Proposals for the Reform of Intractable Contact Dispute Law


paper2Last September I had the opportunity to write a paper on the reform of private family law and specifically related to contact enforcement. The paper was presented to Sir James Munby, President of the Family Court, by officers of Families Need Fathers who had been offered a continuing dialogue by him following his presentation to the charity AGM in 2014. A follow-up meeting is diarised to discuss the paper’s contents and proposals.

Within the paper, the guiding principles for the proposals were “what is practical, realistic and has a reasonable chance of being taken forward”.

Continue reading Proposals for the Reform of Intractable Contact Dispute Law

Failings in Intractable Contact Cases Continue


When intractable contact dispute cases fail to be resolved there are common reasons, and ones which involve how the cases are managed by the court and professionals involved in proceedings. Some of those cases are salvageable, while for others the long length of proceedings acts as a bar to the court entertaining a different approach.

My criticism isn’t universal and I acknowledge there are experienced and highly capable judges and welfare officers. It’s that very observation which sees me compare what, in case management terms, is the good, the bad and the ugly (one movie we didn’t see this Christmas). Sadly, justice and positive outcomes remain reliant on the quality and experience of the individuals involved, with a lack of process and poor adherence to what process exists exacerbating problems. The appeal system alone is an inadequate means of quality control to identify poor practice and capability.

Rather than intractable contact disputes being complex, these are often cases made complex by poor investigation, inadequate welfare analysis and failures to apply and carry through strategies from an early stage. These are common reasons for failure, and the saddest thing of all is that none of these should come as a surprise. Continue reading Failings in Intractable Contact Cases Continue

Important Judgment: Internal Relocation


Last month I alerted you to the fact that a new judgment was due from the Court of Appeal which clarifies and updates the application of family law in internal relocation cases. The judgment is now published and we’ll be adding this to our library in the coming days and updating our guides on internal relocation and family law.

The judgment is in the case Re C (Internal Relocation) [2015] EWCA 1305. Continue reading Important Judgment: Internal Relocation

Not seeing your child this Christmas? Some presents from us, to you


For some parents and children this year there will be a gaping hole in their lives while others enjoy the festive season. They won’t be seeing their children. For some, they won’t have seen their children for a while. Some will have no court order or arrangements in place. For others, arrangements will break down at the last minute, or they’re desperately still trying to get their ex-partner to agree dates as the clock ticks down to Christmas morning. It’s torture.

It’s natural to feel depressed and stressed when you don’t see your children, but please take that energy, and put it towards re-establishing your relationship. You’re not forgotten. Please download our guide to Coping with Stress.

While sympathy, understanding and empathy may help, it’s not enough. Practical help to change these circumstances is what a parent in these circumstances wants and needs. Stress and depression comes from feeling helpless. You’re not.

Our guides on our family law app will help. Our family law app contains 1.5million words of content, guides, case law, forms and more… all written for parents in your circumstances… and free throughout the year.

We also have downloadable “guide packs” in our shop, but it’s Christmas and in these circumstances sometimes knowing someone will help, for no reason other than to help, makes a difference. So until 6th January 2016, all of the following downloadable guides and resources are free. Continue reading Not seeing your child this Christmas? Some presents from us, to you

Supporting the Children’s Society Seriously Awkward Campaign


We’ve just had a request to share details of the Children’s Society Seriously Awkward Campaign.

The Children’s Society are looking to strengthen child protection laws to better safeguard 16-17 year olds from sexual exploitation and abuse. The Children’s Society is recommending:

  • The Government must give police the same tools to intervene when a 16 or 17 year old is being targeted and groomed for exploitation as younger children.
  • Clear guidance must be put in place so professionals such as police, teachers, social workers and NHS staff can all identify a 16 or 17 year old as a victim of sexual exploitation and work together to put support and protection in place.
  • Older teenagers who experience this awful trauma must receive urgent mental health support so they can stay safe and rebuild their lives.

Details concerning the campaign can be found via the link below:

Old Enough to Know Better?

Please support the campaign. Follow the link below which tells you how:

Seriously Awkward Campaign

Guides for Social Workers: Parenthood and Parental Responsibility


parenthoodHave you seen our second guide for social workers on parenthood and parental responsibility. The guide covers the status of the legal parent, the difference between this and legal parental responsibility and how the two are acquired.

More complex matters are covered concerning parenthood and the legal status of the adults involved when surrogacy and artificial insemination are involved.

The law concerning Parenthood and Parental Responsibility

Social work guides are written in support of MAAPP, the Multi-Agency Application supporting the Social Work profession.

Our first guide in support of social workers was on section 7 reporting in private family law proceedings, and includes draft templates. This guide has received very positive feedback and can be downloaded via the link below:

Section 7 Reporting

Social work guides are provided in a pdf format, meaning they can be downloaded, saved and printed.

Guides are provided free of charge.


