Thursday, December 25, 2008

Nollaig chridheil huibh

Seasons Greetings to everyone. And a special thought for those of you apart from your children at this time of year.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Hallelujah"

Marilyn Stowe has just written a post inspired by the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah" and I can't resist posting a video of the version sung here by Rufus Wainright.



PS Why are lawyers like ogres?

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News Roundup 3

The Ministry of Justice announced the opening up of family courts in England & Wales to greater scrutiny in this press release yesterday. Jack Straw's announcement is available here and a statement from Sir Mark Potter, President of the family Division is here.


The BBC reports the sad case of Sean Denton who died last year aged 18 months. Apparently both Sean's parents had been previously convicted of manslaughter and two months after his birth Sean was taken off the at risk register as his parents were showing no reasons for concern. Sean's father committed suicide and shortly afterwards his mother killed Sean and then committed suicide believing the that the family would be reunited after death.


The defeat by the European Parliament of Britain's opt out from the EU's 48-hour working week was reported by The Times today. I think this is good news for children as according to the Fatherhood Institute UK fathers work the longest hours in the EU.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do Wives Lose Out?

In his final article considering what are in his opinion three systematic failings in the way pension issues are settled in most divorces that causes a wife (or rather 'the person with the smaller final salary pension') to lose out Nigel Bradshaw of the Ancillary Actuary looks at the affects of wives opting for a credit under a pension sharing order.

Sharing the CETV 50/50 does not necessarily give 50/50 actual value to both parties, and definitely not 50/50 income. Pension schemes give higher benefits to the original pension member than the ex spouse recipient of a pension credit receives. As I said in an earlier post Problems With Sharing Pensions on Divorce during July one thing which would help is requiring pension schemes to provide information so divorcing couples could at least make informed decisions.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Congratulations, Chris ....

.... family and Sarah. It couldn't have happened to a nicer man.

Photo BBC

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Roland Cook

Yesterday at the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Hodge sentenced a man to prison for attempting to murder his former wife 13 years after their divorce.

According to The Telegraph Roland Cook lived in a blackened out van for a week before he attacked her with an axe so hard that her spine was severed by one blow and she will now spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. After the attack Cook spent some time in the State Hospital at Carstairs before he was found sane and fit to plea, although suffering from a personality disorder. Cook was left in a "state of despair"after being unable to carry out his plans to see his 3 children, he could not explain how this caused the attack.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Dating


Sometimes I'm rather glad I'm not young anymore. According to a comment on the Neatorama blog 'the best way to pick up chicks is to make Pac-Man ghosts out of snow covered mailboxes.'

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Legal Aid Cases Down

Earlier this week the Scottish Legal Aid Board published it's annual report. Legal aid spending in Scotland totalled £155.1 million in 2007-08, a rise of 3%, despite a 12% drop in the number of cases. Of the £155 million, £126.4 million went to solicitors, £21.6 million to counsel and £18.1 million was spent on outlays. The civil legal aid bill rose 2% to £39.8 million. Children’s advice and assistance fell by 20% to 4,678 and Children’s legal aid grants fell by 6% to 4,206. key legal aid facts and figures 2007-2008 are available in pdf format.

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Confidentiality, Loosing Out & Sharia

In Marylyn Stowe's post 'Kitchen Confidential – by guest blogger Jonathan James' the misuse of documents and information during divorce proceedings, in particular copies of documents “left lying around” are considered in light of the recent English case White v Withers & Anor [2008] EWHC 2821 (QB)


Nigel Bradshaw of the Ancillary Actuary highlights two of three systematic failings in the way pension issues are settled in most divorces that causes a wife, or rather 'the person with the smaller final salary pension,' to lose out. The first fault, using CETVs for valuing final salary pensions is explained here and the second, the common practice of discounting, or reducing, a pension value when offsetting, is here.

I think it's right to question the logic of discounting a pension for offsetting purposes in divorce. From a finances POV I don't understand the idea that assets which can't be readily accessed are less valuable than those that can. I've never come across this in other countries apart from in England. Is it an American idea? (I always blame the Americans first and actuaries second)



Liquidity is not fixed and can vary depending on willing buyers and sellers in the market so is often only available in rising markets. Therefore there is no guarantee a house is a liquid asset all the time either.


John Bolch of Family Lore posts regarding the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain launch at the House of Lords. The campaign is seeking legislation to curb the influence of sharia law in Britain. You can add your support by signing the Sharia Petition.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Judicial Misadventure

In the wake of barrister and part-time judge Constance Briscoe appearing in the High Court as a defendant in a libel action brought by her own mother and the surprise resignation of Sheriff Andrew Lothian following allegations about his private life Helen MacKenzie of CaseCheck has written an article The Good, the Bad and the Ugly looking at other examples of judicial mishaps.

Allegedly a Judge was removed from the bench by the Virginia Supreme Court, after trying to encourage parents to resolve a Christmas visitation dispute by tossing a coin. It was found flipping a coin does not fully uphold the dignity of the judiciary (Times Online). Earlier in another case the same Judge ordered a woman to drop her trousers in court so that he could see a stab wound.

South Texas Justice of the Peace Gustavo Garza suggested parents could spank their errant children with the wooden 'paddle' in court instead of paying a fine. The parents of one teenager, who was struck, have now filed a claim against him. (Law.com)

In a drug trafficking case Australian judge Ian Dodd appeared to be asleep for periods of up to twenty minutes at a time and a retrial has been ordered. (Daily Mail)

US Judge Robert Restaino was removed from office last year after he jailed the entire courtroom (46 people) when no one admitted to owning the mobile phone that had gone off in court during a domestic violence hearing. (BBC)

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Comparing Apples and Oranges

..... Or in this case homicide with death statistics.

In an earlier post Accuracy I wrote about the confusion over the number of children dying as a result of abuse. Previously based on figures from Government homicide statistics the NSPCC estimated on average one child a week dies from abuse. In a recent report Ofsted said the the figure was 282 deaths over a 16 or 17 month period (depending on which news report you read!)

