarily confrontational. Obviously, there can be a lot of animosity surrounding a divorce, but you should endeavour to avoid confrontation when trying to sort out the divorce settlement. Unnecessary confrontation can seriously diminish the chances of agreeing matters. Yes, there are times when you must ‘stand up for yourself’, but in general you should put your feelings to one side and adopt a constructive approach.

3. Consider mediation. If you are unable to reach agreement with your spouse through negotiation, consider going to mediation. Mediation is a process whereby an independent trained mediator will help the parties try to reach an agreement. (Note that mediation is completely voluntary, and not all cases are suitable, for example, most cases where there has been domestic violence.)

4. Be realistic. Many cases fail to settle simply because one or both of the parties have unrealistic expectations as to their entitlement. Of course, it is not always easy to know what is realistic and what is not. That is where our last recommendation comes in:

5. Get a good lawyer, and follow their advice. This is where we can help. Family Law Cafe can put you in touch with an expert family lawyer who will be able to advise you on your entitlement, and who will help you to reach an agreed settlement, by adopting a constructive, non-confrontational approach, wherever possible. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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Five initial steps to take (or consider) to protect your financial position

Obviously, the breakdown of a marriage can be an extremely difficult time, not least because of the effect that it has upon your finances, and even your home. This can be especially so if your spouse, the main ‘breadwinner’, has just left you without making any financial provision.

What can you do in such circumstances to protect your financial position and your home?

Well, there are many things that you can do, but here are five steps that you either should or could take, or that you may consider:

1. Maintenance – If your spouse was the main breadwinner and has made no financial provision for you, then you may need to apply for maintenance. If you have dependent children then you can apply for child support maintenance via the Child Maintenance Service. You may also be able to apply to a court for maintenance for yourself, even if divorce proceedings have not begun.

2. Your home – What you can do to protect your home depends upon a number of things, but if it is owned then you may be concerned about paying the mortgage, or your spouse attempting to sell or remortgage the property. If your spouse is not paying the mortgage and you cannot afford to do so then you should contact your lender immediately, and explain the position to them. They may be prepared to agree to a ‘mortgage holiday’, temporarily suspending the mortgage payments. If the house is in joint names then your spouse will not be able to sell or remortgage it without your agreement, but if it is their sole name then you may need to protect your right to occupy the property at the Land Registry – this can help to stop your spouse from selling the house.

3. Joint accounts – Remember that your spouse will still have access to joint bank accounts. You may therefore wish to consider closing the account, or asking the bank to freeze it, to prevent your spouse from withdrawing money from it.

4. Change passwords – You may very well have online access to financial services such as banks, and other sites that use your financial details, such as online shops. Obviously, if your spouse is aware of your passwords, then they may be able to access and use these sites without your permission. You should therefore give consideration to changing your passwords to prevent this from happening.

5. Consult the right lawyer – Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to obtain the best legal advice that you can. Family Law Cafe can put you in touch with an expert family lawyer who will be able to give you the advice you need, and help you to take any steps necessary to protect your finances and your home. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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A new study suggests that estranged fathers with an alleged or proven history of domestic abuse can use parental alienation claims to discredit mothers and gain parenting time with their children.

While there is no single definition of parental alienation, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’) recognise it as ‘when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.’

The study, conducted by Dr Adrienne Barnett, a researcher at Brunel University London, examined all 40 reported and published private family law judgments in England and Wales, from 2000 to 2019, in which parental alienation was raised. This case law revealed a high incidence of domestic abuse perpetrated by parents (principally fathers) who were claiming that the resident parents (principally mothers) had alienated the children against them, raising questions about the purpose of parental alienation.

The study says that recently a parental alienation ‘industry’ appears to have amassed, comprising experts, therapists and lawyers, advocating transfers of children’s care from ‘alienating’ mothers to non-resident fathers, as well as parental alienation therapy for children and parents.

Dr Barnett commented:

“Playing the parental alienation card is proving more powerful than any other in silencing the voices of women and children resisting contact with abusive men. Parental alienation is not an equal counterpart to domestic abuse, it is a means of obscuring domestic abuse, and should be recognised as such.”

Parental alienation can be a very complex issue. If you believe that the other parent is alienating your child against you, or if you are being accused of alienating your child against them, then we would strongly suggest that you seek the advice of an expert family lawyer. Family Law Cafe can help you find that advice. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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After an extended Christmas and New Year break, we thought it would be a good idea to catch up on some of the family law-related news that has happened whilst we have been away.

