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Archive for April, 2014

Is the President of the Family Division right about change being necessary to bring cohabitation laws in line with divorce laws?

Is the President of the Family Division right about change being necessary to bring cohabitation laws in line with divorce laws?

I for one believe he is.

How can it be right for couples to live and be treated by society as though they were married or civil partners with or without children until they come to separate? At that point and in the eyes of the law they are seen as nothing more than business partners. No or limited financial protection is provided for the weaker of the two and the courts have virtually no discretion.

Changes in society have to embrace the whole story not just the beginning and middle with a different ending that bears no resemblance to the story as a whole.

Great strides have been made with same sex laws. Hasn’t the time come to make similar strides for cohabitants?
June Venters QC

30.04.14

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Interview with Christine Boot

Tell me about yourselfchristine photo

I joined Venters this year.  I trained at John Taylor & Co in Croydon.   I later became a partner and when the senior partner John Taylor became a District Judge I continued the firm as a sole practitioner for a number of years.   Due to family commitments I closed the practice and for the next nine years I worked for Grants Solicitors in Croydon becoming head of the family department.

I specialise in family law and I am a member of the Law Society Advanced Family Law Panel with specialist areas of ancillary relief and domestic abuse.  I undertake all aspects of family law.

What drew you to law?

On leaving school I worked as a secretary and after a couple of years became a legal secretary in a London firm.   I found law fascinating and whilst bringing up my children I studied for my law degree and continued through College of Law.  I was fortunate to be trained by John Taylor who introduced me to many aspects of law and encouraged me to specialise in family law.  In this area of law I feel that I am able to help people who find themselves in difficult family circumstances.

What do you offer clients?

I offer clients a professional and realistic approach to their family problems.  I have nineteen years of experience in family law and I treat each client as an individual and tailor my advice and assistance to their personal situation.

For many years I have given pro bono advice to victims of domestic abuse in the Surrey area and continue to do so by providing a legal advice clinic at Your Sanctuary, a Surrey Domestic Abuse Charity, on a monthly basis.

What do you do when you are now lawyering

I enjoy spending time with family and friends, socialising, reading, and when I get time decorating.

Can you sum yourself up in five words?

Approachable, practical, reliable,  friendly,  determined

Family Justice Reforms – 22.4.14 – A momentous day in the life of Family Justice

A reason to celebrate or commiserate?

Today sees many changes to the Family Justice system which I welcome with an element of caution.

One Family Court where cases will be allocated to the appropriate level of Judge at the outset and where there will be increased administrative efficiency and increased judicial continuity.

In the public law child care field the time limit for concluding care proceedings has a new target of 26 weeks.  However, the President of the Family Division has very helpfully provided guidance and direction in relation to this “target” which is that we must recognise that there will be some cases that simply cannot conclude within that timeframe where it is absolutely necessary in order to meet the demands of JUSTICE, FAIR PROCESS OR OF THE CHILD’S WELFARE

Extending the 26 week time limit will need to be decided on a case by case basis but will include the following types of cases:

i.            Where it is clear from the OUTSET that time beyond 26 weeks will be necessary.  Examples of the types of cases are:

  • those cases involving complex medical evidence where expert evidence will be necessary to assist the court to determine the issues;
  • Family Drug and Alcohol Cases [“FDAC”] where problem solving specialist multi-disciplinary teams support parents to overcome the problems that have put their children at risk with the aim of keeping families together
  • Cases involving an International element
  • Parents with disabilities who require specialist assessments

ii.            Where something UNEXPECTED emerges eg: death of a party; realistic family member becoming available as a carer; serious illness or imprisonment

iii.            Where the case has become THWARTED because of a litigation failure on the part of one or more of the parties.

It is absolutely essential that we are not swept along with the apparent furore of some Government Ministers that this will see children removed from their birth parents and placed with adopters in the blink of an eyelid.  This is not what children want or deserve.  Adoption is right and necessary for some children and the recent Adoption report from Bristol University dated 9.04.14 provides encouraging information about how well Adoption is actually working.  However, we need to recognise that Adoption is a draconian step which should never be undertaken lightly and that no child should be removed from their birth parent unless there is simply no alternative available to them within the child’s timescales bearing in mind children cannot and should not have to wait indefinitely.

It is absolutely right that children want and most importantly need stability and security as well as being safe, protected and of course loved but in my experience a child needs to understand why they could not live with their birth family and unless we can show that this was properly and justly exhausted I firmly believe we will have a future society that will come back to question why this was allowed to happen.

I echo the words of Pauffley, J High Court Judge of immense experience “Justice should never be sacrificed on the altar of speed.”

