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Ten most read family law articles in 2013

Date:30 DEC 2013

New Year 2014In 2013 Family Law Newswatch readers were interested in a wide range of issues reflecting the various changes that have taken place this year that effect family lawyers. However, according to the website traffic data, readers were most interested in the shortlist and winners of the Family Law Awards.

Other issues family lawyers were interested in included the revised Public Law Outline, funding of expert witnesses, the Supreme Court decision in Re B, and same-sex marriages. Listed below are the ten most read articles that featured on the Family Law website in 2013.

1. Family Law Awards 2013

The Family Law Awards were held last October in London. The Cornwell Award for Outstanding Contribution to Family Law was won by Sir Mathew Thorpe. It was a good year for 4 Paper Buildings, who were shortlisted in six categories and won three awards: Chambers of the Year; Junior Barrister of the Year - Hassan Khan; and QC of the Year - Jo Delahunty.  The Family Law Firm of the Year award went to Turpin & Miller. Katherine Gieve from Bindmans solicitors won Family Law Partner of the Year. The award for Family Law Associate Solicitor of the Year went to Claire Colbert of Blake Lapthorn solicitors.

The Family Law Awards 2014 will be held on 8 October 2014 and moved to a larger venue at The Brewery in the City of London.

2. Revised Public Law Outline

In July the President of the Family Division issued a revised Public Law Outline and pilot practice direction, as well as a number of supporting guidance documents. They included three guidance documents, three prescribed documents, and a new Form C100A.

3. Expert witnesses in family cases

The High Court ruled in April on the funding of experts in legal aid cases involving children.  The court held in the case of the R (JG) v The Legal Services Commission that the Legal Aid Agency - formerly the Legal Services Commission - was not normally obliged to fully fund the cost of an expert witness report ordered by a judge in the family court where only the child is legally aided and the parents are unable to afford the costs of a report. 

4. Supreme Court dismisses the appeal in Re B

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the parents of a child subject to a care order in the case of B (a child) [2013] UKSC 33.  The Court of Appeal had previously upheld the decision of the trial judge to make a care order with a view to adoption in respect of the child.  In June four of the Supreme Court judges agreed with the Court of Appeal, with Lady Hale providing the dissenting judgment.

5. Same Sex Marriage

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill completed its journey through Parliament by receiving Royal Assent in July. The first same sex wedding is now expected to take place in March. The legislation will introduce civil marriage for same sex couples, and enable religious organisations to opt in to conduct same sex marriages if they wish to do so. The Act includes provisions intended to protect religious organisations and individuals from being forced to conduct same sex marriages.

Marisa Allman from Zenith Chambers wrote a helpful guide for Family Law Newswatch readers.

6. Supreme Court ruling in Re J (Care Proceedings)

The case involved a baby suffering non-accidental injuries and her subsequent death was caused either by one parent lying on her during the night, or as a result of deliberate suffocation. The mother then separated from the father, moved to north-east England and began a new life with another man with whom she had further children.  The Supreme Court unanimously found that as a matter of law, a real possibility that the mother harmed another child in the past was not by itself a basis upon which the court could properly be satisfied that there was a likelihood that the mother would harm the child in question in the future.

7. John Cornwell died

John Cornwell, Senior Partner of Dawson Cornwell, died at the age of 69 on 22 February after a long illness. John dedicated his working life to the development and progress of family law. In 1982 he founded the Solicitors' Family Law Association (now Resolution), drafting a code of conduct that has guided family law solicitors to practice to the highest standards. In 2012 his efforts were recognised when he received the Family Law award for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Family Law. The award has now been renamed in his honour.

8. New evidence requirements prevent half of domestic violence victims from accessing legal aid entitlement

The Association of Lawyers for Children reported in October the results of research carried out by Rights of Women which confirms initial fears that many domestic violence victims would not meet the new evidence criteria introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) and accompanying regulations, which were aimed in part at protecting legal aid provision for victims of domestic violence.

9. Prest Appeal

In June the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal by Yasmin Prest and declared that property owned by the husband's companies were held on a resulting trust.  The husband, Michael Prest, was ordered to transfer to his former wife, Yasmin Prest, properties held by companies owned and controlled by him, as part of a £17.5m divorce award.

10. Jeremy Posnansky's analysis of Prest

Jeremy Posnansky QC is a Partner at Farrer & Co. LLP, the solicitors that acted for Yasmin Prest. On the day the judgment was handed down, Family Law Newswatch published his analysis of the case. The decision is of major importance not only for family law and divorcing couples, but also for company lawyers.