Perhaps the biggest story is that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which will bring in a system of no-fault divorce, has been reintroduced to Parliament. The Bill was first introduced in June 2019, but was lost due to the General Election.

This is really welcome news. We have been waiting for many years for a system where it will never be necessary to blame the other party for the breakdown of the marriage in order to get a divorce. A no-fault system will reduce confrontation and its damaging effect upon children, thereby making it more likely that the parties will be able to agree arrangements regarding children and finances.

Moving on, the Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton has said that family cases that reach the Court of Appeal should be broadcast online, to dispel fears about judicial prejudice. Speaking at an event organised by the UK Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists and Techbar, he said: “There are some family cases that are really important…and people want to know how we are doing things. The motive for live-streaming is people should be able to see how we are doing our job.”

An interesting idea, which could go some way towards improving public understanding of the way that the family courts work.

Finally, new Stalking Protection Orders (‘SPOs’) have come into force. SPOs will allow courts in England and Wales to move quicker to ban stalkers from contacting victims or visiting their home, place of work or study. In addition, SPOs can also force stalkers to seek professional help. The Orders will usually last for a minimum of 2 years, with a breach counting as a criminal offence that can result in up to 5 years in prison.

Again, we think that this is welcome news. SPOs are another tool that can be used to help protect victims of stalking.

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The Ministry of Justice has published its latest quarterly statistics for the Family Court, for July to September 2019. The statistics show an increase in the number of cases started in the family courts.

In July to September 2019, 67,431 new cases started in family courts. This was up 1% on the equivalent quarter in 2018, and was due to a 23% rise in domestic violence cases started, along with increases in cases involving children.

The increase adds further to the pressure of work that the courts are under, and is obviously likely to result in cases taking longer. Indeed, the statistics show that children cases of all types are, on average, taking longer to be dealt with.

All of this of course makes it even more important that family disputes are resolved out out court if possible, avoiding lengthy and costly court proceedings.

And the good news is that there are a number of ways to avoid going to court. You can agree matters with the other party, either directly or through lawyers; you can go to mediation, where a trained mediator will help you try to reach agreement; you can try a collaborative approach, whereby the two sides and their lawyers work together to resolve matters; or you can go to arbitration, whereby a trained arbitrator will decide the case for you. For more details of these ways of resolving disputes, see this post.

If you would like any further information about resolving your family dispute out of court, Family Law Cafe can help. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

You can find the Family Court statistics here.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area.

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A new statistical release by the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) has suggested that divorce centres are to blame for a significant decrease in the number of divorces, due to the time that they are taking to deal with them.

There were 90,871 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2018, a decrease of 10.6% compared with 2017 and the lowest number since 1971.

However, the ONS say that recent Ministry of Justice statistics highlight an administrative reason behind the scale of this decrease: divorce centres processed a backlog of work in 2018 resulting in 8% more divorce petitions. The ONS expects this to translate into a higher number of completed divorces in 2019.

Divorce centres were established in 2015, replacing divorce county courts. The primary aim of the centres was to streamline the process of divorce, by having it dealt with at just eleven centres.

These are the latest figures, but Family Law Cafe has seen anecdotal evidence that suggests that at least some divorce centres are still taking far too long to deal with their caseloads.

Apart from simply meaning that it will take longer to get a divorce (which can of course be a cause of unnecessary further stress), the delays can also affect financial settlements, which do not usually take effect until the divorce has been finalised. This could potentially lead to financial hardship.

If you are worried about the effect of delay upon your divorce then you should seek expert advice. Family Law Cafe can help you find that advice. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

You can read the statistical release here.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

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Christmas can be a fraught time for separated families with children. Having to split the festive season between two households can be extremely distressing for all concerned, especially if it is not handled with care.

Here are our five top tips for making the holiday season as stress-free as possible.

1. Agree arrangements with the other parent if you possibly can. Be aware that it is now almost certainly too late to ask the court to sort things out. The court will only be able to deal with urgent matters between now and Christmas, and will not usually consider a dispute over Christmas arrangements to be sufficiently urgent to deal with at short notice.

2. A very common arrangement is to alternate Christmas Day between the two households. For example, one year the children can spend Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day with the other, and then the arrangement is reversed the following year. Most children will be only too happy to have two Christmases! Of course, this is only possible if the parents live quite close to one another. If they live further apart, the arrangement could, for example, be to alternate the Christmas holidays between the two households.

