(Family Division; Munby J; 6 October 2008)
If a parent in family proceedings cases was also involved in some other relevant matter, such as an asylum or immigration dispute with the Home Office, criminal proceedings or an investigation, or a housing dispute, the family practitioner had an ongoing duty to remain au courant with what was going on in that other matter, even if it was being handled by different professionals. The family practitioner had a duty to take adequate steps before each hearing to find out what had been going on in the other relevant matter, and both the parents and any professionals dealing with that other matter were under a duty to keep the family practitioner informed. It was preferable to obtain copies of correspondence and other documents on the other solicitor's files rather than attempting to find out what was going on by means of questions and answers in correspondence. In the event of any difficulties in obtaining relevant information, prompt consideration had to be given to approaching the court with a view to inviting the court either to make a peremptory order for delivery of a solicitor's file or an order pursuant to the President's Protocol: Communicating with the Home Office 28 February 2006, available from the Newswatch Practice Guidance. If the outcome of the family proceedings was dependent upon or likely to be affected by the decision of a third party, consideration should be given at the earliest possible stage as to whether and if so how the third party decision maker should be brought into some appropriate form of direct engagement with the family proceedings.