April has been a busy month with some important developments to legislation, court decisions and new guidance issued. Here are just some of the highlights of this jam-packed month.
The Supreme Court took the unusual, perhaps unique, step of announcing halfway through a hearing on 18 April that it would allow the appeal by the Public Law Project on the lawfulness of the Lord Chancellor’s proposed residence test for legal aid applications. Detailed reasons for the decision are awaited.
The Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 was fully implemented on 6 April this year. Amongst the important changes to be aware of is the repeal of the Children Act 1989, Part III in Wales, meaning that s 17 ('Children in need') and s 20 ('Looked-after children') are now covered by separate legal frameworks in England and Wales. The amendments to primary and secondary legislation are now also available.
The 2014 Act and the Regulations make vital reading for lawyers practising in Wales. Keep an eye on our website and Twitter as well for regular legal updates on the divergence of legislation as it applies in England and in Wales.
Changes were made to the Family Procedure Rules in April to create a new Part 39, regarding attachment of earning orders, and a new Part 40 relating to charging orders, stop orders and stop notices. There is a new PD 40A to compliment Part 40. There have also been some other minor changes to strike out applications, the Child Arrangements Programme and forms in PD 5A.
Keep an eye on our website and Twitter for regular updates on all developments. In particular, in January the President said he had approved amendments to PD 12B, removing the requirement for certain information to be included on the face of orders. There was no sign of these changes in this round of amendments to the FPR and so the status of the recently revised private law orders is still not entirely clear. We expect to hear more on this in the near future and will endeavour to keep you updated.
The Access to Justice Act 1999 (Destination of Appeals) (Family Proceedings) (Amendment) Order 2016 amends the Access to Justice Act 1999 (Destination of Appeals) (Family Proceedings) Order 2014 (SI 2014/602) to provide for the route of appeal from certain decisions or orders of Circuit judges and Recorders sitting in the Family Court to be to the High Court, rather than the Court of Appeal.
Following judicial and sector concerns about its use, new guidance was issued in April by Cafcass, ADCS and ADSS Cymru, clarifying expectations on local authorities for children looked after under s 20 of the Children Act 1989.
It was announced by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan at the beginning of the month that hundreds of millions of pounds are to be invested in a new programme to revolutionise support for the most vulnerable children and families across the country, backed by brand-new freedoms for town halls to provide life-changing services for troubled young people.
The government's Children's Social Care Innovation programme – promoted as a radical step-change to the way in which vulnerable families are supported – is backed by funding totalling £200 million with the intention of kick-starting the most promising proposals for new ways of delivering vital help for troubled children and young people.
The new investment follows the first round of the innovation programme – which was announced in the summer of 2014 - which has funded over 50 programmes across the country, backed by £100 million. Organisations which have benefited from the funding to date include schemes run by Pause and Barnardo's.
The Family Justice Council launched a new financial guide this month to help people going through a divorce without a lawyer.
The guide is available online from the Judiciary website and Gov.uk, 'Sorting Out Finances on Divorce' and is intended to demystify the complex area of finances on divorce, which many litigants in person may find intimidating.
The guidance is specifically aimed at non-legal readers and its primary purpose is to provide a road map through what is often, for many, uncharted territory. It applies to marriages and civil partnerships.
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PJS v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWCA Civ 393 – the Court of Appeal set aside the injunction in this celebrity case. An appeal was sought and heard on 21 April with judgment being reserved until a later date. Watch this space!
Estrada v Al-Juffali  EWCA Civ 176 – the Court of Appeal upheld the first instance decision dismissing the husband’s claim for diplomatic immunity against his wife’s claims for financial remedy following their divorce.
Re Y (Children) (No 3)  EWHC 503 (Fam) – the local authority had not proved that the parents had intended to remove the children to Syria for the purposes of radicalisation. The threshold was not crossed and care orders would not be made.
Hammerton v United Kingdom (Application No 6287/10) - Failure to enquire as to why the Respondent was not represented, and to allow him time to secure representation, on a committal application which resulted in him receiving a sentence of 3 months imprisonment was a breach of the ECHR, articles 6 and 13.
Re L (A Child); Re Oddin  EWCA Civ 173 - It was wholly wrong in principle to leave a collection order in place for 11 years. In addition the perpetuation of a passport order beyond a comparatively short period of time essentially for purposes of coercion was wrong in principle and fundamentally objectionable.
Re FM (A Child)  EWCA Civ 189 – the mother’s appeal against the placement of the child with the maternal aunt under a Special Guardianship Order due to the mother’s poor mental health was dismissed.FY v MY  EWFC 16 – the father’s abusive behaviour towards the children justified an order for no contact and a s 91(14) order for 2 years’ duration.