3. If you remain on good terms with the other parent, and if neither parent has a new family, then consider spending Christmas Day with the children together. It can work, and the children will be only too happy to spend the day with both parents.

4. If the children do spend Christmas Day with only one parent, then allow them to speak to other parent during the day, whether by phone, social media, text messaging, or some other means. Most children will want to share the day with both parents as much as they can.

5. Lastly, and this may be a little too late already, make sure that you agree which parent buys which presents for the children. Most children these days have very specific wishes when it comes to presents, and there are few things more disappointing for a child at Christmas than receiving ‘repeat’ presents!

We hope that these tips are helpful, but whatever you do, enjoy Christmas with your children!

If you believe you have an urgent issue to resolve regarding Christmas arrangements for children, or if you would just like some would like legal advice on the subject, Family Law Cafe can help. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe provides a genuinely tailored technology-based service, allowing customers to be as involved or as removed as they wish, and to benefit from as much or as little support as they require.

Baubles image by Horia Varlan (From Flickr), licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) has published its latest statistical release for domestic abuse prevalence and trends in England and Wales, for the year ending March 2019. And the figures make for harrowing reading.

Appropriately, the release was published on International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women, although we should emphasise that men are also victims of domestic abuse.

Amongst the main points in the release were the following:

• That according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales for the year ending March 2019, an estimated 2.4 million people experienced domestic abuse in the last year. That equates to nearly 6% of all adults.

• That the police recorded a total of 1,316,800 domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes in the year ending March 2019, an increase of 118,706 from the previous year.

• That of these, 746,219 were recorded as domestic abuse-related crimes, an increase of 24% from the previous year.

The Crime Survey figure is not actually significantly different to the previous year, but still it demonstrates the shocking scale of the problem of domestic abuse. Clearly, we must all redouble our efforts to address the problem.

The police figures do show a significant increase, although this may be in part driven by general police improvements in offence-recording practices, as well as an increase in domestic abuse-related incidents coming to the attention of the police. The increase could also indicate an increased willingness of victims to come forward to report domestic abuse.

You can find the ONS statistical release here.

For further information about how you can protect yourself from domestic abuse, see this post. If you would like to know more about protecting yourself from domestic violence and abuse, or if you would like to apply for a court order, Family Law Café can help. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe’s accessible team of legal experts from various disciplines expedites the customer’s case and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal.

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Sometimes, even with the best intentions, a divorce can ‘go bad’. Acrimony and bitterness can creep in, and before you know it you are involved in lengthy, expensive and stressful contested court proceedings. Allegations may fly, there may be recriminations and bad feelings, which can leave scars that may never really heal.

Here are our five top tips for dealing with such a scenario.

1. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, get the best legal advice you can. A good lawyer will, for example, advise against unnecessarily contesting divorce proceedings, and will advise as to what is a reasonable settlement, thereby ensuring you do not waste time, effort and money pursuing unrealistic expectations. Family Law Cafe can help you find the advice you need.

2. Stay calm, and don’t let your emotions get the better of you. It is all too easy to allow your emotions to cloud your judgement, especially if you are being goaded by the other party. But this is a trap that too many people fall into. No good will come of following your emotions – as difficult as it may be, you must put them to one side.

3. Never stop trying to resolve matters by agreement. If you can’t reach an agreement with the other party, then the court will eventually decide the matter. However, you would be surprised what cases are settled. Often, a case that appears to have no prospect whatsoever of reaching settlement is agreed, saving the parties the stress, time and expense of a contested hearing.

4. Be prepared for the long haul. It may seem that there is no end in sight to the proceedings, but they will end. Do not give up. Do not be tempted to settle on the other party’s terms, just to bring the matter to an early conclusion.

5. Lastly, follow your lawyer’s advice! It may sound obvious, but sometimes it can be difficult to accept that the path you are being directed down by your lawyer is the best one. It is easy to think you know best, but your judgement may be clouded by your feelings. A good lawyer will give you the best advice, without fear or favour.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area.

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We have written here about this before, but the divorce of TV presenter Ant McPartlin and his wife Lisa Armstrong continues to provide valuable lessons for anyone going through a divorce, including those who do not enjoy such celebrity status.

Here are two quotes from a story about the divorce that appeared in the popular press this week:

“Ant McPartlin’s estranged wife ‘rejects multi-million pound divorce settlement in favour of taking him to court so they can settle their differences in public’”

And:

“Lisa Armstrong ‘still wants her day in court’”

We cannot comment upon the accuracy of these statements, but they do demonstrate popular misconceptions about how the courts deal with financial remedy claims on divorce, and about how best to pursue such claims.