According to The Independent yesterday Christine Gilbert, the chief executive of the children's services watchdog, told a hearing of the Commons Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families that of the 282 cases of child deaths Ofsted had investigated most were a result of abuse and the remainder, 72, had died of other causes such as road accidents. This would put the average figure of 3 child deaths a week. So it appears the NSPCC's estimate is an oversimplification.

This together with the UCL Institute of Child Health research conclusions that found child maltreatment, including neglect, could be ten times the official rates is pretty depressing news.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Parent Wars: Contact Enforcement

The measures in the Children & Adoption Act 2006 take effect in England & Wales as of today enabling judges to send parents in breach of contact orders to attend parenting classes, pay a fine or compensation. Those who do not comply can be ordered to do community service.

My reservations about overstretched courts not having the resources are echoed in The Times and there are doubts as some lawyers and solicitors fear the measures could backfire and inflame family relations.


10/12/08 Updates;-
Lucy Reed of Pink Tape rightly points out in this post that the Times article is slightly misleading in that courts already have the power to imprison and the new measures may lead to even fewer committals. Also a person subject to an enforcement order will be punished for contempt of court but not criminalised by the provisions as suggested.

In his post New Children Act Forms John Bolch of Family Lore describes amendments to the existing Children Act form C1 and the newly prescribed Children Act forms brought about by the Family Proceedings (Amendment) (No. 2) Rules 2008.

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Widgets

Over the weekend I've added a few widgets to my blog so now you can see updates from my blog roll, read the blog in any of 35 languages and there is a video bar at the bottom of the page.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Child Maltreatment

Last week Professor Ruth Gilbert, University College London Institute of Child Health, launched a series in The Lancet on child maltreatment. Professor Gilbert reports that child maltreatment remains a major public health and social welfare problem in high-income countries. Every year, 4–16% of children are physically abused and one in ten is neglected or psychologically abused. During childhood, between 5% and 10% of girls and up to 5% of boys are exposed to penetrative sexual abuse, and up to three times this number are exposed to any type of sexual abuse. However, official rates for child maltreatment are over ten times lower than these.

The authors conclude "Child maltreatment is common, and for many it is a chronic condition, with repeated and ongoing maltreatment merging into adverse outcomes throughout childhood and into adulthood. More attention needs to be given to neglected children. There is mounting evidence that the consequences of childhood neglect can be as damaging - or perhaps even more damaging - to a child than physical or sexual abuse."

For those who have three quarters of an hour to spare highlights from the press conference to launch the series are available here in mp3 format.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Forced Marriage Consultation

As I said in my post regarding the introduction of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the Scottish Government are launching a consultation to explore whether legislation can add to the protection to those forced into marriage in Scotland. "Whether to marry and to whom should be a decision entered into freely," Communties Minister Stephen Maxwell said. "Forced marriage is a violation of human rights, an infringement of liberty and an abhorrent practice which has no place here in Scotland."

The paper Forced Marriage, A Civil Remedy? is available from the Scottish Government and the consultation is open until 28 March 2009 The freephone line – 0800 141 2759 – will be open from 5 December 2008 until 5 March 2009. The questionnaire is also available online at www.forcedmarriages.org.uk

Thanks to The Journal for the lead.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Petition 1197

This is a video of the Public Petitions Committee considering a petition by Bill Alexander calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to reform the legal system to adopt the Scandinavian system of allowing unrestricted access to legal representation before the court for example by allowing non-lawyers to appear in court on behalf of other parties.   At present only solicitors who are members of the Law Society of Scotland have Rights of Audience.

The Committee agreed to seek responses on the issues raised in the petition from the Scottish Government, Faculty of Advocates, Law Society of Scotland, Scottish Law Commission and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Nigel Don, Scottish Nationalist MSP who sits on the Justice Committee, appears then to go off on a tangent about party litigants. He said it isn't wise for someone to represent themselves bearing in mind a lawyer is an officer of the court and isn't there just to represent their client, but to assist a court to come the right answer.

I can't help thinking if a solicitor is there to assist the court come to the right answer and not just represent their client what is the point in both parties having a solicitor? Also whilst I agree being a party litigant is not advisable I do believe that the law should be accessible for the ordinary person in the street to represent themselves should they wish.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lone Parents to Work

The DWP has released a report, Realising potential: A vision for personalised conditionality and support by Professor Paul Gregg a Bristol University academic today. Reforms abroad have created strong links between increased support and an increased requirement for individuals to take up the support provided. It is said this is particulary true in the Scandinavian countries. A vision is set out for a single regime, where virtually everyone claiming benefits and not in work should be looking for or engaging in activity to help them move towards employment. Lone parents with youngest children aged one to seven should be expected to improve their employment prospects as a condition of benefits. Research has found children may gain from their parents being in work (Millar & Ridge, 2001) but it has also shown that there are limits to the benefits to be gained from working. For example, the report says evidence suggests that parental employment may not be beneficial for the development of children under 12 to 18 months old.

This seems short sighted when there are international concerns about very young children being in childcare. There has been a big increase in the number of children and young people with mental health problems in the UK since 1980 and this has been is across the board affecting children from intact families as well as those from separated families. Some of this might be due to awareness and more recognition of the problems but this doesn't explain all the increase. There is a high probability mental health problems are associated with childhood attachments and a recent study in a Scandinavian country, Sweden, found insecure attachments in 40% of children as opposed to 25% reported in the UK.

Internationally recognized expert in the field of child development and family studies and Professor of Psychology at the University of London, Jay Belsky, argues having a full-time parental presence at home is what’s best for very young children in his paper Developmental Risks (Still) Associated with Early Child Care. Socialbaby.com quotes Sir Richard Bowlby, son of John Bowlby who first outlined the theory of attachment, about the importance of attachment theory for understanding childcare provision here. And The Sydney Morning Herald reports why psychologist, Steve Biddulph, suggests that at least during the first two years of life, brain development unfolds at its optimum with one-to-one care.

Why when there is this type of evidence recommend lone parents should be looking for work before children are at least two or three years old, and anyway where will the jobs come from?

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

St Andrew's Day....

