The Gurdian: The impact of legal aid cuts

A mother, a pensioner and others tell of trying to access justice without representation.  Caroline (not her real name) believes a lack of legal aid led to her ending up in prison, deprived her of a life with her children and rendered her homeless. The 55-year-old is still trying to reverse the multiple miscarriages of justice she says she has endured.  She and her husband separated after she alleged he was violent and had threatened to kill her. He complained to social services that she was neglecting their children because of a dispute over schooling. The children were taken away from her and given to the father, who obtained a non-molestation order against her. She insisted she had always been a good mother and that the allegations of neglect were false. Realising she needed legal help, she consulted a solicitor. This was 2013, immediately after cuts imposed by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) had come into effect. Legal aid funding for family law cases had just been withdrawn.  For full article, visit The Guardian (27 December 2018)


Thousands misusing abuse orders to get to get legal aid, says parenting charity

Thousands of parents falsely claim domestic abuse in order to access legal aid and stop estranged partners from seeing their children, a shared parenting charity claims.  Families Need Fathers says parents are being encouraged by some solicitors to file for non-molestation orders – injunctions used in urgent abuse cases.  New figures show a 30% rise in orders made after legal aid was axed in everything but abuse cases in family courts in 2012.  Some 25,700 were made in England and Wales in 2017, and 6,699 in the first quarter of 2018.  The charity suspects that solicitors’ firms are talking parents into seeking such orders because it enables them to qualify for legal aid, from which both the legal profession and the complainant could benefit.  For full article, visit (3 July 2018)

Grandparents’ rights to see grandchildren could be protecw

A grandparent’s right to have contact with their grandchildren after a divorce could become protected by law. A change to the Children’s Act which would refer to a youngster’s right to have a relationship with close members of their extended family is being backed by MPs from all parties. The amendment would include aunts and uncles having access to their nephews and nieces, the Daily Telegraph said. Currently, a relative must go through the time consuming and often costly process of applying to a court for access rights and then for a Child Arrangement Order (CAO) to be put into place. During a debate into the matter in the House of Commons last week, Conservative MP Nigel Huddleston said he had heard stories of grandparents who have tried to send birthday cards or Christmas gifts to their grandchildren and found themselves being visited by the police and accused of harassment.  For full article, visit (07/05/18)

Sir Andrew McFarlane appointed as President of the Family Division

Sir Andrew McFarlane has been appointed as the President of the Family Division from 28 July 2018. This appointment follows the retirement of Sir James Munby on 27 July 2018. Sir Andrew McFarlane was called to the Bar in 1977 and took Silk (Queen’s Counsel) in 1998. He was appointed a Recorder in 1995, a Deputy High Court Judge in 2000 and a High Court Judge in the Family Division in 2005.  He co-wrote Children Law and Practice which coincided with the enactment of the Children Act 1989 in 1991, and he has been noted for his speeches and lectures around the country on all aspects of child law.  For full article, visit (24 April 2018)

Shared parenting beneficial for children despite conflict

Professor Warshak – A robust literature of 60 studies involving more than 40,000 children who spent substantial time with both parents unequivocally affirms the value of shared parenting in normal circumstances, even when one parent opposes the arrangement and the parents sustain levels of high conflict, a conclusion endorsed by 110 social scientists.  The fact that joint physical custody children had better outcomes even when a parent initially opposed the plan, and even when conflict was high, suggests that parental conflict has been oversold as the main factor linked to children’s post-divorce adjustment.  Restricting children’s time with one parent when a couple is labelled “high conflict” deprives children of the protective buffer of a nurturing relationship with that parent.  For full article, visit: (2 April 2018)

Cafcass Open Board Meeting

Cafcass’ Open Board meeting is taking place on Friday 26 January 2018 from 10am to 12pm in central London.  The subject of the Open Board meeting is Voice of the Child – how to help children’s voices be heard throughout the court process’.  Stakeholders from the Family Justice Board, voluntary sector and other agencies and organisations in and around our sector who may have an interest in our services and the work we undertake have been invited to attend.  Individuals are also able to attend, but pre-registration is required.  For full article, visit: Cafcass (19/01/18)

The Times: Campaign for No Fault Divorce Law

As The Times campaigns for a “no fault” divorce law, Stephen Armstrong recalls how he and his wife, who had children and were good friends and wished to remain so, struggled to stay amicable in the face of the legal system.  He explains how they had to toss a coin to decide which of them would accuse the other of unreasonable behaviour.  “The whole process actively encourages perjury.  You and your ex decide who’s going to take the blame, all of which is colluding to present a story to the court”.   “The current system makes the process arduous and can create acrimony,” says Nigel Shepherd, the head of family law at at the nationwide specialist Mills and Reeve and the naional chairman of Resolution.  “The government says it’s trying to remove acrimony, so why won’t it accept a no-fault divorce?  I think it’s a fear of a very vocal reaction from a small minority, which is neither just nor justified.  The key thing is, we’re not looking to make divorce easier, we’re looking to make it kinder”.  For full article, visit: The Times (08/01/18)