Firstly, financial remedy hearings are not necessarily heard in public. In fact, the starting-point is that they are held in private, meaning that the general public have no right to be present. Members of the press are generally entitled to be present, but the court may restrict what they can report.

The second lesson is that insisting upon having your ‘day in court’ is almost certainly not the best way to resolve a claim. In fact, the court itself will try to encourage the parties to settle before the matter reaches a final hearing, and will take a dim view of anyone who does not make a reasonable effort to settle.

You can never guarantee that you will receive a more favourable settlement if you go to court, and there is of course the additional issue of the legal costs to consider. Far better to make every reasonable effort to settle the case by agreement, possibly via mediation.

If you require detailed advice regarding a financial remedies claim, Family Law Café can help you find it. To contact us, click the Contact link above and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe provides a genuinely tailored technology-based service, allowing customers to be as involved or as removed as they wish, and to benefit from as much or as little support as they require.

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The Family Procedure Rules Committee has just closed its consultation on whether “secret” offers parties make to settle a case during financial proceedings can later be used in an argument for costs when a party gets a better result at trial.  The committee asked the question – should “without prejudice subject to costs” letters be admissible when the court considers conduct?  By conduct it meant litigation conduct because this is the only basis upon which a court can make a costs order at trial.

Up until 2006 parties would send each other offer letters, say, accepting 40% of the equity of a property, £2,000 pm maintenance for 5 years and a pension share of 30%.  These offers were headed “without prejudice save as to costs” and called Calderbank offers after a case of the same name.  If, at trial, a party got a better result, then they would show the judge the letter after the hearing and obtain their costs from 28 days after the offer.  It gave parties a strong incentive to settle the case but could end up upsetting the outcome the judge had sought to achieve and led to satellite litigation trying to work out whether the offer had actually been beaten.

The rules were changed so that the general rule was that each party should meet its own costs except when there had been litigation conduct.  This included pursuing an unreasonable case but did not allow a party to let the court know about these “secret” offer letters.  Over the years there was concern at the amount of cases going to hearing with one party failing to negotiate and a reasonable party running up costs it could not recover.

Senior Judges expressed different views about whether Calderbank letters should come back, Mostyn LJ calling a return to the old process “retrograde” and the process of changing a carefully crafted outcome with a costs order “unconscionable” in 2014 whereas Francis J said in 2018, “I fear that there are cases where litigants now feel able to continue without the sanction of costs, save in cases of serious litigation misconduct”. 

To help meet this problem the rules were changed in May 2019 so that a party refusing to openly negotiate reasonably and responsibly could have a costs order made against them.  The Law Society made the point that this rule change has yet to “bed down”.

The response of the Law Society is a cautious “yes” to the re-introduction of the use of these letters as it thinks it will help promote settlement and prevent so many cases going to final hearing, however does not agree that failing to beat the “secret” offer should be considered as conduct.  Instead the Law Society wants to see a separate category or head of opportunity for a costs order to be made with a new bespoke set of costs rules and Practice Direction.  It points out the difference in considering an application in a needs case (in which there is not enough money to go around) and in a sharing case (when there is) so that the object of fairness is retained. The Law Society wants the consideration of a costs order to remain discretionary with no return to the pre-2006 rules.

The Law Society noted the difficulties for litigants in person with a regime in which the nuances of winning and losing (i.e. winning some terms and losing on other terms) would have a huge impact on people struggling on their own with the legal system.  It pointed out that the current costs forms need improving and that it may be relevant for parties to give the costs they have spent on the divorce and children aspect of their issues.

Family Law Café sees this as an area of huge complexity and importance, and notes that, whilst the Rules Committee framed the question as a simple one in which they wanted a yes/no answer with reasons, the Law Society could not fairly answer within those confines.  Family Law Café will report further when the rules committee make their decision.  In the meantime we will continue to offer our brand of secure, impartial assistance to help you navigate through the difficulties of your family law case.

This post was written by Joanna Toch, the founder and CEO of Family Law Café.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area.

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Both the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which was to introduce a system of no-fault divorce, and the Domestic Abuse Bill, which was to introduce a comprehensive package of measures to tackle domestic abuse, will fall when Parliament is dissolved tomorrow, in advance of the General Election.