It's freezing, the central heating has given up the ghost, there's no hot water, the tumble dryer doesn't work, I can't find my car keys and the land line phone doesn't work. Grr......

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Robotic Companions

Bringing us a step closer to David Levy's prediction in my earlier post about developing intimate loving relationships and marriage between humans and robots in the next 40 years a project at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory is teaching robots to mimic human movements in an attempt to make robots better companions. I think I would remain single, thanks. The robot in this Reuters video reminds me of Yul Brynner and we all know what happened to him in the film "Westworld." .

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Applying the Law

Most divorces (92% last year) in Scotland are on one of the two grounds of separation, one year with consent or two years without. In the vast majority of cases financial settlements are thrashed out without a court decision and as a consequence there are few opinions (judgments) to refer to. The recent case, Mrs Maxine Anne Day or Willson v. Andrew Willson [2008] CSOH 161, gives an insight into how the law is applied in Scotland and for anyone going through divorce is worth a read. Lord Drumond Young's opinion deals with unreasonable behaviour, the relevant date, the value of matrimonial property, inheritance and whether any economic advantage was derived by either party from contributions by the other and of any economic disadvantage suffered by either party in the interests of the other.

Thanks to Euan Dow and Casecheck for bringing the case to my attention.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ashok Kalyanjee


Yet another story of a father killing his children before attempting suicide. The Scotsman reports Ashok Kalyanjee pleaded guilty to murder yesterday in the High Court in Glasgow and sentence was deferred until 11th December .

Kalyanjee, who was divorced and saw his children regularly, drove his two sons to a secluded spot on 3rd May this year where he cut their throats before pouring petrol over them and himself. The mother had received a phone call from her ex-husband when he told he she would regret everything she'd done to him in life. Kalyanjee was found slumped in his car along with the boys' bodies by police.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jealousy

Reuters covers another very sad DV story of a man killing his children and ex partner then attempting suicide. This time the motivation was jealous rage after Neil Crampton suspected his ex partner of seeing other men.

Crampton 36, from Gateshead, was found guilty of murdering his daughter Abigail, 12, son Steven, five, ex-partner Olufunke Sobo and her brother Yemi Sobo at their home in Newcastle in 2006. Newcastle Crown Court handed down a 35 year sentence yesterday, but I suspect the real punishment will be living with what he did.

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'British Fritzl'

When I heard about Josef Fritzl, the Austrian whose daughter gave birth to seven of his children while kept in a dungeon for 24 years, I never dreamt a similar thing could happen in the UK. But it has, and a man who repeatedly raped his two daughters was jailed for life yesterday after receiving 25 life sentences at Sheffield Crown Court. He made them pregnant 19 times and seven of the children are still alive.

The details of the court hearing are reported in this article in The Independent. A review into how the case of the daughters failed to come to the attention of welfare workers and the customary media frenzy is already under way.

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White Ribbon Day


Following a link from the Ministry of Justice I discovered yesterday was White Ribbon Day. The White Ribbon Campaign is a voluntary organization of men working to end men's violence against women. WRC global campaign started in Canada during 1991 to ensure men take more responsibility for reducing the level of violence against women. The UK branch started in 2004.

WRC says it is concerned about all violence, but in particular the high incidence of violence men's violence against women and violence committed against children by both men and women. There is also concern about the many forms of men's violence perpetrated against other men.

Apart from White Ribbon Day to raise awareness WRC distributes educational kits that can be used throughout the year and some local groups organize events around Father's Day to talk about positive roles for men. There is also campaigning with football teams.

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Forced Marriage Law

Yesterday saw the introduction of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 to prevent forced marriages and protect those who have already fallen victim in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

According to the BBC the new laws mean anyone convicted of trying to force someone into marriage could be jailed for up to two years. A victim, friend or police can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. These court injunctions will forbid families from actions such as taking people abroad for marriage, seizing passports or intimidating victims. Penalties for breaching an order include up to two years' imprisonment.

Ministers in Scotland are due to launch a consultation on whether civil legislation on forced marriage should be introduced here.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Post-nuptial Depression


Research based on studies of married couples in California has found around 10 per cent of newly-married women are seeking professional help for reassurance about what they should expect after the excitement of their big day wears off. According to The Telegraph Dr Michelle Gannon, a psychologist, found the newly-wed women struggling to deal with the inevitable rows.

Perhaps in times of personal freedoms young people need to be educated about the realities of relationships and learn how to negotiate to counter the glossy image of marriage portrayed in the media.

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The Insane & Barristers

My TV broke down about 6 months ago and I didn't replace it because until recently I hadn't missed it. However, having enjoyed watching Horizon: How Mad Are You? and The Barristers on BBC iPlayer recently I think I might buy a new TV before Christmas.

In How Mad Are You? a group of ten volunteers are put through a series of challenges and three mental health experts try to spot which 5 volunteers have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. In the first episode Dan was relatively easy to spot with his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when the challenge was cleaning out a cow shed but the experts got it totally wrong when they had to choose the person least likely to suffer mental health problems. Very bravely Dan had participated in the programme in the hope of showing fellow suffers what could be achieved.

The first episode of The Barristers, which isn't shown in Scotland, features 4 would be barristers training and preparing for their exams. Just one in five students will ever get to present a case in court. In the second episode divorce barrister, Louise McCabe, brokers a financial settlement.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Accuracy

It never ceases to amaze me how often news is reported with small mistakes that change the meaning such as 'women instigate the majority of divorces' when it should be 'women instigate the majority of divorce proceedings' or 'the largest divorce settlement' instead of 'the largest awarded divorce settlement.'

Sometimes numerical mistakes are made such as last week when I read somewhere the number of child deaths from abuse in England was 282 over a seventeen month period. This was a lot higher than I remembered. It appears I wasn't the only one confused, so was the NSPCC who say the number is much higher than their figures, which come from the government homicide statistics.

The Observer revealed yesterday the figure of 282 in an Ofsted report is 'misleading' and made up of all children who died while receiving any kind of local authority help - including terminally ill children receiving social care and accidental deaths of nursery age children. Phew, it's a relief to know I'm not going senile after all.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

News Round Up 2

Tuesday, 18 November 2008 Baby P - In the wake of the three people being convicted of involvement in killing Baby P there has been a media and public outcry this week. This Independent article reveals the chronology from official files.

