This has been another hot topic for January 2017. The suggestion that ‘online divorce’ would be available in England and Wales within the next 6 months was widely reported in the press.
In late January, the Family Procedure Rules Practice Direction 36D entitled 'Pilot Scheme: Procedure for Using an Online System to Generate Applications in Certain Proceedings for a Matrimonial Order' was released, It marked the launch of the first small online divorce pilot designed for certain applications which meet the criteria.
The scheme applies where:
(a) the application is for a matrimonial order which is a decree of divorce made under section 1 of the 1973 Act;
(b) access to the online system for making such applications is permitted;
(c) all stages of the process provided for in the online system can be fully completed;
(d) the application is started in the family court; and
(e) the application is filed in the period commencing 25 January 2017 and ending 28 July 2017. The scheme will allow new practices and procedures to be tested within an online system which generates the application. The Practice Direction includes modifications to the Family Procedure Rules which will apply during operation of the scheme.
Cafcass requestA letter from Cafcass was circulated in early January with a view to clarifying best practice arrangements where referral to a Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme (DVPP) is intended.
The letter addressed the difficulties faced when a DVPP to be delivered by a provider commissioned by Cafcass is included in a final order. The making of a final order closes the case for Cafcass, resulting in Cafcass then being unable to monitor the DVPP and report back to the court. It also leaves them at odds with the DVPP providers as Cafcass is required to stay involved while the programme is being carried out.
Cafcass recommends that, in such circumstances, an Activity Direction should be made (rather than an Activity Condition) in relation to all DVPP referrals, with a clear order allowing Cafcass to remain involved in the case and to work with the court to ensure a safe outcome of the DVPP is factored into the long-term plan for the child. Without a case remaining open, Cafcass may receive mid-way reports from providers of DVPP but would not have the authority or a channel through which to inform the court about progress or any problems.
A template of the proposed Activity Direction is available here.
Help for children and young peopleCoram’s Child Law Advice Service launched a new website in January, aiming to help children and young people to find out about their rights. Funded by The Queen’s Trust, the new website, www.lawstuff.org.uk, provides information about children’s rights in areas such as Children’s Services, Home & Family, Police & Law, and My rights.
Young people who have specific enquiries which are not covered on the LawStuff site can also go to www.childlawadvice.org.uk to find relevant contact details.
Gemma Smith, manager of the Child Law Advice Service (CLAS) said “it is extremely important that children and young people know that they have rights which are respected and protected in law. Knowing that they have rights can boost a child or young person’s confidence. It lets them know that they are valued whilst also helping them to respect the rights of others.”
In other news …MOJ publishes report on implementation of Law Commission proposals
Family Mediation Week highlights £48 billion cost of family breakdown to the taxpayer as charity calls for mediation
Foster carer left with no support for 6 years following dispute with local authority over placement
New care applications received by Cafcass in December 2016 decrease 3%
Private law cases received by Cafcass in December 2016 increase by 1%
Bristol launches new scheme to help litigants in person
Sixteen new family law silks appointed
Case - Babiarz v Poland (Application No 1955/10)
Case - Kacper Nowakowski v Poland (Application No 32407/13)
Practice Guidance - The Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts: Appointment in Family Proceedings and Proceedings under the Inherent Jurisdiction in Relation to Adults
Article - Are we getting closer to no fault divorce?
Article - Non-matrimonial property and sharing: Scatliffe v Scatliffe  UKPC 36