The Divorce Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords on the 15th of October, having had to be re-introduced after Parliament was prorogued, and the Domestic Abuse Bill had reached the Committee stage. It must now be hoped that both Bills will be re-introduced in the next session of Parliament, when they will have to start again from scratch.

What does this mean in practice?

As for the Divorce Bill, it means that we will now have to wait at least a little longer until we reach the position where it will no longer be necessary to attribute blame for the breakdown of a marriage. The worst affected by the delay will perhaps be those who are unable to divorce until they have been separated from their spouse for five years – such a wait would not have been necessary under the new law.

As for the Domestic Abuse Bill, the delay (as we hope it will be) will simply mean that victims of domestic abuse will have to wait longer before they benefit from the additional protection that the Bill would have afforded them. For example, the Bill would have included provisions prohibiting the cross-examination in court of an abuse victim by the alleged perpetrator of the abuse.

What can be done to mitigate the effect of the loss of these Bills?

Firstly, it is essential that we keep up the pressure for change, on whatever government takes office after the General Election. We must ensure that these vital reforms are not lost and, indeed, that they are brought forward as soon as possible.

Secondly, both those contemplating divorce proceedings and those who are victims of domestic abuse should seek the best possible advice, to ensure that they take the best options, and obtain the best protection that the current law can offer. Family Law Cafe can help you find that advice. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe’s accessible team of legal experts from various disciplines expedites the customer’s case and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal.

Image: Polling Station, by secretlondon123, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A woman in America who was ordered to pay a lump sum of $7,500 (about £5,800) to her ex-husband, who she claimed  had been unfaithful to her, has made the payment entirely in 10 cent coins. The coins filled ten boxes, and weighed some 350 pounds.

It is, we suppose, one way to get even, although we wouldn’t recommend it to our clients! The woman was reportedly shocked that she had to pay money to her ex-husband, when (she claims) he had had an affair with another woman.

However, the story demonstrates something that is equally true on this side of the Atlantic: that the behaviour of the other party has little or no bearing upon the divorce settlement. Just because the other party has committed adultery, that does not mean that the court will reduce its award. And just because the other party has behaved unreasonably, that does not mean that they will get less.

Conduct will only be taken into account in a divorce settlement if it the court considers that the conduct is such that it would be inequitable to disregard it. This means that the conduct must be considerably more serious than the ‘usual’ ‘misconduct’, including adultery, involved in the breakdown of many marriages.

It is very rare for the court to find that conduct should be taken into account. Amongst the reported cases are one in which the wife shot the husband, one in which the husband commited incest with children of the family, and one in which the wife incited others to murder the husband.

Note that there are two other types of misconduct that are more common. Financial misconduct, where one party dissipates the assets of the parties, may result in a larger award for the other party, and litigation misconduct, where a party fails to cooperate with the court proceedings, may result in a costs order being made against that party.

For more information on this subject, you should consult a specialist family lawyer. Family Law Cafe can help you get the advice you need. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

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Lady Justice King has criticised a couple for incurring in excess of £500,000 in legal costs on court proceedings connected with their divorce. As a result of those costs, a judge at an earlier hearing said, there was no way that the couple’s ‘comfortable lifestyle’ could be maintained.

Handing down a judgment in the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice King said:

“This is yet another case where a highly educated couple with young children has engaged in lengthy, destructive and disproportionate legal proceedings. These disputes have continued for over five years with emotionally bruising and expensive litigation in relation to both money and the children of the marriage. The present appeal is a second appeal in the financial remedy proceedings. The costs to date are in excess of £500,000. The only substantial asset in the case, a flat in Panama, has a net value of only £298,377. As a consequence, as the District Judge said in his first instance judgment: “There is no way that the parties’ comfortable lifestyle can be maintained. Much of this has been caused by the intolerable burden of costs”.”

As Lady Justice King indicated, this sort of scenario is all too common, with feuding couples so intent upon seeking what they believe to be ‘justice’ that they lose sight of the costs that they are incurring (for another example, see this post). Often, in financial disputes following divorce those costs can be so high that not enough money is left to provide for the needs of the parties. Sometimes, the costs will even use up all of the assets, leaving the parties with nothing.

So how is such a scenario to be avoided?

Well, there are many ways, including simply keeping a close tab upon how much the costs are, resolving matters by agreement or through mediation, and even doing some of the work yourself, rather than pay for a lawyer to do it for you. If you would like further advice about these and other methods of avoiding excessive legal costs, Family Law Cafe can help. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

You can read Lady Justice King’s full judgment here.