Thursday 20 Nov 2008 Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone to divorce - According to The Telegraph Eccleston's wife of 24 years has filed for divorce in what could be one of the biggest settlements in legal history.

Friday November 21 2008 Madonna and Guy Ritchie divorce - The Guardian reports the announcing of their divorce decree nisi in London.


And from The Guardian archives this week;

November 18 1890 The O'Shea-Parnell divorce case - report into the divorce of the Irish MP Captain O'Shea who cited Charles Parnell as co respondent in adultery effectively ending Parnell's political career.

November 21 1995 Blonde bombshell goes off - article about the TV interview when Diana, Princess of Wales let it be known she wouldn't be leaving her marriage quietly.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

2nd Husbands Don't Count

The Herald carries a report today of a man who admitted a charge of attempted murder at the High Court in Glasgow. After his wife made the jibe if they ever got a divorce, he would not get the house as "second husbands don't count" Ronald Grant tried to strangle her. When Mrs Grant lost consciousness he dialled 999 saying he had tried to kill his wife, something he also admitted to police later. The prosecutor, Neil Beardmore, said Mr Grant is welcome back home as long as he seeks help. Judge Lord Brailsford remanded him in custody and deferred sentencing until later for reports.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

'Breakthrough Britain'

This week the media and several family blawgs have covered a review of family by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, proposing family law reforms to strengthen families by making it more difficult to divorce.

From a personal point of view the idea that divorce is easy and people should work at their marriage somewhat irritating. I am not into 'informal relationships' and in the last 32 years only had the one relationship, our marriage. I tried very hard to save the relationship of 23 years for 7 years. It then took another 4 years of living in limbo to negotiate, reach a settlement and divorce. Anyone who believes that is too easy is out of touch.

It just isn't possible to lump all separated families together. According to Professor Michael Lamb quoted in Fatherhood Institute Research Summary: Separated Families 70 % of children from separated families do not show any worse long-term outcomes than children whose parents have not separated and the five important factors that predict children’s outcomes after their parents’ separation are;


• The quality of their relationship with their mother 

• The quality (not necessarily the quantity) of their relationship with their father

• How much and how viciously the adults continue to fight 

• The financial support available to them 

• The child’s individual temperament

'Breakthrough Britain' is a misnomer as the research actually relates to family law in England & Wales, a fact which has been overlooked by the UK media (no surprises there, then!) It links rising levels of family breakdown to the increase in cohabitation and criticises the Government for considering offering couples legal rights outside of marriage. Here in Scotland although cohabitants do not have the same rights as married couples they already have some rights and as far as I'm aware it has not affected the trend for cohabiting, marrying or divorcing. The measures do provide some protection and financial support which at least gives children life chances.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Separation Blues

On Saturday I attended a concert and ceilidh to celebrate 50 years of the Edinburgh University Folk Soc. Originally known as the Folk Song Society, one of the first British folk clubs, the society was co founded by Stuart MacGregor and Hamish Henderson. I never met Stuart MacGregor but Hamish was a friend to us all. Folklorist, songwriter, socialist, humanist, soldier and former professor of Scottish Studies Hamish is thought by some to be the most important Scots poet since Burns.

On Saturday night performers from each era appeared on stage to give a performance and chat. One story I hadn't heard before was about a pub session were the ball cock in the one and only toilet was missing and the youngest member, Bert Jansch, was sent to the next pub to 'borrow' a ball cock. The other thing that I found amazing was the number of people who had met their spouse through the society and are still happily married, particularly as someone used to warn everyone that society marriages never lasted.

Anyway the last era on stage was the first era and Separation Blues, which seems appropriate for a divorce blog, was sung in great style. I found this YouTube video of Patrick Sky singing the original on Pete Seeger's TV programme Rainbow Quest during the mid 1960s.

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Moneybox

I've just finished listening to Moneybox tackling the issue of Divorce & Separation. John Fotheringham, solicitor and member of the Scottish Family Law Association and the Law Society of Scotland was on the panel of experts answering listeners' questions about mediation, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, splitting assets, benefits and pensions.

The BBC Radio 4's progamme can be heard here.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Virtual Affair


Thanks to Mike, a retired solicitor and regular poster on the Wikivorce forum, for the tip off about this story in The Telegraph regarding a woman who has filed for divorce, citing unreasonable behaviour because her husband has formed a ' virtual ' attachment to a non-existent ' wife ' on a computer game.

Amy Pollard claimed her husband committed adultery with the animated woman in the virtual world of Second Life. This is a role playing game created by the 'residents' themselves who live in a parallel, virtual universe - including having jobs, relationships and children.

I feel a Victor Meldrew moment coming on.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bigamy

A former Church of Scotland minister and policeman in Scotland, Roderick Gordon Sangster, was found guilty in his absence of bigamy and forgery at Warwick County Court today.

Sangster married his first wife Frances Richards (now Tait) in 1971 and they had four children. After she discovered he had forged signatures for loans she knew nothing about leaving her heavily in debt they separated.

In 1994 Sangster started a relationship with Jill Jackson, whilst still married to Frances. He divorced Frances and then married Jill. Mr Sangster left Jill in 2002, when she found out she had debts of £32,000.

Within two years he had met and married Janet Wallace, formerly Pollard, whilst still married to Jill Jackson. Sangster told Janet he was divorced and they married in 2004. When he later left for another woman, Patricia Harrison, Janet found she had debts of £55k.

A warrant for Mr Sangsters arrest was issued and Judge Marten Coates adjourned sentencing to give police time to locate him. Prosecutor David Jones said "A pattern emerges that Mr Sangster used to choose ladies who were fairly financially secure, but vulnerable."

So financially secure but vulnerable people, you have been warned!

