We’ve been bracing ourselves for a deluge of FPR changes, guidance, draft standard orders and the like this month, in the run up to year end. There’s been a bit, but nowhere near a deluge, a few bits and pieces to catch up on. Below is a summary of some of the key developments in family law this month.
Madonna and Guy Richie’s High Court proceedings about their son Rocco were in the news this month. Two judgments were published in relation to the Hague Convention proceedings initiated by Madonna when Rocco refused to return to New York after visiting his dad in London. The first judgment was about whether Rocco should be joined as a party to the proceedings. The judge decided that he should. The judgment contains an analysis of the case law in this area and of the factors that the court should have regard to under FPR 2010, r 16.2 and paras 7.1 and 7.2 of PD16A. Also, the judge really really thought that Rocco was a ‘mature, articulate and reflective’ young man – and said so four times. The second judgment was about whether, after Rocco had been joined as a party, Madonna could withdraw her Hague Convention application. Madonna would still be seeking a return order, but through the New York courts, where proceedings were already ongoing. There was disagreement between the parties as to whether Madonna needed permission to withdraw the proceedings. The judge held that FPR 2010, r 29.4 did apply to Hague Convention proceedings, and that, accordingly, the permission of the court was required to withdraw such proceedings. The judge then gave Madonna permission to withdraw the proceedings and gave permission for the judgments to be published without anonymisation given the extraordinary amount of information already in the public domain worldwide
Big news this month was the sudden increase in the fee for applying for a divorce, from £410 to £550. News broke on Thursday 17 March that the higher fees would be effective on the following Monday. To say people weren’t best pleased would be an understatement. Resolution branded the divorce fee hike ‘scandalous’ and many others joined them to raise their concerns about the impact of the increase on separating couples.
They’ve been tinkering with the FPR again. In summary, the changes are:
Rule 4.4 of the FPR is amended to clarify that written evidence must be taken into account if the court is considering striking out a statement of case.
There are two new parts for the FPR. New Parts 39 and 40, which set out the procedure to be followed in respect of applications for attachment of earnings orders, charging orders, stop orders and stop notices.
There are some further amendments to the FPR which are consequential upon the introduction of the new Parts 39 and 40 of the FPR.
An out of date cross-reference in the FPR has been corrected.
Rule 9 makes transitional provisions, as the changes don’t come into effect until 6 April 2016.
It’s that time of year again! Do you always try to instruct your favourite barrister because they write a cracking skeleton, charm the pants off your client (not literally) and are amazing on their feet? How about the clerks at your favourite chambers? Do they always find a way to help you out, are they listing magicians, can you rely on them completely? When a brief comes in from a particular solicitor are you relieved because they are thorough, know their stuff and will have given the client spot on advice? Fed up with Londoners/Northerners/Southerners/Westerners getting all the glory? Nominate them! You have to be in it to win it, as they say. It’s not just a canny marketing exercise only entered into by big firms. Really it’s not. The family law profession is filled with talented, hard working people who totally and utterly devote themselves to ensuring their clients get the best service possible and to whom access to justice is paramount. You don’t need me to tell you about all the doom and gloom currently facing the profession – wouldn’t it be amazing if someone recognised all the hard work you put in despite this – how brilliant would that be? So how about doing a good deed and nominate someone you think deserves it, and maybe karma will nominate you back. Plus there’s going to be a disco this year – everyone knows family lawyers like a good boogie.
For more details visit the Family Law Awards website www.familylawawards.com.
The case of Re L (Case Management: Wasted Costs)  EWFC B8 was a thoroughly depressing read. It was supposed to be a fact-finding hearing in relation to injuries sustained by a 14-month-old boy. In the event though, the hearing had to be adjourned because vital disclosure (tape recordings of police interviews and medical photographs) were not disclosed until the weekend before the hearing. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence in the family courts. HHJ Bellamy was fairly angry about it, saying, ‘court time is a precious resource. The court can ill-afford contested hearings being vacated because of the failure of one or more of the parties to comply adequately with the obligations placed upon them by the rules and by case management orders made by the court’. He found that basically everyone was to blame for this failure and made wasted costs orders against, well, everyone. This was not well received by the family law profession, with many pointing out the pointlessness of making such an order and that the pressures faced by government cuts to the courts were also being felt by local authority legal teams and legal aid lawyers.
A brief run down of some of the cases published this month.