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Family Law Cafe provides a genuinely tailored technology-based service, allowing customers to be as involved or as removed as they wish, and to benefit from as much or as little support as they require.

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Reform of divorce law is back on the parliamentary agenda, according to the Queen’s Speech on Monday.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which aimed to bring in a system of no-fault divorce, failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the last parliamentary session, and was not carried over to the next session. This meant that it would make no further progress.

Family lawyers had feared that this could mean the end of this important reform, that would do so much to reduce animosity in divorce. However, the Government has indicated in the Queen’s Speech that it still intends to go ahead with the Bill.

The relevant part of the Speech read:

“My Government will bring forward measures to protect individuals, families and their homes. Legislation will transform the approach of the justice system and other agencies to victims of domestic abuse, and minimise the impact of divorce, particularly on children.”

You can read the full Queen’s Speech here.

Family Law Cafe welcomes this news, although cautions that there is unlikely to be sufficient time for the Bill to pass in the current parliamentary session, in which case it will have to wait until after a general election.

Meanwhile, anyone wishing to initiate divorce proceedings will have to do so under the current law. If you would like any further advice about this, Family Law Café can help. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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Family Law Cafe surrounds and supports the customer with both legal and pastoral care, end to end, from top barristers to case workers to therapists and mediators, to help the customer get the best possible result with the minimum stress.

Lady Hale, the President of the Supreme Court, has made an appeal on BBC Radio, seeking donations for a charity that provides support for unrepresented litigants.

Lady Hale appeared on the BBC’s Radio 4 Appeal programme on Sunday, where she appealed for donations on behalf of the Personal Support Unit (‘PSU’), a charity which seeks to reduce the disadvantage of people facing the civil and family justice system without a lawyer, by providing them with the support of a volunteer. The charity operates from 23 courts in 18 different cities across England and Wales, and are the only organisation providing such a service. Lady Hale is a patron of the charity.

Lady Hale told listeners that she knew how intimidating the civil and family courts can be for people without legal knowledge or help, and said: “Everyone deserves access to justice whether or not they can afford a lawyer.”

Family Law Cafe wholeheartedly agree. If you would like to make a donation to the PSU you can find details of how to do so on their website, here.

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Image of Lady Hale reproduced from the Supreme Court website, Crown copyright, licensed under the Open Government Licence.

Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond delivered his Budget for 2018. The headline was his claim that the era of austerity is coming to an end. But what does the Budget mean for families and family law?

Here are some of the relevant points:

Perhaps the best news for families is that their income tax bills will be reducing, by more than was expected. The Chancellor announced that the government will raise the personal allowance from £11,850 to £12,500 and the higher rate threshold from £46,350 to £50,000, from April 2019, one year earlier than planned. The rises will mean an annual increase in income of £130 for basic-rate taxpayers, and £860 for higher-rate taxpayers earning up to £100,000.

The increase in the personal allowance will also mean that the marriage allowance will increase in April next year, from £1,190 to £1,250. The marriage allowance enables couples who are married or in a civil partnership to reduce their income tax bill by transferring a proportion of their personal allowance from one spouse/partner to the other, where the transferring spouse/partner has an income below their personal allowance, and the other spouse/partner is a basic rate tax payer.

Another important tax change relates to Capital Gains Tax (‘CGT’). CGT is a tax on the profit when you sell or dispose of an asset that has increased in value. However, a relief from CGT is available on any gain arising on the disposal of your only or main residence. This can cause a problem when a couple get divorced, one party moves out of the home and transfers their interest in the property to the other spouse: it is no longer their residence. However, if the transfer takes place within 18 months of them moving out, the relief will still apply. Under the Budget, this period will be reduced from April 2020, from 18 months to just 9 months.

Moving on, changes to where couples can marry were announced in the Budget. The government has asked the Law Commission to propose options for a simpler and fairer system to give modern couples ‘meaningful choice’ of wedding venues. This will include looking at “reducing unnecessary red tape and lowering the cost of wedding venues for couples.”

The last point that we wish to mention represents bad news for the family justice system, and for the justice system as a whole. The Chancellor may claim that austerity is coming to an end, but this will clearly not apply to all public services. The budget for the Ministry of Justice is to reduce by £300 million, from £6.3 billion in 2018/19 to £6 billion in 2019/20. This will mean that by the end of 2019/20, the Ministry’s day-to-day budget will have fallen by more than a third in the ten years since 2010/11. We will have to wait and see what effect this will have upon the quality of service that the justice system is able to provide.