References: The Leamington Observer and The Telegraph

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Question Time

Today I thought I might try to provide answers to some of the issues which bring people to this blog. Please remember there is no substitute for proper professional advice and I am not a lawyer so this is for general information only.

divorce nisi scotland & divorce decree absolute scotland
In Scotland there is no nisi and absolute, just one divorce decree.

divorce what is proof hearing scotland
A proof is a full court hearing where evidence is given by witnesses during proceedings in open court.

free simplified divorce form in scotland
The instructions and application forms SPA for divorce after one year's separation with consent and SPB for divorce after two years consent are available to download free from the Scottish Courts website here.

scots law - inherited assets in divorce
Inherited assets in Scotland are not considered matrimonial property.

demande de divorce à singapour: conciliation
Je suis désolé, je ne sais rien du divorce dans Singapour mais je pourrais recommander le conciliation.

tri martolod rap
This I can answer with some authority. Tri Martolod (Three Sailors) is a traditional Breton tune and Manau recorded the rap version La Tribu de Dana here.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Soldier's Declaration

Some of the staff at Craiglockhart Hospital

A while ago I worked in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, a psychiatric hospital. My memories of the first day were being told the difference between patients and staff were the patients wore slippers, and being introduced to a patient who suffered shell shock and was still institutionalized some 60 years later.

During WWI the man had been sent to Craiglockhart Hospital (less than two miles from my home) which was used for the treatment of shellshocked officers. Thankfully the chief medical officers at Craiglockhart, Drs River and Brock, treated shellshock as an ordinary reaction to the trauma of war rather than cowardice or insanity.

After the English poet Siegfried Sassoon wrote his Soldier's Declaration declining to return to duty he was declared unfit for duty and sent to Craiglockhart. At Craiglockhart Sassoon met Wilfred Owen and it was thanks to Sassoon that Owen persevered in his ambition to write better poetry. Owen was killed after returning to duty and Sassoon helped bring Owen's poetry to a wider audience.

On 11th November let us not only remember of those who were killed and injured in war but, like the patients of Craiglockhart Hospital, those who suffered the mental anguish of living with the effects of war.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

MATCH


According to The Times Mothers Apart from Their Children (MATCH) estimates there are more than 150,000 mothers in he UK living apart from their children. MATCH, a self help organisation with groups all over the UK, celebrates it's anniversary in 2009 after thirty years of offering non-judgemental emotional support to mothers all over the world who are apart from their child. There are many reasons MATCH suggests mothers and children live apart - ill-Health, international child abduction, family conflict, abusive relationships and false accusations.

The object for the organisation's existence is;

“the preservation and protection of good mental health of mothers living apart from their children by the provision of information, advice and support.”

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Upsetting Feminists

On Thursday and Friday the newspapers reported an article by Dr Catherine Hakim senior research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, calling for future social and family policy to be gender-neutral rather than geared towards helping women. Given the freedom to choose, she says, women and men divide into three lifestyle-preference groups – home-centred, work-centred and adaptives (who combine work and family) and nowhere in western Europe are there more than 25% of women who are career driven.

Dr Hakim predicts that "men will continue to dominate in the workforce and public life while women will continue to dominate in family life, even in the absence of sex discrimination, because there are some residual differences in tastes, values and lifestyle choices." She suggests women now have a real choice whereas men's working practices are limited so, if anything, future legislation should address this imbalance.

LSE press release "More sex equality law would be futile and perverse says new essay by LSE expert"

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Legal Aid Threshold to Increase

At the joint Scottish Legal Aid Board/Law Society of Scotland annual conference on legal aid Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced today the upper disposable income threshold for civil legal aid is to increase from £10,306 to £25,000. According to The Journal Online this should make more than a million additional Scots potentially eligible for financial help towards court costs for civil actions.

This sounds all well and good, but my understanding is many solicitors doing legal aid work have given up because of the poor rates of pay so unless I'm missing something I don't see how these new measures will address the shortage of lawyers prepared to take on legal aided cases.

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Footprint

About this time last year Mike Smith of Durham Legal Services was enthusiastically telling me about a new development, Footprint. It was designed in anticipation of the child support reforms to help parents make their own child maintenance arrangements without involving the the Child Support Agency. Footprint records details of contact arrangements and keeps a diary creating a record which maybe accessed by lawyers and used to resolve disputes. There is "an absolutely unique interface where messages about the children can be exchanged in a neutral way, cutting down on those angry email exchanges and telephone calls." There is charge of £75 that includes a written Private Maintenance Agreement plus 12 months' use of the Footprint online system.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

EU Campaign Against DV


José Mendes Bota, the Council of Europe's reporter, recently said at a European Parliament hearing an important factor for him is the involvement of more men into the Council's "Stop domestic violence against women" initiative. The campaign is to raise awareness of the seriousness and prevention of DV ahead of the launch of the EU's action plan for domestic violence, to be made available by the end of the year. Here is the press release from the European Parliament.

Issues such as DV are a concern for us all and shouldn't be seen as women's issues or men's issues. After all it doesn't matter whether you are a mother or father if one of your children, whatever their gender, is the victim of DV.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blog Roundup 3

A quick roundup of some blogs in the last week or so.

John Bolch of Family Lore post, Contact provisions implemented at last, pointing out the new measures under the Children and Adoption Act 2006 to enforce contact orders are to come into force in England & Wales on the 8 December.


Lucy Reed of Pink Tape has written an excellent post called The Unverifiable Truth in relation to the The Times Family Justice Campaign for greater openness. This raises the point that people's accounts of decisions involving them, which they consider wrong or unjust, will hardly be objective. They will naturally feel aggrieved and the truth is unverifiable when the only source of information is the individuals concerned.


Continuing the epistemology theme in The Fat Bigot Opines' post entitled Wigs & Gowns "I Think" the Fat Bigot fears the relaxing of the formality of dress will result in the relaxation of court proceedings. Over time this could lead to "I think" advocacy, as witnessed in American courts, rather than concentrating on the evidence.


Jaqui Gillatt of Bloody Relations posted a video of the great Leonard Cohen's Democracy is Coming. As of today that should be Democracy Is Now Here.