In the private law field of law there are equally many changes.  These include:

A new Child Arrangements Programme which provides for:

i.            An increased emphasis on the need for Mediation with the applicant being compelled to meet with a Mediator before issuing proceedings and with the respondent [opponent] being notified and encouraged to attend.  This compulsion is re-visited after proceedings have been issued with a Judge being able to refer either party for such meeting where the applicant had not previously complied with requirement to attend

ii.            Gone are Residence Orders and Contact Order and In come Child Arrangements Orders:

  • These decide with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact and
  • When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person

In the event of any breach of these orders the parties can be reuired to undertake activities designed to help them understand the importance of complying with the order and making it work

“These family justice reforms put children clearly at the heart of the family justice system and focus on children’s needs rather than what parents see as their own ‘rights’,” Justice Minister Simon Hughes has announced.

Commendable as this is there are drawbacks which cause me concern:

  • Many families who are in desperate need of public funding in order to achieve orders relating to divorce and children do not meet the necessary domestic violence criteria.  This means that families are often unable to separate or the weaker of the partners gains advantages over the other both in monetary and children issues.  The criteria needs to be changed and it needs to be changed now if what the Justice Minister is asserting is to be truly reflected in Government policies
  • I understand the plan is for law students to assist the public:

Frances Gibb Legal Editor

Published at 12:01AM, April 22 2014

Students and trainee lawyers will be drafted in to “hold the hands” of divorcing couples as they go through the courts under the biggest shake-up of family justice in 25 years, which comes into force today

About half of all people now going to court with divorce-related disputes do not have lawyers as they are not eligible for legal aid to help to pay for them.

What’s next – medical students conducting heart surgery?

What I would like to know is:

i.            Who will supervise the law students

ii.            What insurance cover will they have to pay for compensation claims when things go wrong

iii.            How will this be funded?

These are serious lifetime/life changing problems/events and they need to be treated with respect.

We need to embrace efficiency but respect experience and wisdom and the need for it. 

A day to remember or one we will wish to forget?

 

June Venters QC

22.04.14

Changes to Family Law – June Venters QC on BBC News

June Venters QC spoke this morning on BBC News about the new changes that will seek family’s attend mediation prior to proceedings being issued, and the reduced time frame for care proceedings.

 

The need to ensure that Justice is properly served has been re-enforced by the court of appeal very recently in the following case: Re C (A Child) [2014] EWCA Civ 128

The need to ensure that Justice is properly served has been re-enforced by the court of appeal very recently in the following case:

Re C (A Child) [2014] EWCA Civ 128

Appeal by parents against care and placement orders where the mother has speech and hearing impediment and the father is profoundly deaf. Guidelines given for cases involving a deaf parent. Appeal allowed and case remitted for rehearing.

This appeal concerned a young child whose mother has a low level of cognitive functioning and a speech and hearing impediment, and whose father is disabled by reason of profound deafness and who communicates via British Sign Language (BSL). This appeal was made by the parents against a full care order, dispensing with the parents’ consent to adoption and a placement for adoption order.

This appeal succeeded because the Local Authority and Professionals involved failed to recognise and ensure that appropriately trained BSL interpreter’s were instructed to assist the Father and the parenting assessment had failed to take into appropriate consideration the mother’s cognitive difficulties.  It made clear that courts should not be driven by the 26 week timetable if the disabilities of one or more parents require a longer timeframe to ensure an effective and meaningful assessment.

Not only did the failures in this case result in a successful appeal (with the consequent delayed outcome for the child), the Court of Appeal judgment also serves as a reminder that all organs of the state (including the local authority and CAFCASS) are subject to Equality Act 2010 legislation and therefore owe particular duties to disabled service users/disabled parents.

 

June Venters QC

Venters Civil Mediation

The government’s extensive changes to the legal costs regime are designed to make litigation less profitable for the claimant and even more risky for those seeking to defend.

“We see these reforms as the government trying to drive litigants away from lengthy and costly litigation – whilst pushing them into the arms of mediators”, says June Venters QC, Managing Partner of Venters Solicitors.

If that is the aim, then Venters Solicitors are ready.  In June 2013 this niche firm of dedicated legal specialists launched Venters Civil Mediation (“VCM”), a select group of highly experienced barrister and solicitor mediators, who will provide a comprehensive mediation service both locally and further afield.  VCM will build upon the well-established reputation of Venters Family Mediation which has successfully assisted many clients effectively to resolve their family disputes without the need to go to court.

VCM mediators have considerable experience as dispute resolution practitioners in a wide range of civil and commercial dispute areas. Most of them have also been trained in the psychological approach to conflict, and so are skilled at handling highly emotional issues.

Mediation has now become a vital and central part of the civil justice system, and many people with stressful and time-consuming disputes are increasingly turning to mediators to help them resolve their conflicts in an inexpensive, swift and effective way.

Judgement of The London Borough of Croydon v BU & Ors [2014] EWHC 823 (Fam) (21 March 2014)

The London Borough of Croydon v BU & Ors [2014] EWHC 823 (Fam) (21 March 2014):

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/823.html&query=london+and+borough+and+of+and+croydon+and+2014&method=boolean

 

 

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