Spotting Bad Advice and Advisers


There have been several published cases in recent weeks where litigants and their advisers faced criticism over litigation misconduct. Several other cases have arisen which show suspect advice had been followed by the litigant.

The purpose of this article is not to level criticism, but to help people avoid legal advice and advisers who can damage their case and their relationships. In days of social media, advice is coming from forums, Facebook groups and a whole manner of other places including friends, family, the local neighbour and the bloke on the end bar stool down at the pub. Not all advice is good, and some advisers should be avoided. Continue reading Spotting Bad Advice and Advisers

How many children were the subject of leave to remove applications in 2014?

baby owl Reg

We’ve just been reading Freedom of Information statistics from Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS).

Now we’ll give you a bit of a clue… according to those same statistics, the number of children involved in cases where an order was made relating to leave to remove was given as 255 (in all of 2014). Also, remember that according to Government statistics, in 2010, the proportion of children born to foreign born mothers was 50% in London (and 25% nationally) so one might expect the number to be quite high!

Source of statistics: HMCTS FamilyMan System

According to HMCTS statistics, how many children were the subject of application for leave to remove in 2014?

National Family Mediation – Advertising and Credibility


Last week we wrote about the length of private family law proceedings (by type of representation) following the Ministry of Justice publishing their latest quarterly statistics. Their April to June 2015 quarterly bulletin gave the average length of time to conclude a case as being 14.7 weeks (102.9 days) in private family law proceedings. In divorce proceedings, the average length of proceedings currently stands at 23.6 weeks (165 days). On Tuesday, National Family Mediation (NFM) was tweeting that it takes 435 days to conclude a case in court. Not unsurprisingly, this had us raising a collective eyebrow.

Before moving to the numbers, we wish to make clear we’re supportive of mediation as a dispute resolution tool, of mediators and promote mediation as an option throughout our guides. Where parties are capable of being reasonable and compromise, we’d agree it’s preferable to court, but there’s the rub. It requires two reasonable parties for mediation to succeed, and when relationships break up, sometimes even the most skilled mediator will not move parents from a selfish, combative and aggressive position. For some cases, such as those involving relocation, a compromise position may not be available.

This is the second time this year that National Family Mediation’s claims and conduct on twitter (and on their web site) has caused us concern. The first was over their announcements during the Minnock case which struck us as inappropriate.



National Family Mediation’s current advert mentions the source of statistics they rely upon (the National Audit Office) but not the period to which they relate. It transpires the statistics are 8-9 years old, published in a 2007 report, which perhaps explains why they’re so far adrift of current MoJ statistics.

Their advert (pictured) implies that it takes 435 days for a court case to conclude, yet the National Audit Office reported on 435 days being from the date of application for legal funding to the submission of the final bill. While this administrative/billing timescale may be indicative of the length of proceedings in 2007, it strikes us as an assumption that the two are the same. Regardless, the figures are plainly very much out-of-date and misleading when suggesting the timescales apply today.

In respect of their web site, they go further and clearly state:

“Couples using NFM typically take just over three months to finalise their divorce or separation, while cases that go to court take four times longer”. {Their emphasis, not ours]

In respect of the 110 days to complete a case using mediation, what the 2007 National Audit Office report actually said was:

Our analysis of the Commission’s data found that, on average, mediations took 110 days (from the start of mediation to the end of the month in which the mediator sought reimbursement from the Commission). This figure will include some cases which were not resolved, or which reached only partial agreement. Despite that, over 95 per cent of mediations were complete within nine months and all mediations were complete within 12 months.

Let’s look at that again. Mediation, according to that old report, averaged 110 days to the point of seeking reimbursement (8-9 years ago), albeit there wasn’t a breakdown of whether mediation was successful.

NFM’s claims in adverts aren’t the only problem. Their articles, critical of court proceedings, talk of parents being ‘lured towards a lawyer’s promise of victory‘. Do lawyers ‘promise‘ victory? It’s a foolish one who does, and foolish to claim they do. In the same piece of editorial, NFM’s Chief Executive speaks of it being inevitable that court proceedings will lead to fraud… “In the adversarial nature of the ‘traditional’ way of managing divorce, as they’re egged on by solicitors to achieve a ‘victory’ over their ex, it can’t be a surprise that people are tempted to try to hide assets“.  The headline for that article… “Adversarial divorce process bound to lead to fraud“. Really?

Returning to that National Audit Office report, all NFM need to do, for credible advertisements, is to rely on the qualified statements expressed by the authors:

For suitable cases, mediation can provide faster, cheaper and less adversarial resolution of family disputes than involving the courts”

That would be fair, reasonable and more credible.


National Audit Office: Legal Services Commission: ‘Legal aid and mediation for people involved in family breakdown’. 2 March 2007

Ministry of Justice: Family Court Statistics Quarterly: April to June 2015