Hector MacQueen of Edinburgh University's Scots Law News reports the latest episode in the Cockerel Wars: the return of Charlie. This is an ongoing saga about a night time curfew handed down to a cockerel, Charlie. In August this year Charlie's owner admitted a breach of an order to regulate Charlie's crowing early in the morning and the court was told the cockerel wasn't making so much noise as in his younger years. Following this up the local paper has written about the bird's impending demise and Charlie is to be buried with honour.

For those separated or divorced (or anyone else) having difficulty sleeping at night there is a link to the online Silence Your Rooster Insomnia Game.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Children's Participation in Court

With the exception of the very young, all children in Scotland receive notification of any contact or residence proceedings affecting them and are invited to respond in writing. If the child wishes to do so they may express a view and indicate their wish to attend a Child Welfare Hearing personally. This doesn't happen in England & Wales and it is interesting to hear this podcast , particularly what the young people had to say, in a recent debate "Enhancing the Participation of Children and Young People in Family Court Proceedings".

Thanks to Family Law Week for the lead.

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Plain English

Plain English in the courtroom was an issue I raised in an earlier post Now the Business Experts and Law forum, a panel set up by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill sees "the potential for Scotland's dispute resolution system to be developed and marketed as a just, integrated and efficient neutral system that runs like clockwork - the Switzerland of dispute resolution". However, according this Herald article one of the measures the panel recommended to make the legal system attractive to business is court procedures should be expressed in more plain English. Plain English in Scots law would be attractive to everyone else who uses the system too.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Pensions Guide

Pensions in divorce is something I've been meaning to blog about for some time, but if I'm honest I keep putting it off because it isn't my favourite topic. As far as I'm concerned a 'critical yield test' calculates the performance of chips in a finished wafer (referring to electronics, not my culinary skills!) rather than calculating the investment performance of pensions. Anyway a while ago Peter Moore of Bradshaw Dixon Moore sent me the interesting Pensions in Divorce Guide which explains how pensions are dealt with at each stage of the divorce process. There is also a Pensions in Divorce Guide for Clients available to download at The Ancillary Actuary which does a far better job of explaining pensions than I ever could.

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Uncle Mark

I do get annoyed the way single mums cop the blame. "The only single mum in the village" is a story in The Guardian from a mother who recently moved to the country and became embroiled in a child abuse investigation when her son exaggerated a story about something that had happened a a family party. Her brother, Uncle Mark, had stopped the cousins chasing each other around trying to grab underwear in their tracks by showing half of one buttock and saying the game was over. This was particularly serious because Mark is a teacher.

After the police investigated criminal charges were dropped, but social services needed to carry out a report. At the end of the interview Ruth suddenly twigged it wasn't her brother they were interested in but the 'real' perpetrator. "It's the word 'uncle' in the context of a single mother, isn't it?" Ruth asks the social worker who nods and leaves.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Woman In Red


Thanks to Reuters earlier this week I have found out what I've been doing wrong. Apparently a study found men are more attracted to, and will spend more money on, women wearing red clothing. Fortunately the colour red didn't change how men rated the women in terms of likeability, intelligence or kindness so there may be some hope for me yet!

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Jack Straw and Sharia


Further to my earlier post First Official Sharia Courts Joshua Rozenberg in The Telegraph quotes in full what Jack Straw said on the subject of sharia at the Islamic Finance and Trade Conference in London. Talking about the UK Government and then English law is confusing but that aside it may address people's fears on sharia.


"As a Government, it has always been our aim to extend opportunity and prosperity to all – to all parts of the country and to all different communities. This is not about preferential treatment. It is about fairness. This is not about political correctness. It is about respect.

"Whether it is employers with prayer rooms; faith schools; kosher and halal food in work places and public services like hospitals; laws to tackle hate crimes; or the provision of financial products that fit with religious beliefs – we have worked to provide a space in which the rights and diversity of people of all faiths are protected, whilst at the same time setting a clear framework of acceptable behaviour for all citizens.

"This is the thinking which underpins our approach to sharia law. Of course those who live in this country will always be governed by English law and will be subject to the jurisdiction of English courts.

"But there has been much speculation over sharia law in recent weeks, so it may be worth me setting out the true position.

"Many dreadful things have been done in the name of mainstream religions. Barbaric practices such as stoning have been – quite wrongly – justified by reference to Islam, for instance. The same was true in earlier periods, for instance when the state apparatus was used to run Inquisitions in countries like Spain.

"I am firm in disagreeing with those who say that sharia law should be made a separate system in the UK. And there has been much misinformation in recent weeks about this issue.

"There are some countries which do have within their systems of law separate courts to deal with issues of inheritance and family law for different faith groups, such as India and Egypt
.
"But we do not in the UK and there are overwhelming arguments about why we should not move down this path.

"The facts in the UK are these. If, in a family dispute, parties reach an agreement with the help of a sharia council and want to have that decision recognised under national law, they can submit a consent order to an English court in the terms of the agreement.

"But it is ultimately up to the court to decide whether the agreement complies with English law. In family cases, the court will consider a range of issues including the future welfare of the parties and their children. No court will endorse an agreement which conflicts with English law.

"Likewise, communities have the option to use religious councils to help them come to agreements about other personal disputes. But those agreements will always be subject to English law and cannot be enforced through the English courts, apart from in the very limited circumstances where the religious council acts as an arbitrator.

"The statutory base for such arbitration in these cases is the Arbitration Act 1996 – and nothing has changed in the 12 years since that legislation was passed.

"Crucially, any member of a religious community – or indeed, any other community – has the right to refer to an English court, particularly if they feel pressured or coerced to resolve an issue in a way in which they feel uncomfortable.

"Speculation abounds on this point, so let me say once again: There is nothing whatever in English law that prevents people abiding by sharia principles if they wish to, provided they do not come into conflict with English law. There is no question about that. But English law will always remain supreme, and religious councils subservient to it.

"It is worth me stressing that nothing has changed to the law or to the Government’s position. There has been press comment suggesting that the ability to apply to an English court for a consent order for a sharia ruling is somehow a new development. It is not. We have not changed the position on sharia law established by the previous government in 1996 and nor will we do so. The position remains as before: there is no room for parallel legal systems. Regardless of religious belief, we are all equal before the law."

