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Family Law Journal: July/August 2014

Elizabeth Hicks and Tracey Dargan set out the key changes to private children law and the likely impact of the reforms

In November 2011 the Family Justice Review, chaired by David Norgove, published its final report on the state of family justice in England and Wales. The report painted a sorry picture of a tired and asthmatic system unable to serve the interests of the children most in need of the courts’ assistance. The recommendations of the report were clear; a quicker, more accessible and more streamlined system was needed. The fruit of those recommendations has now been put into place by virtue of a series of legislative and procedural reforms. The changes are extensive, and while it would be impossible to summarise them all in the space of this article, it is hoped that it can do justice to the headline changes.

Pannone LLP

Patricia Robinson highlights the pitfalls of failing to address the division of chattels and outlines the courts’ approach to achieving fairness

Frequently the division of house contents and other personal property can cause difficulties when a separating couple are negotiating a financial settlement. Practitioners may find themselves close to reaching a resolution of potentially complex financial matters for their respective clients when the issue of personal property arises and derails the whole process. Who retains the much loved painting from above the fireplace, the original family photograph album, or even the family dog, can have a huge impact on the ability to reach a settlement. The items in dispute can often have a significant emotional and sentimental value and in some circumstances may be irreplaceable. Therefore it is wise for family lawyers to address the division of chattels at the outset of discussions on settlement terms. Failure to do so may otherwise be storing up problems for further down the line at a time when the parties are less able to deal with them with a clear mindset.

In the first of a two-part consideration, Zoë Fleetwood explores recent cases giving guidance on key issues that arise when dealing with litigants in person

Following the coming in to force of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) on 1 April 2013 there has been a rise in the number of litigants in person. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in partnership with the Magistrates Association, surveyed a sample group of 461 magistrates sitting in a variety of courts across the country. Their results, published on 1 June 2014, found that 46% of the parties seen by magistrates in the private family courts were representing themselves. ‘Self-representation hinders justice’ was a conclusion reached in the report (see www.legalease.co.uk/self-representation).

In the conclusion to a two-part analysis, Frances Bailey and Claire Glaister look at the options when seeking to set aside a consent order

In the first part of this article ('Half-truths', FLJ137, p9-11) we looked at some recent cases where the courts have been asked to set aside a consent order on the grounds of material non-disclosure by one of the parties to the agreement. This concluding part will look at other circumstances in which a court may be asked to set aside an order made by consent and touch briefly on the procedure, in accordance with the Family Procedure Rules 2010 (FPR 2010).

Alison Green draws practical points for practitioners on variation of periodical payments from the decision in H v H

In H v H [2014] Coleridge J’s judgment provides practitioners with useful guidance on many issues that arise on a variation application under s31 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973). The pragmatic and no-nonsense approach set out in the judgment is not only interesting but also one that has very real application in big money cases. In this case the court was concerned with the husband’s variation application to bring to an end a periodical payments order on the basis of his planned retirement.

Seamus Burns

Seamus Burns examines new developments in embryology and the role of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

The Department of Health’s open consultation, titled ‘Mitochondrial Donation – A consultation on draft regulations to permit the use of new treatment techniques to prevent the transmission of a serious mitochondrial disease from mother to child’ (see www.legalease.co.uk/serious-mitochondrial-disease) closed on 21 May 2014 and sought views on draft regulations on the use of new techniques to prevent mothers passing serious mitochondrial diseases to their children. The consultation signals a welcome attempt by the government to try and secure hopefully informed, balanced and constructive comments from interested parties and bodies and the wider public on ethically controversial, but potentially highly significant, emerging scientific developments and techniques. It has implications too for the institution of the family. For some such developments and techniques represent a further instance of slipping down the ethical slippery slope, while in contrast for others it heralds another bright and promising scientific dawn in the ongoing battle waged by scientists/researchers and doctors against the serious illnesses and diseases that afflict humanity.

Kate Elliott reports on the interplay between the validity of a divorce, jurisdiction, and interim orders for maintenance and costs

The decision in MET v HAT [2013] raises interesting issues as to the courts’ approach to non-proceedings overseas divorce and the impact of a non-proceedings divorce on a claim for financial provision after overseas divorce. The case also raises the issue of a potential lacuna in the law.