You can find more details of the Budget here.

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Family Law Cafe provides a genuinely tailored technology-based service, allowing customers to be as involved or as removed as they wish, and to benefit from as much or as little support as they require.

Image of Philip Hammond by Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons.

Sir Andrew McFarlane has taken up his position as President of the Family Division, following the retirement of his predecessor, Sir James Munby.

Sir Andrew, who recently won an ‘outstanding achievement’ award at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards, has a particular interest in children matters, including the ‘private law programme’, which was introduced with the aim of improving the way in which private law disputes over arrangements for children are dealt with. He recently told the Families Need Fathers Conference (‘FNF’) that:

“In the Autumn I will embark upon a series of visits during which it is my aim to meet every fulltime Family judge at each of the 40 or so designated Family Court centres, together with the local magistrates, local CAFCASS officers and members of the legal profession. In addition, I will develop and maintain contact with interested groups, such as FNF and Women’s Aid, in order to gain a very, very, detailed understanding of the operation of the private law programme as it is experienced case by case, family by family, judge by judge on the ground. Once that process is over, possibly by the time of your conference next year, I will be in a much better position to understand what goes well and, no doubt, what does not and what may need to be changed.”

It will be very interesting to hear his findings.

Family Law Cafe says: Sir Andrew is taking over the mantle of President at a very difficult and challenging time. He is facing many problems, including difficulties with access to justice, lack of resources and rapid change. We hope he has the energy and support to meet these challenges, and wish him every success.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area.

Image of Sir Andrew McFarlane reproduced from the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website, Crown copyright, licensed under the Open Government Licence.

Family Law Cafe welcomes the appointment of Sir Andrew McFarlane as the next President of the Family Division. Sir Andrew will take over as President on the 28th of July, following the retirement of the current President, Sir James Munby, on the previous day.

Sir Andrew McFarlane was called to the Bar in 1977 and took Silk (Queen’s Counsel) in 1998.

He was appointed a Recorder in 1995, a Deputy High Court Judge in 2000 and a High Court Judge in the Family Division in 2005.

He co-wrote Children Law and Practice which coincided with the enactment of the Children Act 1989 in 1991, and he has been noted for his speeches and lectures around the country on all aspects of child law.

His expertise resulted in his selection as the only legal member of the Family Justice Review and as the judicial representative for the current sector-led review financed by the Nuffield Foundation. The review is due to report this summer.

Sir Andrew has held or holds leadership posts including Chairman of the Family Law Bar Association, Chairman of the Clergy Discipline Commission and President of the Clergy Disciplines Tribunals. He was Family Division Liaison Judge for the Midland circuit until his appointment as a Lord Justice of Appeal in 2011 where he is the Supervising Lord Justice for Family Cases.

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Family Law Cafe offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area.

Image of Sir Andrew McFarlane reproduced from the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website, Crown copyright, licensed under the Open Government Licence.

In an unexpected move, Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed David Gauke MP to be the next Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, as part of her cabinet reshuffle. Mr Gauke replaces David Lidington MP, who was appointed Lord Chancellor last June, and is the sixth holder of the post in the last six years.

Mr Gauke is the first solicitor to take up the role of Lord Chancellor. Traditionally, the Lord Chancellor has been a barrister, although the last four occupants of the post were not lawyers (it has not been necessary for the Lord Chancellor to be a lawyer since the judicial functions of the post were removed by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005).

Mr Gauke qualified as a solicitor in 1997. He later worked for a City firm, until he was elected as an MP in 2005. His previous role in government was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

In a statement following his appointment, Mr Gauke said:

“Justice is the cornerstone of our democracy and a key part of a fairer society. That is why I am delighted to be taking up the position of secretary of state for justice and the vital role of Lord Chancellor. I am looking forward to meeting experts and front-line staff to drive the crucial work started by my predecessors, to reform our prisons and courts, uphold the rule of law, and promote our world-leading legal services.”

As with his predecessor, Family Law Cafe welcomes Mr Gauke’s appointment, and hopes that he has a constructive relationship with the legal profession.

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Family Law Cafe provides a genuinely tailored technology-based service, allowing customers to be as involved or as removed as they wish, and to benefit from as much or as little support as they require.