So there we have it.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Going, Going, Gone

Continuing yesterday's American theme this video brings up many family court law issues . Is this how the UK family courts are going or in some cases have they already gone?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Divorce Education



There are two interesting posts from Sam Hasler's Indiana Divorce & Family Law discussing the importance of education and preparing to divorce.


In Preparing To Divorce - A Gripe Sam looks at How to Divorce – A Better Understanding and takes issue with a statement about letting the lawyer make all the decisions not necessarily getting the desired outcome and clients should really understand what is happening in the court and process. Sam's point was it isn't a lawyer's job to make all the decisions. Education and preparation for divorce through reading books and making use of the internet enables clients themselves to make informed decisions. One purpose of family blawgs is to educate.

The second post Getting the Right Family Law Lawyer - Another Post continues the theme of lawyers educating their clients. The Austin Family Law Guide Blog, a relatively new blog from Texas, says great divorce lawyers educate their clients from the first meeting and focus on their client’s life after divorce. Sam adds the best lawyers educate their clients in all family cases.

All good stuff.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission

As I mentioned in my earlier post there are changes in child support coming into force. From today parents with care can choose to leave the CSA and make their own arrangements for child maintenance with the other parent of their child(ren). Information on the choices for arranging child maintenance are available from Child Maintenance Options, a new service set up to support parents in setting up the most effective maintenance arrangement for them.

Summary of the changes from today

* If parents stay with the CSA any child maintenance collected on their behalf is paid directly to the parent with care.

* When the parent with care is on benefit, it is their responsibility to inform Job Centre Plus of the amount of maintenance received whether or not you stay with the CSA.

* Parents with care are able to keep up to £20 a week of any child maintenance paid before it affects the amount of benefit they may receive.

* The Child Maintenance Bonus is coming to an end. Parents with care must satisfy the qualifying criteria and have stopped claiming benefit by 26 November to be entitled to any bonus that may have built up. They then have a further four weeks to claim the bonus.

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission take on legal responsibility for the CSA’s work on 1 November.

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Child Support Concerns

The charity One Parent Families/Gingerbread claim that the changes to child support which come into force today, may result in one in four single parents 'dropping out' because they will now have to choose whether to continue using the CSA, make their own arrangements for child maintenance or do without child maintenance. See The Herald article.

Last week Marilyn Stowe, former chair of the CSA Appeals Tribunal Panel, appeared in BBC 1’s The One Show, to discuss the imminent introduction of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC). Marilyn thinks CMEC is just window dressing and what parents really need is accountability and the organisation to be local, answerable and fair. The video is available here.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Humanist Marriages

According to The Sunday Scotsman article Boom in marriages not made in heaven the number of Humanist marriage ceremonies has overtaken Scottish Episcopal Church ceremonies for the first time. The Humanist Society Scotland expects the numbers to increase to 1,500 in 2009, bringing the numbers close to the number of Catholic Church of Scotland marriages. Church of Scotland weddings are on the decline and last year the numbers stood at 8,000.

I didn't realise Scotland is the only UK country, and one of only six in the world, where Humanist marriages are legal.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Enforcement Orders

Following on from videos Only Joking... and The Week in View 18th October 2008 John Bolch of Family Lore has made a useful video, Enforcement Orders, about new measures to deal with the non compliance of child contact due to be implemented within the next couple of months in England & Wales. Enforcement Orders will impose an 'unpaid work requirement' on a person who has failed to comply with a contact order and are similar to a community order which may involve graffiti removal, clearing litter, redecorating buildings and gardening.

I'm sure there will be a number of people north of the border watching with interest to see how effective such measures prove to be.

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Supply & Demand

Further to this earlier post yesterday Sir Mark Potter, President of the High Court Family Division in England & Wales was quoted in another Times article as saying the family courts are under heavy pressure by Government plans to reform family courts to save costs. This is in relation to the increase in court fees during May and long term plans to recoup the full costs of running the courts through fees charged to users the increase of court fees. The second part of the article looked at the way access to justice is threatened by the decrease in the number of solicitors prepared to carry on with legal aid work because of the cut in fees . This would result in more people representing themselves and fewer family lawyers.

From what I've heard many people in England & Wales, and not just those on legal aid, feel they cannot afford the legal costs and are choosing to represent themselves or use online divorce companies. Rather than being competitive and bringing the costs down as was hoped would happen in some quarters, it appears to me there is less demand for solicitors and the supply is falling and fees will increase. This means there is in effect a two tier system from which no one benefits. Those without money can't afford justice, litigants in persons cause procedural difficulties and time delays in courts, solicitors loose jobs and those with money pay more.

In Scotland the rules and procedures are difficult to get to grips with so party litigants are less usual, although they are perhaps becoming more common. I do believe the law should be more accessible and easier to understand so people can be better informed and choose to represent themselves if they wish, but I also think Scotland should avoid a two tier system and representation and justice needs to be affordable to all.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Anything Is Possible

There has been an interesting development in England & Wales aimed at encouraging the process of collaborative law. According to this item in the Solicitors Journal Mr Justice Coleridge speaking at a reception last week announced family lawyers who have successfully negotiated collaborative agreements with couples will be able to get them fast tracked through the courts, subject to the consent of the urgent application judge. The procedure can only be used where every aspect of the documentation was agreed, the hearing was not expected to last for more than ten minutes and documents were with the judge the night before the hearing. Thanks to The Times article today for the tip off.

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The Big Question

In July The Times carried a series of articles about the perceived secretiveness of family courts summarised by John Bolch of Family Lore in this post. On Monday The Times published here details of an interview with the President of the Family Division in England and Wales, Sir Mark Potter, who has given his backing to opening up the family court system in certain cases.

Marilyn Stowe made comments on her blog with which I'm in total agreement "that in public family law cases, where the State is taking action in relation to a child, the entire process should be transparent. Removing a child from its parents is the most draconian civil action that can be taken. It is open to allegations of wrong doing if it is not transparent..." She continues "As for closing private law family courts to the media, I agree they should not be a public spectacle. I don’t think the financial cases of individuals getting divorced - however high profile - should be printed in the media. It’s quite simply none of our business and leaves them vulnerable to any host of risks."