Cafcass develops new High Conflict Practice Pathway

Cafcass is developing a new pathway aimed at improving its approach to high-conflict cases.  The High Conflict Practice Pathway provides guidance, research and tools to practitioners so they can approach high-conflict cases consistently with an effective, evidence-based approach.  It uses the same approach as the Domestic Abuse Practice Pathway, which was introduced to support and strengthen the systematic assessment of cases involving domestic abuse or domestic abuse allegations.  The new pathway will be used when it is clear that concerns relating to domestic abuse are not a feature in a case.  The new guidance encourages early identification of high-conflict cases and builds on existing resources to help practitioners find an outcome which is truly in the best interests of the children involved.  The new pathway addresses a variety of common features in high-conflict cases such as parental alienation, which is best seen as a broad spectrum of behaviours with varying impact.  For full artcile, visit Cafcass (20/11/17)

The Guardian: Divorcing parents could lose children if they try to turn them against partner

Divorcing parents could be denied contact with their children if they try to turn them against their former partner, under a “groundbreaking” process being trialled by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).  The phenomenon where one parent poisons their child against the other is known as parental alienation, the ultimate aim of which is to persuade the child to permanently exclude that parent from their life.  Cafcass said it had recently realised parental alienation occured in significant numbers of the 125,000 cases it dealt with each year.  For full artcile, visit: The Guardian (17/11/17)

Family Law Week: Have We Created a Monster? Intractable Contact dipsutes and Parental Alienation in Context

Briony Palmer, barrister of 3 Dr Johnson’s Buildings, considers intractable contact disputes where the underlying dynamics are not obvious:  The introduction of the Child Arrangements Programme in 2014 brought much needed structure to the determination of private law disputes. But the current system remains flawed. Nowhere is this more painfully advertised than in the arena of ‘intractable’ contact disputes – where no contact is taking place as a result of resistance, with a lack of objective justification, on the part of the child or the resident parent. These are amongst the most bitter and emotionally draining hearings that courts, lawyers and litigants ever have to face. For the non-resident parent, the stakes can be as high as in any public law case – nothing short of the complete severance of their relationship with their child. Yet these cases are not given the priority afforded to public law matters and are particularly susceptible to the delay, inequality of resources and lack of accessible and impartial advice associated with the private law system at its worst.  For full artcile, visit: Family Law Week (15/11/17)

Daily Mail: The way warring couples drag their children into battles

Parents always swear they would do anything for their children, but while they might be convinced they’d never hurt them, the evidence suggests otherwise.  Devoted parents can lose all sense of perspective when wounded by divorce or separation – from a psychological perspective, divorce represents the ultimate rejection, something we’re hard-wired to avoid.  When it’s inevitable, people can go into “attack mode”, attempting to inflict maximum hurt on the other person.  The child becomes the perfect weapon because the other person holds them so dear, and losing them would mirror the rejection the other parent feels.  Yet all this has a lasting effect on children.  Research shows that a difficult divorce triples their risk of emotional problems – and they’re already at an increased risk of anxiety and depression as a result of having divorced parents.  It make me seethe.  I used to see this all the time in A&E: children of all ages with emotional and behavioural problems, eating disorders and unexplained physical illnesses that are really manifestations of emotional distress.  And these are only the very worst cases.  Any teacher will tell you of the low-level, insidious damage that never makes it to the doctor’s waiting room.  Yes, divorce is tough and raw, but I’m tired of seeing parents so caught up in their own drama they fail to see the damage they’re inflicting on others. Article written by Dr Max Pemberton, NHS Psychiatrist  For full artcile, visit: Daily Mail (07/10/17)

Independent: Male victims of domestic violence are being failed by the system

Women’s shelters are inappropriate for male victims, as the women shouldn’t be subjected to a male presence at their most vulnerable and the men – many of whom will have been assaulted by female partners – could similarly feel triggered.  According to a 2010 study by Parity, a men’s issues campaigning group, more than 40 per cent of victims of domestic violence are male. Yet startlingly, as BBC London reported last week, there are no refuges in London (and only 18 nationally) that serve men. That is despite a nearly 80 per cent increase in reports from male victims between 2012 and 2016.  For full article, visit: The Independent (13/03/17).

Telegraph: Divorced parents who pit children against former partners ‘guilty of abuse’

Divorced parents who “brainwash” their children against ex-partners are guilty of “abuse”, the head of the agency that looks after youngsters’ interests in family courts has said.  Anthony Douglas, chief executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), warned against the danger of “parental alienation”.  He said the deliberate manipulation of a child by one parent against the other has become so common in family breakdowns that it should be dealt with like any other form of neglect or child abuse.  According to Cafcass, parental alienation is responsible for around 80 per cent of the most difficult cases that come before the family courts.  For full article, visit: (12/02/17).