Image of David Gauke: Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Department for Exiting the European Union has today published a paper outlining the United Kingdom’s position on cross-border civil judicial cooperation in the future partnership with the European Union.

The Department says:

“As the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, the Government will seek a deep and special partnership with the EU. Within this partnership, cross-border commerce, trade and family relationships will continue. Building on years of cooperation across borders, it is vital for UK and EU consumers, citizens, families and businesses, that there are coherent common rules to govern interactions between legal systems.

“To this end, the UK, as a non-member state outside the direct jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, will seek to agree new close and comprehensive arrangements for civil judicial cooperation with the EU.”

The paper can be read here.

Commenting on the paper, Daniel Eames, chair of Resolution’s International Committee, said:

“We agree that close co-operation with the EU is vital on family law matters post-Brexit. This was a key recommendation arising from the Justice Select Committee’s enquiry, to which Resolution gave evidence late last year.

“As we said to the committee at the time, families benefit from rules which bring legal certainty, and limit the length and costs of proceedings in family law cases, for the benefit of children and their parents. Cross border family law for intra EU-UK cases – whether divorce, children or financial – requires reciprocity.

“Without reciprocal rules, there can be no legal certainty in treatment with all the ensuing complications, delays and potential costs for families and children or local authorities undertaking their child protection function.

“These issues may not make headline news, but for families affected by a cross-border dispute, it can be deeply distressing. For their sake, the more clarity on what the situation will be after March 2019, the better”.

Image of EU Flag by Bobby Hidy, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Baroness Hale is set to be appointed the first female president of The Supreme Court. Her appointment will take place in October, when the current president Lord Neuberger retires.

Lady Hale was appointed as a High Court judge in 1994, assigned to the Family Division. In 1999 she was the second woman to be promoted to the Court of Appeal, before becoming the first woman Law Lord in 2004. In October 2009 she became the first woman Justice of The Supreme Court, and was appointed Deputy President of The Supreme Court in 2013.

In 1984 she was the first woman to be appointed to the Law Commission, a statutory body which promotes the reform of the law. Important family legislation resulting from the work of her team at the Commission includes the Children Act 1989 and the Family Law Act 1996.

News of her appointment as president of The Supreme Court has been widely welcomed by lawyers and academics.

In addition, Lady Justice Black is one of three new Supreme Court justices to be appointed, and will be only the second female Supreme Court justice. Like Lady Hale, Lady Justice Black has a family law background. In 1999 she was appointed as a High Court judge, also assigned to the Family Division. She was appointed a Lady Justice of Appeal (i.e. a Court of Appeal judge) in 2010. She is the Head of International Family Justice.

Commenting upon her appointment Lady Hale said: “It is a great honour and a challenge to be appointed to succeed Lord Neuberger. I look forward to building upon his pioneering achievements, including developing closer links with each part of the United Kingdom, for example by sitting outside London, and improving the ways in which we communicate our work to the public. Recent high-profile cases mean that more people than ever before have heard of the Supreme Court, and we hope that this will help to create a broader understanding of how the judiciary serves society. While I of course look forward to working alongside all my colleagues, it is a particular pleasure for me to be taking up the post at the same time as we welcome only the second ever woman to sit on the UK’s top appeal court.”

Family Law Cafe congratulates both Lady Hale and Lady Justice Black, and wishes them well in their new appointments.

Image: UK Supreme Court, by David Holt, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee has today published a report looking at the effect of Brexit upon access to justice for families, individuals and businesses.

The report finds that the current system for civil justice cooperation across the EU member states works well. Disputes that cross borders, whether family or commercial, are currently settled by judgments that are enforceable across the EU, which gives families, businesses and individuals the legal consistency and predictability on which they depend.

However the Committee found that as Brexit takes effect unless the current system of ‘mutual recognition’ of judgments across the EU is duplicated, not only will the advantages be lost, but there will be real hardship for families and businesses, who could be left subject to national rules across 27 other member states. The key finding of the report is that alternatives to the existing framework of civil justice cooperation must be in place before the UK’s withdrawal is completed. The Committee concluded that falling back on common law and earlier international agreements that are less clear, simple or effective, would leave UK citizens with uncertainty and diminished access to justice.

Chairman of the Committee, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws said: “Unless the Government can agree a replacement of the existing rules on mutual recognition of judgments, there will be great uncertainty over access to justice for families, businesses and individuals.”

You can read the report here.

Image: Full Moon at House of Lords, by Fabiano Rebeque, licensed under CC BY 2.0.