Yesterday The Independent asked "The Big Question: What would be the result of opening family courts up to the public gaze?" which is the most balanced media article about the issue I've seen yet. There is a government consultation on changing court access rules in family cases expected to be published by the end of the year. Some people believe the rules have established secret courts where justice is not being seen to be done, although child protection experts are concerned that the welfare of children might be at risk if reforms are introduced to improve the public scrutiny of the courts. The Independent asks should family court proceedings be opened up and lists the pros and cons.

YES
*Social workers would be more careful when deciding to take children into care
*The public would have greater confidence in the system because they could witness justice being done
*Higher visibility would make judges more accountable to the public for their decisions

NO
*It would turn the divorce courts into cirucuses. Witness the recent Mills/McCartney litigation
*Children would be damaged by revelations made about their personal lives
*A relaxation of privacy rules would discourage parents and experts from giving objective evidence

In Scotland, Canada and New Zealand, the press are allowed to attend court hearings involving children. This does not mean that journalists are free to report on all child cases in these countries. Those supporting reform argue children in these countries have not been damaged by family courts being open to the media.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Info for Scottish Dads

The Dad site has posted this new entry about the law and divorce and separation in Scotland written by Dr Martin Crapper, former Vice-Chair of Families Need Fathers.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

DV & Pets

A study "They Gave Me a Reason to Live: The Protective Effects of Companion Animals on the Suicidality of Abused Women" by Dr Ann Fitzgerald of Windsor University in Ontario found pets can both help women and lead them to endanger themselves. According to this article in The Scotsman pets were the reason some women stopped taking their own lives, while others admitted they delayed leaving home because of not wanting to leave their pets behind with an abusive partner. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has dealt with cases where animals have been abused for revenge.

Only one of the 46 refuges in Scotland will take pets and Dr Fitzgerald reckons as many barriers as possible need to be removed to encourage women to feel comfortable about leaving their abusive relationships

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Guidance: McKenzie Friends Amendment

Following the recent decision of Munby J in the case Re N (A child) (McKenzie Friend: Rights of Audience)[2008]EWHC 2042(Fam), I covered in this post the President of the Family Division in England & Wales has amended the section in the President’s Guidance: McKenzie Friends of 14th April 2008 headed “Rights of Audience.”

To recap, in England & Wales a litigant in person may be accompanied by a McKenzie Friend to a court hearing for the purpose of assisting them in matters such as taking notes, organising the documents, and quietly making suggestions. A McKenzie Friend has no right to address the court.

The amended section now reads;

• Sections 27 and 28 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 (the Act) respectively govern rights of audience and the right to conduct litigation. They provide the court with a discretionary power to grant unqualified persons, including MFs, such rights in relation to particular proceedings.

• While the court should be slow to grant any application under s.27 or s.28 of the Act from a MF, it should be prepared to do so for good reason bearing in mind the general objective set out in section 17(1) and the general principle set out in section 17(3) of the Act and all the circumstances of the case. Such circumstances are likely to vary greatly: see paragraphs 40-42 of the judgment of Munby J. in Re N (A child) (McKenzie Friend: Rights of Audience)[2008]EWHC 2042(Fam).

• If the litigant in person wishes the MF to be granted a right of audience or the right to conduct the litigation, an application must be made at the start of the hearing.


The President’s Guidance: McKenzie Friends of 14th October 2008 is here.

Thanks to Current Awareness for the information and link.

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Pursuer’s Panel

The Pursuer’s Panel advises members of the public, or solicitors advising members of the public about negligence claims against solicitors. Yesterday The Journal named six solicitors who will serve a further 5 year term on the panel.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Making Savings

If money is tight stretching to fund two homes instead of one independent financial expert Alvin Hall has some advice on taking stock and making savings in a video 'Helping Britain to Save.' This coincides with the release of a report that has found change in financial behaviour and an end of the 'buy now, pay later.'

There is a link to the video in The Scotsman article here.

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Largest Settlement

The Independent speculates about the Madonna/Ritchie divorce but what caught my attention is the article claims they were separating in "what family law experts believe could be a divorce settlement of £100m – the largest in British history." Is this really the largest settlement? I thought Paloma Picasso's settlement with Rafael Lopez-Cambil was reputed to be £250m and according to this Independent report of the case White v White in 2000 I'm correct and Paloma headed the table of leading divorces published in Chamber's Guide to the Legal Profession.

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The Leggy & Legless

In my youth I was sponsored to compete in equestrian events and had a particular interest in dressage. I was fortunate enough to be trained with an instructor from the Cadre Noir de Saumur and extremely fortunate to have had a few lessons from Alois Podhajsky before he died in 1973. Podhajsky was the director of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during World War II and continued there until he retired in 1965. Although the Spanish Riding School did not ban women riders it has taken until now for the first female riders to pass the entrance test. Riders are required to have short torsos and long legs so having short legs there is no way I would have qualified but it's great to see women having equal opportunities at last. See this Reuters' report.

On the topic of horses there is a delightful story "A four-legless friend rescued" in today's Scotsman about a pony eating fermenting apples and falling drunk into a swimming pool during the wee hours of the morning.

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Another Survey.

In my attempt not to read anything about the break up of Madonna and Guy Ritchie's marriage I overlooked this rather interesting comment in The Guardian. This focuses on the welfare of children when there parents separate and highlights the results of a survey of 1,000 children under the age of 15 from both separated families and those still intact published yesterday by the Centre for Separated Families. 25% of children from separated families don't consider themselves to be happy compared with 10% from intact families still. Also, children whose parents are separated are more likely not to want children themselves and have fewer friends.

It is suggested outcomes for children could be improved by adopting early interventions to enable parents to resolve difficulties without involving the courts. The parents would then be encouraged to understand that two parents are better than one and unless there was very good reason to make an exception, the courts would expect a child to see the non-resident parent regularly. If the parent with care blocked contact prison would be the sanction. An early interventions project, based on the idea of therapeutic justice on the other side of the Atlantic , could have made a difference but it was replaced by a pilot of the family resolutions project which didn't work.

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